Flash Fiction Fridays: Comfort Zones


Spring Fever month continues today as Flash Fiction Fridays features award-winning author Sharon Cupp Pennington.

The King of Crescent Street              
By Sharon Cupp Pennington

Shoving my newspaper aside, I raised a cup to my lips and thought of Emilio Nogales. The coffee tasted bitter. Combined with what I’d read in the paper, it settled like a storm cloud over my day, though the morning sun shined blissfully through my kitchen window. Birds sang and delicate white blossoms covered the plum tree’s branches, signaling an early spring. Squealing brakes announced the garbage truck‘s arrival.

For once, I’d forgotten to put out the trash.

It’s strange how the monotonous comings and goings in our neighborhoods become our comfort zones, the things we rely on in today’s chaotic world. As if synchronized in their schedules, Mrs. Hoffman walks her miniature poodle precisely at two o’clock each afternoon and Mr. Jarvis his Doberman down the same stretch of sidewalk at five.

Every Wednesday at noon, the married mailman parks where our street dead-ends and disappears inside Miss Chamberlain’s house for an hour or so. But no one speaks of it. Invariably, the recycle bins at the library fill and people stack bags of plastic bottles, newspapers and cans around their bases—in spite of a sign forbidding it.

Comfort zones. Whether we realize them or not.

I suppose Emilio Nogales had become part of mine. Regal in his manner, I’d dubbed him the King of Crescent Street. A lawn chair was his throne and a simple black cane his scepter. Every day, cool morning or muggy afternoon, he had sat on his driveway for the eight years I lived in the neighborhood. 

Only rain kept him inside. 

Though never formally introduced, I waved each time I drove past his Magnolia-shaded kingdom. At first he looked confused, but he always waved back. He must’ve been seventy-something then. Eventually, he recognized my little sedan and smiled as it drew near the stop sign. 

I wouldn’t have known his name had I not run into Ada Bauer one rainy Saturday. I was coaxing my drenched umbrella into one of those narrow plastic sleeves provided by the supermarket when she rushed in. Widowed years ago, grown children living as far away as Arizona and California, Ada could be counted on for a morsel or two of gossip.

It seemed Mr. Nogales had taught math to her boy, Sonny, in the sixth grade and again in the eighth. With his white shirt and impeccable bow tie, gray sweater vest and occasional tweed jacket, I’d have pegged Mr. Nogales for literature. Or maybe art.

He’d lost his wife ten years earlier, and Ada pursued him vigorously for two of those years. He was content with the status quo. Disappointed, she had since moved on to the widowed Earl Pearson down at the bank.

Comfort zones. I took my navy blazer from the back of the chair and slipped it on. Giving the obituary one final look, I noted the time and place of Emilio Nogales’ funeral and headed out—embracing grief I didn’t quite understand.

"The King of Crescent Street" won an Honorable Mention in the Whim's Place Flash Fiction Contest in March 2003 and was previously published on their site. 

Sharon Cupp Pennington’s short stories have appeared in numerous online and print venues, with anthology contributions to The Rocking Chair Reader in the Coming Home edition (2004) and Family Gatherings (2005), A Cup of Comfort for Weddings: Something Old, Something New (2007), and Good Old Days Magazine (March, 2007). Draumr Publishing released her debut romantic suspense novel, Hoodoo Money, in May 2008 and the sequel, Mangroves and Monsters, in November 2009. She resides in Texas with her husband where she is currently working on her next project. To learn more about Sharon, visit her website.


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