This post is a response to a “flash fiction challenge” posed by Stephen Black over at https://fracturedfaithblog.com/2018/09/21/flash-fiction-challenge-4/

I can highly recommend that you check out the goings-on over there.  All those followers can’t be wrong, so you are not relying on just my opinion.

I found the receipt on our home office desk. It seemed odd to me that my wife would have purchased a peeler at the same time as two items cryptically identified as “prepared fruit”. I made a mental note to communicate my bemusement at breakfast in the morning. She is used to it, I suppose. “It” being my quirky sense of humor. I have even been known to guffaw at miserable excuses for puns. All who know me eventually have to face it; I am easily amused. Simple pleasures for simple minds, my Granny used to say.

Breakfast turned out to be a special treat, as well as explaining the fruit and peeler purchase. I don’t know about you, but I think having a spouse who tolerates one’s eccentricities because she inexplicably adores you is icing on the cake of life – layer upon layer of wonderfulness! I completely forgot about poking fun at the peeler purchase, as it had clearly been a gift for my own enjoyment.

The toaster was ceremoniously ejecting a perfectly browned quartet of fragrant English muffins as I entered the dining nook, even as the butter dish waited at the ready, with the knife resting across opposite corners of the inverted cover. My wife would never leave the room with the lid off of the butter, lest our aging white cat Vanna had heard the inevitable muted clatter as the dish was set down on the table. The youngest son had succumbed to her raspy meowing for some often enough. He would dab a little on the top of a front paw for her to lick off. Though the son had been married and tending his own butter dish for some years, Vanna clearly still remembered. Funny the memories that the most common things evoke – even for cats.

To go with the warm buttered toast, was a medium-sized bowl. I could smell the delicious contents even over the steaming coffee in the tall mug next to my place at the small round dark-walnut table. The early sun seemed to especially please Pricey, our calico cat. She was already dozing on the window sill next to my wife’s chair. It was, it seemed, her favorite spot this time of year as the mornings turned more crisp with the advent of early fall. I savored the sight of my lovingly-prepared breakfast. It was a feast for the senses and I could hardly wait to taste it. I offered a prayer of heartfelt thanksgiving with my lovely spouse. The first sliced strawberry that my fork located was lovely. I savored it’s sweetness as well as the grainy texture of the tiny seeds dotting the circumference. I know it was “store-bought”, but it was still delightful. I put the fork down and had a sip of dark coffee. The vapor rising over the rim of the cream-colored mug slightly fogged my glasses and the first sip of the morning was particularly satisfying. My wife talked of something her mother had said on a recent visit, as though to draw my attention away from the extra effort she had put into this morning gift.

As she spoke, I picked up my fork and speared one of the uniformly sliced wedges of pineapple as though I had solved the puzzle of the second “prepared fruit” item on the aforementioned receipt with all the prowess of a seasoned MI-6 field agent. Obviously, the yellow confection had never seen the inside of a can.

The crowning glory of our meal explained the peeler and I looked out the bay window at the pear tree in the back yard, heavy with Divinely-provided produce. My wife must have been daily watching closely to detect the very first to ripen this season. In my bowl, the firm cream-colored flesh of the freshly-peeled pear slices beckoned next to the strawberry-pineapple garnish that topped them. There is nothing more edible than a perfectly ripened pear, in my estimation.

And so, as I chatted with my wife and thoroughly enjoyed the moment with her at the start of the day, it entered my mind that I was going to have a difficult time making a decision what aspect of this morning’s experience that I was going to write as a gratitude statement in my journal. You see, a couple of years back, my wise companion had made a suggestion at this very table that I open my morning journal with a single statement of something that I was grateful for. I must say, that following that advice has made a larger difference in my overall attitude about life than I would have ever imagined. Today, I think, it will be to give thanks for the gift of a wife who goes to great lengths to express love for me. I have a receipt to prove it. There is nothing to poke fun at in that.


Coincidental Meditation

There it was, on the third shelf in the basement. One of those artifacts that just seem to aggregate of their own will. The white insulated vinyl shopping tote was a leftover from a 1981 trip my wife made, before she became my wife. She had picked it up to carry her purchases from the refrigerator case back to the rooming house where she was staying. The Tesco logo was plainly visible even in the dim light from the single basement window high on the wall above. I wouldn’t have even noticed it if Stephen Black hadn’t issued that silly flash fiction challenge on his blog and included cellphone photos of the receipt he had picked up at the counter on one of his own shopping expeditions. They were left behind, Stephen said, by those too impatient to wait for the printer on the register to spew out the record of their transaction. What possessed him to pick them up? I can’t say. Did some force of the mysterious universe cause him to take the time to write about them on his Fractured Faith blog? Obviously.

Once I had picked the bag off of the shelf and slid its galvanized zipper open and  peered inside, my eyes straining to pierce the gloom, I knew I would have to strike the word “obviously” forevermore from my vocabulary. (After this one last time.) It was there in the bottom. Just one slip of faded paper.

My mind couldn’t take in the contents of that fragment. The universe had become too weird to comprehend. Yet there it was, identical in every twisted  way, to the one that Stephen had posted, except the year on the date and the parchment-yellowed paper marking its travel through time.

I don’t know what to make of it. It is too strange for coincidence. Somehow, Stephen had to be behind it all. But how? Did he collaborate with her ages ago? For what purpose?  To mess with my mind? Mission accomplished, if that was their aim.  Was there some sinister portent behind waiting until the digits of the year were reversed? Clearly my wife had waited for her receipt, in the Tesco that day.  I decided I wouldn’t risk asking her about it as I went up the basement stairs, whistling in the dark, at least on the inside.


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