What I’m Writing This Week
Jack and Diane are back. Jack reaches out, tries his humor on a distraught Diane. This is the pair’s fifth appearance on shortfiction24. The characters continue to talk to me.
The Goat Movie
Tears ran down Diane Somers’s face as she sipped the last of her breakfast coffee. A single photo lay unframed on the kitchen table. A picture of her late husband, Frank, a huge grin spread across his face, poised to blow out birthday candles. Their daughter Margaret sat at his side. A memorable occasion, only six weeks before Frank’s deadly heart attack.
Diane pushed the photo aside. Three years gone. Frank…and Margaret. Frank dead, Margaret estranged from her mother.
Her phone chirped. A text from Jack Marin. Want to see a movie tonight?
Diane hesitated, then replied, What’s playing?
A text came back. A star-studded feature: Billy Idol, Billie Eilish, Billie Holiday, Billy Elliot and Billy Porter starring in the barnyard classic ‘What’s Got Your Goat’?
Diane stared at the phone. What the hell? She dialed Jack, rather than deal with typing on the phone.
“Hi,” Jack said. “The goat movie sound interesting?”
“I don’t get it.”
“Goats? Billy goats?”
She smiled in spite of herself. “Okay. Sorry, you caught me at a bad time.”
“Should I call later?”
“No, no. It’s fine. Did you stay up all night thinking of that?”
“Nope. I have a notebook filled with these. Been writing them for years. Did you ever watch the old Tonight Show with Johnny Carson?”
“Some. He was not a favorite of mine.”
“Yeah…well I always loved his character Art Fern. Remember? Art Fern and the Tea Time Movie?”
“Girl, your education has sadly been lacking.”
“A matter of opinion…boy.”
Jack snorted. “Okay, I’ll drop it for now…but you may hear more where that came from.”
“Save it, Jack.”
“Listen, if you’re not up to a movie, we could spend a few hours at the zoo. I have a friend who works there. I can get free tickets.”
“Probably not…not today, Jack.” Diane reached for a paper napkin as tears began to flow again.
Jack pushed on. “Yeah, okay. My friend’s a vet. Does a lot of work with the LA Zoo.”
A pause while Diane hesitated to react.
“He treats mostly the elephants. They seem prone to some kind of skin condition.”
“Honest. His business card reads, Pachydermatologist.”
Diane moaned. “I see what you did there…and it hurt.”
“Hey, you throw enough on the wall, some of it will stick.”
Diane took a deep breath, dabbed at stray tears. “Was there a real reason you texted?”
“Actually…yeah. Thinking of you and reaching out.”
“Thanks, Jack. That’s nice.”
“How about dinner tonight? I’d offer to cook for you, but I know you’re skittish about moving too fast.”
“Dinner would be great. How about something light? Maybe a sandwich and salad somewhere.”
“Done. Can I pick you up…or would you rather meet there?”
“Let’s meet there. Wherever ‘there’ is.”
“How about that bistro place at the promenade? They make a good sandwich. Lots of outdoor seating too.”
“See you there at six.”
Diane put her phone down. Her gaze returned to Frank’s photo. You’ve been gone for three years now…please help me understand why Margaret refuses to talk to me. She won’t take any calls from me. It’s killing me, Frank. She’s all I have left.
She reached for a Post-It pad from the counter, pulled off a tab and stuck it over Margaret’s face on the photo. This comes off when you call me.