[I picked up an extra shift on Friday, so it’s Flash Fiction Sunday instead…]
Age 9 months: Henry James Walker was eight pounds, eight ounces when he was born. Despite no make-up and the hours of labor, the moment his mother first held him she looked as beautiful as she had on her wedding day.
Age 8: He and his sister Margaret had a hamster named Pudding who died unexpectedly after they’d had it for less than a month. Margaret was extremely upset. She asked their pastor if hamsters go to heaven. He replied there was no sadness in heaven, so if she was still sad about Pudding when she got there, then yes, Pudding would be there too.
Age 16: He kissed a girl for the first time. They were holding hands and walking to his car. They hugged and were suddenly kissing. He wasn’t consciously aware of the transition, or even of her lips. There was just this sense of…warmth. Later she gave him a mix tape she’d made. It was his first.
Age 24: He married Susan. Everyone they loved was there. Marriage was like assembling a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box to go by. The outline was easy, but the repetitive parts in the middle could be an ordeal.
Age 32: His second child was born. A son. The boy’s head looked a little pointed for a few days from being squeezed through the birth canal. Even with two children to his name, Henry secretly still didn’t feel like a father.
Age 40: He realized (somehow for the first time) that being slightly bored and slightly unhappy at his job was not inevitable. But he did not know what he’d want to do instead.
Age 48: He self-published his first novel. He knew it wasn’t going to blow anyone away, but looked at the experience like training wheels. You had to work your way up to the bicycle somehow.
Age 56: With both kids finished with college and on their own, he and Susan took a trip to Europe. When they got home and put their photos in an album he realized he was more enchanted by the way Susan smiled at new experiences than by all those old buildings and lovely countrysides.
Age 64: Hollywood bought the rights to his fourth novel. He couldn’t imagine any adaptation being very good, but the money spent just the same.
Age 72: He and Susan no longer used alarm clocks. Every morning he would rise about fifteen minutes before she did and brew their morning coffee. They would sit together on the back porch and talk for a while before going inside to get breakfast.
Age 80: Once, he took an entire day to shop for a graduation card for his granddaughter. He was proud to bursting of her, and not just any card would do. He went from shop to shop until he found the right one. He knew it’d only take her a minute to read, but he was proud to bursting.
Age 88: He spent the day he died with his wife in the room. Holding her hand felt like all those years of mornings on the porch. As the light began to fade, he worried about leaving her alone. Then the darkness faded into a new light, and all his fears disappeared.