Friday, November 20, 2015

Free Fiction: Regular Afternoons

Back to Oscar and Phillip!


Phillip picked up his phone on the second trill. He didn't recognize the number. "Hello?"

"Phil? It's Christa, from three houses down?"

It took Phillip a moment to remember who she was. Thin, young, light brown hair, married to a dweebish guy who drove off early in the morning and came back late at night. "Christa, hello. What's going on?"

"I was hoping I could ask you a really big favor?" She sounded breathless and stressed. "I'm stuck in traffic? There was some kind of accident?" Every sentence ended in an uplift of her tone so that it all sounded like a question.

"Yes?" Phillip tried to figure out what she could possibly want, and waited for her to get to the point.

“My husband won’t be home for a while? I was supposed to be back in time? From grocery shopping? But this accident will make me late?”

Now Phillip had a possible guess what Christa needed, but he waited to let her say it. “Yes?”

“My kids get off the bus in five minutes? There has to be an adult for the drop off? Could you stand in my driveway?”

Behind her, he could hear the wail of sirens. A chill ran through him, settling in his chest. Oscar sometimes came home early, and possibly through that same road. Phillip started walking. “I’ll be there,” he said, using his most reassuring voice.

“Oh, thank you, thank you!” For once, she was sure of herself, and not questioning every sentence. “I’ll be there as soon as I can?”

After hanging up, Phillip pulled on his shoes and a coat. A glance down the street showed the bus already beginning its entry into the neighborhood. Phillip took up his post at the bottom of the driveway and waited the interminable ten minutes for the bus to loop through the neighborhood, letting each child off in their designated spot.

The bus stopped in front of Phillip and Christa’s children descended. Both were little girls, about a year apart in age, with pixie-shaped faces and enormous eyes. One had red ribbons in her hair and the other had green. Phillip had no idea what their names were, but he waved at them and hoped they remembered him from around the neighborhood.

“Where’s mom?” asked Red, the older of the two.

“Stuck in traffic,” he said.

“I want mommy!” said Green. She balled her hands into little fists and looked thunderous.

The bus driver gave Phillip a wave and drove off.

“She’ll be here in a few minutes,” Phillip said. The little girls had their coats on and it wasn’t very cold, so staying outside wouldn’t be a problem. At least, for a little while. Phillip didn’t have a key to their house, and he didn’t want to bring them to his house.

“Let’s lean your backpacks against the garage and play a game while we wait for your mom to get here, okay?”

Red thought about that for a minute, but Green squealed and ran to dump her backpack.

“Let’s play Superhero!” she announced and then pointed to herself. “I’m the Superhero. You need saving!”

Red nodded at Green, and then Phillip. “Okay. I'll play that.”

Phillip put on an act of wringing his hands. “Help, help, help!” he moaned. “If only a superhero was here!”

“You’re doing it wrong,” Green said. She was clearly displeased.

“How should I do it?” Phillip asked, and wondered if their mother would ever arrive.

“Like this,” Green said, and flung herself around in a frenzy of fake agony.

Phillip waited until she was done. “That might be a bit more than I can do,” he said. “Maybe we could play another game. Do you like to sing?”

“No!” Green said. "No, no, no!"

“There’s mom,” Red said, pointing to a car.

The car pulled into the driveway, and behind it another car continued on and then pulled into Phillip’s driveway. Oscar was home.

“Thank you!” Christa said as she climbed out of her car. “I don’t know what I would have done.”

Phillip waved and wandered away. “No worries,” he said as he departed. He left them behind and trotted back home where Oscar got out of his car and waited.

“Hey,” Oscar said. “Making friends in the neighborhood.”

“Getting kids off the bus. Christa said there was a car accident that held her up.”

“There was. It looked bad,” Oscar said, and hugged Phillip. “I’m glad to be home.”

The chill that had settled in Phillip’s heart fifteen minutes ago thawed and he hugged back. “I’m glad you’re home, too.”

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