Sophie Goes Home
The following was a micro-short or "flash fiction" piece I wrote some years back. Hope it means something to you.
Half a lifetime ago, Sophie drove a 1964 Chrysler with a clutch ground down like a third grader’s pencil and every radio button tuned to WKIK—“Kickin’ Country.” Now the funeral was over and the dreaded going home day had arrived. For that, she would give her driver the day off, arrive home at the helm, just like on the day she’d left. Only instead of the coughing Chrysler, Sophie had chosen the hunter green Cadillac, buffed to the point that one could read small print in its reflection.
Two stations were still tuned to “Kickin’ Country.”
She surveyed the façade, noting the cracking knee-high fence, plastic flowers in plastic pots—she’d always fantasized about hacking the stems with scissors—a severely angled front porch, and her old pink bicycle with blue tassels, still leaning against the side of the house by the spigot, right where she’d left it the day she’d gotten her driver’s license. Every step toward the trailer was drudgery, every moment seemed a year relived of a life she’d left intending never to return.
Sophie pulled herself up through the front door, avoiding the rotted stairs and testing with the toe of her pump to make sure the floor would support her weight. She floated from the kitchen/living area toward the two bedrooms, trancelike.
A crayon picture of a tree with purple leaves under a smiley-faced sun still hung on the back of her door, and a bottle of Tickle Pink nail polish had spilled on the burnt-orange shag carpet. Sophie wrapped the dainty bottle in toilet paper from a partial roll in the bathroom and slipped it into her pants pocket.
A black track shoe, size four, and three wire hangers were the only items in the closet. She picked up the little shoe, remembering her mother helping her try it on in the store, and how the salesman had asked her to jump up and down and run a short distance to “make sure the shoes were fast.”
Something was inside the shoe, something that caught her breath when she spied it. Slowly, almost shyly, Sophie pulled at a bit of periwinkle blue fabric and extracted a tiny doll dress.
She looked about for her old Barbie doll as she held the little garment to her chest and felt her eyes well. It had been years since she’d even thought about the dress, but holding it now, she remembered the monumental influence this little faded piece of fabric had held in her life. How ironic that a dress redeemed for three pages of S&H Green Stamps had shown her the path of business and glamour that allowed her to leave…and how bitter that her mother hadn’t come along. Sophie simply stood there in the middle of her old bedroom and swayed back and forth, cherishing the medley of joy, regret, and relief that only a memory can offer.