• • •
Dally isn’t sure what the ceiling is made of. It’s a tile ceiling, but not the same tiles as the ones on the floor. The ones on the floor are made of… rocks of some sort. Probably. Dally isn’t sure what the floor tiles are made of either, now that he’s thinking on it. Truth be told, Dally isn’t sure of much today. It’s a stressful day. The rest of his life hyperbolically hangs in the balance and all he can do is play the waiting game, at least for now. The room is only on the second floor, and the window next to the bed is right above the parking lot. He’ll know when the car rolls in, in fact he’ll be the first to know. So, until then… what is the ceiling made of?
The tiles are white, but they’re a little speckled too. And the material has nooks and crannies in it, it’s not flat. Not perfectly solid. Some kind of plaster? Maybe? Probably couldn’t walk on it. You’d have to be pretty small to even attempt it, the ceilings in this place aren’t thick. Animals could probably get around in there if they could get in the building, but hopefully they can’t get in the building. One could probably hide stuff in the ceiling if one was so tempted. Dally is tempted to hide himself in the ceiling, but he knows that wouldn’t work. The floor would be covered in bits of plaster, it would be a dead giveaway.
No, he has to face this thing head on. The car is on its way, the heist is in motion, and the plan is a good plan. There’s really nothing to worry about… but yet…
Lying on the bed isn’t helping, the ceiling be damned. Dally swings his legs away from the window and forces himself up. He walks to the corner of the room that pretends to be a kitchen and dips the tip of his pinky finger into the coffee. Cold.
“It’s going to work. It was Sally’s idea, and Sally is a smarty. Your niece would be a demon otherwise, and she’s not a demon. It’s going to wo–”
Tires crunch pebbles unto asphalt. A car has rolled into the parking lot. Dally peeks through the window – yep, it’s them. He assumes his position on the couch. Not much time left now… so what are those ceiling tiles made of?
Mom’s Coffee Mug
“Whose coffee is that?”
She’s sitting on the edge of the bed. Her back is all hunched up. Her mouth is hanging open, swaying ever so slightly in the breeze blowing in through the window. She’s not pointing – the woman needs her arm strength to hold herself upright unless she’s sitting in a chair with a back, and even then she slouches down – but there’s only one coffee she could be talking about.
“You don’t recognize the Tigger mug, Mom? Melinda gave it to you last Christmas, you use it every day.”
Dally hops up off the couch and picks up the mug.
“Yikes, feels like it’s cold. You must have poured this before you and Sally went out this morning.”
“Me and Sally…” Gretta mumbles, then licks her lips. “Yeah, me and Sally went to pick up my little Melinda. Sally said they were coming over for visit.”
In a way it kills him, but Dally still forces himself to smile. “I think you heard it wrong,” as he pours the cold sludge down the drain. “You and Sally went for breakfast this morning, now she’s dropping you off so she can go pick Melinda up from her piano lesson. She just went to hit the john, she’ll be back in a minute.”
John is the name of the guy who set up the move, too. Oof.
Gretta looks around. “But what are you doing here?”
This smile hurts less. “Well I heard the girls were coming for a visit, so I thought I’d stop by too.”
“The girls are here??”
“One is,” as Sally walks into the room. “Dallas, what are you doing with Mom’s coffee mug?”
Dally does the sink and fills the mug, then starts swishing the water around. “She made coffee before you two left, it’s cold. I’m’a make her a new cup.” He arbitrarily hits buttons on the coffee maker next to the sink. “Sallas.”
“Oh, okay. Good.” Sally looks at her mother, then back at her brother. “Good. I um, I’m going to go pick up Melinda. I’ll be back soon, and um… and we can all have a nice visit.”
“That sounds like a wonderful time,” Dallas says, but he’s not smiling anymore. Nor is he facing anybody. Just himself in the little mirror over the sink. Coffee falls through the filter and into the pot, drop by drop.
“Well what about me?” Gretta asks. Sally almost got out the door, too. Just a few more steps would have done it.
Dally turns around and the room brightens up. “What about you? Sure, Sally’s the golden child over there, but we can hang out just you and me for a few minutes, can’t we?”
Gretta looks about the room. At Sally’s face, then at Dally’s. Around the room again. “But… what are you doing here, Dally?”
Playfully rolling his eyes gives Dally a splitting headache, but he does it nonetheless. It’s a good plan. It’s working already. “What, am I not allowed to visit my mother in her, her place of residence?” He turns to face Sally. “Preposterous, I say! Hey, can I get a word before you go?”
Sally looks at her mother. Her mother looks blankly about the room. “Yeah, sure Dal’. Come on.”
Miss Gretta sits on the edge of her bed. Her back is all hunched up, but she’s not slouching. Her mouth is hanging open, but not because she can’t close it. She’s merely confused, poor old Miss Gretta. She’s in her living room sitting on a bed, but usually she sits in an old rocking chair. And the walls aren’t blue anymore, they’re beige. The area rug is gone, too, and somebody took her nice hardwood floor away and replaced it with tile. The funny thing is, Miss Gretta doesn’t remember any of the work getting done. There’s a lot Miss Gretta doesn’t remember these days… but Miss Gretta is old. She supposes forgetfulness is just part of being old – when her mind feels up to supposing things, that is – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Something starts beeping across the room. It’s the mug, the yellow coffee mug with the, the… the thing on it, it’s… no, it’s the coffee machine next t– not the mug. Where did that coffee mug come from?
“Whose coffee is that?”
“You don’t recognize the Tigger mug, Mom?” Dally asks as he walks in from out. “Melinda gave it to you for Christmas, you use it every day.”
“Oh, oh that’s… yes, that’s right. Me and Sally went to pick up Melinda. Sally said they were coming over for a visit.”
Dally is smiling, but Miss Gretta doesn’t think the smile is a very happy smile. She starts looking around the room so she doesn’t have to see it. Dally says, “I think you heard it wrong, Mom,” then explains where Sally is. Gretta asks him what he’s doing here. He looks into the little mirror above the sink again. “Well I heard the girls were coming for a visit, so I thought I’d stop by too.”
This has been the sixth story from Highdeas: The Lost Stories from the Seven Earths, a flash fiction anthology hidden in the back of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
If supporting The Hillside Commons is something you want to do, click here.
If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~