Bernice had just made the gravest mistake of her life and at age 83, that was saying something.
“Donald?” she whispered, nervously picking a toothpick up off the recliner her husband had just been sitting in. She glanced around the den, looking for him. It was a simple room with not many places to hide. There were two faded, brown recliners, one was his, the other hers. They sat side by side against the wall and faced the flat screen TV on the other side.
She had known her aim was off the last few years, but she had never made a mistake like this before. Bernice had the uncanny ability to make things disappear.
When she was a child she learned she could make small things disappear like Brussel spouts, cod liver oil, or the spiders her younger brother Frankie used to hide in her bed.
Then, when she grew older, married Donald, and had kids, making poop and puke instantly disappear had been an amazing gift. Stains could be instantly removed from clothes or furniture, dirt and grime would vanish without scrubbing, and, on one occasion when her daughter Tori tried sneaking out of the house, she had made the gas in the car disappear leaving her stranded in the driveway.
“Donnie? Are you there?” She swiped her hand over the recliner hoping that maybe he was just invisible as opposed to gone completely, but her hand easily moved through the air.
Over the years, she had tried to keep her talent under the radar, but she had always wondered whether Donald might suspect something. On many occasions she had used her gift to win an argument. Like today for example. She had asked him numerous times throughout their marriage to please stop picking at his teeth in the living room. After all, what were bathrooms for if not to hide the disgusting things we all must to from our family. And picking at your teeth, in Bernice’s humble opinion, was definitely something that belonged in the bathroom. So when he pulled one of his dreaded toothpicks out she’d simply had enough and meant to make the stupid thing disappear. She assumed he would just think he’d fumbled and dropped it. No big deal.
But it was a big deal! She’d missed her target and now the toothpick was still here, but Donald was gone!
She sat back down in her recliner in an attempt to think. She had never made anything reappear. It had all been a one-way street. She squeezed her eyes shut and attempted to reverse the process, but nothing happened.
Suddenly, the sound of an accordion began to play in the distance growing louder and louder by the second followed by the sound of rushing wind. Then, immediate silence.
Standing in front of her was the man from her dreams. He had visited once when she was five years old. She thought he was just a figment of her childhood imagination that her memory refused to forget, but here he was again, no older than before. In fact, he seemed much younger. She remembered him being this ancient old man in a bright red suit. But here he was, just a kid, barely fifty years old if he was day.
“Bernice, what was the one rule I have you?”
She stared sheepishly at the carpet. Oh right. The rule. “It was an accident,” she said.
“What was the rule?” he said again.
She pursed her lips causing even more wrinkles to appear in the ripples of her face. She gave a deep sigh, “Do not send humans to the void.”
“What was that?” He asked, exaggeratedly cupping his hand behind his ear.
She glared at him. “Do not send humans to the void.”
“That’s right. No humans, but look what I have.” There was another rush of wind and soon Donald was hanging precariously in the air, feet dangling helplessly below him.
“Set me down,” Donald said, looking quite put out. He often got angry when he was scared. It was rare that he was ever actually angry.
“Do you mind explaining to me how this man ended up in my void?” he ask, his voice far too dramatic.
Bernice did not have much patience for over-dramatics and felt her temper rising. “It was an accident. I was aiming for the toothpick.”
“Do you know this man?” Donald asked, suddenly focusing on her from his place by the ceiling.
“An accident?” The man asked leaning in closer to her. He narrowed his eyes as he looked her up and down. “You’ve gotten old.”
“I beg your pardon,” she said, huffily.
“You’re license is hereby revoked.”
“Wh-what?” she spluttered.
The sound of an accordion playing rang through the room mixed with rushing wind again and then he was gone. Donald slowly descended from the air until he was once again sitting in his recliner.
He looked over at Bernice. “I don’t suppose there’s anything you’d like to share with me?”
She looked around the room careful not to meet his eyes. “Umm, no, not particularly.”
“Ah, I see.” He shifted his position a bit so that he could dig into his pocket and pulled out a harmonica. “You’ll never believe what I came across while I was, er, wherever I was.” He blew a loud note into the instrument.
“Oh?” she said, inquiringly, cringing at the sound.
He began to play “Oh My Darling,” on his harmonica. It was the only song he knew and the reason she had made it disappear in the first place. She listened to 3 renditions before she broke and tried to make it disappear. It didn’t work. Apparently, she really had lost her license to make things disappear.
Finally he stopped playing. He gave her a sidelong look. “I also found my chess set.” His eyes twinkled.
She opened her eyes innocently. “Oh?” she said again.
“It would appear someone wanted that gone as well.”
“How odd,” she said, smoothing her afghan down over her legs.
“You always were a sore loser.”
She wrinkled her nose, but gave no reply as he began playing his harmonica again. This would not do at all.
* * *
The following story was written based on a prompt I found on the Instagram page: writing.prompts.re
“You were born with the ability to make things disappear. As you grew older, you were able to make even larger objects vanish. Today, while watching Netflix, there’s a knock on your door. An angry old man in an orange suit stands at your doorstep and asks you to please stop throwing things into his void.”
A few details were changed along the way as the story started to take shape.