This feature is the beginning of a story entitled “Baby Danny” by Drew Welke, a student in Ginnie Hartman’s Intermediate Fiction 103 class.
Usually, two people would have to stay in the shop late to close up, but today, Jack had been left alone. Everyone else was helping unload tents, tables, and chairs at a county fair that would open later that week. Jack had drawn the short straw at lunch and ended up staying behind without the possibility of quitting early once the delivery was complete. He sighed and looked up at the clock hanging from a rusty nail above the foreman’s office. Almost there, he thought.
Jack spent the next 30 minutes sweeping dirt on the cement floor of the warehouse into little piles. He pushed the piles into a line with a big broom then split the line in half and moved the two new piles around. He checked the clock and, seeing that it was finally almost quitting time, swept the dirt out the big loading door and locked it. Jack slowly made his way out of the warehouse, through the showroom and into the store up front. He put his time card in the machine at exactly 5:31. Slapping off the lights, he hustled out to his car.
The beat up burgundy Explorer was hardly something he was proud of but it had four wheels and ran pretty good most of the time. Jack’s uncle had sold it to him for next to nothing as a wedding present last fall. It was all the young couple had been able to afford at the time – and now – so they made due. The car lacked a CD player, one hubcap, and working air conditioning, but it wasn’t without amenities. Their first addition to it had been a second hand child’s-seat, purchased only a few weeks after the wedding.
Jack unlocked the door and pulled himself up into the stale air of the cab. It hinted at cigarettes and spit-up. He winced when his thighs touched the hot vinyl seat and squirmed in the hopes of finding a cooler position. While the pain dropped to a more tolerable level he sifted through his keys and slid the one with a big Ford logo into the ignition. Getting the old truck to turn on was always a mix of brute force and seduction but after a moment Jack felt it come to life. He jammed the stick into first and headed out of the gravel parking lot towards US-12.
Forty-five minutes later he walked up the cracked cement path towards his house. He struggled to pull the front screen door free from its swollen frame and cringed as it screeched loudly in protest. A moment later, a second screech joined in: baby Danny was up and ornery.
“I told you not to use that door!” a voice called out from the gloomy interior of the house. “It frightens him. And where the hell have you been? Jenny’s coming to pick me up for the airport any minute!”
“Sorry honey,” Jack apologized. He stepped through the small living room and emerged into their pea-green kitchen. His wife was standing over Danny’s bassinet on the table, cooing at him and slowly quieting his screams. A backpack and overnight bag were at her feet.