Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Flash Fiction by Cristine A. Gruber

Give Me a Sign 
Boy meets girl. Boy wants girl. Boy gets girl. And thus a life is made…
The sign on the lecture hall could be seen from across campus. It was six feet high, twenty-two feet across. The glowing sentiment could be read, word for word, from anywhere in the quad. It was a glorious and utterly over-the-top expression of undying love. And it worked. The boy got the girl and they were married less than six months later. They had two children in as many years and became the proverbial family of four by the time they were both twenty years old. Young but mature, they did just fine, better than most. They raised their children well, one destined to be an artist, the other bound to be an attorney. Life was varied and interesting.
The boy went into the I.T. field and did quite well for himself. The girl went into banking and did just as well in her own right. But career successes took a back seat to family life. Days were filled with softball games and karate tournaments, Girl Scout outings and PTA meetings. The children thrived. The oldest, a son, grew up kind and sensitive and full of heart. He married young, as his folks had, and settled down in the same town. The second child, a daughter, left home at seventeen to attend college. She did well, as expected, and later went on to Law School, getting accepted at a prestigious university clear across the country.
Empty Nest Syndrome is a misnomer at best, for it’s not a syndrome, but rather a dark, vacuous virus that eats one’s soul and leaves a person a walking shell of his former self. The day they got back from taking their daughter to Columbia, the boy, now a pseudo-man, spent most of the day rearranging the garage. By the end of the day, he was moving half the stuff from the garage to a storage unit across town. By the following weekend, he moved out. Married twenty-five years, over, just like that.
The girl never saw the signs.
Their son did reasonably well as an artist, but as is common with creative types, he had eclectic tastes that eventually led to his undoing. Late one Friday night, while visiting a bar on the questionable side of town, he struck up a conversation with the wrong sort of fellow. A crushing right fist and a broken beer bottle later, and the son’s body was removed from the premises on a stretcher, sheet drawn over his face. The family never recovered. The daughter excelled in her profession as well. She prosecuted the bad guys and put them away. The media called her The Eliminator, single-handedly removing the scum from the streets. She was in a parking garage when the shots rang out. Hit from behind, she never saw the bullet coming. The family sunk deeper into the pit.
Boy met girl. Boy wanted girl. Boy got girl. And thus a life was made…
The boy died of a heart attack at 63. The girl outlived him by another 30 years. She never remarried. At the age of 93, alone and delirious with dementia, the one thing she kept asking for was a sign; give me a sign, she kept saying. The nurses thought she was asking for a sign from God. But no, she wanted her sign, the one that had started it all, saved all those years, tucked away in a box under the hospital bed. They never figured out what she wanted. She died, alone, asking for a sign.
Cristine A. Gruber has had work featured in numerous magazines, including: North American Review, Writer’s Digest, California Quarterly, Dead Snakes, The Endicott Review, The Homestead Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, Miller’s Pond, Napalm and Novocain, The Penwood Review, Pound of Flash, Pyrokinection, Red River Review,  The Tule Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, and The Write Place at the Write Time. In 2014, her short stories, "Imprisoned," and "Stash," both received an Honorable Mention in the Writers Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Competition. Cristine's first full-length collection, Lifeline, is available from