Flash Fiction

Part 4: 200 words at a time flash fiction challenge

English: Produce aisle in the Bashas' grocery ...
For today’s entry in the TerribleMinds 200-Words Flash Fiction Challenge, we have a little boy lost in a grocery store. Or do we? | English: Produce aisle in the Bashas’ grocery store located in Chinle, AZ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Part 4 of Chuck Wendig’s 200-Word flash fiction challenge, I picked up on this story about a lost boy in a grocery store. My 200-word contribution is at the end. Enjoy!

*****

He had already looked in the frozen section. From there, he rushed past people toward the front of the store, past the pharmacy.

“Anthony,” he yelled in a panic.

At the end of the aisle, he looked frantically around the corner. Shoppers shuffled with their items and queued for purchase.

Joe parted the people with his hands and maneuvered down the row of checkout lines. The lottery machines usually held Anthony’s interest.

Each step, he squinted toward the machines, hoping to see the top of Anthony’s head appear. An elderly woman drove a motorized cart in his path, and he stopped just before knocking himself into the metal basket.

A rush of warmth filled him. His stomach lurched.

“Anthony,” he yelled in frustration.

The woman in the cart looked up at him calmly. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m in the way, aren’t I?”

“Yes, actually,” he said, his gaze darting from the machines to the cart.

He grabbed the front end of the cart and pulled it back, so he could quickly scramble around. As he approached the machines, he saw there was no small boy staring up at them and checking the flaps for freebies.

“Anthony,” he yelled again, this time not as loud and much more desperately.

He looked to the doors, then back into the aisles of the store. A man in a red vest worn by the store employees approached him.

“Sir, is your son missing?”

Joe looked at the concerned brow line of the employee.

“Yes, yes he is.”

Joe’s eyes darted around the aisle full of shocked and concerned faces.  He began to feel light-headed.

The man in the red vest turned to another store employee standing next to him.

“Get to the front of the store. Tell Julie that we need to lock the store-down ASAP. Tell her we have a missing child. She’ll call the police. Let me deal with the static.”

The employee immediately headed to the front of the store.

Joe was feeling his legs begin to weaken. The man noticed immediately and put his arm around Joe.

“Sir, I know this is difficult, but we are going to find your son. Can you walk?”

“I think so,” Joe replied.

“We’ll get to the front office. I’m sure the police will be here any moment.”

The scattered murmurs from the people gathered vibrated inside of Joe’s head.

“Mr. Miers!”

A blonde woman in a store vest quickly approached Joe and the man. Moving alongside of her was another woman who looked to be a store customer.

“Julie, are the police on their way?” Miers asked.

“I think we should move this to the back of the store,” Julie responded.

Miers and Joe both stopped walking.

“Did you find my son?”

The female customer now standing next to Julie stepped forward and put her arm around Joe.

“This is Kathy Cardona,” Julie said softly. “This is his wife.”

The woman looked up at Miers.

“There is no missing boy,” she said. “Our son died six months ago.”

“What? Are you insane?” Joe looked at Kathy. “And who are you anyway? Look, I don’t know who she is, but I really need to find my son so if you don’t mind…” Joe said, turning from them and starting to look around again.

“Joe, wait,” Kathy said, following him.

Julie and Miers stood there, dumbfounded.

“Joe, stop,” Kathy yelled, reaching for Joe’s arm.

Swinging around to her, Joe said, “I don’t know you. Leave me alone. I really need to find my son. If you want, you can help. He’s about so high,” Joe reached his hand at chest level. “Has blond hair and he’s wearing a GI-Joe T-shirt—”

“Stop it, Joe. You’re scaring me. Did you take your meds this morning?”

“What meds? What are you talking about?”

Suddenly, Joe’s hands started trembling and his eyes lost focus. He started remembering things in flashes.

A lake. Sounds of tires screeching on pavement. Anthony screaming from the back seat. A broken windshield. An airbag in his face. “Mr. Ward, everything will be alright,” said a woman. “We’ll take your son in custody. Agent Porter will meet you at the hospital for debriefing. Don’t say anything to anyone until you speak to Agent Porter. Do you understand?” Joe remembered nodding to the woman he now remembered as Agent Manning. The woman who just told the store’s employees she was Kathy, his wife.

*****

Joe sat down hard on the store floor. He buried his face in his hands as the memories washed over him like it had all happened yesterday. He’d been through this before. Why were they doing this to him? Stealing his son again, week after week. It wasn’t fair.

“Joe,” said Agent Manning, still pretending to be his wife. “It’s okay, honey. Let’s go home.”

Joe lashed out at her. She barely avoided his swinging fist. She hadn’t been so lucky the first time. “Get away from me, you crazy bitch!”

Agent Manning stood and smoothed down her neatly creased dress pants. She sighed and turned to Julie. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “He is having a hard turn coming to grips with—”

“Oh no, don’t be sorry,” Julie said. The two women turned away and lowered their voices.

Joe glared up at them. He stood up and wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans. This had gone on long enough.

The old woman in the motorized cart buzzed up next to him. “Did you find your son, Joe?” she asked.

Joe looked down at her. He frowned. “Mrs. Davis?” he said. Yes, it was Mrs. Davis. How had he forgotten the woman who had been his next-door neighbor for half his life?

*****

This is a five-part challenge, so the next addition to this particular story should complete the story. Do you want to finish this one? If so, please post your final story to your blog and share a link here. Or, if you don’t have a blog but still want to play, add your 200-word ending to this story in the comments below. Also, a question for you: What would you title this piece?

If you haven’t yet participated in Part 4 of the 200 Words flash fiction challenge, my original story Making Merry could use an addition. You may read the first three parts here.

~Amanda L. Webster

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