Fiction Funny

           “I won’t be too long,” said his wife. “I’ll meet you back in…say…45 minutes. Tops. Don’t be late again. Not in this weather.”

           “Sure, sure,” he replied, edging back towards the car with three bundles of groceries in his arms.

           “What did I say?” she asked.

           He leaned over to put the bags on the hood, hugging them to keep them from toppling over. Had she just said something? He was sure he’d heard her voice behind him. With arms still manhandling the groceries, he twisted around, feeling the twinge of a pulled muscle, to look over his shoulder. There she hovered, arms crossed, a hand tapping an elbow. He had a vision of a rolling pin.

           “I’m sorry, what?”

           “What did I just say?”


           “Just now.”

           “Oh, umm.” He furrowed his brow for a second, thinking of her last words, trying to remember why they were even at this grocery store. “That the Van Daalens are coming over!” he said. The broad smile on his face was a function of relief that he could answer his wife’s question and because he rather liked the Van Daalens.

           “Don’t you ever pay attention? I said, get me in 45 minutes. I’m just having my hair done.”

           “Oh, yeah, well, of course, that goes without saying. I thought we were still talking about the other thing. 30 minutes. I’ll be back.”

           “What other thing? Anyway, pick up some wine. Decent. Ask the guy in the store; the one who wears those ridiculous bowties. He’ll know. Cabernet. California. Spend $30, at least. No, $50. The Van Daalens are very sophisticated. Oh, and he likes his martinis so get some…”


           “Vodka. He likes vodka martinis, as do I. Vodka. Get Kettle One. Do I need to write this down?”

           “Couldn’t hurt.”

           “You drive then.”

           She wrote down a long list of instructions shaking her head as she put it under the clip that held many comparable notes on the wagon’s dashboard. He glanced over toward the notes and wondered how the stack got so thick.  He was reading the first word, Ketel One, underscored three times when a pounding noise caught his attention. He looked outside to see a belly with a municipal worker behind it manning a jackhammer, his entire body bucking with its loud reverberations. “Cool,” he thought nodding his head in sync with it. “A jackhammer.”



           “There. The salon. For goodness sake. We’ve only been there a hundred times.”         


           “I sometimes think you’re half off, ” she said as she got out of the car, tapping the note stack with the middle finger of her left hand as she did so.

           “30, no 45 minutes. Right?” he said.

           She shook her head and entered the salon. He noticed an exotic black woman, maybe Ethiopian, open the door and offer his wife a colorful mug of something equally exotic or so he imagined. Maybe a cappuccino; something European that ended in a vowel and spilled foamy milk. Or it could be some dark, mysterious, Ethiopian coffee – he thought they grew coffee in Ethiopia. Is she Ethiopian? She could be Mexican and that cup could hold spicy hot chocolate like they’d had in San Miguel a few years before. His tongue almost swirled the chocolaty ooze and tasted cinnamon and hot peppers. A model,” he thought. “I’ll bet she’s a model.” His wife spoke to the woman, who looked back at him, curious, giggling to herself before closing the door behind them. “Maybe I’m too old for models,” he thought.

           He waved towards the door and drove off, looking forward to the 45 minutes he’d have to himself with nothing to do. No, now just 43 minutes according to the clock. Nothing to do. Maybe the library, to catch a nap? It was raining too hard for a walk.

           More roadwork was underway on the main street toward the library, slowing the traffic to a standstill, forcing him to take several turns around the edge of town. He slowed down, rubbernecking at the bulldozers and backhoes, hardly hearing the honking behind him. He drove on. “Why so many banks?” he wondered before checking to see if he had cash in his wallet. 

           At one more jam, he took a right turn onto a street called Maple Avenue recalling that was where his Boy Scout Troop had met. Without a thought, he knew exactly where he was, where an elementary school, now an assisted living facility, once stood. He knew the people who lived in this house and that, which family gave good candy on Halloween, and where the old bitty lived who gave out apples they search for pins.  They never found any.

           The homes that hadn’t been torn down, replaced by homes too large for the lots, looked surprisingly fresh. He passed a few for sale signs, hoping to find an open house to explore. He hadn’t been in this part of town in a hundred years, certainly not since he cleared out his parent’s home; maybe that would have an open house today. He could find his way around blindfolded. 

           Alas, his old home wasn’t for sale and, anyway, an extension had been added making it look lopsided.  There was a tire swing in the old maple in front; he thought he was huge then but it didn’t look so very different now. There were the remains of a snowman next to it. He wondered what the children who built it were like.

           He took an instinctive right at the end of the street; he didn’t know why; he was just driving around. He passed the old pharmacy. Where he bought comics when he was a kid. And occasionally stole candy.

           It was the source of some family tension. His mother hated comics; his father attributed such disdain to her English Literature degree. “From Smith no less,” he’d say. Mother complained about the violence and scantily dressed women and the ads for things like X-ray vision glasses and sea monkeys, which she insisted were just dried-up bugs that would ‘stink to high heaven.’

           He liked—no loved—Classic Comics Illustrated. His dad would argue for him. “They’re educating the lad,” he’d say again and again. “They’re not merely comics, but the great works of all time. History without all the fuss and bother. They’ll encourage him to go on learning, but in a fun way.”

           His mother would raise her eyebrows and point out that “father” read those comics more than any great classics sitting around the house, and they would both laugh at that. His dad would sneak a quarter or two into his pocket when he was going out, whispering to bring a new one home. And, once in a while, his mom did the same thing.

           On the next block, a ratty sporting goods shop had a permanent “Big Sale” sign painted on its window with all sorts of detritus lined up outside: wooden snowshoes, a toboggan, plastic flying saucers, a target with a bow leaning on it.

           A bow, he thought. Perhaps they’d have a BB gun inside. Bought his first baseball glove there. The memory brought a smile to his face. A driver behind him sitting on the horn snapped him from his reverie. “Alright, alright, keep your shirt on,” he said to no one.

           And on the corner, with a decidedly worrisome wooden porch, stood the store where he spent most of his time and any money he in his youth. The simple name said it all: The Hobby Shop. He pulled into an open parking spot as soon as he saw it, getting yet another loud and steady honking from an angry-looking man behind him who made a rude gesture as he passed. His eyes, however, quickly went back to the old dusty window of the shop and the treasures that lay behind it.

           Through the rippled glass, he saw boats, tanks and cars, monsters, planes, and rockets and, well, models upon models, some of which he thought had been there since he was a kid.

           He had to force open the door, swollen from the rain. A bell suspended from the door rang and brought out the manager. “Need a hand, son?” Son. The man called him son.

           “No sir. No, just looking. Haven’t been here in, god, a hundred years.”

           “Hundred years, huh? Quite a while, quite a while. You look good for your age. Can’t say I do. Can’t say I ever did come to think,” the older man said. “Well, welcome home. Holler if you need anything.”

           “Will do,” he said.

           “Oh, and half off.”

           “Come again? ”

           “Half off everything. Closing shop, son. Store going, too. Moving to, heck, moving somewhere warm is all I care about. When it goes.”

           “Oh, no. Why?”

           “Well, put it this way. You’d be the 20th customer today if 19 others had come in before you. Anyway, look about.”

           The old floors creaked as he went down the narrow aisles that had once made his eyes go wide and his heart pound. There on the shelves were the balsa-wood planes he’d made with his father, the glow-in-the-dark Frankenstein, Dracula, and Wolfman. They still make them, or maybe they never sold. The PT 109, Sherman tanks. He picked up a scrimshaw kit. With the faded words “genuine sperm whale tooth” printed on the dusty box covered. It was marked $5.95.

           The man peeked his head around the aisle corner. “Finding everything?”

           “Yes, and more. Some of this stuff was here when I was a kid.”

           “Models and such. They do take you back, you know. And, well, yes, that’s sort of the problem. That scrimshaw thing’s been here since Ismael brought it in. He leaned closer, “Illegal these days, I suspect.”

           “I’ll take it.”

           “Half off.”

           “And this,” he said, grabbing the PT 109 along with a Tiger Panzer tank kit. “Hold a sec.”

           He went up and down the aisles grabbing more and more and bringing them to the front. “Paints, I’ll need paints and glue and X-Acto knives. Do you have those?”

           “Well, yes. How about a complete set? I don’t think they make them anymore here. In the U.S., I mean. This one’s the real McCoy.”

           “Yes, I’ll need that.”

           “I got a Dremel, you know. One of the old ones. Made in the good old U.S. of A. Which is funny if you’re going to build that tank model. Yankee tool making a Panzer tank. Half off and that’s half off the price I’ve had on it for a hundred years.”

           “Do you have the drills, sanding stuff?”

           “I’ll put them up front for you.”

           He went back to the aisle and reached up for the big kits, the wooden ships that he couldn’t get to when he was a youngster.

           “Are these really hard?”

           “Not easy, not easy. Why don’t you start with something easier and build up? Like this.” It was a skiff: a simple wooden skiff. “It’s a Peapod Dory. A real classic that one.”

           “Yes, and after that?”

           “Well, there’s the lobster boat. That’s a bit more challenging. Then, maybe, the Pequod. Ismael brought that one in, too.” He chuckled at his joke and fell into a mild coughing fit. “Too much sawdust on the lungs. When they cremate me, I’ll burn for days.”

           “I’ll take it all.”

           “And a deal you’ll have. These’ll keep you busy for a while.”

           “No, I mean everything.”



           Everything was on his mind when he put down two 100s, four 20s, a ten, a five, three ones, and a credit card.  The old man pointed to a handwritten sign on the counter: Cash or Checks. ONLY! A check was extracted from the now empty wallet.

           “This should get the balling rolling,” he said.

           The old man leaned back on his stool behind the counter, finger to his cheek, and chuckled.   “You just might want to ask how much I want for the place.”

           “Right. How much?”

           A check was written for a substantial down payment

           “You’re serious?” said the old man. He held the check to the light bulb dangling over the register, scratched his head and squinted at the grinning face looking around the shop. He wrote down the number of a lawyer.

           “Give young Rubinstein a call. He’ll handle the sale. You’re not joshing now, are you?”

           “Not in the least,” he said, handing over his business card. “I don’t imagine I’ll be needing many of those anymore.”

           The old man started counting out bills from the register.

           “Keep that for the down payment. I’ll be back.”

           The old man stood on the sagging porch watching his final customer make half a dozen trips to the wagon. He insisted he carry all the treasure by himself breathing in the smell of dust, balsa, shellac, and memories they held. Even with the backseat down, he couldn’t fit it all in. “I’ll be back,” he said waving to the old man leaning on a porch post. The old man was nodding back and thinking he might just build something too. It had been a while.

           The sun had come out when he stepped into his car. The clouds had dispersed and the sky was blue. The air felt crisp. He looked back at the boxes and recognized the grocery bags shoved between them. A question popped into his head; “What on earth was that woman talking about?” He then remembered he had to pick her up at the hair salon and hoped the Ethiopian model would be at the door. Maybe he’d ask for a cup of whatever it was she was offering. Maybe it would be hot chocolate.

           He was 30 minutes late. His wife let him have it before she sneezed harshly as the dust rose from his accumulations after she slammed the car door shut.  

           “What the hell is all this crap? I’ll bet you didn’t make it to the liquor store.  Are you even listening to me?”

           He turned with a smile, and said, no, he hadn’t heard a word.

March 31, 2023 18:30

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Keri Dyck
23:33 Apr 12, 2023

Incredible story! I was given it to critique and let’s just say it’s one of the best I’ve read on here! This line “a belly with a municipal worker behind it” was my absolute favourite :P but the whole vibe was excellent. You kept his voice true the whole way. I caught a few tiny errors: “who gave out apples they search for pins” “This should get the balling rolling” Keep up the good work!


David Ader
00:05 May 01, 2023

Keri, you made my day! Apologies for the errors. I'll fix those. Thank you. David


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Timothy Rennels
16:22 Apr 08, 2023

I loved this David. You had me at the glow-in-the-dark monster models! I had all three in my youth and it really transported me to aisles upon aisles of memories.


David Ader
00:06 May 01, 2023

We should compare notes on those old hobby shops. I also had a complete set of the Beatle Models by Revell. I can't imagine what those would be worth if I'd kept them. David


Timothy Rennels
00:15 May 05, 2023

Oh if we'd have kept one toy from every Christmas in our youth, new and in the box...just imagine! One can always imagine....


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Kathryn Kahn
15:32 Apr 08, 2023

What a fun story. I really, really like your protagonist, who reminds me of Walter Mitty, especially in terms of escaping his wife's scolding through his imagination. You do such a wonderful job of bringing us inside his head, which is where he lives, and we start to forget about the "real" world right along with him.


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