What Remains Unseen – by Dr Paul Bennett

Paul Bennett knows relationships. He knows them so well, he could write novel after novel espousing the intricacies therein.

Today’s Thanksgiving Flash Fiction story is called What Remains Unseen, and it’s a beautiful story about a young woman and her grandpa. Follow the rabbit down the nostalgia hole here.

If you have the time, please check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, wondering if the monsters in our heads matter only to us, or if one day they might come out of the dark to terrify you as well.

If you’d like what you see, you might also check out our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

Derek Alan Elkins will be back with us on Monday. Have a great weekend, everyone, and try not to break anything.

Confession

The Fondue Writers are at it again. Thus begins our quasi-annual Free Flash Fiction Explode-A-Ganza. I’m up first, the rest of the authors will be at their level best between now and Thanksgiving.

Here’s my Short story: Confession:

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Father Denneman placed a lit candle on the altar near the sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, then stared into the flame for a while. The are no lights in the building, save for those still burning on the altar, and the dying sunlight of a mid-November evening dances through the stained glass windows depicting the stations of the cross, casting a kaleidoscope of colors and shadow onto the tabernacle, the pulpit and the pews behind. 

Father Denneman sat on the front pew, watching the sunset through the windows. The church is empty. Even on Sunday mornings, when the old faithful – that’s what he has to call them, because they are old and they show up week in and week out, despite what weather and other natural disasters might beset the city – show up for their weekly sacraments and well-worn messages, it feels empty. It’s like the church was a balloon full of water and someone had nicked the bottom. The water never gushed out, but it was draining. He could feel it day after week after month after year. 

It wasn’t always this way. Our Lady of the Rosary, or OLR as the community called it, had been a central figure in the city for as long as Father Denneman could remember. Through the economic boom times when the factories employed most of the men in the community to the economic downturns of the last few decades, Our Lady of the Rosary’s standard rollout of fish fries and prayer circles, Bingo nights, and holiday concerts had kept everyone together.  

Then, COVID kept everyone in their homes for the better part of a year. Things opened up again in the Spring to wild fanfare, but ever since then, the emptiness only increased. Now, the church felt nearly deflated. 

Father Denneman moved his hands in his pocket, felt the letter in his pocket. His hand lingered. A few of the candles on the altar flickered out.

Father Denneman made his way to the confessional. The youth choir would be here in an hour or so to practice for the Christmas Cantata. Father Denneman would hold confession until then and, although he attended his duties faithfully, there had been no visitors in several weeks, which is why he spent most of his time sitting in the front pew, watching the sunset through the stations of the cross, pondering the causes and effects of the world that seemed to shrink around him.  

The door at the back of the church creaked open, and a woman entered.She walked slowly to the altar, lit a candle of her own, and turned towards the confession booth. 

“Um … hello?” 

“Hello.” 

“Bless me Father? For I have sinned? Is that right?” 

“More or less. Normally, I’d has how long it’s been since your last confession, but … “ 

“It’s been a while.” 

“I figured.” 

“I’m sorry, Father. I’m just so nervous. These old churches with their windows and old, carved wood. It makes me feel small.” 

“You know what I did this morning when i woke up?” 

“What?” 

“I walked out here with my bowl of Wheates, kicked my foot into one of the pews, and swore, right there in front of God and Jesus and everything.” 

She laughed a little. It was always nice to hear people laugh. Father Dennemen hadn’t heard much laughter outside his own in quite some time. 

“You know what happened after that?” 

“What?” 

“Nothing. God didn’t come down from on high and lecture me about swearing in church. And all that fancy carved wood is just the same as cheap plywood as far as my toe is concerned. It hurts the same when I kick it.” 

The woman laughed again. She was settling in. 

“So how long HAS it been since your last confession?”

“Not since I was a kid. Twenty-five years? Thirty?” 

“Why so long?” 

“We went all the time when I was a kid: Mom, Dad, my sister, and me. I did Catholic school and everything. But Dad left us when I was in fourth grade.” 

“I see.” 

“Mom tried to keep us going for a year or so, but that didn’t keep. After that, Sundays were just like Saturdays but with less cartoons.” 

“That happens a lot. When a marriage crumbles, it’s sometimes hard to hear God’s voice.” 

“Or he sounds hollow.” 

“That’s a bit pessimistic.” 

“Maybe. It’s what Mom used to say when her church friends asked why she wasn’t at mass. ‘Have you opened your heart to hear God’s voice?’ and Mom would say, ‘Yes, and that voice is a shadow of what it used to be, if it’s even there at all.’”

“And what about you? Where is God in your life?” 

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen God as someone who cared all that much about me.”

“You don’t think God cares about you? 

“I don’t see the point. All those prayers, all those sermons. God’s still up there, we’re still down here, and that’s that.” 

“You don’t believe?” 

“It’s not a question of belief. It’s just hard to interact with something – or someone – who isn’t there.” 

“Well, trust me, God believes…” 

“God believes in me?” Anger flashed in the woman’s voice. “Is that what you were going to say?” 

“Something like that, yes.” 

“I knew it. You holy-than-thou people are all the same.” The woman gathers her things and starts to stand up.

“What’s wrong?” 

“You think all people need a couple of bumpers sticker sayings and the occasional fish fry, and everything will be okay.” 

“I’m sorry.” 

“No. I’m sorry, Father. This was a mistake.” The woman moves to leave the confessional.

“You’re right,” Father Denneman speaks in a commanding voice. The woman stops.

“You’re right,” he says, this time barely above a whisper. “It was the wrong thing to say. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?” 

The woman stands in her spot for a long, quiet, moment. 

“Yes,” she says, and sits down again. 

“Thank you,” Father Denneman says. 

The youth choir has arrived. Father Denneman and the woman can hear the choir bleachers expanding, papers rustling, the quiet chatter of children as they wait for the leader to give them instruction. 

“Okay, everyone. Settle down. It’s time to start working. Line up and let’s start with warm up exercises.” 

“I’m sorry,” Father Denneman says again. “You do this kind of thing long enough, you fall into a rut.” He pats his right hand over his pants pocket and looks down. “Sometimes, mistakes become reflexive. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” the woman says. Then, in a lighter tone, “Things in the church must have changed since I was last here if the clergy are confessing to US, now.” 

“You should see the sisters’ Friday night dance party when they think no one is watching.” 

They both laugh. Long and loud. The kind of laughter that brings tears, despite your best efforts to keep it at bay. The youth choir stopped singing as they laughed. It’s not often you hear that sort of thing coming out of a confessional. sophos

“That was good,” Father Denneman says. “I haven’t laughed like that in a long time.” 

“Me neither,” the woman says, and she grows quiet. 

“Has something taken away your laughter, too?”

“My son,” she says. 

“Kids can be difficult, sometimes.” 

“He was never like that,” the woman said. “From the moment he was born, he was just the happiest kid. A face full of joy, my mom, his Grandma used to say. Smart, too. When he was in third grade, he won his classroom spelling bee and got to compete in the larger, school-wide spelling bee. That was third through eighth grade.” 

“He was so excited! I told him not to get his hopes up. He was competing against seventh and eighth graders. He probably wouldn’t last long. But that didn’t stop him. He studied those practice words till he knew all of them and, on the day of the school-wide bee, he just kept spelling everything right until it was him and two eighth graders.” 

“That’s impressive!” Father Denneman said. 

“Yeah. Parents and teachers kept saying ‘Who’s that kid?’ and I’d respond, ‘He’s my son!’” 

They laughed together. 

“They eventually ran out of practice words. He got a few more right, but crashed and burned on the word PULCHRITUDINOUS.” 

“What?” 

“I know, right? What third grader knows how to spell that?” 

“Or anyone. I’ve never even  heard of it.”

“Me, neither. It means ‘displaying physical beauty.’ I had to look it up.He still go third place, though. Both of the eighth graders told him they’d have missed it, too. “He was always like that, though. Just smiling his way through all kinds of challenges.” 

“Until..”

“The lockdowns were hard on him. He was always such an outgoing kid. He NEEDED other people. He couldn’t handle being stuck inside all the time, not being able to see anyone. A few months into online school and he just stopped doing work. He’d hide in his bedroom. He stopped eating.” 

“They opened the schools up again midway through last year, but he was a different person. That smile was gone. HIs teachers said he stayed in the back row, never speaking. We tried to get him into some activities. Soccer. Basketball. Art Club. None of it worked.” 

“I came home from work early this past May. I’d bought him his favorite ice cream. I wanted to see if he’d go for a walk with me down to the lake nearby. The house was quiet when I walked in. I called his name, but he didn’t answer.”

“When I went into his room, I found him in his closet. He’d hung himself with a belt.” 

“I’m so sorry. You’ve been through a lot.”

 “Thank you, father . . . but . . .”

“What?”

“That’s just something people say. They tell you they’re sorry and they’re trying to be nice, but I can’t help but think that what they’re really saying is ‘better you than me.’”

“I get that impression, too, sometimes.”

“Have you ever been through that?”

“I see it at funerals a lot. And some weddings, too, but I saw it firsthand a couple of years ago when my mother died.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. She was on her way to the library one day when another car ran a red light and broadsided her. She died almost instantly. People were sympathetic. Like you said, I think they were as genuine as they could be, but when I saw people laughing and joking over the veggie tray at her wake, I got a sick feeling in my stomach, and I had to leave.”

“Right, like you can’t stand to be around anyone.”

“I think it’s part of the natural grieving process. You need some time alone; otherwise it’s too easy to dull the pain with distractions. You never have to face it and you never move on.

“I tried to move on. I kept it together through the funeral; through everyone bringing over their stinking casseroles, asking their same stupud questions; through the few weeks I took off work. I’ve kept it together up till now. But, with the holidays coming, I just can’t. I can’t.”

“It’s okay if…” 

“No, It’s not!” she shoots back to him, the anger welling up again. “It’s not. It’s my fault.”

“No.” 

“Yes. I knew something was wrong. I knew. Me.” 

“Everyone we knew was losing their jobs, and my husband was preoccupied with keeping his so we could stay afloat. His teachers couldn’t see anything through a computer screen. His friends were all weirded out from that much time in lockdown. But I’m his mother. I SAW what was happening and I just kept telling myself ‘It will be fine once school starts again, once things open up, once he can see his friends again. But it wasn’t. I knew it and I did nothing. I am a monster. I should have done better. There is no forgiveness for something like this.” 

“… Excuse me, Father.” The woman steps out of the confessional, and Father Denneman can hear her crying. He puts his hand over his pocket, where the letter he never wanted to read has been waiting for him for several weeks. 

He steps out of the confessional. She sees him and starts to walk away. 

“Me, too,” Father Denneman says. The woman stops, turns, and faces him. 

“What?” 

“You think you’re a monster. So am I. Me, too.” He pulls out the letter. “This is from my father. I haven’t spoken to him in twenty years. I was a fresh-faced priest at the time, learning the ropes at a big church up north. One day, he walks into my confessional and tells me needs absolution. He says he’s leaving my mother, because he fell in love with some woman from work. I was furious. I screamed at him, called him all sorts of names, told him to get out and never come back.” 

Father Denneman paused. “The looks on the faces of some of the folks waiting their turn to confess were somewhat less than contrite when they saw my display.” 

“I cut him off after that. My father was my rock. He taught me everything I knew, including my faith and love for God. To me, it seemed like a betrayal I could never forgive; a betrayal God could never forgive.” 

“Dad tried calling, but I never answered. He tried writing letters, but I would throw them away, unread. He even tried stopping in once or twice, but i was always unavailable. I simply cut him out of my life.” 

“My sister called a little over a year ago to say he’d be diagnosed with cancer. Lung cancer, which makes sense since he’d smoked like a chimney his whole life. She said Dad had been asking if I could come around to visit. I almost did, a time or two, but then I remembered him sauntering into my confessional, telling me his news like he was letting me know he’d bought a new car or found a nice vacation spot in New England. I got mad and said no.” 

“He died a little over a month ago. I did not attend the funeral. Only now, it was out of shame, not agner. I knew all along I needed to forgive him. All he ever wanted was for me to love him back. But I didn’t, and I couldn’t show up there in front of everyone and let them know how big a failure I was.” 

“A few weeks ago, I got this letter from him.” Father Denneman opened the letter, and began to read. 

“My Dear Son. This will probably be the last letter I write. I hope it finds you well. I want you to know two things. First, that I never stopped loving you, no matter how far apart we have been. And second, that I understand your silence and accept it. I regret leaving your mother, I regret not having tried harder with her or with you, and I regret all the lost years you and I never got to share. That’s my doing. God has forgiven me for it, and I hope you can one day forgive me as well. With Never-ending Love, Dad.”

Father Denneman put the letter back into his pocket. The youth choir began singing the first cross of Ave Maria. 

“I don’t think you are a monster, but if you are, how much more of a monster am I?” 

The woman stepped forward, put her hand on Father Denneman’s shoulder, and motioned toward the choir. 

“They sound beautiful.” 

“They do now. You should have heard them three weeks ago.” 

The both laughed. 

“What is your name, Father?” 

“Tim. What is yours?”

“Anne.” 

“Hello, Anne.” 

“Hello, Tim.” 

“You are not a monster, Anne.” 

“Neither are you, Tim.” 

“Thank you.” 

“Thank you.” 

Tim and Anne stood next to the confessional at Our Lady of the Rosary church and listened to the youth choir sing.

************************************************************

If you have the time, please check out the sites for ALL of the Fondue Writers: Joseph CourtemancheJamie D. GreeningKathy KexelDerek Alan ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul Bennet. If you like what you see, why not pick up a few copies of their books? It covers the cost of everything, and it gives us hope in those long, dark nights when we’re dreaming up new stories, wondering if the monsters in our heads matter only to us, or if one day they might come out of the dark to terrify you as well.

If you’d like what you see, you might also check out our first collection of short stories, The Covid Quarantine Catina, written during the first months of the Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s available in Kindle, Paperback, and Audio formats.

Rob Cely will be here on Wednesday with his next story. Until then, remember those you love, celebrate the people in your live and, as always, don’t break anything.

The Years The Locusts Ate – A Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Story by Paul Bennett

The Final Thanksgiving story from the Fondue Writers Club (and Bar & Grille and Laundromat). Dr Paul Bennett (and, yes, that’s an MD) brings us a story of Thanksgiving that warms the soul. To attempt an intro would only cheapen it. Go read it for yourself. Here it is.

Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. We’ll be back in a few weeks with some Christmas stories.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.

Thanksgiving for Two – A Thanksgiving Message from Kathy Kexel

This one was unplanned, but I’m including it anyway. Kathy Kexel shares a wonderful message about Thanksgiving for everyone.

Check out “Thanksgiving for Two

Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. Come on back tomorrow for the finale.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.

Thanksgiving with the Family – A Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Story from Yours Truly

Ray Davidson stood in the only open checkout line at the local Publix grocery store, carrying three cans of green beans, two cans of cream of mushroom soup, and a bottle of Italian Amarone from the expensive part of the wine section: the part behind the glass partition where the manager has to unlock it. Ray Davidson was also mad.

A few hours earlier, Ray and his wife Michelle got into a fight over who had mistakenly used the necessary ingredients for her world-famous green-bean casserole – a staple at all Davidson family get-togethers, especially and including the Thanksgiving festivities which, right at this very moment, was taking place at the Davidson family home three miles away. Michelle argued that Ray fed the green beans to the boys with dinner a few nights back when she was volunteering at the local animal shelter. Ray said that was a bunch crap. He ordered pizza like he always did.

“You probably just forgot to get them,” he said, mistakenly believing this would be helpful.

It was not. It was not helpful at all.

So Ray found himself standing in the checkout line at Publix with several expensive cans of what the can said were “Gourmet Green Beans straight from the south of France.” The wine he bought because he knew it would piss Michelle off. She hated Amarone, and complained every time he went for the expensive stuff.

“Cost of doing business, my dear,” he said to himself, and laughed. At least here he didn’t have to listen to his father-in-law’s jokes, or his sister’s never-ending stories about her trials and tribulations working a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ray had all the sympathy in the world for everyone in the healthcare industry fighting the good fight, but his sister-in-law made herself out to be some kind of angelic superhero. Ray knew better. She was in the IT department. She sat in the basement with the rest of the nerds, and she only went in two days a week. The only thing she’d contracted since this whole mess started was an incurable addition to daytime television.

“She’s always watching that crap,” Ray’s brother-in-law told him earlier that afternoon after his second shot of bourbon. “The hospital computer be crashing all the time and she’s just like: ‘Nah. My stories is on.’”

It all made Ray Davidson wonder if maybe the lockdown laws and shelter-in-place orders which had put the kibosh on the holidays in other states were maybe a good idea after all. At least that way, he and Michelle could fight in peace and privacy like normal couples. Like they always did.

There was a commotion at the register.

A man in a tan jacket and jeans leaned into the plastic partition.

“Please,” he said. “It’s Thanksgiving. I just want to feed my kids.” He shoved the partition hard. “Come on!”

The cashier stepped back, flustered. She dialed the phone next to her.

“Manager to aisle three,” she said over the store intercom. “Manager to aisle three.”

Ray intervened. “I’ll pay for it,” he said. “No need to make a big deal.”

Both the cashier and the man in the tan jacket looked at him in shock. Ray glanced at the conveyor belt. “A turkey and a box of stuffing. What’s that? Twenty bucks? Add it to my total.”

Ten minutes later, Ray was in the parking lot, fumbling for his keys, when he heard a voice from behind.

“Hey man.” Ray turned. It was the man in the tan jacket. “Thanks for that.”

“No problem,” Ray said.

“No, really. Thanks. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feed my kids a Thanksgiving dinner this year. Times have been tough. I recently lost my job. All I had was ten bucks.”  

“Well, there you go,” Ray said, still fumbling for his key. He wasn’t really trying to be a Good Samaritan. He just wanted to get home as quickly as possible so Michelle wouldn’t yell at him again.

“It’s getting late and those things,” Ray motioned to the turkey, “take a while to cook, so you’d better get home and get started.”

The man laughed. “You’re right.”

Ray found his key and turned to his car. His phone buzzed in his pocket. Probably Michelle, complaining about how long I’ve been gone, he thought.

The man stepped closer. “One more thing,” he said.

“What’s that?”

The man in the tan coat punched Ray in the face, breaking his nose with one hit. Ray fell to the ground and spat blood. The parking lot was cold. The smell of antifreeze mixed with exhaust filled his nostrils.

“Better get that fixed, or Michelle will be mad,” he thought to himself, then wondered why he thought that.

He raised himself to his hands and knees, trying to get back up, confused at what was happening. He could feel fresh cuts on his hands and knees. His left cheek had been torn open by the pavement. His nose throbbed as blood poured out of it.

Ray looked up, raising one hand to block out the light poles, which had recently turned on. The man came down again, this time, knocking out a tooth. Everything went dark.

*** *** *** ***

Ray Davidson came to a while later. He was riding in the passenger seat of his car. Everything was dark.

“What the…where are you taking me?”

“Woah, dude!” the man in the tan coat said. “Looks like you had yourself a little accident. Are you feeling better?”

“What?”

“I said you had an accident. Passed out there for a bit. You were starting to worry me.”

“I didn’t have an accident,” Ray said. “You knocked me out.”

“You’re still stuck on that?” the main the tan coat said. “We were just having some fun. You need to lighten up, friend.”

“Fun?”

“Yeah, fun.”

Ray took stock of his surroundings. It was nighttime now. He was seated upright in the passenger seat of his car with his seatbelt on. They were driving down a remote, wooded road that seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. An old Led Zeppelin song on the radio.

Lots of people talkin’, few of them know. Soul of a woman was created below.

“Ain’t that the truth?” the man in the tan coat said.

“Where are you taking me?”

“It’s Thanksgiving! I’m taking you home to have dinner with me and the kids. You bought us the turkey; I figured it was the least I could do.”

“Let me go.”

“Let you go? You could at least say thanks. Jeez.”

“Please let me go.”  

“Calm down, man,” the man in the tan coat said. He took a swig from the bottle of Amarone, then offered it to Ray. “Have some of this. Should take the edge off.”

“That was mine,” Ray said.

“Right, and now it’s mine, and I’m offering you some. Take it.”

“Let me go.”

The man in the tan coat tucked the bottle between his legs, and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a small pistol and pointed it at Ray’s head.

“Enough of that, Ray.” Ray made a face of shock at hearing his name. The man in the tan coat grinned. “Surprised? I checked your wallet while you was napping.”

Ray shuffled. The passenger seat was suddenly uncomfortable.

“Enough of that letting you go crap. You’re gonna love Thanksgiving at my place. I need to stop off and get some presents for the kids before we get home.”

The man in the tan coat pulled the car into a Quick Stop gas station and convenient store. He parked in the back, away from everyone else. The street lights behind the gas station were broken. In this remote part of the state, this late at night, they were in near total darkness.

“Here,” the man said. “Turn around.”

He grabbed Ray’s shoulder and twisted him so he faced the passenger side door, away from the driver, then wrenched his hands downward. Ray could feel rope passing around both his hands, pulling them tight against the gear shift.

“Don’t want you running away, now,” he said.

The man in the tan coat gave the ropes an extra tug, nearly drawing blood from Ray’s hands, then stepped out of the car and made his way into the convenient store.

As soon as the man was out of sight, Ray started pulling on the ropes, hoping to pry himself loose. His cell phone was still in his pocket. If he could just get one hand free, he could call for help. If he could get both hands free, he could run.

The ropes held firm for what felt like an eternity, digging into his wrists. Ray could feel trickles of blood pooling against the ropes and dripping onto the gearshift. Just when it seemed like there was no hope, his right hand slipped forward a bit. Not enough to pry it free, but enough to know it was possible.

Ray tugged harder, nearly pulling his right shoulder out of its socket. He had to hurry. What had it been: three minutes? Four? This was his chance. His one shot. The man in the tan coat would be back soon.

“If he makes it back and I’m still tied up, I’m done,” Ray thought, and pulled harder.

Three shoulder wrenches later, and Ray dislocated his shoulder. Two more and his hand came free. Ray went straight for his phone. He pulled it out, and was able to dial 9 and 1 when there was a tap on the passenger side window. The man in the tan coat smiled at him.

“Uh Oh. What did you do, Ray?”

He opened the door, grabbed his cell phone, and threw it to the ground, crushing it.

“Don’t need that anymore,” the man said. Then, he slammed the door shut, catching Ray in the temple with the door. Ray was dazed for a moment. The next thing he heard was the man in the tan coat climbing into the driver’s seat.

“Aww, Ray. I can’t put the car in drive. Your hand is still in the way.” He grabbed Ray’s left arm, the one still tied to the gear shift, with both hands.

“Here, let me help.” The man in the tan coat, yanked Ray’s arm upward, breaking his wrist. The ropes dug into his skin, cutting deep into the meat of his hand.

Ray’s hand was still tied to the gear shift, so the man in the tan coat pulled on his arm like he was trying to pull a tree stump out of the ground. Ray wasn’t sure how many bones he broke before the arm eventually pulled free, but it was more than one.

The man in the tan coat, then adjusted the mirror, put on his seat belt, and moved the gearshift into drive.

“You might want to put your seat belt on, Ray. You never can be too safe.”

*** *** *** ***

Two hours later, and they were deep into the Woods; no signs of civilization anywhere.

“I got you a present,” the man in the tan coat said.

“What?”

“A present. Back at the gas station.”

“I don’t want anything,” Ray said. “I just want to go home.”

“Oh, but you’re gonna love it.”

The man in the tan coat turned into a disused gravel path off the side of the road.

“Is this where your house is?” Ray asked. “Are we finally going to meet your kids?”

The man in the tan coat laughed.

“You idiot. I don’t have any kids. I left the turkey you bought sitting in a shopping cart back at the grocery store.”

“Then where are we?”

“We’re at the place where I’m going to show you my present!”

The man in the tan coat drove a few hundred yards into the woods, then stopped the car and turned on the headlights.

“Get out,” the man said.

“No,” Ray said.

The man in the tan coat pulled out his gun again.

“What’s that matter?” Ray said. “You’re just going to kill me.”

“Not until you get your present, I’m not.”

Ray got out of the car. The man in the tan coat followed, pointing the gun. Ray stopped when he saw large, burnt patches on the ground.

“What’s this?” Ray said.

The man the tan coat hit ray in the head with the butt of his pistol, knocking Ray to the ground, then kicked him in the stomach several times. Ray vomited in the burnt leaves as the man walked back to the car.

“I need to get your present, Ray!” he said, opening the trunk.  The man in the tan coat returned, carrying a large, plastic can.

Gasoline.

He gathered leaves and sticks around Ray’s body, then poured out the entire can onto Ray and the kindling around him.

“I want you to know how thankful I am that you helped me out back at the store, Ray,” the man in the tan coat said. “You really made this a Thanksgiving to remember. My kids are going to be so happy.”

Ray coughed, barely able to speak.

“Please don’t kill me,” Ray said.

“What?”

“Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.”

The man in the tan coat knelt down close to Ray, held his chin in his hands. Like a father.

“Aw, Ray. This way, we can be friends forever!”

He poured the last of the gas can onto Ray’s head and stepped back. He pulled out a cigarette and a lighter, popped the cigarette into his mouth, and lit it.

“I didn’t smoke while we were driving, Ray. I didn’t want to mess up your car. I figure it was okay, now.”

“Please! Please don’t kill me.”

“Turn around, Ray. Turn around and close your eyes. I hate watching people’s faces when I do this.”

The man in the tan coat stood next to the car, cigarette in hand, with a docile smile on his face.

There was nothing Ray could do. He slowly turned away from the man in the tan coat and closed his eyes.

As he waited for the click of the lighter and the flash that would bring even more pain, and the end of his life, Ray thought of his wife. He thought of their fights and disagreements. He thought of how much he had complained about having to get the green beans, along with all of the little tasks Michelle had asked of him over the years.

Ray thought of his kids, how they were always asking him for a few more minutes of his time at the end of the day when he was trying to finish up something for work or relax in front of the tv with a glass of bourbon. He thought of how he rarely said yes. How he always denied them.

Ray felt regret. Ray mouthed the words, “I’m sorry,” loud enough for only him to hear.

Two seconds later, there was a click, the roar of an engine, and a woosh of leaves.

Ray turned around to see his car backing quickly out of the woods to the main road. He sat in silence in the un-burnt pile of leaves and sticks as he watched the headlights disappear.

A few hours later, as the sun came up, Ray stumbled into another remote convenient store.

The clerk wanted to call the cops, but Ray insisted that he call his wife first.

“Sure, pal. Whatever you want.”

“Thank you,” Ray said. “Thank you so much.”

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Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. One more to go, and then we put the Free Flash Fiction machine on ice until Christmas.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.

Thanksgiving Trauma: A Pilgrim’s Story – A Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Story from Joe Courtemanche

You can always count on Joe to go dark and deep. That sounds like a euphemism for something. It isn’t. He takes the story to heretofore unknown depths and then starts digging.

Check out “Thanksgiving Trauma: A Pilgrim’s Story

Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. I’m up next. Be prepared.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.

Six People; Six Pies – A Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Story by Jamie Greening

Today, we bring you the third story in the Fondue Writer’s Club (and Bar&Grille and Laundromat). This time, it’s from Jamie Greening, and it’s full of heart and wonderfulness: exactly the kind of feeling you want at Thanksgiving, this year in particular.

Check out “Six People; Six Pies

Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. Go eat some pie. There’s plenty.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.

Other – A Free Thanksgiving Story from Kathy Kexel

Ladies and Gentlemen! The Fondue Writers Club of America (and Bar & Grille … and Laundromat) has toggled some switches and pushed some buttons on the Free Flash Fiction Machine, precisely configuring the output generators to THANKSGIVING, and the time is now for Thanksgiving-themed Free Flash Fiction just for you.
Don’t say we never gave you nuthin’.

Our first story is from the inimitable Kathy Kexel, and it’s about space people coming to a new world. It’s called “Other.” Check it out and check back again every day from here until Turkey day for all your short and flash fiction needs.

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Thanks for joining us with the Free Flash Fiction Thanksgiving Spectacular from the Fondue Writer’s Club, Bar&Grille and Laundromat. That’s it for this Halloween season, but don’t worry. We’ll be back in a few weeks to share some Thanksgiving stories, and a few weeks after that to share some Christmas stories.

Check out some of the other authors in our tribe. Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett.

If you like our stories, check out or COVID-19 themed short story collection, THE COVID QUARANTINE CANTINA, available now in Kindle and Print and soon in Audio.