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A Life Worth Living (a short story)

Updated on November 19, 2015
Jodah profile image

John has many years writing experience including a Writing School course "Writing for Profit." He has written text for children's books etc.

This was to be my first attempt at a 'flash fiction'. I wasn't sure of the maximum word limit allowed but Wikipedia says it is generally up to 1000 words so unfortunately this just exceeds that limit.

That being the case I'll just call this a short story. I know the criteria for flash fiction is to use as few words as possible to tell the story. I could have edited this tale and shortened it to fit the criteria but decided against it. I'll have another attempt at flash fiction later. Thanks for reading this story, in advance.

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Count Your Blessings

by John Hansen © 2014


Dashing out of the phone booth he almost knocked me for a six. Mumbling our apologies, we seemed to simultaneously realise that the other was familiar, and like opponents in a race we competed to be the first to remember the other's name.

Snap! he clicked his fingers. Of course he remembered mine first. "David...David Henson, isn't it?"

"You got it." I replied, "And you must be Andrew West. Great to see you. It must be what, 14 or 15 years?"

Counting back, Andrew concluded that it had been in fact 16 years since we had last seen each other at our High School Graduation. He said he was just passing through but had to stop to make a phone call when his cell phone battery had died.

Andrew was tall and good looking. He was well groomed and wore an obviously expensive suit. A bit much for the casual dress our quaint little town was used to. Our conversation continued though he did most of the talking. "David, mate, how've you been? As steady and reliable as ever? I guess you never left town. Personally I couldn't wait to get out."

Before I could even tell Andrew what I'd done with my life, my job, mention my wife and kids, he was talking again. "This place hasn't changed a bit. Same old main street, same old stores, same old houses.Let's get a bite to eat somewhere. I've got a couple of hours to kill, and we can catch up on old times." Then without waiting for an answer he pointed to his shiny new car, "How do you like the SAAB? Jump in and point the way."

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I directed him towards the golf club. it was the classiest place in town, and I thought he'd be more comfortable in that atmosphere. We sat by a large lead light window and I pointed out a number of people we'd gone to school with, though no one seemed to hold his attention. He was too self-absorbed. He made sure our glasses were charged and tapped his fingers nervously on the table as we waited for our meal. Dazzling me with tales of his exciting city life, "You should have moved to Brisbane too Dave. You can't imagine what you're missing. It is so much more alive and there's always something happening. this place is dead and buried." Andrew droned on.

I was offended by the things he said about my hometown, our home town ..he grew up here too..but I remained silent and was, I admit, jealous of him. Though when he nonchalantly mentioned his two failed marriages and the variety of jobs he'd had I was starting to feel more content with my small town life and had trouble suppressing a faint smile.

Then Andrew started bombarding me again with more stories of the high life, and overseas travel to exotic locations. I couldn't help remembering how successful he was at school, dux of the class for every year I could remember, and sports star and captain. I was envious of all his trophies and awards, but also felt cheated, because Andrew West had never shown any respect for rules or fair play.

I was becoming agitated with the one sided conversation and couldn't wait for the lunch to be over. He compared the food we were served to what he was accustomed to eating in 'fine' city restaurants. The steak was too tough, the sauce too spicy, the vegetables overcooked. "Nice place Dave, but it's just not up to city standards. Though it's the best you can expect in a backward town like this."

"Come on, it's not that bad Andrew....," I began, but my protest was cut off as he hailed the waiter and ordered another Jack Daniels.

"Do you remember Mary Martin," he asked suddenly, "the girl who used to work at the bakery after school? She was a looker. I always wondered what became of her." Mary had good looks and a happy personality that made her popular with everyone, but she always declined any request to date her. Andrew had tried numerous times.

This seemed like my chance to contribute to the conversation, "She left the bakery, went to college, finally got married.......". Andrew had lost interest at that point, but went on how he'd captivated the young shop assistant. Finally the lunch was over, and Andrew said he had to hurry back to Brisbane. He dropped me back in town and we expressed hopes of meeting again. "Don't be a stranger," he said, "If you ever decide on moving to the city, hit me up. I can even set you up with some work." I just nodded and wished him well.

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That evening, as my wife and I shared the sofa watching the local news on tv, I mentioned my meeting and having lunch with an old school buddy. "That's nice Sweety," she said smiling, "was it anyone I knew?" As I began to say his name I was interrupted by the newsreader....

"Today all eyes were on the small town of Linville, as drug squad detectives succeeded in busting an International drug ring. It ended this afternoon when police apprehended the head of the local syndicate at a road block just outside the town. The man, they say, lived in the town some years ago." On screen, detectives were shown handcuffing the man and placing him in the police car.

"Isn't that...Andrew....Andrew West?' asked my wife, a surprised look on her face.

"Yes, I think it is," I replied even more shocked. I didn't mention that he was the friend I shared lunch with earlier.

I turned from the screen, looking at my special people as they sat around the tv. My daughter Erin, pretty, quiet, and graceful. My son John, only a head shorter than me now and growing quickly. My beautiful wife of 13 years beside me. Each one, responsible, caring, and thoughtful. How lucky I felt to have them all in my life.

And how grateful I felt that Mary, my first true love, left the bakery and finally agreed to marry me. Comparing myself to Andrew West there was no doubt which one of us was the richer. I had everything I desired. He had what he deserved.

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Linville QLD 4306, Australia
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    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Missy, thanks for reading my story and for the compliments. I have known people like both Andrew and David. Wise women like Mary seem to see what is true and what fake and not be swayed by appearances and money. The girl you knew had good intuition too obviously :)

    • Missy Smith profile image

      Missy Smith 2 years ago from Florida

      Loved the story Jodah. It's so sad that so many people act like Andrew. I knew David married Mary before I even read it. Mary is the type, who doesn't let artificial personalities and all the hype that goes with fake people impress her. I knew a girl like that. :)

      Again, such a good story. You're a great writer!

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for reading this story Surabhi Kaura. I am so glad you enjoyed it.

    • profile image

      Surabhi Kaura 2 years ago

      Very well done, Jodah! Relished it.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for that kind comment Bill. It means a lot as this was one of the first fiction stories (well, semi-autobiographical) I wrote. I was going through my old note books one day and came across it, dusted it off, rewrote a few paragraphs, and decided to publish it as a hub..after about 30 years). You described it as I wanted it to come across.. A plain, old fashioned, feel-good story. Glad you enjoyed the read.

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 2 years ago from Cape Cod

      As usual I am late at the table John, but found no crumbs or leftovers. This was a complete five star meal - quite up to city standards.

      Sometimes we just need a plain, old fashioned good story; and you delivered. No gimmicks, no veering over the line in the middle of the highway, just a steady and interesting ride from start to finish.

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for reading and the vote up Nadine. I do like writing stories with happy endings, and I'm glad you enjoyed this.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      What a lovely story, It was easy to read and it had a fast tempo. Well done! Voted up

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Harish, thank you for reading this story. I think there is a good message here for how we should live our life. Appreciate what we have and who we have in our life and not put so much importance on wealth. I appreciate your kind comment.

    • Harishprasad profile image

      Harish Mamgain 2 years ago from India

      What an engaging and interesting story ! You just stole my thoughts about life. Yes, message of the story is great -- worth of one's living cannot be counted on the basis of money alone. It is of great value how we think about people all around. Guys like Andrews lose respect on account of their frivolous thinking alone, even if they haven't done any wrongs. I enjoyed the story, so well thought of and written with great passion. Thank you.

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks Graham for your kind words. I thought this story was very much in line with your latest hubs about "Why Be A Nice Guy, Is It Worth It?" I appreciate the vote up.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Jodah. A great story well paced and yes a tear to my eye at the truth of it. Well done.

      voted up and all.

      Graham.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Dan, good to see you. Thanks for the compliment. I can relate. I have made about half of my decisions right I guess. Hopefully with the ones that matter I've made the right ones and still have good health (I touch wood too) Who knows if you've been lucky, smart, or blessed. Maybe a bit of all of them. Maybe you are still here to make people laugh. Keep it up.

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks savvydating for reading your nice comment. Yes the family is somewhat based on my own except I have four kids. Yes, I have everything I need.

    • Dan W Miller profile image

      Dan W Miller 3 years ago from the beaches of Southern California now living in Phoenix since 2000

      Jodah, you're such a versatile writer!

      I like to think we have about ten major decsions in our lives. I'm 56 and I've probably experienced about eight of those ten. According to my calculations I've made about two of those eight decisions correctly.

      But, hey, I'm still upright, I'm not "pushin' up daisies" and seem to be in fantastic health (knocks on wood.) So I guess I'm either lucky, smart or I've made a few right decisions. Maybe "none of the above" and someone has been looking over me or thinks I should be tortured a bit longer by living a life STILL on this Earth.

    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 3 years ago

      Nicely done, Jodah. I never expected the (drug bust) ending. No wonder the guy was such a jerk. No values there, obviously. Is the family in your piece similar to your own? One gets that impression. At any rate, a man who has his loving family really does have everything.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks Eddy, glad you enjoyed this. I'll try to write more.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      Oh how I always these happy ending .

      Keep them coming Jodah and enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you ubanichijioke, I am glad you enjoyed this. Yes, if you want to forgo your morals to make money by any means you can, but as you say, there is a price to pay. Good wins in the end.

    • ubanichijioke profile image

      Alexander Thandi Ubani 3 years ago from Lagos

      hahaha! i love this and i smiled as i read...

      so he asked after Mary, lol. Good life, good wife and beautiful kids sums it up - AWESOME.

      Money aint everything.

      ...and for those who wanna make it by all means possible, there is always a price to pay.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      That is so true Dream On, it is important to stay true to yourself. I think I'd much prefer going through life being a 'good' person, or at least trying to be. Thanks for your kind comment.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 3 years ago

      I loved the ending and I can relate.Years later some people never change. They always think their better and the truth is good people don't have to show off they are just happy being themselves.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hey Minneonka, Thanks for your comment. I'm usually a sucker for a happy ending too...lol. Thanks for reading and commenting, glad you enjoyed this.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 3 years ago from Minnesota

      Well played David, well played! So glad the good guy won. You did a great job on this short story John. Loved the ending. I was hoping David married Mary. Ha Ha Andrew, you got what you deserved and David has everything he ever wanted. LOL

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you Joelle. I actually started this story years ago but wasn't completely happy with it and it sat in my desk unfuinished. Finally pulled it out the other day and was surprised how little it actually needed to complete satisfactorily. I feel it has a good message. Thank you for your kind comments.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      A very sweet story and I love the ending. It sometimes takes us awhile to realize the blessings we have right in our own home. Great job of tackling this writing challenge.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for your kind comment Alicia. I'm glad it got you thinking about your fellow students. I often wonder the same thing as there are so many I haven't heard anything from or about for many years. Just because they were successful at school doesn't mean they made all the right choices in life.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting story with interesting characters, Jodah. It started me thinking about the popular students in my high school and wondering about where they are now and what they are doing. I wonder if their popularity led to success or if they had a sad future, like Andrew. It would be interesting to know!

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks always exploring. I agree totally. I had lived in the city for a few years, but couldn't wait to get back home to the country. I am a country bumpkin at heart and proud of it.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is awesome Jodah. Hometowns are the best places to be, some may call us country bumpkins but we're happy campers...

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for reading Nikki and your kind comment. Glad you enjoyed.

    • Nikkij504gurl profile image

      Nikki Wicked 3 years ago from Louisiana

      Good story, well written, with a good moral.

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for reading Genna, and for that generous comment. Andrew wasn't very likeable was he? You're right, wealth and material success mean nothing in the wash-up. I admire people who have built their wealth from nothing or donate most of it to worthy causes but in the end personal wealth shouldn't be judged on money and possessions, but on the type of person you have been.

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you Ann, for the nice comment. It's always satisfying to see 'good' be rewarded, an 'evil' punished isn't it. Nowadays that doesn't always happen in stories.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 3 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Excellent story, Jodah, and very good flash fiction. As I read the beginning of this story, I couldn’t help but think that Andrew’s bravado was more for his benefit, to convince his own ego that he had “succeeded in life,” whereas he had probably failed miserably, and knew it. I didn’t blame David at all for the eye-rolls. Good instincts. And, then…Pow! The irony played itself put in spades. I am a true believer in that wealth and all of the material success it may bring means nothing in the final analysis. As you so aptly wrote, “I had everything I desired. He had what he deserved.”

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Great story, nicely brought round to its conclusion. I love stories like this, a happy ending for the good guy! Ann

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you Nadine, yes you need to appreciate what you have...wealth isn't just about money and possessions.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Lovely story Jodha. It holds a lot of wisdom. Be always grateful by recognizing true wealth. well done.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for the encouragement Flourish, and valuable suggestions. I'll take your advice and just keep doing my thing and writing from the heart. I'm not really one for too many rules and regulations in regard to how you should wrte anyway. I feel it should just be let flow from your pen.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Great job, John. I think you have a future in this genre. I would take word counts and other restrictions as suggestion-only, and just tell your story.

      We all have those folks we knew way back when. Some made it big. Sometimes the simple life is undervalued. Glad Andrew West got what was coming to him in the end.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you MsDora for your kind comment. Much appreciated.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Great presentation of a short story. Good theme too. The better man got Mary Martin. Congratulations!

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Dear Jane, thank you for such kind comments. That means a lot coming from such an accomplished short story writer as yourself. Glad it kept you interested, and yeah, the good guy gets the girl is usually a winner..haha.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Faith, yes that sure is the moral. It's too easy to envy what others appear to have, but what you see isn't always what you get. Appreciate what you have. Thank you so much for the vote up and share.

    • Jodah profile image
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      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for reading Cam. You are one of the best exponents in this field so I really appreciate your advice. Even I didn't like Andrew while I was writing it. Good guys win.

    • Jodah profile image
      Author

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for the encouragement Bill. I admit to being a little outside my comfort zone with this but Frank's recent challenge spurred me to try writing more stories, and as you say we writers should try to 'spread our wings.'

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      Jane Arden 3 years ago

      I really didn't like Andrew. I am so pleased the good guy got the girl. We sure reap what we sow. John, you not only are a really good poet, you write an awesome short story. I wanted to sit down on the couch and carry on reading.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Great job. The moral to the story that sometimes we realize just how much we are blessed when we look at others' lives! Up and more and sharing. Have a great day, Faith Reaper'

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      Chris Mills 3 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      That is a wonderful story, John. I didn't like that Andrew guy from the start. And David ended up with Mary. Sweet. Fine story, John, and don't worry about word count and flash fiction. Some go as high as 1500 and more. This works just fine.

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This is a tough genre and one I have never tried. You did well, John.