By Johan Luidens
Winner of third prize in the Eastern Writers Group Biggest Little Short Story Competition 2007
It was bothering me. I knew I’d forgotten something. It will come back, I thought. It usually does. I got in the truck and drove away. Today was my monthly shopping day. I like them.
The day was bright, windy and very cold, to be expected in our Alaskan winter. The trip only took three hours.
Jack the storekeeper took my list and chatted as he gathered the items. “How’s Aunt Beth?” he asked. “Her legs still in plaster?”
“She can’t move an inch, but she’s eating well,”” I replied.
“I bet her tongue’s in good working order.” Jack said, smiling, as he packed my supplies.
I paid Jack, loaded the truck and decided to treat myself to a meal and a few drinks at the local. I certainly could do with some male company.
Ever since Aunt’s fall she’d become even more demanding than before. Conversations were one-sided and I was happy to have a break away from her. Beth isn’t my aunt, really. She and uncle had fostered me when I was twelve. Not much love was involved but lots of Christian discipline and teachings. The duties of helping around the place were explained and enforced very early. I had not minded this as I’d found a sense of belonging and security, something I had lacked in previous years. Uncle Paul had died when I was fourteen. I was taken out of school to assume more duties around the small farm.
Aunt Beth always calls me stupid and forgetful. She constantly yells, “Don’t forget; do this; have you fed . . .?”
Sometimes I do forget. I finished my meal, had a few beers and enjoyed the robust companionship. The lads like pulling my leg a bit, but I don’t mind. I decided to go back to our cabin and face another month of nagging. While getting in the truck I wondered what Aunt Beth’s last yelled instruction had been. Was it something I should have bought or something I was supposed to have done? I’d forgotten, maybe I was a bit stupid. I wondered if the navy would accept me; being a bit slow as I was. I was planning to enlist soon.
The drive back was difficult; the heater was hardly coping. The weather had changed for the worse with the wind getting up and températures falling to minus thirty. However, I was feeling good, after my day in town. Turnng off the main road, I nursed the truck over the rough track which leads to our property. On arrival, I parked behind the shed, got the supplies and struggled towards the cabin. I noticed the door was wide open. I dropped the bags and rushed forward. I saw Aunt Beth in her chair. Her mouth was wide open as if in complaint. Her body was frozen stiff.
Then, I remembered what I’d forgotten. Her last instruction: “. . .and close the door on the way out!”