art by Shothot Designs
A Day Like No Other
by S.C. Wade
S.C. Wade began his love for writing at an early age. He currently resides in Northeastern Pennsylvania with his parents, brother, and sisters. He works a full-time job but is working diligently to make writing his profession. As a writer, his goal is to make fiction that is believable, relevant, and entertaining to his readers. He has a blog located at scwade.wordpress.com and he can also be found on Facebook.
I stepped out into the rain, my flat cap shielding my mat of gray hair. As I walked with my hands in my trench coat pockets, I noted each imperfection on the concrete. Each hand- and footprint a kid made when it was still wet; every discarded wad of gum. Over the years, I had become familiar with them all.
What I wouldn't give for the days when I would walk with my head high, my beloved Mildred on my arm. I shut my eyes, looked up, and allowed the water to strike my face. After a moment, I lowered my head and pressed on.
As I walked past the jewelry shop, I spotted the jeweler assisting a customer. He was pointing at a glass case, no doubt indicating a fine piece of jewelry. Before the year was up, he'd win a substantial amount in the lottery and move to San Francisco.
I frowned. Today's goal was to avoid glimpsing into people's futures. Just once I wanted to go a day without feeling like I was prying into someone's life. I suppose that was a foolish goal given that, in the past, I haven't been able to control what I saw or when I saw it. Why did I assume today would be different?
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Approaching the mailbox, I pulled the folded envelope from my pocket and ran my fingers across the address. Maryland. The clouds' wrath began to smear the ink, so I gave the envelope a quick kiss and delivered it. "I love you, Emily."
I turned around and entered my home away from home--the coffee shop.
I was welcomed by the familiarity of the red tables which were each equipped with a napkin dispenser and sugar packets. The strong aroma of coffee beans filled my nostrils. I looked across the room and smiled at the older lady who had a crossword puzzle in hand. She waved as I took a seat at my usual corner table and placed my coat beside me.
Mildred had been my social safety blanket. Unfortunate when you thought about it. As long as she was around, there was no need on my part to converse with the other regulars. And now that she was gone, I saw no point.
"Hi, Mr. Lynn!" Sally called from behind the counter.
"How are you, Sally?"
"Excellent! You want the usual?"
I considered it heavily for a moment. "Yes, please." There was no point in altering what worked.
I watched as she made my coffee, her red, curly hair pulled back in a ponytail that bounced about. She was a refreshing and overdue addition to the staff. I always loved the coffee shop and its employees, but the ladies there had become dispassionate as of late to make each day a memorable visit. Despite that, I still liked the slow-moving atmosphere instead of the hurry-up-and-get-out method the chain coffee shops provided.
My attention coasted back to the older lady. I envied her. She was still married at age seventy-three. She had four children and six grandchildren; truly a blessed life. It elated me to know she'd be experiencing thirty-three more years of health, happiness, and seven great-grandchildren.
There I go again, I thought and turned my eyes to the broken piece of floor tile that had gone neglected for months. I interlocked my fingers and rested my hands on the table. Normally I would read the newspaper, but today I only wanted to reflect and value the surroundings I'd come to love. From the floor speckled with spills of sugar to the slow hum of the soda machine, I delighted in every detail.
When I was growing up, my parents were always sensitive with my precognitive abilities and never treated me with anything but love. It was my own fear that ravaged my mind, initiating my choice to become reserved. I knew I was abnormal, and I didn't want to accidentally reveal my abnormality because I didn't know how people would respond.
Foreseeing the pleasurable things always brought enjoyment. The downside was the moment a tragic premonition surfaced. I'd become a mess. In these latter years I've learned to simply acknowledge the premonitions and let them be--good and bad.
Now closer to the grave I still don't know how people would take my precognition, but in my youth I was convinced I'd never find a wife who could understand my secrets. My heart was overjoyed when my beloved childhood friend Mildred Malone showed interest. Apart from my parents, she had been the only person I told my secret to. Her and our daughter, Emily.
"Here you are, Mr. Lynn," Sally said, placing the mug and napkin in front of me.
"Thank you." I took a sip of my coffee and relished the perfect mix of milk and cream.
Mildred, Emily, and I were a close family up until Emily's teenage years. It started with her suddenly not being able to look at us; it progressed into her turning to drugs. Mildred and I were ripped to pieces because we didn't know what to do outside of talking to her. When we tried having a discussion with her about it, she glared at us as if we were the cause of her problems.
What really traumatized us was that when she left for college, any conversation with us became scarce. We didn't see her until her wedding day six years later, drug-free. Mildred thought the invitation was a step to rekindling the relationship, but I gathered Emily invited us out of obligation. When my beloved Mildred realized the relationship remained stagnant, she fell into depression and passed on ten months later. I grimaced behind my mug.
The coffee shop's door opened, and I heard the barrage of rain hitting the ground like marbles clashing. Screeching tires followed shortly thereafter. I tensed and readied for a crash, but it never came. I glanced at my watch and uttered a profanity. I had twenty minutes left.
I pondered over the letter to Emily that rested in the mailbox. How would she react when she sees it's from me? Open it? Tear it up? If the latter, I hoped she'd at least hold it to the light and see that a check was inside.
The perfect scenario would be if Marc got the mail the day it arrived because he would open it. The times he'd gotten to my prior letters before Emily did, he wrote me an e-mail letting me know how things were going. I'm glad Emily married such a decent man.
From my spectator angle of the kitchen, I saw one of the employees walk into view holding a tray laced with paper towels. I knew that recently fried doughnuts were sandwiched between the towels. I looked at the roll of fat that surpassed my belt. I'd been doing well for the past few months, but I hadn't treated myself to doughnuts in a long while.
I raised two fingers in the air for Sally to see. She nodded and got to work on glazing a couple of the doughnuts.
Since having the premonition about my death two weeks ago, I had done everything I could to prepare for it. I could avoid the collision, but what would be the purpose? For the past ten years I've been alone. My wife was dead and my daughter doesn't want me in her life.
After a few more sips of my coffee, Sally delivered the doughnuts on a saucer. The smell of sweet, glazed dough attacked my nostrils. I thanked Sally and gripped one of the doughnuts, letting the warm icing caress my fingertips. I raised my hand and placed the gooey goodness into my mouth, glancing at my watch between bites.
The phone behind the counter rang, and Sally answered it, delivering the standard greeting of the coffee shop. After a moment, she bit her lip and looked at me. "Um, Mr. Lynn? It's for you."
I raised an eyebrow and she shrugged. I cleaned my mouth and fingers from the remnants of the doughnut and walked to the counter. Sally handed me the phone.
"Hello?" I asked.
The deep voice softened me. Marc. My son-in-law. I hadn't heard his voice in years. Last time he and I had any contact was two months ago when he had responded to one of my letters. He told me that their oldest child had just learned to ride his bike, and how he and Emily were expecting their third child.
"Lynn?" Marc asked. "You still there?"
"Yes… Marc… How have you been?"
"I've been good," he said and fell silent.
His silence sent me a signal I didn't appreciate. My gut tensed. It had to be an emergency. But how did he know to call me at the coffee shop?
"What happened to Emily, Marc?" I asked and then heard a faint voice on his side of the phone. "Is that her in the background?"
"Yes," he said.
"Put her on." I said, glancing at Sally who eased away to offer me privacy. I flashed a smile.
There was shuffling with the phone before I heard my Emily's soft voice. "Hi."
My body tingled. "How are you, Emily?"
"I missed hearing your voi--"
"Dad, I just… There's a lot to say."
I glanced at my watch. "I have time," I said, but I really didn't if I was going to let my premonition manifest. But I had my daughter on the phone! I stepped aside as a customer walked up to the counter to order.
A burdened sigh came over the receiver, followed by a long pause. I prayed she was just nervous to talk with me after so many years of choice silence, rather than second guessing her decision to call at all.
"Dad," she finally said. "As a teenager… Before I rebelled…" Her words sounded forced, so I was thankful she was pushing herself. "I didn't know how to handle it, and I took my frustration out on you and Mom." She sighed again. "Mom died without me being close to her. I don't want the same thing to happen to you and me." Another heavy breath.
"I'm listening, Emily." My heart pulsated. "What is it?"
There was a whine in her tone. "Don't kill yourself, Dad."
My heart slowed. "What?"
"Don't leave the coffee shop until after the car crashes…. Please?"
This story was first published on Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
When I initially sat down and started "A Day Like No Other," I wanted to experiment and write something darker than what was normal for me. I figured what was sadder than a man who was enjoying his day only because he knew it would be his last? I had to suspend my own life of gladness and translate into Lynn's life -- his wife's death, his daughter's estrangement. For all story purposes, I was the man who appeared to have nothing and no one to live for. One of the many things I like about this story is the idea that fate and/or destiny don't undermine free will. The story went through many drafts, and the plot was altered several times. It was a fun experience -- a growing experience -- and I am very pleased with the outcome.
- S.C. Wade
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