a short story by Meg Allison
featured in AFTER DARK anthology
By Grace Publishing
excerpt (c) 2007 Meg Allison
She could swear she had stepped backward in time. The feeling left her a bit disconcerted. Penny had expected things to be different and not so much the same, yet it seemed as though the world stood still.
Then she blinked and the landscape transformed before her eyes. The grocery store had a Piggly Wiggly sign in place of the original; Jefferson’s had four modern gas pumps in place of the two relics; the Clip n’ Curl awning had been replaced with one in a muted shade of pink champagne; and there was a travel agency where the five-and-dime had once flourished.
Smells were familiar—the scents of apple brown betty from the diner and diesel from Jefferson’s filled the air along with the fainter scent of a brush fire burning nearby.
Startled, she spun toward the voice and the almost forgotten nickname that had vanished along with another part of her life. Given the sudden shift in scenery, she wasn’t too surprised to have her late husband standing behind her, smiling in the afternoon sun. This had to be a dream.
“Lou, what are you doing here?”
“I came to take you to the hardware store.”
“I don’t need anything there.”
“Yes, you do, sweetie,” he insisted and held out a hand. “You have work to do on the house.”
“I don’t need anything!” She crossed her arms over her middle, reluctant to touch her husband in any way. A shiver of unease snaked over her skin. “I’m not going.”
“Stubborn as a mule,” he said with a shake of his dark head. “But everything you need is in that store.”
He disappeared. Penny blinked at the empty space.
“I’m dreaming,” she said aloud, somewhat comforted by the visible proof. “This doesn’t make a lick of sense.”
* * * *