Literature 2-9-2009

miniStories: “The Mourning” by Jeffrey Burton

This week's poignant story about love, lost and found, by Jeff Burton was selected as a miniStories winner by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl.


The Mourning

The old man parked his Buick in front of the house on Lilacs Avenue. He looked down at the crumpled newspaper sitting on the passenger seat. The obituary page stared back up at him. A single car sat in the driveway. Of course, it had been two weeks since the funeral.

The old man licked his fingers and went to work smoothing down the gray fly-away hairs on top of his head. He grabbed the basket of carnations from the back seat and headed up the walkway. He stood outside the front door several seconds before knocking.

A young woman opened the door, smiled at the flowers, and asked, “Can I help you?”

“I heard about Glen’s passing. I don’t mean to interrupt, but I felt the need to share some thoughts with Marian.”

“Come on in.” The young woman opened the screen door. “I’m her granddaughter, Karen. I’ll let her know you’re here, Mr.—?”

The old man mumbled his name, and then said, “I’m an old friend of Marian’s.”

“Sweet of you to stop by. I’ll go get Grandma.” The granddaughter went up the staircase.

The old man placed the flower basket on an entryway table, and then stood still. He heard voices come from above, but couldn’t make out what was being said. He heard something fall to the carpet, followed by a raised voice that—after all these years—he recognized as Marian’s. Finally, he heard footsteps approach the stairway.

A slender old woman walked down the steps, staring at him in astonishment. “Good Lord, it is you.” She shook her head and asked, “How long has it been?”

The old man looked down at his dress shoes. “51 years, seven months, and 11 days.”

“That’s quite a spell,” the old woman responded. “What on earth brings you by?”

He felt himself begin to blush. “I’ve turned that about in my mind’s eye every which way, Marian, and it all boils down to something that I just can’t let keep going on unsaid. I knew if I never told you in this life, it might be a devil of a time hunting you down in the next. The thing of it is, Marian, I have loved you since the first time I ever laid eyes on you. All the moments we spent together are my treasure. I could never tell you how I truly felt back then, because I was just a kid . . . and I didn’t have it in me, I guess.” The old man felt a tear slide past his nose. “In the end, I was a little lost boy, flailing the wrecking ball back and forth in the darkness. Losing you broke my heart in half. I have always loved you, Marian. Always. And I just couldn’t let that go on unsaid.”

The old man gave the old woman a quick nod, let himself out the door, hobbled down the driveway, got in his Buick, and drove away.

About the author: The lies of Jeffrey B. Burton have appeared in dozens of genre magazines (mystery, horror, literary, etc.). Jeff is a member of the Horror Writers Association. A collection of his short stories, Shadow Play, was published in 2005. His mystery novel, Sleuth Slayer, was published May 2008.