Contemporary Fiction

I’ve got a hole in my soul

 It’s getting bigger and bigger

Don’t push me babe, I’ll pull the trigger

Did I hear those lyrics correctly? The acoustics in the airport are terrible. The crowd around the Springsteen wannabe makes it difficult to get any closer. I’ve just arrived at Sea Tac in Seattle from Vancouver. The young Busker has set up at the end of a long corridor in front of an empty store front. He is wearing a black blazer, white shirt, tight jeans and has a Springsteenesque soul patch. His electric guitar must be connected by Blue Tooth to the large speaker in front of him. I see no cord. Intermittently, he steps on a wawa pedal. He’s wearing a headset and has that gravely Bruce kind of voice. There’s a little girl in a pink dress dancing in front of him. Her mother keeps giving her dollar bills to put in the jar next to him. The crowd changes every ten minutes as passengers board their flights. Flight departures announced overhead every few minutes make it difficult to hear the lyrics. I have a one hour layover and have no better way to pass the time. The sweet smell wafting in the air from the nearby Cinnabon counter is making me lightheaded.

 I can’t help but contemplate the hole in my soul left by Peter. His funeral was surreal. I have spoken to him every day of my life. No more. He was my brother, friend and confidant. I don’t think I have ever gone more than a few days without speaking to him. Now silence. When our parents died in the car crash, Peter essentially adopted me. I was nine and he was twenty and in college. He moved back to our childhood home and transferred to the University of British Columbia. I was probably a pain in his butt, yet he always made feel special. He taught me to love reading, music and life in general. I don’t know where he found the time to complete his studies and take care of me. He attended all my Little league games and encouraged me to pursue my football career. In retrospect, Peter was a better athlete, smarter and better looking than I was. He sacrificed a lot for me. He was a star student and athlete in high school and had scholarship offers from many top American colleges. At six foot six and two hundred and forty pounds, he was almost the perfect specimen I mean geez, he had four-four speed. I topped out at four-six, and I’ve had a pretty good career in the pros. He settled for a career in dentistry in Canada and predictably became the ideal family man. I loved his wife Carol and their two kids, Susie and Rhea. They were the family I never had. Now they are gone too. Car crashes must be a family legacy.

I won’t hear Peter’s “What’s cookin’ Robster?” ever again. He had adopted my parent’s nickname for me from an early age. We no longer will share memories of crazy moments from our childhood. Only he could remember the sweet smell of our mother’s Channel number five and our dad’s aftershave. We’d laugh at the memory of our dad’s silly jokes and the ditties. He’d remind me that our mother was one of the first female lawyers to sit on the provincial legislature. It was good that she was a smart lawyer because she was a terrible cook. We’d laugh at some of the debacles she called dinner. It was our dad who was the master chef. None of our cousins or my remaining aunts knew any of these little secrets.

It was Peter who taught me about the birds and the bees. I was an awkward adolescent, and he was a stud. Yet he made me feel that I was more attractive to girls than I was. Unlike him, I was a six-foot wide body, perfect for my future profession as the left guard for the Los Angeles Rams but not a great turn on for adolescent girls. He waited until I turned eighteen and was recruited to Notre Dame before marrying Carol and selling the house. I knew he would have married her earlier. Carol was a sweetheart. She always made me feel part of the family when I visited. Unlike Mom she was a great cook and knew exactly what dishes I preferred. It was special being an uncle. No matter how much time elapsed between visits, the girls included me in all their activities. Their letters were heart-warming. They were full of confidences and kudos for my last game. It was cute to see them in those Rams sweatshirts when I’d visit. They were my greatest fans. Now they’re gone.

It was the fifth of December

A day to remember

Now that I’m alone

I’m a  rolling stone

He’s got that right. My parents’ death was on the fifteenth of December and Peter’s was the tenth.  The exact date doesn’t matter, December is just a bad month for me. I remember sitting in Mrs. Roe’s fourth grade class when the principal called me to his office. I was terrified that they had caught me cheating on my spelling test. I was trembling as Mr. Blalock instructed me to sit after entering his office. He was a large man in an ill-fitting suit and always had a scowl on his face. I knew I was in for it. Instead of chastising me, he handed me the phone. Peter’s voice was clear and soothing but why was he calling me midday from Boston?

“Hey Robster, I’m afraid I have some bad news. Aunt Harriet just called me.”

Yeah, that is bad news, I thought. Aunt Harriet was a busybody. No one liked her but why call to tell me this in the middle of the school day. There must be something else. I braced myself.

“There’s been an accident. Mom and dad are dead.”

I froze and was not sure I understood. I needed clarity and reassurance.  Peter was a jokester and aunt Harriet was an idiot. Still, the timing of the phone call made me sweat.

“How, when? Are you sure? You know Aunt Harriet is an idiot.” My heart started to race. There were no tears yet.

“I’m sorry buddy. I’m sure. The police called me a few minutes ago. We’ll get through this together. I’m flying out tomorrow. In the meantime, Aunt Harriet will be picking you up from school.”

I was stunned but didn’t want to cry in front of Blalock. So, I assumed the best bravado I could muster.

“You’re right Pete, we’ll get through this together. See you tomorrow.”

“I love you Robster.” Peter was always able to express his feelings better than me. Maybe that’s why he was in a happy marriage, and I remain single.

I left the office and returned to the classroom but not before I had a good cry in the hallway. No one saw me. The rest of the day and week were a blur. Aunt Harriet was kind, but Peter insisted on being my guardian right from the start. In a way, he continued in that role until his death. With my aunts gone and cousins estranged, Peter, Carol and the kids were my only family. My teammates didn’t count.


Sad as it might be

I’m alone in the sea

A sailor adrift

Stuck in life’s grift

What is it with this guy? The lyrics are corny but strike a chord. I am adrift. I can’t play football forever. What else do I have? The universe has robbed me of the only people I ever cared about. Sure, I have some good buddies but it’s not the same. I have no one who really knows me or my past. Peter and Carol were the only ones with whom I felt comfortable letting my guard down. The boys on the team are great but I have to maintain a certain image. I’m the toughest of the toughest. If they only knew….

Adrian was a great lady. We dated for two years. I know she wanted more but I couldn’t pull the trigger. It was like every relationship I’ve ever had. After one year, an emotional circuit breaker tripped. Peter always told me that it was my fear of abandonment and intimacy. With my family history, who would blame me or so my last therapist said. She just couldn’t get me to break the cycle. Now I have nobody. After the way we broke up, Adrian would never take me back. I am adrift.

Flight 452 to Los Angeles is now boarding.

That’s me.  As I placed a twenty-dollar bill in the busker’s jar, he nodded. I told him his words really resonated with me. He smiled. Did his words reflect his life? I hoped not. As I walked towards my gate, I could hear the words from an old Dylan song in the distance.

A hard rain gonna fall.

I need better rain gear.

September 30, 2023 23:06

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John Jenkins
17:08 Oct 12, 2023

I like this story. Here are my thoughts: Beginning: This is the second story I've seen in a row in the first person, but in this story, the busker shows up in the beginning instead of at the end. Indeed, the entire story is colored by the "busker's" presence. Middle: The story goes right into "Robster's" family history and how multiple members of his family have died. This was a tragic outcome. I was disowned by my family, but no one I was close to has died, yet. Ending: As with the beginning, the story ends with more mention of the busker...


Rudy Greene
22:00 Oct 12, 2023

Thanks I need to write more stories from a 3rd person perspective for a change of pace


John Jenkins
16:58 Oct 13, 2023

First person is really popular on Reedsy. I'm new to it.


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Kevin Logue
14:28 Oct 08, 2023

I had to double check the genre tags to be sure this wasn't creative nonfiction as it had such a strong sense of reality. Your characters are well grounded and very real for such a short piece and the insertion of lyrics is a masterstroke for moving from a to b. We get a whole life and more in such a short space, really well done Rudy.


Rudy Greene
20:11 Oct 08, 2023

Thanks for the feedback. Fortunately for me , it is fiction but pieces of it are other peoples' reality.


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Rabab Zaidi
07:14 Oct 08, 2023

Sad but well written.


Rudy Greene
20:12 Oct 08, 2023

Thanks. Fortunately, it is fiction


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