On Life

Flash Fiction: A 500-Word Short Story About An Apology

Fellow writers–I don’t know about you, but after I’ve written a novel and it takes everything out of me, I need a break for a while. In my time of decompression, I like to stay in touch with the craft by writing short fiction. You never know where it could lead, and it keeps you thinking and telling your stories. Today’s story is about saying your sorry…to the person you need to say it to when an apology is owed. Especially a big one.

Out of the Circle

He always knew he’d be back. But when you make as many mistakes as he did, he certainly wasn’t expecting to be greeted with open arms, or even an acknowledgment that he existed. He might as well be dead, he thought often, as once he made the decision to go, he was gone, and they all treated him as such.

Unreachable. He made sure of that. A disappearing act that was difficult to follow.

He parked the car around the corner, as it was the same car he’d driven away in seven years ago, a Ford Taurus, and he didn’t want anyone to even take note of it or realize he was back on the street. He hated the car with every fiber of his being and wished he had something sportier, but he never sold it. He figured it was a part of his penance for his inability to stay, his inability to commit. Plus, he could barely afford to eat and pay his bills.

He’d hit rock bottom, and he wasn’t really sure, even now, months later, what had been the turning point. Ten different jobs, six different residences in the last seven years, and a host of “change of address” cards made him a certifiable mess. After finally waking up and realizing that he was destroying his own life one sip at a time, he decided that it might be the right time to reach out for help.

Was it the girl he thought he could love with the raven hair who shouted at him half dressed amidst rumpled sheets and liquor bottles strewn across the room? Was it the old man he’d shared a meal with at the dump of a diner on Main Street? Was it the kid who looked at him inquisitively as he sat on the park bench eating a cheese sandwich who said, “Hey, mister, what’s wrong with you? Why do you look so sad?” He wasn’t sure what the tipping point was or how he managed to climb out of the Scotch and Rum and Vodka, but he somehow got himself into a chair surrounded by others who had the same demons plaguing them every day as well.

In that first moment, as they welcomed him into the circle and he said his name aloud and admitted his dependency and why he was there, for the first time since he could remember, he felt less alone.

Twelve months after the circle, he found himself walking up the street to his old address.  The one he shared with her, the brunette with big eyes and a sweet smile. The one with whom he ruined it all. He pulled his hat down a little in case anyone was outside who might recognize him. He’d done his homework and knew she still lived in the house, though he was not sure with whom she shared her life now.

But he was there for a reason, and he didn’t care who was there with her.

He just knew he wanted to see her. That he needed to see her.

And that he needed to say the words he’d mustered up the courage to say for the last twelve months.

His knees were shaking as he rang the doorbell, and yet he knew he had the courage to do it.

He knew he wouldn’t leave until he looked her in the eyes and was able to say he was sorry.

imageStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

On Life

A Conversation With My Friend That I Hope You’ll Remember

The hilarity of it all…if you can’t laugh at yourself, well, then…

* * *

At one point during my girls night out last evening, I completely lost it. I ended up crying. Tears were running down my face as I tried desperately to catch my breath. The conversation that preceded my behavior went something like this:

I was talking about a place—going to a place—and Jenny said, “Wait … I think I worked there.”

“You did?”

“I think I did. Way back when, but I’m not sure.”

“You’re not sure you worked there?”

“I either worked there, or I had some strange dream that I worked there. I can’t remember.”

“You can’t remember if you worked at a place?”

It was at this moment that I started to cry through my laughter.

What’s so funny about it, you might ask. What’s so funny about it is that as we get older, we forget. Nora Ephron said it best in the title of her hilarious book, “I Remember Nothing.” This is starting to happen to me, and apparently to Jenny, as well.

We forget a lot of stuff.

Even the stuff we purposely do NOT want to block out. Sometimes it just happens scientifically by osmosis.

I know I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff—have meant to forget a lot of stuff. But then there’s the stuff that you can’t forget, like how to load the dishwasher or how to fold the laundry. I wish I could forget that. I wish amnesia would hit me over the head so hard that I might never remember how to clean the bird poop off the perch in our parakeets’ cage or how to scrub a toilet.

I also forget phone numbers now that our phones do all the work for us. There’s no need to memorize anything anymore with regard to numbers. Our amazing cells are tiny magicians that remember it all for us and work their magic. Just don’t get in a pinch, lose your phone, get left by the side of the road, or need to make that one call to your lawyer. You won’t be able to remember any of your contact numbers to save yourself.

On the other hand, I try hard to forget that I used to weigh 108 pounds after my first boyfriend and I broke up. He may have broken my heart, but I looked pretty damn good.

It takes a lot to forget if you worked somewhere, but this next example might even take forgetfulness to a more significant level: I was walking the streets of Annapolis and saw a guy I knew. He knew me and I knew him. We tentatively acknowledged each other. For the life of me, I don’t know who the hell he was or how I knew him. I’ve wracked my brain and have been unable to come up with the answer.

The only thing that makes me feel better about not remembering who the hell he was and how I knew him is that I suspect he couldn’t place who the hell I was either.

Honestly, I can’t wait for my next girls night out. It’s always full of laughter and there is always something I take away from it.

It’s just that sometimes I can’t remember what it was.