2009.04.09 a house is not a home – a work of flash fiction

another flash fiction story, this time a straight fiction piece. hope you enjoy.

He and Sam had lived in this house for almost 30 years—bought it when their youngest was six, and their oldest was graduating high school. They'd had lots of great times in this house, him and Sam, their three kids, their various pets and pet projects. No doubt about it, this house was well loved.

Maybe I'm not the best handyman around, Troy thought, I never quite got those shingles repaired properly, and the downspouts were always loose. But I've taken care of her, I suppose.

"Help." he said, meekly.

Yeah, it was a good house. And it's a great little neighborhood, for sure, despite those noisy planes. It just meant that they were able to get a bigger house, to fit the family a little better, and not get in over their heads with the mortgage. There was the great big backyard that the kids loved to play in. He'd built them a sandbox, a swing set, a tree house—and not from a kit either. He'd drawn up the plans, bought the lumber, cut it, drilled it, assembled it, dug it in, and made sure it was sturdy. All those things were still back there, still being used by the grandkids. Still standing, still safe.

At least… I think… are they still back there? he wondered. What was I…

"Can anybody hear…" his throat felt dry. He was a little thirsty.

Some of his buddies back at the office had tried to talk him out of it, of course. Tried to tell him he wouldn't like living that close to the airport, even if it was just a little one with only a single runway. He had assured them that it would be alright, he had it on good authority (the previous owners, and his real-estate agent) that after a while, it would hardly be noticeable. The noise would just blend into the background. Maybe that was never quite true, but it had certainly been livable. There were pretty much no flights after 9pm, and none before 6am, and that suited him pretty well. The kids hardly ever complained, and Sam never said a peep… at least, not to him. She was quite a woman, Sam. When they first moved in, the kids would play in the backyard, and she'd sit on the deck watching. She looked like a queen. A radiant vision with shoulder-length hair as black as night. It was his favorite memory of her.

Where is Sam? She should be home soon, shouldn't she? he panicked for a moment. I hope she doesn't…

"help." his voice was thin, faint.

He had actually gotten to the point where he could identify the planes flying overhead by the sound. Eventually, he'd even taken some flying lessons and gotten to know some of the private pilots there. In fact, he was pretty sure that was Chuck Kleiser he'd heard approaching the house a few minutes ago. If he was out in the backyard, he could hear the prop and engine noise, figure out exactly which plane it was, then look overhead as it passed just to confirm it. There goes that Cessna, that Piper, that Beech, that other Cessna. It was mostly the same planes, though occasionally a new one would come in, an out-of-towner here on business, or some rich youngster with his new Socata 850 or Piper Meridian. Tony didn't much care either way, but he got a kick out of the old-timers griping about the new guys with barely concealed contempt and carefully subdued envy.

Did I hear Chuck's plane? Tony struggled to remember. His engine didn't sound well.


Of course, now some of his friends were pilots, and the planes flying overhead every day meant that those TV and newspaper reports about planes crashing, running out of fuel, not making it off the runway, bursting into flames… all those things had started to hit home—become personal. He saw a report like that and immediately wondered where Frank was tonight, or Jody. He'd look out the front window just to make sure there wasn't some giant pillar of smoke rising over the neighborhood from the direction of the runway. He'd see on TV some demolished house with a demolished plane sitting in the living room, and he'd wonder about the occupants. What were they thinking when that American Champion landed on their couch?

Need to close a window, it's too cool in here. Tony enjoyed the light shining into the house, but felt… Is that… blood?

"samantha." Tony whispered his wife's name.

He'd been doing something… what was it. He'd gotten up to… he'd gotten up to fix himself a sandwich.

But I'm not hungry. he thought.

He'd gotten up from the couch to fix himself a sandwich. That was when he'd heard Chuck's plane coming up over the neighborhood. Chuck's plane coming up, but not sounding quite right. Sounding unsteady. Then, yes, then as he was listening, hearing Chuck's plane coming up, then hearing nothing. Hearing nothing, and then… then everything. So much noise. Noise and light and dust and dark. He'd opened his eyes, and the dust had settled. That seemed strange, that the dust should settle that fast. Then there was all this blood, that certainly didn't seem right. And there, there was the nose of Chuck's plane, in his living room, crushing his couch like it was waiting for football season. He thought he saw Chuck, in his plane, but that wasn't Chuck, not really.

He looked out, where his front window had been, and he saw… he saw the huge pillar of smoke rising over the neighborhood, rising up out of his living room. He couldn't lift his head anymore, but he could see blood on his hands. He thought about his kids and how much fun they'd had in this house. He thought about Samantha on the deck, her long hair, black as night, blowing ever so slightly in the breeze. She should be home soon, but he hoped she wouldn't… wouldn't find him like this.

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