Old Man Flash (Fiction)

Mr. Clark went to her every month. He wanted to go more often, but the bus all the way out to her was expensive and he could only really afford it that often. There was always a present in his bag for her; flowers, cards, a book he though she might enjoy. This time, it was the anniversary of when he had officially started courting her and had been given the honor of escorting her to a dance thrown by the local spinster, so he brought along a corsage for her.

The bus route took them along the edge of several large estates, with long winding rows of hedges lining the street and drives. They were all carefully manicured and absolutely forbidden. He hadn’t been back on the main grounds of his old employer since his body had grown too old to keep up with his chores as head butler. He was too prideful. But the lordling had been kind enough to give him a small stipend to live off of for the rest of his life and to allow his sweetheart to remain on the land she had grown up on and served her entire life.

The path that Mr. Clark used to get to her approached and he hauled himself carefully out of his seat and made his unsteady way to the front of the bus. It was always the same bus driver, and even though there wasn’t supposed to be stop along these roads, the man always let him off and on his return route an hour later picked him back up. The old man had only needed to stammer his explanation once for the driver to agree to this unorthodox agreement. They never counted passengers anyway on his bus, so it was no skin off his nose.

Mr. Clark staggered down the stairs and steadied himself against the style that would take him over the stone fence and into the old church yards. No one had used the church in generations, but it still stood at the back of the lordling’s land, unattended but superstitiously protected. The graveyard attached to it was almost uniformly old broken headstones that you couldn’t even read anymore. The only exception was an angel, carved very recently, seated in the clear space under an elm tree. She held her hands out in benediction and Mr. Clark made his way to them, grasping them tightly.

“Hello, my love. It’s a wonderful day today, just your favorite. Clouds skittering across the sky.” He fumbled with the box that the corsage was in, finally managing to undo the flaps. He pulled out the orchid, specially picked from the flower seller stand at the station, and tied the ribbons around the angel’s wrist. “I know they’re your favorite. Its a good thing there are so many greenhouses now, I can get them any time now. Remember how we had to schedule the wedding for when they were in season because you insisted on having them in your bouquet?”

His knees creaked as he sat down in the circle of the angel’s arms and leaned back against her. “It makes me so tired now, coming out here, but I’d never miss it, not even once. Did you know our lordling was going to be getting married next month? It’s a love match, too. Remember how we never thought that would be allowed to happen, how they were reviewing those candidates like horses? I’d say it’s a good thing that his parents passed before they had gotten him squared away. At least now he has the chance to be as happy as we are.” He patted the knee of the statue and leaned back against it. “I’m just going to close my eyes for a bit, before the bus comes back. Wake me when it’s time to go, love?”

When the bus returned an hour later, Mr. Clark was not waiting. Nor did he show up for the rest of the day. The driver hoped that he had caught a ride in a passing car, but didn’t give it a second thought.

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