Matchbook Fiction: Time Slipped Away

Number three of the Matchbook Fiction series is a throwback to the era of the fast, powerful, gas-guzzling American made car, the Oldsmobile. Back in the day of the Wonder Bar radio, hand-crank windows, lap belts, giant ashtrays and no cup holders, you were likely to find a pack of matches tossed in one of these rocket-powered autos.

Since I was unable to locate information for the Olds dealer listed on this matchbook, I’ll share a little history of the great founder and car itself.

Ransom Eli Olds founded Olds Motor Works in 1897 and soon after it became Oldsmobile. Olds invented the first gasoline-powered American car and began large-scale production in 1901. Yes, that’s right. Oldsmobile came first, contrary to what many people believe.

In 1904, Olds left his fledgling car manufacturer to build the REO Motor Car Company. General Motors snatched up Oldsmobile in 1908, and it lived a long and fruitful life until GM discontinued production in 2004. That was a sad year indeed.

But, enough of my Oldsmobile reverie. I’ll cut the history engine and roll up to story number three of Strike a Prose!, this time in exactly 489 words.

Please don’t read and drive.

Time Slipped Away

The earsplitting static gushed from the lone speaker in the center of the dashboard of the 1967 Oldsmobile. The sunlight gone, the only source of light came from the dimly lit AM radio.

Lila’s eyes fluttered open and she yawned, “Where are we?”

Steven opened his eyes, clicked off the radio and said, “I guess we fell asleep. The last thing I remember is making out.”

Bolting upright, fiddling with the buttons on her shirt, Lila exclaimed, “Oh, no! We’re late. My mom’s gonna kill me. We have to get back to town.”

Steven cranked the ignition and peeled out of the secluded clearing. Out on the highway, he drove fast and wild, and they reached the outskirts of town in less than 15 minutes, record time.

As they blew by a 24-hour restaurant, Lila said, “I don’t remember Dan’s Diner changing their name,” She turned around and looked as it faded into the distance. “It’s called IHOP now? Do things seem different somehow?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Steven responded with a shoulder shrug. “Check out that car,” he pointed. “It’s like a futuristic concept car or something.”

Lila looked at him in exasperation. “Who cares about your stupid cars? We’re so late, my mom will disown me. And we have school tomorrow.”

He steered the Oldsmobile onto her street and slowed to a crawl. The engine rumbled loud even when he coasted. She worried they would wake up the neighborhood.

“Everything looks weird, rundown,” she said, doubt in her voice. Steven noticed the strangeness too but kept quiet.

They rolled to a stop in front of her house and looked at each other with anxious eyes. Even in the dark, they could see the house was dilapidated, the yard untamed. Apprehensively, they walked, with clasped hands, to the front door.

Lila’s key didn’t work. She knocked lightly and said, “Steven, I don’t like this.”

The porch light came on and the door opened a crack. A woman’s eye peered out.

Lila said, “Mom? What’s wrong? Let me in.”

The woman pulled open the door and scrutinized them with a scowl.

“Mom, I’m sorry were late, but we had car trouble…,” Lila stopped, suddenly noticed that her mother was an old woman.

“What the hell is wrong with you kids? Playing such a cruel joke on me,” the woman shouted and tried to slam the door.

“Wait,” Lila pushed the door. “What’s happening, Mom? Are you sick?”

“Quit calling me mom and get off my porch,” the woman exclaimed.

Lila stood her ground, “Stop it and let me in. This isn’t funny.”

The woman looked Lila up and down. “You look like her when she was a teenager, but you can’t be my Lila. She disappeared 46 years ago with that boy. Never found them or the car. No, you can’t be her. My Lila’s surely dead.”

With haunting finality, the woman slammed the door and turned off the porch light.

Strike a Prose2Matchbook Fiction is a 500-word or less story written about a chosen matchbook from my collection. It may be about the matches or about something on the matches. You never know what I’ll create.

If you would like to read the first two stories, here they are in order:

The Cigarillo Man

Shadows in the Corner


Matchbook Fiction: Shadows in the Corner

Strike a Prose2For my second installment of Matchbook Fiction, I chose a smoky, aged whisky matchbook distilled in 1934 by Hiram Walker: Canadian Club Whisky. (Yes, whisky spelled without an ‘e’.) The matchbook offered a free drink recipe booklet called “The Essential Guest.” All you had to do was “Mail 3¢ stamp” to Hiram Walker in Peoria, Ill. Does that seem free? Stamps used to be 3¢?

Canadian Club whisky has been called the “unofficial” whisky of prohibition. Between 1920 and 1933, prohibition gave birth to a profitable bootlegging and smuggling enterprise.

Canadian Club was produced legally just across the border from Detroit in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Its geographic convenience made it perfect for smuggling into the United States. Rumor has it Al Capone padded his criminal portfolio and wallet by smuggling his favorite whisky for all the eager, parched Americans. [Source: Beam Global]

If you would like to read the first ever Matchbook Fiction: The Cigarillo Man, click HERE.

History lesson and matchbook memoir out of the way, this Strike a Prose! tale is a sorrowful 369 words. Please enjoy responsibly.

Shadows in the Corner

Alone with her defeating thoughts, Clara lingered in the darkening parlor. She dreaded the twilight. The wilting sun, the emerging shadows, the taunting silence. Her willpower evaporated with the final glimmer of light.

She turned from the window to face her demon. It tempted her with its curvaceous, glossy lines; called out to her in a silky, sensuous voice of persuasion. She approached it cautiously, with an eye of contempt and admiration for its wickedness and power.

Wrapping her slender fingers around the long neck of the whisky bottle, Clara closed her tear-filled eyes and imagined the searing, supple liquid coursing through her body. Her mind caught in a snarl of addiction. Intoxicating thoughts devoured her.

She jerked away as if the bottle burned her palm. It toppled onto the oak floor with a thud.

She slumped down, her lacey dress splayed around her, and scrutinized the bottle. She longed for the liquid like a distant lover, but her rational self sent a message of doubt. She knew it was not hers to possess. The bottle had jilted her, left her empty and confused one too many times. She had cherished it and forsaken all others. She had paid the ultimate price.

The rattle of the locked front door yanked her from her reverie. She bounced from the floor and retreated into the dim corner, ashamed of her vulnerability.

The man entered the parlor and flicked the wall switch, flooding the room in harsh whiteness. She felt exposed, naked in a way that sickened her. She tried to blend into the flowery wallpaper and furnishings.

A cursory glance at the overturned bottle of whisky and a quick scan of the room told him Clara was tormented again tonight. He picked up the bottle and placed it back into the liquor cart.

“Oh, Clara,” he whispered, “My spirit in search of spirits. I wish I could save you from this rerun of nightly agony, but I don’t know how. It’s been 75 years. I’ve told you it is okay to rest in peace.”

He shook his head in defeat and exited the parlor. With mournful eyes, Clara took a last look at the enchanting elixir and vanished into the wall.

Matchbook Fiction: The Cigarillo Man

Strike a Prose!And so begins my first tale of what I’ve coined Matchbook Fiction: Strike a Prose!: flash fiction under 500 words.

I’ve collected matchbooks for almost 30 years. That seems like I’m giving away my age, so let’s just pretend I started collecting matches on the day I was born. They’re scarce these days, but I still find one here and there. My collection has been stuffed in a plastic tote for so long; I decided to bring them to life with short stories based on whatever the matchbook inspires. Continue reading