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Short Story 41

White Bread

Sixty-four comes asking for bread, or at least that was how Cranston felt as he sat outside of his local grocery store with a translucent white bag on the seat next to him. It was a rather ordinary day, a Wednesday and lightly cloudy. Despite it being summer it wasn’t very hot. The sun left a warm tingle on the skin and the breeze was pleasant stealing much of the battering qualities of that time of year.

Cranston himself was an inconspicuous man. There was nothing about him that was extraordinary, save the fact that though he was only sixty-nine he looked ten years older than his age. Around his eyes and nose he had a level of wrinkling unusual to his age. His hair was very white and had been so for many years. He kept his face always clean shaven, today being no exception. Around his very prominent lips he had another diverse set of wrinkling quite unaverage and well developed for his time of life.

With a sigh he stood walking to his car. It was nothing special, just a gray compact. It was out of date, and some of the paint was peeling from the roof, but he was rather attached to it and so couldn’t get himself to say goodbye to the ‘old tin box,’ as he called it. Getting inside he set the bag on the passenger seat beside him. With a rather expected manner the bag sagged over falling to its side exposing the twirled and plastic clipped top.

He let it do as it wished, turning on the engine and removing the parking brake. It was always such a hassle to leave the parking lot, but today it managed to go by without causing him too much of a headache. Progressing up the road he kept his eyes trained in front of him, his body accustomed to this singular effort and his general countenance explaining itself that he was in no particular hurry.

Going a bit out of town he pulled into a gravel strewn parking path that let out into a nice sized parking lot of a similar nature. He found a place amongst all the emptiness and grabbing his bag before exiting the car. The gravel, which possessed all the varying shades of gray imaginable, crunched beneath the soles of his feet as he walked through the gigantic island made of them. There weren’t very many other cars and the day being so peaceful made the whole thing a bit more pleasant than normal. As if the day in itself was unusually extraordinary.

He made it to a path devised of the same stones as the parking lot and was instantly dotted in dappled shade. The trees all around this harsh lane acted as green umbrellas against the sun, light passing through them their leaves making them appear like nature’s stained glass.

Cranston didn’t look around or really consider the day at all. His eyes remained poised in front of him, the bag in his grasp bobbing against his leg. A butterfly flew for a moment in front of him and then was gone. Birds twittered in the trees and fluttered about out of sight. All these things he paid no mind while walking on as the harsh stones ground that churned in mild fashion beneath his feet.

And then, diverting from this path he stepped on the grass, walking to a bench that stood alone in shallow light and here is where he sat. The breeze pushed past, rustling the bag. It was a lonely little spot, secluded with a particularly thick canopy blocking out the sun.

Pulling open the bag he exposed three long loaves of white bread each bound up in a slender tube of plastic with a small plastic clip at the top. Senselessly, he removed the clip putting it in a pant pocket before spreading wide the first bag removing a slice.

With careful attention he plucked the slice into tender little pieces, when a handful was achieved, a long, wide gesture was made. All the little bits of bread sored out and away, scatted like tiny bits of snow across the grass.

He was sixty-nine, though he looked and felt seventy-nine, maybe even eight-nine. He had an injury in his hip that made sitting for too long uncomfortable. Even after the replacement, not much changed. He went for long walks every day and made his own food, never eating out. But it would be a lie to say that something wasn’t missing.

Cranston reached for another slice of bread, his eyes falling on the empty space on the other side of the plastic bag. A smile bunched his wrinkles as he thought of his wife Kaity. They used to come here every year for her birthday. It was a treat she enjoyed feeding the birds a bit of bread. A little something spoiling to make their day. After they had scattered several loaves worth throughout the park in different locations, they would go and have a slice of cake.

It was a silly tradition. They had forever and always enjoyed it side by side. But this year, as with the one before that, and the one before that he was doing this on his own, with only the lonely echoing voice of her calling to him from another world.

“You must be having a wonderful day in Heaven,” He spoke softly, as he used to when she sat beside him on a day like this, “In the glory of God, not missing an old man like me.”

He hoped that was the case. He prayed daily that she didn’t miss him. Didn’t think of him, he thought of her every moment. There wasn’t an hour that went by that she didn’t go through his mind. The beautiful woman with the auburn hair.

Plucking down another slice he threw it out. Birds had come with curiosity to peck at the little bits left for them, snatching up the white leavings. How he loved her. Even now he felt it, though it had been so long since he had seen her. But he was determined to keep on. It was what she would have wanted. Though every hour he ached to see her.

Pausing in his crumbling he looked up at the canopy above him. Light dripped through staining the green leaves, sliding out through the cracks. The smile deepened, crinkling his eyes as they watered against the surging sorrow and happiness that sprung from his soul.

“Happy birthday my love, I wait for the next time we can share it together.”


Thank you so much for reading everyone!!

Prompt Sentence: Sixty-four comes asking for bread

Word Count: 1106

©DecemberKnight 2023

Special thanks to Volodymyr Hryshchenko from Unsplash for the use of the image!

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