Short Fiction and Poetic Prose
A Taste of Flash Fiction and Other Notions!
WAY OUT WEST
By, Thomas Healy
With the noose hanging limply from his right hand, well over four feet long, Wendell stared intently at the drinking fountain in front of him. The basin was full of brittle leaves, all the fountains in the park having been turned off during the winter. It was exactly six feet away, he had just counted off the distance, and stood next to the park bench where he had folded his overcoat. He took a shallow breath then stepped toward the fountain and threw the noose at it with an audible grunt. It caught the front lip of the basin but did not hold and slipped onto the ground.
"Damn it!" he snorted, tucking his necktie back inside his shirt.
It was the fourth toss he had made today, and if a little better than the others, still not good enough. Not at all. Frustrated, he jerked the rope back, vigorously shaking the twists out of it, then shook out another noose to try again. He was determined to rope the drinking fountain before he returned to the office however many tosses it took. The ragged old Manila rope, almost half an inch thick, was given to him by his father many years ago when he was barely the height of the drinking fountain. Back then, he knew, he would have had no trouble making an accurate throw. Then he could rope anything, sometimes even with his eyes closed.
"Hey, where's your hat, cowboy?" some kid on a skateboard hollered as he hurtled past the fountain.
Wendell grinned, accustomed to such wisecracks since he started coming to the park with his rope.
"Your horse eat it?" another skateboarder cried out, laughing inanely.
Ignoring them, Wendell stepped straight toward the fountain and threw the noose again, and this time it caught the silver-smooth handle. It appeared as if it was going to slip off but, to his amazement, it stayed, if only barely.
He was elated despite the sudden twinge he felt in his right shoulder. He also tried to ignore it but without success. The pain in his shoulder first flared up a week and a half ago while shoveling snow from his driveway. Reluctantly he made an appointment with his physician who determined he was suffering from tendonitis and recommended some stretching exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and tendons. He did them for a couple of days but was bored stiff and decided he could pretty much achieve the same results by throwing a rope. So he dug the old Manila rope out of the cedar chest and put it in his briefcase so he could spend his lunch hour throwing it in the park across the street from the insurance building where he worked as an underwriter. He suspected others would laugh at him like those skateboarders but he didn't care because he knew he had to if he wanted to get better.
The next afternoon at the park Wendell began by swinging the noose around his head several times, gradually letting out more and more rope until the noose was large enough to snare a bank vault. But he didn't attempt to rope the drinking fountain because he knew a wind-up throw was only suitable for moving targets. Such as his son, he thought, smiling palely.
Because his father taught him how to throw a rope Wendell felt obliged to teach his son but Richie really didn't have the interest or patience to learn the skill. Often he would lose his temper after failing to snare some stationary object and throw the rope down in frustration and stomp back into the house to watch television. On more than a couple occasions Wendell remembered roping his son around the ankles to keep him from leaving.
"What'd you do that for?" Richie demanded the first time he did it. "For your own good, son."
"A fat lot of good that's going to do me. You're the one who wants to be Hopalong Cassidy, not me."
Angrily now he snapped the noose at the drinking fountain, wishing it were his son's ankles he was trying to rope.
Not quite three weeks ago, he received a call from the desk sergeant at police headquarters informing him that Richie had been arrested with two other juveniles in connection with a series of car fires set over the weekend in the southeast part of town. He could not believe it, thought the call was a sick prank until the sergeant explained when he would be allowed to meet with his son the next day. For several minutes after hanging up the phone, he remained at his desk, staring at the photograph of his son he kept on it. There must be some mistake, he told himself, Richie was not that kind of kid. He never did particularly well at school but he had never been in any serious kind of trouble. It had to be the people he was hanging around with now, he decided, they must have caused him to start the fires. And he supposed he was partly at fault for not keeping a closer eye on his son, especially now that he was raising him on his own.
Again he snapped the noose at the waist-high fountain, hoping he could become proficient enough again to rope him away from any other bad influences that might crop up in his life.
Editor Comments: Thomas Healy was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and his stories have appeared in such flash fiction publications as Flashquake, Round, and Shine. I don't know alot about flash fiction, but this piece I like. It is confined, sharp, alot takes place in a small place in time; the events are simple, the implications, more severe. My inability to format this short piece properly, hopefully will not distract from the fun that it brings.