American Fiction Happy

Word count: 1,045 words



Thaddeus Coughlin cooked his boiled egg and toasted his muffin on the old cast iron stove at his apartment on Boylston Street, Boston. It was 1921. He was 64 years old, had never married, and had worked as the manager of a store that sold ladies’ clothing for ten years, but he was thinking of retiring. Would his pension be enough?

He sipped his tea and wondered about his future. The prospect of taking a wife had never occurred to him - he was solitary and content that way. There had been a young woman at the shop, a Miss Timmons, he’d flirted with eight years ago, but - oh! - she’d been young, in her 20s, and he’d never really dreamed she’d be interested in him. He’d sold lace blouses and brocade skirts to women, but had never, before Miss Timmons, been attracted to anyone with whom he worked. She’d been blonde and plump, a salesgirl who was probably working at her first job! - too young for him.

He fingered a book as he drank his tea. It was a volume of Edgar Allen Poe’s poems - Poe had been born in Boston. Thaddeus thought he might have become a poet if only he had gone to college, and gotten a degree in English. He had visions of autumn leaves dropping on the Boston Common, and unrequited love as a young man, and smoking a cigar at the social club he occasionally frequented. He was under-educated, that was certain - his father had only been a bricklayer - but he’d always had aspirations to high society and enjoyed the social club.

Finishing his egg and muffin and tea, he wiped his hands on a cloth napkin and resolved that this Sunday, at least, when he didn’t have to work, he’d take a walk in the Boston Common and enjoy the greenery, for it was spring, and he felt as if he’d have a quick step when he went out.


Annabel finished her egg and toast in her apartment on Boylston Street near the Boston Common. It was the year 2021. She was having a late breakfast, as she’d stayed up until 2:00 a.m. talking with her best friend, Regina, who had spent the night. But Regina had gone home already, planning to meet up with her boyfriend later that afternoon to visit the Museum of Fine Arts.  

Annabel worked during the week at a boutique selling women’s fashions. She got tired of it sometimes, being on her feet all day and having to dress nicely for her job. She wished she could just wear sweatpants all day. She was in her mid-20s, and aspired to be an editor at a magazine one day - she’d majored in English in college. But right now a job in a shop was all she could manage to find, and it wasn’t bad work.

She decided to clean out the closet in her studio apartment. While sorting through cardboard boxes and a pile of old sheets and quilts, she found a Ouija board she’d long since forgotten. Pulling it out of the closet, she set it on her dining table and began using it. She hadn’t played Ouija in years!

As her fingers manipulated the little plastic platform that was supposed to guide her to her answers, she asked the Ouija board if she might find a boyfriend soon. To her surprise, the plastic planchette spelled out the letters “T-H-A-D-D-E-U-S.”

But who was Thaddeus? She was baffled. She asked the Ouija board who he was. It spelled out the number “1921.”  

A hundred years ago! Well, obviously he couldn’t be suitable for a boyfriend. She put the board away in her closet and kept cleaning, this time attacking her kitchenette where her dirty dishes had piled up in the sink and the counter top needed a scrub.


Thaddeus - this was still spring of 1921 - had gone for his walk on the Boston Common. He’d seen a few couples there, young dandies with their girlfriends, strolling and taking in the air. He felt a bit lonely, for once - usually he enjoyed being solitary. He wondered what would become of Boston Common a century from now - would couples still spend weekends wandering through the park together?  

He thought of Poe and his poem about Annabel Lee - a young girl, someone Thaddeus could imagine himself being in love with. “It was many and many a year ago...and I was a child and she was a child.” But whom to love when one is in one’s 60s? The prospect of romance seemed very distant. He groaned and thought he’d better adopt a pet - maybe a little tomcat he found somewhere. After all, what was life without companionship? He stretched out on his bed, like a cat, and took a nap.


Annabel - it was still 2021, and springtime - went for a walk that afternoon on the Boston Common. While she walked past maple trees, she spotted a stray yellow cat wandering along the path. It mewed at her, as if it was hungry.

She approached it and saw that the cat didn’t mind her proximity. She picked it up, and said, “I’ll take you home! I need a pet, and you’re here and I’m here, and you obviously haven’t been fed in a while.”

She carried the cat back to her studio and went out to buy a bag of litter, a plastic litter box, and canned food for the cat. In half an hour she was back home, watching the little animal eat.

“Thaddeus! That’s what I’ll name you!” she cried, scooping up the cat in her arms. “You were the special one I was meant to meet!”

And with that, she turned on the radio to her favorite news program and curled up with her newfound friend on her bed.

She was never to know she was living in the very same quarters that Thaddeus Coughlin had been living in, 100 years before. And she was never to know she had bequeathed to her cat the same name as him. Was it a coincidence? Or the Ouija board’s predictions coming true? ...After all, a cat is hardly a boyfriend, but it’s a fine companion for a single young woman.


March 19, 2021 07:49

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