Short Fiction - 'A Day in the Life of Simon Parrish'

Dawn -

In the dark hours before down, a man named Simon Parrish dug himself a hole. Grunting as he thrust the tip of the shovel's blade into the hard earth. Grunting, again, as he presses down with one foot, trying to force the blade into the dirt. He should have been done by now - the sun would be rising soon. He was starting to think that, maybe, he just wasn't cut out for manual labor.

The exertion brings out a sheen of sweat, trickling down his face. He can feel his shirt sticking to his back. His breath was labored as he forced himself on - harsh sounding gasps drawn through clenched teeth. Right at this moment, Simon wanted nothing more than to be home. His bed was there. And, a fridge holding some cold beer. It was strange - it wasn't even dawn, yet, but he still felt like he had earned one.

His aching muscles forced another strained groan from his lips as he forced the shovel into the door once more - digging up a clump of dirt and tossing it to one side. He stopped, then, and stood up straight - looking down at his work. The hole that he stood in came up to just above his knees, now. Surely, he thought, that would be enough?

"What are you doing out here so early?"

He froze at the sound of the voice. He had been so occupied with his work that he had not heard anyone approaching. He turned, looking up from his shallow ditch and meeting the eyes of an older man, grey haired and clean shaven. Out on some unknown errand of his own.

"And... what's that?", the older man pointed. Nearby, a blanket covered a lumpy form - set aside, for the moment, though not forgotten.

"What are you doing out here.", the old man asked, again. Though, there was a note of suspicion in his voice as he bent over the blanket, reaching out for it.

Simon climbed from the shallow hole as the old man pulled the blanket back - bringing the shovel down just as the old man gave a startled gasp. A sharp crack to the back of the head brought the old man down easily - then, Simon gave a couple more for good measure.

"Well, I hope you don't mind sharing, chief", Simon said, "I'm not digging another hole".

Simon turned back to his work.

Noon -

In a wide and empty field, and under Simon Parrish's watchful eye, a different man dug his own damn hole.

The hot midday sun beat down on them both as the man worked. In the distance, in one direction, Simon could just make out the line of the road - and, movement suggesting a single car going on its way. Though, he ignored. All that really mattered, right now, was the man - and, the hole that he was digging. And, the gun in Simon's hand which he made sure to keep pointed in the man's general direction. There was no need to take any chances, here, after all.

The man worked with at a slow, but steady pace - and, with a lack of emotion that Simon found fascinating. He had seen the anger in the man's eyes when he had shown up at this door - though, that had passed the moment that Simon showed him his gun. Fear had lingered longer. But, the journey here had been a long one - and, the trunk of Simon's car was certain to have been hot and uncomfortable. That had passed, too.

It seemed as though all the emotions a man could, or should, feel when he knew he was about to die had passed well before he had found himself dragged out into this empty field, and had a shovel placed in his hands. He had accepted it without a word, and had begun to dig where Simon had pointed without complaint. All that seemed left to him, now, was a despondency that bordered on apathy, and a desire for it to simply be over and done with. Simon could respect that.

The man paused, letting the tip of the shovel rest in the loose dirt - letting out a sound that seemed half-way between a sigh and a groan.

"I don't have all day, chief", Simon said, "what's the hold-up?"

"Honestly", the man said, "I'm still hoping for a last minute rescue".

Simon turned - looking one way, then the other, before turning back to the man standing in the hole he had dug for himself. "I don't know what to tell you", he said. Then, "all right, that should do, anyway. Let's get this over with. Any last words?"

The man looked up at Simon. Simon watched his eyes flick back and forth as he stood with his mouth slightly open. On the verge of speaking, but finding himself with nothing much to say. Eventually, he just gave a helpless sort of shrug.

"That's a shame", Simon said, raising his gun and taking aim. Then, pausing, and letting his hand drop a little, "oh, damn", he said.

"What's the problem?"

"I just realized that someone still needs to bury you".

"Yeah, I feel for you, buddy", he said.

Simon gave a rueful sort of smile. "Thanks", he said, then he squeezed the trigger.

Night -

A young girl of eight lay still in her bed - sitting up as Simon appeared in the doorway and offering a broad, happy, smile. "Daddy", she said, "you're home!"

"Hello, Princess", he said, leaning over her to press his lips to her forehead, and let her wrap her arms around his neck. "You're supposed to be asleep. Are you waiting up for me, again?"

"Uh-huh", she said. Then, "read me a story?"

Simon groaned. "Not tonight, princess", he said, "it's been a long day?"

"Please!", her attempt at a pout was ruined by her persistent smile - though, the combined effect was still enough to wear Simon down.

"Oh, fine", he said, "go pick something out. Just one, though".

Simon settled himself into the chair set next to his daughter's bed with a relieved groan - watching her scamper to the nearby bookshelf and sort quickly through her modest collection. Another figure appeared in the doorway, then - a woman who quickly scanned the room before turning her attention on Simon. "She's supposed to be asleep", she said.

"I know", Simon said, "just one story".

The woman smiled. "Fine", she said, "just one".

Simon's wife disappeared from the doorway as his daughter made her selection - climbing back into bed with book in hand. It had been a long day, but he had to remember to make time for family. It was good to keep things in balance.

© 2014 Dallas Matier

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