This story was written for last week’s Microcosms flash fiction contest. The prompt was “I wasn’t always a grumpy old man”.
One of the children lingered by the garden gate where the old man stood, red cricket ball in his hand. The other children had fled as soon as they heard the sound of glass breaking.
“Think you’re getting this ball back?” he asked the child who had stayed behind. The child was close to tears, he could see that. He cleared his throat in an effort to harden his heart.
“Wanted to say sorry,” the kid stuttered.
“I wasn’t always a grumpy old man,” the elderly man said, tossing the ball to the kid. The child caught it with a smile. He looked like he had seen rough days; clothes patched by someone who obviously did not have much skill. His hair was hacked close to his head, looking like a job he did himself.
“You were young once?”
The man guffawed. “I once played cricket for the country – wait here.” He shuffled back to the house through the overgrown garden.
Inside dust hung thick in the air and clung to every surface. He passed the kitchen table where dusty plates still sat. In the bedroom, where the smell of perfume still lingered if he used his imagination, he collected his old cricket shirts.
“You can have these,” he told the child when he reached the gate again. You’d swear he’d handed the kid a gold bar. He retreated back to the dusty house with a smile.
He sat down in his chair and looked to the sofa where he could still see his wife knitting if he tried hard enough. The knitting that lay there had also been covered by dust over the years.
“Gave the kid my shirts, Mary,” he said towards the couch. Tears pricked his eyes. “I wasn’t always this grumpy, was I?”