American Fiction Mystery

“What in the world is this?” Bill stared at the picture on his phone and for the love of might could not remember where he was or even what he was doing when he took the photo. Did he even take the photo? His phone was never out of his reach, always on his belt, next to him on his desk and even within an arm’s reach on his night stand when he was sleeping.

“No.” he thought, “I’m the only one that touches my phone so it had to be me.” Still the nagging question haunted him as he got ready for work. He woke up earlier than usual this morning though he never set his alarm, so was wasting time going through the pictures on his phone while he waited for the coffee maker to finish its business. Normally it would not be until half way through his second cup that his brain would finally wake up and he could function enough to get the day started. This morning was different. As soon as he saw the strange photo he was instantly awake. The scene was nothing special, just some trees and rocks and an old barn, but he just could not remember it.

He poured his coffee into his cup then took the first sip and the picture went straight to the back of his mind. There's nothing like that first sip of coffee to get oneself moving in the morning. He finished getting ready for work then walked into the garage and got in his Corvette to go to work, the picture all but forgotten in the morning rush. His thoughts were now on his new car. Since he was twelve years old his dream car would always be a Corvette. Now, at sixty-two and the son and daughter grown and out of state with their three grandchildren, his wife of forty years, Rosie, gave him the green light to get the car of his dreams. He searched but could not find the ’63 Vette of his childhood fantasies in a price range he could afford but did find a silver ’78 Stingray with everything he wanted that didn’t bust his bank account. He still marveled at his good fortune when he took possession of it just two weeks ago. The original brown leather interior looked factory fresh and the more than three hundred horses under the hood sounded sweet through the custom exhaust. The original owner he bought it from said the L82 engine and Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission had been gone through a year ago which increased the power significantly. Whatever he did made for a sweet smooth ride that he knew he would enjoy for many years.

He was almost half way to work when he got the urge to see what the Corvette could do. He took the Applewood Drive exit from the freeway knowing it was a more scenic, winding road but still not too far out of the way so he would still make it to work on time. He always prided himself on never being late and had not missed a day in the twelve years he had been with Flightline Aeronautics. Now, as a manager, he wanted to set an example to those who worked under him.

He smiled when he got off the freeway and saw the empty road in front of him. The blue sky had only a smattering of clouds in it and the sun was still at its early morning low casting long shadows across the empty fields on both sides of the gently winding road. He was enjoying the comfortable rack and pinion steering and the grip of the wide tires on the smooth road when he suddenly hit the brakes and pulled off to the side of the road. There was his picture. He put the car in park and lifted his head through the T-Top roof staring in disbelief at what he was seeing.

He had only traveled this road a few times in all of the years he had lived in this area but still did not remember stopping to take the picture. He took out his phone and found the photo then held it so he was positively sure this was the same spot. He checked the date of the photo, something he probably should have done earlier, and found that he had taken this shot from this exact spot over eight months ago. There was the two oak trees in front of the rock formation with the red barn in the background and though the field was full of wheat stalks in the photo and bare dirt now, there was no mistaking the location.

“What was I doing on this road so long ago?” he thought as he sat back down in the seat of the Stingray. The memory still eluded him as he put the car in drive and continued on to work. The sound of the road and the power of the Corvette soon engulfed his mind and he enjoyed the rest of the drive to work unhindered with the picture shifting, again, to the back of his mind.

At work it was Marv in accounting that made him think of the picture again. The man, in his forties, had been here almost a year when Bill signed on and was one of only a small handful of employees with any seniority over him. “How is the new Vette doing?” he asked casually.

“It’s awesome. More than I could have ever imagined.” Bill replied smiling. Then told him about the drive to work and the winding road that the Stingray straightened out rather effortlessly. He was still thinking about the morning commute as Marv went back to his office.

“Why can I not remember driving on that road or taking that shot?” he thought. It was well before he bought the Corvette and was still driving the gray 2020 Impala that he still owned for when he and his wife needed the extra room, like when they went shopping. He couldn’t imagine putting a weeks’ worth of groceries in the Vette. He again put the picture in the back of his mind as he worked out a problem of how he would install a fire extinguisher in an overhead compartment but still leave enough room for the passengers luggage. Some of the things the airlines wanted an engineer to do stretched the limits of safety.

At the end of the day as Bill was getting into his car he again thought of the picture and why couldn’t he remember taking it. He made the decision to again use Applewood Drive. Maybe the ride home would jog his memory. This time he kept the picture at the front of his mind and was grateful there was more traffic on the road as it forced him to slow down so he could think. He tried to picture himself riding in the Impala instead of the Vette but the low rumble of the exhaust pipes made it difficult. When he got to the area where the picture was taken he put his turn signal on then pulled over to look one more time at the scene. He again pulled his phone out and brought the photo to the screen so he could study it to see if it would jog a memory from his brain. Nothing!

Flustered he got back in his car and sat for a few moments as traffic went by. He was about to pull out from the side of the road when he got a flash of memory. It wasn’t much and try as he might could not bring it to the forefront of his brain, but there was something. It was like the light from a flashbulb where you remember for a brief second then it’s gone. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly through his pursed lips then again waited for traffic so he could pull onto the road and drive home.

Rosie was in the kitchen setting out dinner when he walked in from the garage. Taco Tuesday was a tradition the two of them shared since before the kids moved out. Though they didn’t get tacos every Tuesday it was still a fun way to share the evening instead of having to cook. While she was getting the plates he pulled out his phone and showed her the picture.

“Do you remember me ever showing you this picture?” he asked as he handed her his phone then turned to the sink to wash his hands.

“I do, vaguely.” she said. “Wasn’t this something about when you retired you would like to have a small place like this where we could be comfortable with no close neighbors?” She set the phone down then took the tacos out and put them on the plates around the table. Memories hit him like a ton of bricks.

He hit his forehead with the palm of his hand and let out an exasperated breath. “Now I remember!” he wiped his hand across his face and let out a laugh. “I have been racking my brain all day trying to remember when and why I took this picture.” He told her about getting up early this morning and finding the picture then about his drive to work and seeing the place where it was taken. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.” He said, then told her about his drive home and almost remembering for a split second.

They had a great conversation while munching on their favorite tacos with chips and salsa then washing it down with some sweet iced tea. They laughed about getting a little older then Bill got a little serious and looked at his wife tenderly. They had been through so much together. Raising two amazing kids who were both successful and married and living their lives raising their own families now. Maybe it was time to think about retiring and settling down. Their forty years of marriage saw many highs and lows and moving several times in an effort to keep up with the demands of his career. They had lived in three different states and five different cities. Their kids had been enrolled in numerous schools and graduated from different high schools before going to colleges out of state and pursuing their own career paths. Now it was the two of them and they were happy together but ready to live out their lives in quiet comfort.

“What if we did just that?” he asked looking at her with a half-smile on his face.

“What if we did what?” she looked at him rather quizzically.

“What if we did get a small place like that and retire? I’m sixty-two, you’re sixty. We have a small nest egg in our savings and with the right planning we could easily retire and do things we have only talked about all of our lives.” He reached out and took her hand in both of his as he looked into her soft blue eyes.

“No more moving after this?” she asked eyeing him with a stern look.

“One more move to our dream house and we’ll be set for the rest of our lives. I can start looking tonight if you want.” He stacked the plates and took them to the sink then rinsed them off and put them in the dishwasher. He then turned and gave her the best puppy dog look he could muster. She busted up laughing.

“I actually think that would be a great idea.” She walked over and threw her arms around his neck then kissed him full on the mouth. “We’ll start looking. That’s all for now. We still have a few more years before we will be ready to retire. I like my job and you like yours. Let’s check into what it will take to bolster up our retirement fund and see if there is a place we might think of moving to. Maybe closer to the grandkids. That would be nice.”

“Agreed.” He said with a big smile on his face. “I would like to be as close to the kids as we can yet far enough away so we aren’t a nuisance.”

That evening they started a plan that would take them towards their retirement dream home. It started with a picture that wasn’t remembered and ended with conversation that would see them fulfill a lifetime of work. Life was good.

April 02, 2024 20:18

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Joe Helleis
20:43 Apr 14, 2024

The words kept flowing involving the reader to pay mind to similar things that happen to almost anyone. To help solve this glitch that started his day. What the main character couldn't figure out just yet, had him thinking about the things concerning exactly what it was. What couldn't jog his memory, he had things to do. His mind taken back only to bring him to the very place, adding more questions than answers. Amazing the similarities common to all when trying to make sense. With all his thoughts throughout the day, it took the helpmate co...


Show 0 replies
Pam Shumate
22:31 Apr 08, 2024

A fun little story. And exactly how our minds work, especially as we get older.


Show 0 replies
Kristi Gott
23:03 Apr 03, 2024

Very insightful with vivid sensory details and stream of consciousness about the dream spot in the photo. So often this is the way our wishes get stored in memory and forgotten until something jogs them back to the surface when the time is right. The mysteries of the way the mind works. Good job! It is inspiring.


Show 0 replies
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.