Aaryn sat straight up in bed, suddenly wide awake and listening intently to the silence. Something had woken him but he had no idea what. Then, he heard the three knocks on the end of the house.
Ever since he was a kid, he had known what that sound meant. Someone close to the family had died. He hadn’t heard that knock in almost three decades so he tried to rationalize that it was an animal or one of the neighborhood kids trying to scare someone.
He looked at his phone and made a note of the time — 2:19am.
Just as he dozed back off, he heard the fire department while start up, it’s tone indicating an ambulance call to the north of their base. He rolled over and pulled a pillow over his ears but the sirens were getting louder. He took the pillow off his head and saw flashing lights filling his bedroom.
As he jumped up and got dressed, he noticed that the lights were across the street. Running through the house, he opened the front door and saw a covered stretcher being carried out of Mrs. Jensen’s house.
Knowing that Mrs. Jensen lived alone, he felt tears start running down his cheeks. He’d grown up with Mr. and Mrs. Jensen living across the street and the massive flower gardens that surrounded the house. Mr. Jensen had died about 20 years ago but Mrs. Jensen had maintained the houser and the flower beds. Strongly independent, she would only begrudgingly accept help for large or heavy jobs around the house or if she was under the weather. If she didn’t tend to the yard in the evening, the neighborhood would be making sure she was out in the morning. If she wasn’t, two or three of the neighbors would check on her.
He stepped out onto the front deck of the house and watched the ambulance slowly drive down the street, lights and sirens off. Indeed, Mrs. Jensen has passed away. As the finality of what had happened sunk in to his mind, he heard all the dogs in the neighborhood start a low mournful howl. As a forty-something year old man, he wasn’t supposed to cry so society said, but they hadn’t grown up with this wonderful quiet God-fearing woman who only seem to have a dislike for two things: kids who trampled her flowers and the rabbits that ate the shoots of the new flowers in the spring. The kids got a gentle but firm lecture mixed with some religion about respecting others and the sanctity of life. The bunnies got their own little carrot patch with some other tender greens to keep them distracted from her flowers.
Between the ugly cry, the howling dogs, and his overwhelming emotions; the last thing Aaryn expected to hear was the voice of Mrs. Jensen. It seemed distant and diffuse.
“Oh now Aaryn. It’s okay.” the voice said reassuringly, “I’ve lived a good long life and the Lord is finally taking me home so I can be with Jim again. It’s been over twenty years. Aaryn, don’t be sad. Just take care of my flowers. They’ll have one more year before my granddaughter gets the house.”
Aaryn dropped to his knees and offered a prayer to … who would I pray to?
“God, I know you have watched over Mr and Mrs Jensen. They were fine upstanding people and Jim’s passing was a blow to the neighborhood and Irene’s passing will be another blow. Her patience and care of her flower beds was a matter of neighborhood pride and it seemed to …” Aaryn trailed off, racked by sobs.
It was a few moments later, when a loud booming voice accompanied the brightest light Aaryn had ever seen.
“AARYN – YOUR PRAYERS HAVE BEEN HEARD AND THE JENSEN’S ARE ALREADY REUNITED IN HEAVEN. BUT I AM NOT YOUR GOD. YOU HAVE MUCH SOUL SEARCHING TO DO.”
Aaryn dared to raise his head and saw an angel standing in front of him.
Other Wednesday Briefs authors posting flash fiction this week: