A Smoke Line from a Jet

Daniel Carter puffed out his cheeks to make an exaggerated show of holding his breath while his wife handed him the airline tickets for travel back East. Carter was shredding old bills, and old documents before he was interrupted by his wife and her delivery.

“You can go back to shredding documents, but you have to face the music,” she said. “Your mother is dying and she doesn't have very much time. I suggest you step down from your high horse and say your farewells.”

“Maria, you know what she has done to us..”

She stopped his conversation with the wave her hand. “Call your sister, and let her know what's happening.”

The tumors in his mother's ovaries were removed last Sunday in an operation that lasted almost ten hours and was more difficult than the specialist had expected. Since he didn't know anything about her tumors, or the surgery, he was not there when she was handed the death sentence. Communications was not a priority when it came to his mother.

When his father died, everything went downhill. The once caring, beautiful woman, mother and caregiver fell to drinking and drugs. The last time he saw her she was bruised, sallow, skin and bones, and her eyes were vacant black holes, but she ignored him and continued her lifestyle.

He made a promise that he would never see her or call her ever again. That was eight years ago, and the truth was simple, he would see her again. She had burned most of her bridges in her life, but she was dying and he would never get a chance to say anything to her.

His sister lived in Atlanta, alone and never married. She was the mother he never had. She quit high school to find a job and take care of him. She put him through college and through law school. She never had time for her life, because he was far more important than her.

He picked the telephone up and dialed her number slowly.

“Andrea, I have some bad news,” he said trying to sound somber.

“Danny, what is it?” she asked quickly, probably afraid it was going to be some bad news about her niece, or her sister in law.

“Mom is sick. Ovarian cancer, she has less then 30 days to live.”

Relief, then a pause. “I thought she was already dead.”


“Well, she's dead to me.”

“Don't you want to get your last goodbyes in, tell her how you feel?”

“Wasting my time,” she replied.

“Andrea, she's our mother.”

There was a lengthy pause coming from the other end of the phone, and then a burst of breath.


“When papa died, I had just turned ten,” she paused again. “Mom got caught up in drinking, then drugs. She burned all her bridges with everyone she knew. She started selling her body, and then she started selling mine! Danny, did you know that the only time I had sex was between twelve and fourteen years old. I never experienced it again because the hatred I grew for it. I got so many diseases, and I think I was pregnant once at thirteen. All this because of mother!”

“Auntie Marge wanted to take you with her,” He said sounding almost stunned.

“I know, I know,” she half swallowed. “I couldn't go because the men who paid mother for me was willing to pay her for you. I couldn't let that happen. I couldn't let anyone touch you like that.”

He swallowed hard.

“I'm forty years old now,” she said almost quietly. “Never been married, I'm two hundred pounds over weight and I work sixty hours a week. I work so I don't think of the past, I eat to keep my mind off the past, I sleep away my free time so I can dream of a different lifetime. I suffer every day because of what that mother has done to me and you. She is dying Danny, but she killed me a long time ago, and never did she come by to say her goodbyes to me.”

Danny was quiet.

“You go if you want to Danny,” she said. “Call me when it's over, or don't. I don't care what happens to her.”

“I understand, Andrea.”

Danny knew that his sister had an awful time growing up, but he never realized what was really going on. He remembered men hitting her and dragging her to the room, but he always thought she was being punished for the bad things he was doing. His sister took all the pain, heartache, and misery away from him, so he respected her decision. He had then decided to take some time off of work and head to Atlanta to spend some time with his sister. Perhaps, it was his way of saying his last goodbyes to her.

After a few more minutes talking about the past they managed to move the conversation over to his wife and daughter, and when she might see them again. Danny promised it would be sooner rather than later.

They hung up and there was an eerie pause. He grimaced and then he put the airline tickets into the shredder. He stood up and pulled the curtains back, The morning blue sky was marred by a smoke line from a jet...


© 2015 Frank Atanacio

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Comments 45 comments

Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 22 months ago from Hereford, AZ

Darker than dark. Chilling story.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 22 months ago from New York

We really need an eerie button Frank. Chills ran up and down my spine throughout this story, and sorrow for what those two little children faced. Of course I felt sorry for the mother too. Was she like that when the father was alive or did his death drive her way over the edge? Obviously no child should ever have to face a life like that, crazy mother or not, but if she had gotten help maybe they would've been spared. Isn't it weird how we get so drawn into a story?

Frank, I can't say it enough, you're a master of the macabre short story!

Voted all but funny.

lisavanvorst profile image

lisavanvorst 22 months ago from New Jersey

This was a heartbreaking story Frank. A different form of writing for you, but well done. Sometimes forgiving is not forthcoming.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

Thank you Becky and lisavanvorst for stopping by and thank you Tillsontitan for sharing your comments with me bless you all..:)

billybuc profile image

billybuc 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

If there is a better short story writer on HP I don't know who it would be. Loved this one, Frank, but then I always love dark. :)

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you billybuc..:)

cam8510 profile image

cam8510 22 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

I'm not so sure this train wreck of a human being should be allowed to go to her eternal rest without facing the music. The las line nicely tied things together. Good story, Frank.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you Cam for reading my short

always exploring profile image

always exploring 22 months ago from Southern Illinois

Wow Frank, this gave me chills. What a life! I loved it!

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

thanks always for exploring my short

MsDora profile image

MsDora 22 months ago from The Caribbean

All the characters here need sympathy. What a struggle it must have been for Danny and you made the reader share it. Good job!

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you MsDora, bless you

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

A complete theater performance in a tight write. I was carried away into the darkness. I am glad it ended where it did, I could not have taken much more.

A cool side effect of reading this was a reminder that all the little slights I carry around with me, are really not so much big deals. Thanks

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 22 months ago from California

For me, this is one of your best Frank! A Wow!

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 22 months ago from southern USA

Oh, my, oh, my, is this ever over the top great writing! It certainly draws one in with the dialogue and feeling their pain. It is so true that although siblings may grow up together, they never really know all that is going on in their sibling(s) life ...so strange it seems to me, but true.

The last line is perfect. As others have already stated, a lot of chills ... and this one may be your best yet, that is until your next one!

I believe you are truly one of the best flash fiction writers here on HP, dear Frank. I always look forward to what you are going to write next, for it is never predictable.

I must study this one to see how you can tell a story as concise as this and it turn out so great. I know, I know ...it is called flash fiction.

Up +++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Bless you, oh talented one : )

cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 22 months ago from Los Angeles

Powerful stuff, Frank. You've just raised the bar on flash fiction. Great story!


jhamann profile image

jhamann 22 months ago from Reno NV

Enjoyable read. You introduce your characters and set the mood well. I was into the story from line. Thank you. Jamie

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

Faith you beautiful virtual friend, thank you for always hitting the comments out of the ball park.. love when you visit, and bless you too and (WTF) is your next hub coming out.. again what the faith! Frank

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much Eric and Audrey for stopping by.. bless you guys :)

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you Cat for stopping by :)

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you jhamann for visiting.. :)

old albion profile image

old albion 22 months ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Frank. I felt it from beginning to end. First class writing, and pacing.

voted up and all.


The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 22 months ago

That was moving Frank but it is something that happens many days in life. You did very well in writing it and I liked the ending where Daniel shredded the airline tickets to visit his sister. I voted it up, shared and pinned it.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 22 months ago from southern USA

Aw, now, bless you ...

(WTF) ...What the Frank ...Frank, well, if you keep this up ...the great writing that is (not the "beautiful" compliments ...hmm, well on second thought : ), I may just have to vote for you when the Hubbie Awards come around this year. On another note, if you keep this up ...again, the great writing, I am becoming so intimidated as you have set the bar pretty high as far as writing flash fiction.

Here are my pitiful excuses: family birthdays, Easter weekend, and then I just can't seem to get to that happy place within myself as far as my story. The hub is done, but I am still thinking on it. Plus I sure don't want to publish something just to publish something, if you understand. I am going to keep reading this one here of yours and others you have written to wear a memory path into my brain as to how to begin and end up with a great flash fiction story.

Thanks for the nudging : ) and hopefully you won't forget about me when I do publish.

Hugs and blessings always

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much old albion and Examiner for taking the time in commenting bless you both..

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

WTF? When the Faith are you going to pull the trigger gurllllll...:) I know life gets in the way and first things first my virtual friend.. just wanna keep that pen warm... and how could I forget? You always have me keeping the Faith...:)

Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia

A very sad tale Frank and unfortunately too common than we'd like to think. My wife, her sister and brother were all abused as children and none of them knew about the others. They didn't say anything to each other until they were adults because each thought they were protecting the others by enduring it. Very good writing as always.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 22 months ago from USA

Someone got what she deserved in the end. Sad but fair.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

Jodah I am so sorry for your wife and her siblings... sad so sad.. thanks for reading my smoke line.. god bless them.. and Flourish thanks for stopping by ...

Genna East profile image

Genna East 22 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

Frank, you are still the master of this genre. I think this is one of your best. Sadly, Andrea’s chilling, tragic story – and Danny’s – echo real life for abused children. I agree with Cam about this “’train wreck” of a mother. I would have shredded that ticket as well. Perhaps to pass on, alone, was some small measure of comeuppance for this horror of a woman.

Besarien profile image

Besarien 22 months ago

Wow Frank! This is some powerful fiction. I hope this story borrows absolutely zero from your real life. I am so moved to empathize with these siblings. I want to hug them and tell them they deserved better. This is one of those stories that I'm going to be thinking about for a long time. I doubt you are going to get any funny votes. I voted it up and clicked everything else.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much Genna East, good to see you.. and welcome Besarien bless you both for the comments and the read :)

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 22 months ago from southern USA

Oh, thank you for encouraging me and letting me know I always have you keeping the Faith : ) ... That is a special thing to say. So true, it is important to keep the pen warm.

Hopefully, I will be ready to pull that trigger tomorrow. Seems you are raising the bar so high, which is a good thing.

I hope you are enjoying a wonderful Saturday so far.

Hugs and blessings always from me to you, faithful Frank, from southern USA

torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 22 months ago

this was very powerful and eye-opening. you can't help but to feel what they feel.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

I hope you had a good Saturday and hope you have a wonderful Sunday my dear sweet Faith...:) and Torrillyn thanks for reading my smoke line bless you both :)

Sara Sarwar Riaz profile image

Sara Sarwar Riaz 22 months ago from Michigan, USA

Such a sad story put so immaculately in words. It is indeed a common happening… grateful for giving the mother the life ending she deserved.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you Sara Sarwar Riaz :)

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 21 months ago from sunny Florida

O my....how tragic and how real....families are filled with so many secrets or untold stories that would explain so much if only everyone knew.

A compelling read from beginning to end.

Voted up+++

Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 21 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much pstraubie

Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 19 months ago

This is so good! I hope you are placing all your finest work somewhere for a later time, when hopefully you will publish it in book form.

It was a tragic story but it was also a life lesson about the way we react and think about things that happen to us. There is nothing adequate for me to find a word to describe how I wanted to read more of what happens? Strong characters~ up=awesome, beautiful and interesting.

shared too! :-))

junko profile image

junko 19 months ago

The very sad and painful thing about this story is the fact that millions have lived that short story a long time. It is good you wrote this, hopefully someone will feel less alone and try to heal.

Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 19 months ago from Florida

That was a powerful piece Frank. I really think you need to write a novel if you aren't already. You have a wonderful gift of story telling.

This was gripping, sad, shocking; so many extreme elements to a great future book.

Voted up on all but funny. It wasn't funny, but it was awesome on all other counts.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 19 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much Jo Goldsmith11 and junko and Missy Smith for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on my smoke line from a jet

Dana Tate profile image

Dana Tate 17 months ago from LOS ANGELES

The sad thing about this story is the fact that it holds "truth" for so many people. The sister being sold to support a mothers drug habit. Getting diseases it was enough to make my stomach turn. This story is so realistic it brought tears to my eyes. It would have been nice if the story wrapped up with repentance and forgiveness in the end but we don't live in a perfect world do we? In the end the mother died alone and it just goes to show- you really do reap what you sow. This is one story that will keep you thinking long after its been read.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 17 months ago from Shelton Author

Dana thank you so much for reading :)

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