A comfortable room.
A cozy fire.
Two old men.

Between them, a checkerboard, a plate of homemade cookies, the interwoven threads of their lives.

“Tell Emma these cookies are delicious.”
Caleb grins. “She’s a fine cook. Didn’t she bake the cake for your first wedding?”
“Yep. Had pink roses all over,” Seth remembers. “Sarah loved roses. Yellow honeysuckle for the second wedding.”

“Your Sarah was a good woman. Shame she had to go so young.”
“Margaret’s a blessing, too. Twice lucky, I was.”

Jump, jump, jump. Red takes three black.
“Yikes. Your game has improved a lot since we were young!”
“I’ve always beaten you, and you know it.”

Two old men, smiling through the haze of decades.

“Will Margaret be joining us later tonight?”
“Might do, might do. She’s babysitting the grands while Janie and Bart go to the pictures.”
“Emma and I wanted grandchildren. But it wasn’t to be.”
“Mine have started calling you ‘Uncle Pappy’.”

Two old men slapping legs, guffawing.
“Kids are something!” they agree.

The fire crackles as a figure half-hidden in a great arm chair takes copious notes.

Amazing how these two strangers are bonding. Two bachelors with no families, belonging nowhere, have somehow created a shared history and moved into it. Together.

Andrea is deep into her research on cognitive decline and creative imagination, gathering material for her thesis. Seth and Caleb have been an endless inspiration and an unexpected source of joy.

Sue, the nursing home attendant, banks the fire for the night, and whispers to Andrea, “Visiting hours are over, dear. See you tomorrow?” Andrea nods.

“Game over!” Sue observes. “Who won?” Seth and Caleb both laugh and raise their hands, like mischievous school boys.
“Bedtime, champs!”

“I’ll wait up for Margaret.”
“She’s probably in your room.”
“Right! Good night, Caleb.”
“Good night, Seth.”

Caleb puts the checkers in the box, reds on one side, blacks on the other. Emma loves neatness and order.
“Come, love. Let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow’s another big day!”
When he passes the hall mirror, he can almost see her reflection.

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Voice-Team
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Voice-Team(@voice-team)
4 months ago

A warm, witty exchange between old friends ends with one surprise and then another. An insightful dramatization of both the depth and tenuousness of belonging. 

Thompson Emate
Thompson Emate(@thompson-emate)
5 months ago

I love the simplicity of this story.

Thompson Emate
Thompson Emate(@thompson-emate)
4 months ago
Reply to  Juma

Yes, it sure does. Someone once said that I’m good at writing dialogues. I’d say it’s a compliment. Congratulations on your win.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
5 months ago

A very touching and entertaining story Juma. It certainly sounds like an interesting study. I wonder how many different results can be obtained from observing different people? Good job.

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Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
5 months ago

There’s something really comforting in your story Juma. I love how these two men have found happiness in creating a life they never had. After reading this, memory loss and dementia isn’t such a scary thought. An enjoyable and uplifting read.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
5 months ago

I love it. At the very beginning of the story, I immediately felt a very relaxing atmosphere, as you mentioned a comfortable room and a cozy fire. I feel like, wow. I was obsessed with reading it. Well written, Juma.

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
4 months ago
Reply to  Juma

You’re welcome, Juma.

Sandra OReilly
Sandra OReilly(@sandra-oreilly)
5 months ago

I really liked this, it was a simple conversation between two old men about their families with a real twist in the tail.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
5 months ago

What a wonderful turn-around, Juma! A totally different understanding of the two elderly men suddenly emerged, half way through the story. What a goldmine those two men are for Andrea and her thesis! I love the theme, “Cognitive decline and creative imagination.” What a great idea!

Marianna Pieterse
Marianna Pieterse(@marianna-pieterse)
5 months ago

Juma, your story had me smiling at the picture you created of the two gentlemen chit-chatting, arguing about their skills. Then in the last paragraph I had goosebumps and was nearly in tears! This was so well told! What a beautiful story!

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Susan Giles
Susan Giles(@susan-giles)
5 months ago

A simple story, beautifully told. Short phrases showed not terseness, but the assuredness that comes with age.

Daniel Onchoka
Daniel Onchoka(@daniel-onchoka)
4 months ago

It is so vivid. They are suspended in such a perfect moment. It’s like they create their world as they go. They put the pieces of their world together so perfectly that if you didn’t know better, you’d think theirs was the real world. You would want to enter their world and find out whom they know you as.

Linda Rock
Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
4 months ago

Congratulations Juma! I loved your story, a well-deserved win.

Fuji
Fuji(@fuji)
4 months ago

Congratulations, Juma, on a story that seems to get better on each consecutive reading. There is so much that is not being said, which to me is the very essence of flash fiction. A unique perspective on the “belong” theme. Great writing!

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Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
4 months ago

Congratulations, Juma! Your story is very well crafted and deserves this success!

Marianna Pieterse
Marianna Pieterse(@marianna-pieterse)
4 months ago

Congratulations, Juma! This was a beautiful story.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
4 months ago

Congratulations, Juma. A well-deserved win.

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