Flash Fiction: Forgotten Mechanism

Chuck Wendig has flung his carcass across the great watery depths to Australia, but before he left he gave us this task for this week’s Flash Fiction Challenge. It’s the usual “1,000 words or so” based on a randomly generated title. I rolled a 1 and a 2 (so tempted to make the story about Lawrence Welk…) which gives me the title “Forgotten Mechanism”. As always, comments and constructive criticisms are appreciated.

FORGOTTEN MECHANISM

Do you believe in Providence? (Not the one in Rhode Island.) Divine intervention? (Not the Julia Ecklar album.) Kismet? (Neither the 1944 movie nor the 1955 one.) Fate? (Not the magazine, RPG, or video game.)

I didn’t use to believe, but now I’m wondering.

I had been going out with Chris for three months. For the most part we were pretty good together. He had more of the “dumb jock” persona than I was used to in my boyfriends, but there were a lot of other things that made up for that. He was funny. My friends all liked him. And the sex was fantastic.

We had met at a party thrown by a mutual friend. I had been drifting from one short term, casual relationship to another, content with that arrangement. I had my hands full with my career and I had the freedom to travel a lot. Beyond that, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.

A month later, Chris and I were a thing. He had finally gotten me interested in watching a professional, team sport – who knew that ice hockey would be my downfall? Even more amazing, who knew that I would love playing it even more than watching it?

Chris had learned to appreciate classical music, at least the “Top 40”, Boston Pops versions. It beat the country twang that he usually listened to. It had been a lot easier getting him to appreciate good barbecue. Fast food sucks.

We were really getting comfortable together. Chris’s best friend had hinted that he might be about to suggest a swap of house keys and closet space. Then, on the rainiest day in recent memory, I got a call from Chris that changed everything.

“Hey, Pat, it’s me. I need some help, I’m having a car problem.”

“I’m getting ready for a meeting,” I answered. “What’s up?”

“I’m locked out of the car. Can you give me a ride? I’ve got to get back to the office ASAP or I’m screwed.”

“I can’t leave, I’ve got to meet with my boss in ten minutes. Can I come and get you in an hour? How did you get locked out?”

“It’s really wet out here, something must have shorted out in the key thing. I’m really short on time, I can’t wait an hour.”

“What do you mean, your keys are broken? Is there something wrong with your car? I don’t understand. Can’t you get a cab?”

“The car is fine, but I can’t open it to get in. Like I told you, my keys are broken. It will take too long to call a cab. Come on, I need your help here!”

“Chris, I can’t leave, but I’m trying to help. It sounds like you’re saying that your remote control is fried – but can’t you just use the key to open the car?”

I could hear the exasperation building in Chris’s voice. It sounded like he was counting backwards from ten in German before answering.

“Pat, the keys are broken. I keep saying that. I can’t get into the car. Can you help me or not?”

“Chris, listen, I’m not trying to give you a hard time,” I said as calmly as I could. “I think you’re talking about your remote control. I’m talking about the key. The key, not the remote control. How could the key be broken by getting wet?”

“You use the god damn key to unlock the car! Are you an idiot all of a sudden, Pat? It’s broken, I can’t open the car!”

It was my turn to count backwards. “Chris, can’t you unlock the door by inserting the key into the keyhole in the door? Just like in the old days before you had a car with a remote control to lock and unlock the door? Have you forgotten about that ancient mechanism?”

The line clicked dead. I was left to stew, wondering what the hell had just happened.

During my meeting I felt my phone buzz a couple of times as text messages came in, but I wasn’t able to check them for almost two hours. When I got back to my office, I found that the situation had finally been resolved. Sort of.

“Thanks for nothing! Called AAA, they opened the car.”

“Missed my meeting! Got chewed out!”

“Went to dealer and got the key fixed. Sorry that you were useless.”

“Let me know when you want to apologize.”

OK, we had had fights once or twice. Like all couples, most of our fights were over stupid things. We cooled off, we talked, we apologized, we had smoking hot makeup sex, we moved on.

This felt different.

What should have been a simple “duh!” moment had turned into a huge confrontation. What should have been a goofy brain cramp (on his part, not mine) to be laughed about for years instead had Chris completely losing his cool and becoming rude and abusive toward me.

Was he going to cool off and realize what had happened? What was he going to do when he did?

I knew that I wasn’t going to be apologizing. I hadn’t done anything except try to help. I hadn’t flown off the handle, started yelling, or started calling names.

I just let it slide overnight, but the next day his next text message wasn’t what I had hoped for.

“Ready to apologize yet?”

“We need to talk,” I texted back.

He wasn’t interested. For whatever reason, all of the good things we had done together meant nothing compared to what had happened that afternoon. Or, more correctly, his interpretation of what had happened.

That was a side of him that I hadn’t seen. It was a side I really didn’t like. Over the next week there were a few times when I missed him and felt like caving in and calling. Those moments faded every time I thought about apologizing for something I hadn’t done and admitting I was wrong when I hadn’t been, all just to stay in a relationship with someone who lost his temper and blamed me over something this stupid.

Needless to say, we didn’t swap keys or closet space. And it was all because Chris had forgotten how to open a car door with a key. What were the odds of that happening?

Providence. Kismet. Fate.

Whatever. I’m going to book a two-week trip to India.

Alone.

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