Serial – Episode 1 of “20th”

It’s my goal to be providing you a pretty steady stream of fiction, but it’s not always possible to get all the awesome ones ready to go in conjunction with a weekly schedule. So, with that, here’s the start of an experiment in serialized fiction. Don’t be shy about telling me what you think.

20th – Episode 1

The phone rang and Tim fumbled his hand around the bed to find it and bring it up to his ear. He thumbed button to answer and said “What?” His eyes never left the clock. 11:58

“You awake?”

“Don’t ask stupid questions.”

“Teacher says there are no stupid questions there, Timbo.”

“That’s a lie.”

“You ready?”

“Again with the stupid question.”

“Come on man, you know what I mean. Are you ready?”

“I don’t know. I think so. Doesn’t matter if I am.”

“Can I come with?”

“Are you insane?”

“Come on, Tim. How many years before you just say yes?”

“More years. That’s how many. More.”

“Can I at least pay for half the lotto tickets? I’ll only ask for a 25% cut if you win. It’s a pretty good deal.”

“You want to give me $10 and then consider getting one quarter of several million dollars to be a good deal?”

“It’s all relative man.”

Tim sighed. 11:59. He rubbed at his eyes.

“It’s getting close, man.”

“I know it is. What do you think I’m doing over here?”

“Sitting on your bed staring at a clock. Same as me.”

“I’ve gotta go, Dave.”

“Right. Big day and all.”

“I’ll see you later.”

“Tim? I wanted to… It’s been a ride, man. If I don’t get to talk to you later. I just wanted to say.”

“I got it, Dave.”

“You be caref—“

Tim dropped the phone to the bed and continued to stare at the glowing red lines. Without a sound, they shifted. 12:00.

The 20th.

He let out the breath he realized he had been holding and got up from the bed, stepping tentatively away from it like a man unsure if the ground beneath him is capable of supporting his weight. He listened, heard nothing and then shrugged his shoulders and walked to the bedroom door.

Hanging from the back of the door, innocuous from a distance, was a tabloid-sized sheet of paper covered with numbered entries, 28 in all. By the end of the day, one way or another, there would be a 29th entry.

The first line on the sheet simply said “1 – Born”. The second “2 – Parents Separate”. The third “3 – Dad hit by car”. The fourth “4 – Settlement awarded”. Tim ran his gaze down the list, stopping as he did almost every day at three particular items.

13 – Dad dies.

17 – Janet goes missing.

20 – Mom suicide.

Tim ran his hands briefly over each of those lines. The paper was beginning to wear thin as a result of this penance. He reached to his desk and uncapped a fine-point Sharpie. Bending down, he wrote a careful “29 – ”.

His last thought as he opened the door and stepped out into the hall was that he hoped he’d be the one to return and finish the line. Otherwise it would simply read: “29 – Died.”

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