Fiction Friday 004 — “The Smalling of Doris Filch”

This week we have a story by guest writer Perry Broxon.

He had sent me the story to review/read and I asked if he would mind if I posted it It saves me from having to write anything).

Since it’s here, you can guess his answer.

At around 1,100 words, it’s just a few minutes read.

The Smalling of Doris Filch

Copyright 2022 — Perry Broxson (1,100 words – less than a 4 minutes read)

“Who is it?” Dan asked, having a good idea.

“Woodford County, P.D.,” Sergeant Brown answered. “Sergeant Brown and Officer White. We received a call from this residence regarding a deceased woman by the name of Doris Filch.”

“Mother,” Dan exhaled, opening the moldy door. “She’s passed. It was only a matter of time. She’s been declining.”

Sergeant Brown, a veteran on the force, extracted a pen and notepad from his shirt pocket and said: “We’ll need to come inside and examine the deceased, Mister . . .”

“I’m Dan. Mom calls me Danny. But I’m Dan. Dan Filch, Jr.”

Brown wrote it down and asked, “You live here? With your mother?”

Dan nodded, not making eye contact. “I moved back after college. Wow, it’s been thirty years now. You see, she needed me. Her world – since Papa passed – had gotten . . . what’s the best way to describe it?” He took a full minute and settled on the word small.

“Small?” Officer White questioned.

“Gradually,” Dan said, “she withdrew. She became preoccupied with the local weather, TV pastors, and baking shows. It happens, they say. It’s a real syndrome. People shrink from society. Retreat. Become . . . like I said . . . small.”

“Be that as it may,” Brown said, “we’ll need to view the scene to determine whether to notify the County Coroner. Where exactly is the deceased?”

“The kitchen,” Dan said, pointing. “She was eating breakfast. I made her cereal. Always the same – Cheerios. No sugar. No fruit. Two-percent milk. Room temp.”

Officer White’s face curdled. Brown elbowed him, then tapped the pad with his pen. “So you did see her alive,” he inquired, “before breakfast?”

Dan fiddled with his glasses. Brown thought he was dissembling, and said, “I’m asking you: did see your mother alive this morning, Mr. Filch?”

“I – I – talked to her,” he offered, “asked her how she slept. But – but – I didn’t have my glasses. And then I had to go to the bathroom. So, I guess the answer is no. No, sir. I did not actually see my mother alive this morning.”

White jumped in. “You made her breakfast. Are you saying she wasn’t in the kitchen when you served her?”

Dan seemed conflicted. He wanted to say the things the nice policemen wanted hear, but he was fastidious with the truth. “I was in the kitchen with her – making her breakfast – but she keeps the light low. And I didn’t have my glasses. So, no, I did not see her.” A single tear blistered in the corner of his eye, then burst, streaming down his unshaven face.

Brown wrote something on the pad, then flipped it around. “Let’s do a quick eye test. What does this word say, Filch? Tell me. What did I write down?”

“L-i-a-r,” Dan said, sniffing. “You wrote liar. But I’m not lying, Sergeant.”

White put his hands on Dan’s back and forced him forward. “Let’s go have a look in the kitchen.”

Dan balked. “I hate to look at her. It pains me so. I told you, her world got smaller after Papa ran off with that woman.”

“You said your father died,” Brown said sharply, checking his pad. “You said he passed.”

“I’m sorry,” Dan explained. “Mother insisted that he had died . . . and I played along. For all these years, I played along . . . you know, to protect her feelings. But it didn’t really help. She quit the church, quit her book club, quit gardening, quit thriving. Eventually, she quit life.”

The two policemen looked at one another. Their four nostrils flared, as if they shared a foul odor.

“This way,” Dan said, escorting the cops into the dim kitchen.

Brown noticed an array of cooking knives jutting from a mahogany block. He made sure to position himself between the potential weapons and the potential killer.

“I see the cereal bowl on the table,” White said, scanning the small room. “But I don’t see the body.”

Brown scowled. He’d lectured White about his careless terminology. When referring to one’s recently deceased loved one, it was poor form to say: The Body.

Dan stared down at the chipped cereal bowl and its bland contents. Suddenly, his face melted. He bawled into his palms and moaned. Sergeant Brown thought it might be the prelude to a confession.

“Your mother,” Brown pressed, “where is she, Filch?”

Dan pointed at the floating toroids of cereal and blubbered. “There. There. Oh my God, she’s there.”

The men in blue looked at the empty chair and the sparse table. Subtlety, Brown ringed his own wrist with his thumb and pointer finger, signaling White to cuff the man.

“We’re going to take you downtown for further questioning, Danny,” Brown said.

“It’s Dan, not Danny!” he shouted. He stepped back, frightened and furious.

White grabbed the man’s right wrist and cuffed it. He reached for the left and Dan Filch, Jr. went berserk. The three big men tussled in the small room. It was brief and inelegant. Dan thrashed wildly, overturning the kitchen table. White tackled Dan, slamming him to the ground.

“I give up,” Dan panted. “Don’t hurt me.”

White sneered at the mewling man, belly-down on his mother’s lime-green tile floor. “Like you hurt your mother, Danny?”

“I didn’t hurt her,” he sobbed. “It was an accident. I had to use the bathroom. Number two. I left her alone . . . for five minutes . . . with her cereal . . . and when I returned . . .”

“When you returned, what?” White berated.

Dan Filch, Jr. craned his red face toward the shattered cereal bowl. A slurry of soggy cereal and spilled milk flowed slowly over the floor. His wild eyes widened when he saw his mother, face-down, ass-up, drowned, carried along by the warm, white tide.

“What’s that?” White asked. “Sergeant Brown – do you see what I see?”

Brown kneeled, poked the body with the tip of his pen, cocked his head, and whispered the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father in heaven, deliver us from evil.

“It happened so gradually,” Dan Filch, Jr. reported. “At first I didn’t notice. An inch here, and inch there. An inch a year. Maybe two. And then one day . . . one day . . .”

With his fingertips, Sergeant Brown pinched and lifted Doris Filch. Milk drops dripped from her limp body. Respectfully, he placed her in an evidence bag and sealed it. With the twitch of his chin, he signaled to White. The younger officer dismounted the suspect and followed Brown through the front door of Doris Filch’s house, out into the big world.

The End

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