Going Home

RestaurantWelcome to this month’s edition of First Friday Fiction.

With today’s smart phones, we are never out of touch. Unless we live in the middle of nowhere, we are able to check email, social media, and talk on the phone 24/7. Yet I believe it is important to put these things aside and relax. We need to spend quality one-on-one time with our families.

Today’s story is about a young man who has a successful, but stressful job. Even when he takes a few days off, thanks to his smart phone, his job follows him. This was originally part of a longer piece I planned to write. I hope you will enjoy David’s story.

David Turner slowed the shiny red sports car and exited the interstate. The gas gauge was on empty, so he located a gas station on the service road, and pulled up to a pump.

He got out of the car and took a deep breath. The smell of hickory smoke came from a nearby barbecue restaurant. His stomach growled—a reminder he hadn’t bothered to eat lunch. He had been on the road six hours. It would be another two before he reached his destination, but he felt good about getting away from the city.

While he waited for the tank to fill, he pulled his phone from his pocket to check his email. There were sixty new messages in his inbox.

I’ll have to keep up with this while I’m away. Otherwise, it will take a week just to read the email. I guess it’s the price of my promotion. But no worries—I have a successful career. Why did the thought leave him with an empty feeling?

The pump clicked off and he started toward the station. A coke and a package of crackers would suffice for dinner. However, when he reached the door, he caught another whiff from the restaurant. He paused for a moment, and then continued inside.

An older man was behind the counter. “How are you stranger?”

The man’s cheerful greeting and slow southern drawl brought a smile to David’s face. “How about the barbecue place next door? Any good?”

“Good as any. But if you like home-style food, the Main Street Diner is only four blocks away. I guarantee they serve the best food in these parts.”

David looked at his watch. “Sounds good.” He listened to the man’s directions.

“That’s on Highway 290 isn’t it?”

“Sure is.”

He thanked the attendant and walked back to his car. Highway 290 led north through the mountains into Canaan. The route would take a bit longer, but he would have time. His parents didn’t expect him before nine.

Ten minutes later, he walked into the crowded diner. If the size of the crowd was an attest to the quality of the food, he had struck gold. The hostess seated him at a small booth in the back corner.

He opened the menu—true southern cuisine—chicken fried steak, meatloaf, fried catfish… A note at the bottom of the page read, “Ask about our homemade pies.” If he ate any of this, he would have to pop another purple pill. What does it matter? You have to take the pills every time you eat. When the waitress came, he ordered chicken fried steak.

*****

The station attendant had been right—the meal was the best David had in months. He rarely ate at home—his schedule didn’t afford the time.

A middle-aged man approached the table and identified himself as the owner. “How was your meal? Hope you saved room for some homemade pie. My wife bakes them fresh daily.”

“It was delicious. The attendant at the gas station on the interstate recommended this place.”

“Old Bill sends us a lot of customers. Not from here are you?”

“Used to live in Canaan. I’m on my way there to visit my parents.”

“My wife and I considered moving there before we bought this place.”

“From your accent, I gather you’re not originally from here either.”

“Moved here five years ago from Los Angeles. I was the CEO of a large corporation. Had my first heart attack at age 42 and another at 45. I decided to leave the corporate world. My wife and I flew out here to look for property, came into the diner for lunch, and learned it was for sale. I went back to LA and gave my notice. We’ve never regretted the move.”

The man’s words resonated deep within David. His phone chimed signaling the arrival of more email.

The owner smiled. “Hard to remember life before smart phones. Sometimes I wonder if we weren’t better off without them.”

“You could be right.” David paused. “I think I will have a piece of chocolate pie.”

“Coming right up.”

David reached for his phone. With a few swipes of his finger, he turned off the email notices.

Enough of this—I’m on vacation. Things will still be there when I get back. I’m going home.

  • Joy DeKok

    I like this story very much and wonder where David’s visit home will lead him. 🙂

    • Thank you, Joy. One day, I might finish the story.

  • kathunsworth

    Joan I really enjoyed this one you took me there, somewhere I have never been before. I wanted David to decide he was leaving it all behind too. We left the big urban sprawl for the simple life and I can tell you I would never go back to live in a big city…love visiting though. Thanks for a delightful read on a dull sunday.

    • Kath – thank you for the comment about being taken somewhere you’d never been before. Believe it or not, the inspiration for this story (the longer version) was the John Denver song, Rocky Mountain High. There is a line where he says, “Coming home to a place he’d never been before.” Your comment encourages me to finish the longer story. Thank you!

      • kathunsworth

        You must Joan…you must. I love hearing what inspires other writers, we are all so different and there lies the beauty.

  • Pingback: A Crucial Decision()