Monday , July 22 2024

Flash Fiction: New Year’s Grieve

Arthur Krump does what he has done every New Year’s Eve for the last 30 years – grieve. If it is a work day, he stays dutifully at his desk in the corner office. He can hear the laughter and hijinks outside his closed door, but he has no desire to participate in the gang’s party.

It happens to be a Sunday this year, so Art lingers in bed. He eats a late breakfast and starts packing. Nothing annoys him more than being in the city on this night. How contemptible it is for huge crowds to overtake his city, surging through the streets below his apartment to get to the debauchery at Times Square.

12 hours until midnight

Around noon, Art takes his overnight suitcase and a big cooler filled with food and drink down to the parking garage. Willie, the Hispanic man who runs the place, tips back his cap and asks, “New Year’s trip again this year, Mr. Krump?”

“Yes, Willie,” Krump says, “I’m forced from my own home because hooligans will be taking over tonight.”

Willie gives an attendant Art’s key fob, and she runs to get his car. Willie leans on the counter and says, “Maybe if you gave it a chance, you would have some fun tonight.”

Art’s eyes glaze over, and he stares at something beyond Willie’s face as he says, “I gave it a chance once. Never again!”

Krump tips the attendant, gets into his car, and hears Willie yelling “Happy New Year, Mr. Krump!” as Art drives out onto the avenue to begin his trip to Montauk for the next two days.

*

After a long drive, Art pulls his car into the driveway of a ranch house that overlooks Ditch Plains. The icy gray Atlantic looming beyond the sands, gulls swooping over whitecaps, and a lone tanker near the horizon are all that he sees.

He spends July in this house in an arrangement with his brother Walter, who spends August there with his family. They spent the summers there every year when they were growing up, and those still seem like the best years of his life now.

Once inside the house, he opens the kitchen curtains to see that view of the beach. He goes into the utility closet in the back of the house to turn on the electricity, gas, and water. With the refrigerator on, he unpacks his cooler and then takes his suitcase into his childhood bedroom. He never can bring himself to sleep in his parents’ room, especially now that they have been gone for almost a decade.

After having a bite to eat, Art puts on his coat and hat and takes a walk down to the beach and stares at the water at the spot where he kissed Kim Kelly the first time.

The party around the bonfire was complete with a radio blasting and friends roasting marshmallows in the flames. Art glanced over at the blonde and blue-eyed Kim, who was sitting with her girlfriends laughing. His friend Pete pushed his arm and handed him a beer. “Why don’t you ask her out? She keeps looking at you!”

Art drank some beer. “I don’t think she likes me.”

“You don’t know if you don’t ask,” Pete said.

A little bit later, Art got up and walked down to the water and stared out at an illuminated ship. He sipped the beer and wanted to get the courage to speak with Kim, but she suddenly appeared standing next to him.

“Hey, what you doing, Artie?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he said.

She leaned her face toward him, and they kissed as a strong wave sent cold water over their sneakers. They ignored it; Artie dropped his beer, and they kept kissing.

Now, he stares at the water solemnly. There is no way to forget Kim, and he has only himself to blame.

*

He waits until 10 to eat – leftovers from the Chinese restaurant on his corner. He opens a bottle of Pinot Grigio and eats the meal in front of the television set in the den. At first, he watches the news – too grim – then turns to coverage of Times Square – even grimmer!

Eventually he watches a football game. He finishes his meal and the wine, and then takes things into the kitchen and cleans up. He glances at this watch – 20 minutes until midnight.

Martini on the rocks

He makes himself a martini, returns to the den with a bowl of nuts, and starts watching the revelers in Times Square again.

Kim and Art managed their way from the subway steps covered in urine through the crowds and suddenly found themselves sandwiched between hordes of boisterous people staring up at the ball and waiting for it to drop.

The ball dropped, they kissed, and the world went mad. Afterwards, he and Kim walked hand in hand to the big tree in Rockefeller Center, where he took the box from his pocket to propose to her because he graduated from college that year and got a great job.

The smile left Kim’s face. “Art, I’m going away to college next year.”

Art felt sucker-punched. He knew she was graduating from high school, but she had never mentioned college. Kim cried and said, “You’ve ruined everything!” She turned and ran away. After two years of dating, it was over. He never saw her again.

The ring she never saw

He watches the ball drop on TV and hears revelers shooting off fireworks on the beach. Once again, the world is going mad. He goes outside and takes the ring from his pocket that Kim never saw and lifts it over his head, reflecting the light from the fireworks. When the fireworks are over, the group sings “Auld Lang Syne.” Art takes a deep breath of cold air as they start screaming “Happy New Year” and hugging and kissing one another. He looks at the ring, puts it in his pocket, and can think of no resolutions. He goes inside the quiet house to start another year alone.   

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His new novel, 'Unicorn: A Love Story,' is available as an e-book and in print.

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