The Heirloom

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #181, based on the image above.

“Let me have a look at you”, she commanded.

Pushing Frankie to arm’s length, the woman smiled approval as the smart boy stood before her in his crisp white shirt and charcoal, pinstripe suit. Then she quickly turned away, as if she had forgotten something.

“Wait one moment”, she called back, scurrying into her bedroom.

“Mom…”, warned Frankie, “I got to get going.”

But by the end of the sentence, mom had already re-emerged, clutching Dad’s sacred wristwatch.

“Here, put this on. He always wanted you to have it. Now you’re a bigshot in the city, it’s important that you’re punctual.” While Frankie, incredulous, fumbled with the watch, she snatched a lunch box from the kitchen table, and thrust it at him.

“Now, get going. We can’t have you late on your first day at work.”

As the boy rushed from the apartment, Rosa lifted her pinafore to her eye to stifle a tear. Roberto would have been proud this day, the day their boy graduated into a working man. Besides, his younger brother would be through soon, demanding breakfast.

Frankie – Francisco – knew he stood out as he strode briskly to the station. Since Dad died, they hardly used the subway. Money had been tight, and it was too expensive, for a start. But today, needs must. It was the only sane way of getting down into the city. And he couldn’t resist glancing at his recent gift as reassurance that the clock was good.

The youth, fifteen last birthday, marched purposefully through the light drizzle, reaching his nearest station, Prospect, in short shrift. Having not used the train during rush hour before, he had no way of knowing that the throng of waiting people was far larger than usual, but the sharp boy soon picked up that something was awry.

“Last night’s storm”, tutted a balding fifty-something to a worn-looking buddy. Frankie overheard. “Caused a landslip up the line. Everything’s running late.”

The storm had certainly been a biggie – they’d all watched the spectacular lightning through the window, until little Angelo piped up, “Mommy, I’m scared. Will it hit us?”. With the boy perturbed by their fourteenth-floor location, Rosa had ushered everybody from the window and had closed the drapes.

“Don’t worry, little man, we’re perfectly safe. It’s only a storm. There have been so many storms here and this place stands through all of them. It’s just some noise, that’s all.”

. More rain forecast, too, noted Frankie that morning. The tail-end of a hurricane, making land.

So much for getting in early! His first day at Byrne and Carlisle, jobs were hard enough to come by without this. Even though just the lowly new postboy, these people were a large enough firm to provide opportunity and had a decent reputation as an employer. Frankie owed Uncle Lui big, for this break!

But today, fate had snatched his destiny away. Apprehensively, he checked the watch.

B&C’s head office was not far from Times Square, on 7th and 46th. Ordinarily, the subway would have simply plopped him out at the square, and he could spit at their offices.

But as Frankie observed the seconds shuffle agonisingly by, he decided, with today’s disruption, to take the first train into Manhattan, whatever. Even then, by the time it arrived, the boy had exhausted much of his slack, and barely squeezed on. Thank goodness he was young, quick and agile, he thought, as he deftly skipped past other commuters.

 This train took him into the city but hugged the east of the island. Once on board, he double-checked the route. His best bet was to jump off at Grand Central. From there, he could walk the half-dozen blocks to their offices easily.

As they crossed the Harlem River, Frankie began examining the other passengers.  Crammed like sardines, they were the unhealthiest bunch he had ever seen! If this was what New York did to people, God help him! By the carriage’s other doorway, a short, fat guy with a cold caused a commotion when he began a sneezing fit, and Frankie became even more cramped as imperceptibly, the crowded carriage shuffled toward him.

Soon the train was skirting the park, and before Frankie knew it, they were in double digits. Though they continued to stop, few people dared to push their way into the already-crowded carriage. The first mass exodus came at Frankie’s stop.

Grand Central is a jungle but Frankie knew it. He found his way efficiently to East 42nd, but at the entrance, he halted. The rain had restarted. Maybe he should wait a bit?

Earnestly checking his watch once again, he waited as long as he dared.

“Not today. I really can’t be late today.”

Prompt image for the Fandango's Flash Fiction prompt


    • In my first job, I’d been speaking to one particular HR woman throughout the recruitment process. On my first day, someone else came out to meet me.
      “I’m sorry. they’ve had a breakdown.
      And I’m thinking, “Crikey! What kind of a place did I just join?”


      • I went to my first interview to be told the general manager was running late, her son had puked all over her. Their words, not mine 😁

        Liked by 1 person

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