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Unbottled

The floorboards were cold under Caleb’s bare feet. He rubbed the back of one hand across both eyes and set his shotgun against the doorframe.

“What brings you out here so early, Sheriff?” Caleb forced a nervous smile.

Sheriff Marcus Franks grimaced and shifted a wooden box from his left arm to his right. “I’m afraid I have some bad news, Caleb.”

Caleb dropped his eyes to the box. It was cedar, well-made, with dovetail joints. There was only one man who could have built it.

A long forsaken day flashed through Caleb’s memory, and his heart twinged in pain.

“My daddy’s gone?”

Charlie had spent most of Caleb’s childhood in his shop, making furniture for the folks in Bowton.

Franks nodded and pushed the box forward. “Sheriff Conley from over in Bowton brought this to me this morning. Said Charlie gave it to him years ago with instructions to deliver it himself when … “

But there had been that one glorious day, just before Caleb left home.

“Thank you, Sheriff.” Caleb hefted the box into his own arms and swung the door closed to nudge the lawman outside.

Caleb sat on the floor and slid open the top of the box — the workmanship was impeccable.

Inside was a letter …

I don’t know if you remember, son, but you and I once rowed across Pin Oak Lake and spent the day. Nothing special. Fished, collected some butterflies, nearly stepped in a hunter’s trap.

I thought you should know, it was the greatest day of my life.


Under the letter was a large glass bottle, which Caleb held to the low morning light streaming through the front window.

Inside were two tiny wooden men, one young, one middle-aged, sitting in a birch boat. Each man held an oar.

“I remember, Dad.”

Published inFlash Fiction

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