Elderly man with football

THIS MONTH'S FEATURED STORY

The day I lost Carl and found a football


New flash fiction,
not in any of the books.

I stare unseeingly, looking left, looking right, turning to look behind me, insides bunching up into my chest, nausea becoming fear, pressure encircling my head; finally, my brain forcing frozen limbs into motion, as I call out ‘Carl! Carl!’. But which way to go. Then I shout his name louder. Then scream it so loud, heads turn, an old couple hasten away from a park bench and tears well into my eyes, clouding my vision, as I run unsteadily over slippery, dew glistened, green grass, towards the pool. My lungs gasp as I reach the edge. How could I lose him? My only grandson. I promised to hold his hand all the way. And then I see his football. Right by the edge. I pick it up.

It was all so sudden. The mob of pre-teens came rushing down the pathway on their skateboards and scooters, bumping into me as they passed, and that’s when the football went flying. I turned to say something, then quickly remembered I mustn’t swear in front of Carl. But Carl had gone. And panic set in.

I stare deep into the pool’s water, eyes searching for a small floating body. Nothing. What can I tell my daughter? I must find him. I ask a young man jogging, but he hasn’t noticed a fair-haired boy in a green striped top and dark blue shorts. I ask a woman with a pushchair. Nor has she. The police. I don’t want to; I have to. As I reach for my phone, it rings.

‘Where are you, Dad? Have you gone to the park?’

I can’t tell her; but I must. ‘I think … I … I might have lost Carl.’ Can she hear the sob in my voice?

‘Don’t be silly Dad, Carl’s here with me. You promised to take him to the park, picked up his football and marched off without him. He’s still waiting by the front door.’

Relief swamps over me; a warm tingling through my whole body. I turn home. A feeling of exhaustion, although I’ve walked no more than a half-mile of my slow steps. Back there, I find Carl sitting on the hallway stairs, playing on his iPad. He shoots me a quick glance. Disappointment or reprimand. It’s hard to tell. And my daughter appears from the kitchen.

‘Dad, you must be more careful, make notes if you feel confused. It’s a good job you’re seeing the doctor again tomorrow. That’s not Carl’s football you’ve brought home.’

author & publisher

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