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Checking for Traffic: Flash Fiction

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Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.


Checking for Traffic

When Joshua moved forward, his pursuer did the same. In that regard, he wasn’t a pursuer at all, but a mere follower. When Joshua stopped, the follower retreated to the shadows. When Joshua mustered the courage to move in the direction of this person, he leaped from his hiding place in the deep shadows and fled.

Joshua became the pursuer. He was a runner from the days of his youth in school sports and wore his running shoes even now. The one he chased knew the streets well and lost Joshua almost immediately. That was impressive because Joshua knew these streets as well as anyone.

Joshua gulped in air and spun in a circle, searching. He looked ahead, behind, up to the ladder of an iron fire escape a few feet above his head. He looked down at the shadows along the building and saw a basement window that was only half as wide as those higher up on the brick wall of a dilapidated tenement building.

This reminded him of his carefree days as a boy, chasing his brother, Jack, through the crowded streets of the city, down dark alleys and into abandoned buildings. But this was no child’s game. Whoever this person was had been trailing him for most of the week after he left work at 11:00 p.m.

He’d tried losing the guy by going into places of business and out the back door, but there weren’t enough places open at 11:00 p.m. and not enough people on the streets to lose him.



Joshua remembered trying to lose Jack in one of their chase games by crossing a street and quickly doubling back, hoping his brother would get held up by traffic. It had almost worked.

Jack always had a smile on his face. No matter what, he had this big, toothy grin that said he was fine and everything in the world was just fine. Jack was smiling at him while still standing on the opposite side, waiting to resume the chase.

Jack had been younger than Joshua by one year and three months. It was almost like they were the same age, but Joshua always had tried to be the big brother which meant he either practiced his right to pick on his little brother or played the role of protector if older boys were giving him a hard time. Once this really big kid had kicked Jack’s feet right out from under him when he was trying to run away. Joshua had broken the big kid's leg with a three-foot two-by-four.

People had yelled at Jack to stop when he darted out into the street to catch Joshua, but he didn’t make it. Brakes screeched. Tires squealed. Too late.


His pursuer was back again. Joshua could see him peeking out from the tunnel leading down to the subway. He walked toward the person and realized for the first time that it was a boy, not a man. Joshua suddenly felt more bold, more authoritative. He would catch this boy and give him an earful.

Joshua chased the boy down the steps into the nearly empty subway station. People were scattered here and there waiting for the 11:15. After that, the 11:20 train would pass through without stopping, then the 11:30 would arrive. He kept his eyes open and his feet moving. He had to find out why this boy was following him and how to make him stop. He caught a glimpse of the boy near the loading platform and made his way in that direction.


People ignored the boy when he jumped down onto the subway tracks. Joshua stood on the edge of the platform, thinking it was a pretty good move on the boy’s part. He’d probably get away now.

The 11:15 arrived and Joshua watched the people getting off and on. The doors closed and the train slipped away into the tunnel. The boy was gone. Joshua jumped down into the track bed. People shouted at him to get back up, but Joshua had to find that kid. He crossed the tracks and looked to his right and left. Then he turned around. There he was, back on the other side. The kid must have slipped between the cars of the 11:15 and doubled back. Good one, Joshua thought.

The boy stood in the open on the edge of the platform. Their eyes met. It was a perfect likeness, but there was no toothy smile, only a sad frown. Joshua stepped forward. Jack held his ground.

“Why are you doing this, Jack.” Joshua took another step toward his brother. “Scratch that. I should ask how you are doing it.”

Jack stood still and said nothing.

“I’m sorry about what happened, but you crossed the street without checking for traffic. I miss you, Jack.”

“You always told me nothing would come between us,” said Jack.

“Yeah, I did say that, didn’t I? And I meant it, you know.”

“But something did come between us, Joshua. It was a big delivery truck, I think.”

“The driver killed himself a couple of weeks later. Did you know that?” Joshua took another step.

“I’m going to fix everything,” said Jack.

“What do you mean by that?” Joshua’s total attention was on the boy, his brother. Then he heard the horn and turned to his left. The 11:20 was upon him. People screamed. Joshua screamed.

The train roared past, braking constantly. But it was too late for brakes. The back of the train cleared the station before it stopped. Joshua and Jack stood together on the edge of the platform.

“Was this revenge?” said Joshua.

“Maybe a little, but mostly I was just lonely.”

People were still screaming. Someone took off his jacket and draped it over the man’s broken upper body and face.

“I didn’t feel a thing,” said Joshua.

“Neither did I,” said Jack.

The brothers walked hand in hand back out onto the street. They didn’t bother checking for traffic.


© 2018 Chris Mills