No junk, no bills

Frank was a creature of habit. Every Monday morning he’d trudge down the road to his local supermarket for an ounce of rolling tobacco, half-loaf of seeded batch and shop-brand vintage cheddar. Every other trip he’d add a carton of milk and jar of apricot or strawberry jam.

He’d smile briefly at the lady dishing out the baskets, then beat a well-trodden path picking out his usual supplies, stopping only to look at the ‘reduced price’ shelf; occasionally choosing some short-dated meat or a luxury item in battered packaging. He’d decline the cashier’s offer of packing assistance with a simple smile and shake of his head, and load his shopping into a crumpled carrier bag; the only companion on his trips.

Frank had dropped a hammer on his right foot a few months before so the journey of less than a mile each way would take him nearly two hours, plenty of time to think about what to order from the frozen food van that did the rounds the following evening, although his thoughts were usually of the son he’d not seen for nearly three years.

Returning through his front garden he’d fumble about in his trouser pocket for his keys, making a mental note of the weeds that needed pulling, then wince as he hit his bad foot on the step up into his porch. Despite having lived at his house for 48 years, the last four alone, it seemed to be becoming a regular occurrence. He cursed himself for being so stupid.

188 floral stamp 101238The postman had been late, delivering while Frank was shopping. Just one piece today; a pink envelope with a large floral first-class stamp.

“That makes a change. No junk, no bills,” Frank muttered as he bent down to pick the envelope up from the mat. He gasped as he recognised the writing, blue ink contrasting with the almost-fluorescent paper. He tore open the seal and took out the contents, nicking his finger on the edge of the flap as he did so. Licking the paper cut, he stared down at the small solitary sheet. A photo. He looked at the faces staring back at him; a girl leaning over a pink birthday cake bearing one candle. Behind the child was her father, Joe, ready to help her blow out the flame. No note, but the picture said it all.

Frank slumped on to the stairs and burst into tears.


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