No Last Act: A Short Story Without “E’s”

This short story came about from a challenge by a former colleague. I think he knew I could not resist. And he was right! After many attempts, here is my humble offering. I expect to follow it up with something more poetic in the near future. It’s the kind of medicine I require to ward off covid fatigue. Take care everyone and stay safe!

Similar to shadows of a dirty shirt, black cumulus clouds, abounding with rain, hangs fat across land and final hours of this train trip. An old match with a long history is playing out.

Clickity-clack, clickity-clack. Clickity-clack, clickity-clack. Clickity-clack, clickity-clack.

“Boy! Good pumpkin tart!” Al said, wolfing it down.

“Cocky isn’t your suit, Al. Tummy happy now? Play your knight!” Don said.

“Oooh! Touchy. How did you know I was going to play that?”

“I taught you!  This stuff is in my family’s blood, way back. I told you that.” Don’s look at Al was long as Al’s knight was slid into position. “Thinking about Tina?”

“Stop distracting, Don! I must think about what you will do.”

“You won’t win, you know.” Don slid his pawn forward. “Guard your king.”

“Shut up! I know what I am doing.”

“Okay! You do!” Don said with a shrug. “Still, I must ask. Why did you and Tina—?”

“I caught Tom and Tina kissing at last Thursday’s church fish fry. Satisfy your curiosity? Now, shut up!” Al slid his bishop forward.

“Sorry.” Don’s pawn took Al’s bishop.

Clickity-clack, clickity-clack. Clickity-clack, clickity-clack. Clickity-clack, clickity-clack.

Don’s thoughts drift to a panorama passing by. “Amazing!”

“What’s amazing?”

“Look through our window. Mountains,” Don said, “snow still caps its tops.”

“Hmm…Not bad!” A grin forms. “Downpour too distracting for you?  Al slid his rook into position. “Kontrola!”

“Rain sounds similar to buckshot.” Don slips slightly forward to scratch his back. “Do you want to do that with your rook? Think it out.”

“I did!.”

Don shrugs. “Okay.” His knight took Al’s rook. “Party going on in adjoining train car, singing, piano, lots of fun by how it sounds. What do you think?”

“I’m a dingbat! That’s what I think. I must watch what I’m doing.” Arms on his lap, his mind thought through what to do. Finally, Al slid his bishop into position.

Don took his comb out to tidy his thick auburn hair and with a sigh, slid his knight into attack. “I win!”

Both shook hands and put Don’s dad’s wood carvings into its carton.  

“You shouldn’t box your king in,” Don said. “Anyway, not important. Good playing you. You know, my dad would jump up and down with joy to know I was still using his wood carvings.”

“I miss him. Good man. How long ago?”

Don thought. “Six…”

“Sand runs out fast in… hourglass.” Looking away, Al said nothing.

“Unhappy?” Don said. “Don’t. Think only happy thoughts. That is what my dad would say…Sounds raucous in that adjoining car. Want to go?”

Swish! Door shut tight at Al’s and Don’s back; room’s air was thick with carbon smog. Piano-rag had this party hopping, party animals all.

“Join us!” A salutation from a burly barman who pours two scotch at his bar.

“I’m Virginia. And you?” Passing scotch to Al and Don. “This is Sara, my sis.”

Words that got lost in a soup of booming honky-tonk and hoots from partying all around. But it was not important. Swirling to music, two pairs joyfully laughing ring out, oblivious to all in train’s car as hours fly past smoothly.

With a nod, and an invitation and drinks in hand, Al, Sara, Don and Virginia sought tranquility, privacy in a dissimilar car without a hitch.

Talking is what all four sought away from that cacophonous ‘jam.’ Soon it was known, all four want it to last.

Clic-kity-clack, clic-kity-clack. Clic-kity-clack, clic-kity-clack. Clic-kity-clack, click.

Sun’s rays burst through.

A touch, a kiss, bonding starts. Swapping info on locality of flats, a trip’s climax, conclusion, did not finish a last act.  

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