Farty Arty first appeared here in July of last year. Wow, has it been that long? I suggest a quick re-read before catching up with him in this flash fic.
Celia, my day nurse, poked her head into my room. “KC is here, and he brought someone with him.”
KC was my grandson, Kenneth Charles. I brightened immediately. “Tell him I’ll be right out.”
“I put them out in the courtyard.” She waggled her eyebrows at me. “More privacy.”
My heart sank. “Shit. Another one?”
“Her eyes are red, and it looks like she hasn’t slept in a while.”
I got to my feet with the aid of my cane, bones and muscles protesting. At eighty-three, “spry” was a word no one would ever again apply to me. The day when I’d need a walker was fast approaching, but I would fight it to the last moment.
KC and his guest were sitting on chairs in the shade of a live oak. A fountain in the small koi pond in the corner made pleasant splashing noises. He was more subdued than usual, and she was so rigid with nerves, I got the impression she was on the verge of shattering.
I greeted him first. “If it isn’t my favorite grandson.”
He jumped up and gave me a careful hug. “I’m your only grandson,” he teased. He gestured to his friend. “Arty, this is my neighbor, Susan Bukowski.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, and she unwound enough to give me a tiny nod. No smile, though. “Let’s get to it, okay? KC brought you here for a reason. Tell me about it.”
KC waved me into his chair, then stood behind me with one hand on my shoulder. A mockingbird landed in the branches above me and trilled a sweet song.
“My son, Ron, disappeared a few months ago. He and my husband weren’t getting along, and, well….” She twisted the wedding ring on her left hand. “KC says you see things. He says sometimes you help people”–she glanced up sharply–“like me.”
“Depends. Do you want the truth or would you prefer a lie?”
She flinched. “Truth, no matter how much it hurts.” A shiver went through her. “He’s only sixteen.”
A dangerous age. Old enough to think he was grown up, young enough to be vulnerable. “Do you have a picture of him?”
She pulled a wallet out of her purse, opened it to a specific location, and handed it to me. Even behind a thin layer of scratched plastic, Ron was a good-looking kid, smiling in a photo I guessed was at least a year old. I closed my eyes, and images streamed through my mind. Ron on a train, someone handsome and older sitting next to him, conversation and an offer, then Ron and the man in bed, smoking pot. There was a shift that indicated the passage of time, and I saw them walking down a street, hand in hand, wrapped in a bubble of happiness so golden, my heart ached, remembering when Meg and I had felt that way about each other.
I opened my eyes and handed the wallet back. She searched my face anxiously, terrified. KC’s hand tightened on my shoulder. “He’s okay,” I said quickly. “He got on the Amtrak in Naples and met someone–”
“Who?” she asked breathlessly. “They didn’t hurt Ron, did they?”
“A man. They hit it off. They’re together, and Ron is doing well.”
She sagged, melting like hot wax. “He’s not dead. Oh God, he’s not dead. I was so afraid, when I didn’t hear from him….”
“Very much alive,” I assured her, “and in love.”
Tears spilled down her face in an excess of emotion. “Thank you.” Leaning forward, she grasped my hands, which rested on the cane between my legs. “Do you… can you tell me where he is? I’d like to see him.”
KC said, “You won’t tell your husband, right?”
Her lips thinned. “I won’t tell him.”
I gave her the name of the city and street where he lived. She thanked me over and over, then told KC she would wait for him in the car and left.
KC sat in her vacated chair, all lit up. “They don’t always end like that, do they?”
“Nope. Nice to deliver good news for a change.” A knot I hadn’t realized was in my stomach loosened, and I straightened in relief, breathing more easily. “When are you coming back so we can visit a while?”
“Soon,” he promised. Half-rising from his seat, he kissed my temple. “I may have something to share with you shortly.” He laughed and got to his feet. “When the time is auspicious, and the stars are in alignment.”
“You little shit,” I said testily, but my love for him was clear in every word.
He laughed again. “I’ll stop by next week with a totally-bad-for-you meatball sub from Clancy’s.”
“Make sure you also bring a bottle of his best scotch. A drink before I sleep gives me wonderful dreams.”
“You got it.”
After he left, I sat on under the live oak and listened to the mockingbird and the fountain splashing in the small koi pond.
Sometimes, life was good.
Word count: 872
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