Short fiction #41 “The empty chair”
The empty chair
The rain showers continued to sweep across the sky every five to ten minutes. It wasn’t rain, just brief scudding showers. The piercing cold wind that gushed through the landscape with every shower kept many people encased in their inner worlds, people like Jack.
Jack sat comfortably in his large chair, softened and contoured by his body from many hours on many days over more than five decades. He could see the clouds racing over the low hills just to the west of his small, comfortable cottage. The rain splattered briefly against the glass. He put down the novel he was reading, resting it on the crowded coffee table at his elbow.
Jostling for a place on this low table was a motley collection of mugs, perhaps nine or ten, brown, green, one black, chipped, old, stained from many cups of tea. Next to the mugs was an eclectic collection of books threatening to topple to the floor at the slightest nudge; several novels, a much used Bible with a grimy cover, two books on Christian philosophy, a small atlas, and an assortment of books of varying size, colour and topic. Perched on top was today’s newspaper, drooped languidly over the books and held somehow from slipping to the floor. A partly completed cryptic crossword faced the ceiling.
Jack looked at the dark clouds coming his way. He felt at peace, and so pleased he didn’t have to wander outside today. He hugged his faithful old jumper closer. The flames from the fire in front of him flickered and curled. He turned his attention from cloud watching to fire watching. The hypnotic dancing of the flames made him drowsy; he’d drift off to sleep at some point late in the afternoon, when the warmth of the flames and the tiredness of his eyes from reading lulled him gently to sleep.
He smiled. ‘So this is what retirement is all about,’ he declared to the empty room. ‘How long has it been? Ten, twelve years or so? I never seem to get bored, or regret leaving work.’
The memories of work surged back into his mind. He had enjoyed his many decades of teaching but he missed the children and working with his colleagues on a daily basis. He certainly didn’t miss the many meetings, the long hours of planning and preparation late into the evenings and the countless hours of marking books and papers. Now he had the time to read all those books he had accumulated over the years. He also had the time to just stop and think, or just relax and not only smell the roses in his wonderful garden but to also just sit and watch the birds, the butterflies and the bees.
He glanced out the window again. The dark clouds looming darkened the room even more. ‘Rain coming, by the look of it.’ He turned back to the fireplace, and then to the empty chair next to it. Despite his feelings of peace and contentment, this empty chair darkened the room more than the coming clouds. It brought a saddening chill to the room.
The chair had remained empty now for six lonely years.
Since Alice left him.
He still visits her grave occasionally.
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Copyright 2015 Trevor W. Hampel
Read more of my short stories here.