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.
It was a fine summer evening, and I decided that as a man who had just stepped across the seventy-year threshold, it was time to spice up my life a bit. In my younger years, I had known excitement and adventure, but as an aging man, I had slipped into a lifestyle in which Wheel of Fortune was a highlight of the day. A walk around the block would be living on the edge. So instead of turning on Pat and Vanna, I donned my St. Louis Cardinal’s ball cap and headed out the door.
I didn’t have a dog to walk, so all my attention was focused on the action of the streets and homes of that one block in a rural municipality barely large enough to have a town council. The sheriff and two deputies took care of law enforcement. Heck, we even beat Mayberry on that point.
I was amazed at how little I knew about the residents of the homes I walked past. I only knew half a dozen of the homeowners by name. All the others had moved in since I had become a recluse in my own home. I walked past Velma’s house and a few doors later came to Ed’s place. He was in the driveway unhitching his fishing boat from a twenty-year-old Ford Ranger. We chatted for a few minutes. I mean, we actually talked. Chatting seems to have picked up a different meaning these days.
I turned another corner and came to Charlotte’s single story cape cod. There was no car in the driveway, so I was saved from catching up on the escapades of her grandchildren. As I walked past the house, I heard some commotion coming from the east end. The window in the center of that side was partially blocked by a poorly placed juniper. Through the space between the bush and the lap siding, I could just make out a leg with a boot attached to the end that was sticking through the window. Two hands reached out and gripped the frame followed by a head. But the man was too large to make an exit with his head and one foot going out at the same time.
I walked over and peeked around the juniper. Now the man’s head came out and he put a foot on the sill. This wasn’t working either. By this time I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. The burglar was trying to crawl out through broken glass instead of opening the window first. He appeared to be in his late forties or early fifties, and this holdup was making him very frustrated. I could hear certain verbalizations that should not have been uttered in Charlotte’s abode.
I stepped around the juniper, placed my hand on the man’s head and gently pushed him back into the house. He stumbled around briefly until he regained his balance. He asked what the hell I had done that for, and I told him he was going about it all wrong. This time his head came out first, and he got his belt hooked on the window latch. Once again I helped him back inside. When the curses subsided, I suggested he leave by way of the front door. He thought about it and turned to his right.
I made a quick trip around the corner and grabbed the doorknob. I held it tight and felt the man trying to turn it from the inside. More curses made their way through the windowless door. He gave up, and all was silent. I returned to the window by the juniper. By the time I arrived, he had already cut his hand on the glass. I didn’t feel like being so helpful as to suggest he open the window first, but I did suggest that he go upstairs and try opening a window and exiting that way. This was, of course, preposterous on two counts. First, how would it be easier to exit a second story window than a ground floor window? Second, I’ve already said it was a single story cape cod. When he left to find the stairway, I called the sheriff.
It actually took him much longer to come back to the window than even I expected. He informed me that he could not find the way to the second floor and that I should get out of his way so he could climb out the window. I suggested that he use the back door and was once again surprised, though maybe I shouldn’t have been. The burglar considered it a plausible idea and headed toward the back of the house.
The same trick I had used on the front door, worked on the back door. I know it may be hard to believe, but in the moonless midnight darkness of this burglar’s mind, he was convinced that he was locked inside the house. He also seemed to be comfortable with the misguided notion that I was sincerely trying to help him.
The siren from the sheriff’s cruiser was a distant whine.
“What’s that?” asked the burglar.
“It sounds like the local law enforcement has some business to attend to,” I said.
Out popped his head and foot again, and for the third time, I placed my hand on his head. But this time I pushed a bit harder.
The cruiser pulled up in front of the house, and the sheriff climbed out. We met on the porch just as the front door opened.
“Um, oh, hello officer,” said the burglar.
“Sheriff,” said the sheriff.
“Huh?” said the burglar.
“You can call me Sheriff Dalrymple, not officer.”
“Oh, uh, hello Sheriff Dalrymple.”
I watched the cruiser drive down the street and continued my stroll around the block, careful not to pay attention to anything about the houses I passed.
The next day I was considering the whole, bizarre escapade of the previous day. My ball cap hung on a hook by the door. My walking shoes were on the rug below the hat. I walked across the room, sat down in my recliner and picked up the remote control. I had an exciting half hour planned with Pat and Vanna.
© 2018 Chris Mills