Some moments in certain places lend themselves to become a story. The cosmic timing of a situation links itself to become something greater. Some would call this happenstance. Others may label it coincidence. A select few would call this magic. For the next eight weeks, Creative Writing Club proudly presents eight tales from the Ram’s Horn Diner, a venture into the magic of coincidence, a serial of circumstance.
Finally, April had brought a warm day. The winter had lifted its curse of skin-pinching temperatures. I opened my eyes to the pleasant sound of finches singing for the first time in months before attaching myself to my PlayStation. I had time to kill before my parents arrived for their once-per-semester visit to me at college. Home is about an hour and a half from West Chester—I understand why visits aren’t so frequent. It’s tough to be so far away when you miss so much.
My phone started buzzing incessantly. I could already hear the two outside my window, wrapped up in an argument that most likely started with a wrong turn halfway through the drive over. I quickly scooped up the candy wrappers that had accumulated around my bean bag chair to prevent my mother’s almost-sure comments on my cleanliness.
I caught my mom stepping out of the late 1990s, generic “family car” waiting at the meters outside. There’s nothing quite like a mother’s love. She hugged me a bit too tight, but I didn’t think much of it.
“Where are we going to eat?” My dad looked to me. I looked to my mom.
“Does the Ram’s Horn Diner work for you two?” My mom playfully rolled her eyes.
“Works for me.” My dad and I said in unison. He looked at my mother as if he were anticipating a statement. He took her hand. The Ram’s Horn Diner wasn’t a far walk, but time went slowly with every passing face in town. We took a corner booth as per mom’s request in the old-fashioned diner with metallic-coated everything.
“I’m so happy to see you two! School has been going great—much better than last semester. I’m in the running for president of games club and the current president has been advocating for me to the other members. I’m almost sure I’m going to get it. My grades are great in all my classes, except for physics. There’s so much math in it, but I’m still passing. What about you guys?” I place my elbows on the table much to my mother’s disdain, but she says nothing. I’m eagerly awaiting stories of the new puppy causing chaos or the wildly rude patients my mom deals with at the hospital, but there’s a second too long of silence.
My mom’s eyes rested on my dad. I’ve seen this glance before. The last time I saw it, the two had to break it to me that they were selling the house I had grown up in. Whatever they’re about to say is bad news.
“Honey, Uncle David passed away.” My mom spits the words out like sour candy. I laughed.
“What?” I shifted a bit in my seat.
“He… Uhm…” My mom is looking for words that aren’t cliché.
“It was an accident.” My dad chimes in. “He’s in a better place.” I can’t help but think that was a stupid thing to say. There can’t be a better place than here, fingers still able to hold the bowling ball custom-made to fit his, fingers still able to hold his loved ones. I swore the finches stopped chirping their songs.
“How?” I didn’t know why I asked because I already knew. My uncle had a sickness, a very permanent kind of sickness that you don’t really need a doctor to tell you you have. It’s a sickness that weighs heavy on motivation to get out of bed and the desire for cigarettes. He wasn’t less beautiful because of it. He still cracked jokes and never forgot a birthday. The skin didn’t even wrinkle by his eyes and his hair was another three years from going grey.
My curiosity made me wonder if it were pills or a train, not because I’m morbid, but because I wonder if it hurt him more than the alarm clock subjecting him to another day he didn’t ask for, more than the Thanksgiving he burnt his whole palm on the turkey pan, more than the time he had to carry me up his basement steps to my dad after I had been pushed by his son, more than being unable to apologize for not having a beating heart to attend the next birthday party or graduation.
I didn’t understand, but my sinuses did. I could already feel my eyes stinging and throat tensing.
“What can I get for you all today?” The waitress looked at me. I ordered pancakes that I knew I wouldn’t touch. Conversation returned to as a normal as it could and that bothered me. After lunch, my parents walked me back to my dorm, hugged me tight again, and drove home.
I laid in bed and stared out the window. The newly blossomed tree branches hanging looked more like a sulk than just gravity at work.
My phone buzzed on my desk: “Missed call from Zoey.” I scrolled through my contact list alphabetically to find her name but stopped at “Uncle David.” I glanced at the name for a second, then called. After a few rings, I reached his voicemail.
“Hi, you’ve reached David Wick. I’m sorry I can’t get to the phone right now, leave a message and I’ll get back to you. Or maybe not.” Beep. Of course, I didn’t expect anyone to answer. I smiled as hot tears I had been holding for too long overflowed onto my cheeks. Eventually, his number will get disconnected, reassigned, and his voice will be overwritten.
Dropping my phone on the space next to my pillow, I closed my eyes and listened to the finches sing once again.
Kirsten Magas is a second-year student majoring in English.