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Flux" is a work of fiction.   Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, events or locales is completely coincidental.

"Flux" is the property of author Othy Jones and may not be redistributed or posted without prior written consent.

WARNING:  This short story contains coarse language that is not suitable for children.
A special thanks to Michael Radtke, Jr. and Meryl Waters for the sentences that inspired this short story.


by Othy Jones

The rain was wet and cold. Sydney probably should have been used to it. He'd lived and taken the bus in DC for the last thirteen of his forty-four years. He was a big guy, a tough skinned black man who could hold his own with the best of them down at the welding shop. But inside, Sydney was a soft hearted teddy bear. A sucker, he often thought, but since he came across kind of intimidating,he was rarely messed with.

 Tonight though, as he stood there out in that damn wet and cold rain, he couldn't help but notice the young Asian woman standing curbside with her umbrella, sniffling.  Maybe it was because they were alone or because it was raining but he felt compelled to speak to her.

 "Hey," he said. The woman looked up to him, her face wet with tears. At first he'd thought it was rain,but when she wiped them away with the back of her hand, he knew what they were.

 Damn,he thought, why can't I mind my own business instead of gettin' caught up in other people’s drama? Instead he asked, "Why are you crying?"

 At first she had a good mind to pretend she didn't speak English.  After all, the last thing she wanted to talk about was why she was crying. But, for some reason, maybe because of his genial tone, she decided to tell him.

"You have kids?" she asked.

"I got one or two, depending on who you ask," he replied.  "You?"

More tears fell as her eyes betrayed her. "No," she said weakly as she shivered and wiped the fresh wetness from her face.  He guessed she must be of college age, perhaps fresh out of Georgetown.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-"

"It's OK.  You didn't mean any harm.  It's just that..."

"Oh hey, you don't got to tell me anything.  I just couldn't stand to see a pretty face cry!  Just making conversation,really."  And sticking my nose where it don't belong, he thought.

"It’s probably not good to keep in anyway."

"Your call."

"I found out about twenty minutes ago that I can't have kids."

"Oh my bad!  I- I'm sorry to hear that miss."

"I just had a follow up exam across the street there," she added pointing at an OB/GYN office across the way. "Turns out I’ve got cysts surrounding my fallopian tubes.  Strangled the bastards to death,” she added with a blank stare.

"Yo, pardon me for sayin' so but that's fucked up!"

“It is,” she agreed.

Sydney knew he needed to say something but honestly, he wondered, what do you say to someone in that situation?

“My father’s going to have a field day with this,” she said before he could add anything else.

“I don’t follow.”

“Korean fathers can be hard on their kids,mine’s worse than most.  I’m his only child.  He’d wanted a boy, now I can’t even give him a grandson.”

“If that’s the first thing that comes to his mind when you tell him your situation, he ain’t worth shit!”

“Maybe not, but now, I won’t be either.”

“Don’t talk like that,” said Sydney as he cocked his head to one side, contorting his face in disbelief.  “If kids are that important to you, you could always adopt.  Hell, take one of mine,”he said, trying to make things a little lighter.

The woman attempted a feeble smile but it was clear she was in another world.

“I’m Sydney,” he said as he extended a hand.

“Sung,” she replied, grasping his hand meekly.

“You know,” he began.  “We got about twenty minutes before that bus gets here.  You could use a cup of coffee to clear your head.  Buddy of mine owns a donut shop just up the block.  What do you say?  It’s on me.”

“I’d rather have a vodka straight up.”

“That he don’t serve.  Besides, I keep my distance from booze these days.  Cost me my wife and damn near my job.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be.  Honestly, she’s better off.  We still talk, for my boy’s sake,” he paused.  “His Step-Dad’s alright.  Took me a long time to see it that way though.”

“I take it back,” said Sung.  “Coffee actually does sound pretty good right now.”

“Alright then,” he extended his arm for her to take.  She grasped it, a little firmer than she had his hand, but smacked him in the head with her umbrella.

“Ooo, sorry,” she offered.

“No worries, it’s my curse being tall.”

Less than ten minutes later, as darkness fully claimed the evening, Sydney and Sung shed the rain for the fragrant warmth of the donut shop.

“Hell,” declared a craggy old balding black man from behind the counter as they entered.  “My watch must have stopped.  Baby, look who it is.”

A tired old woman with bags under her eyes emerged from the kitchen with a tray full of donuts.

“Sydney Brown?” she questioned.  “Ain’t you supposed to be gettin’ home to that wife of yours?”

“She ain’t his wife yet,” said her husband.  “Course lookin’ at who he’s come in with, might be he’s got him a taste for some white meat, Kung Pao style.”

“Hold that tongue of yours, Chancey,”his wife ordered.  “She still a lady.”

“Chancey, Tawanda,” stated Sydney.  “This is my new friend Sung.  She got some bad news today and needs a cup of coffee, a clear conscious and a little cheering up.”

“And you brought her here?” asked Chancey.

“Lord help us,” added Tawanda.

“I’ll put on a fresh pot,” Chancey offered.  “The sludge in this one’s too thick to come out,” he chuckled while lifting the old pot off its place on the burner.

“Donut?” Tawanda offered, but Sung declined.

“So Sung,” said Chancey as he set a clean pot under the machine.  “What’ll it take to cheer you up?”

“Well,” she sighed.  “I just found out that I-”

“Ah, ba, ba, ba, ba bah,” he interrupted.  “We got us a policy here.  Don’t ask, don’t dwell.  And that ain’t what I asked you anyways.  I asked how we can cheer you up.”

“Sung’s a tough case, Chancey,” said Sydney.  “Got a fatal blow today, you might say.”

“Ain’t that all of us?” asked Tawanda.  “From cradle to fatal.”

“Mmm hmmm,” muttered her husband.  “That’s the truth right there.”

“You really want to cheer me up?” asked Sung.

“If we can,” said Tawanda.


“She wants to know why,” Tawanda said to Chancey.

“Shit, sometimes so do I,” replied Chancey.  “Truth of it is, we got nothin’ else to do.”

“Do onto others,” said Tawanda.

“Damn straight,” he agreed.

“My father’s an old school asshole,verbally abusive and I can’t have kids. You got a donut for that?”

“If I had a donut for asshole fathers,I’d of used one on her’s fifty-three years ago!” Chancey declared.

“Look baby,” Tawanda stated to Sung.  “Sometimes a curse is a blessin’ in disguise.  Lord is mysterious, he is.  I can have kids, had three-”

“Free loaders,” added Chancey.

“Three that made it, one that didn’t.  You think it’s hard not being able to have kids?  How ‘bout holding your stillborn in your bloodied hands in the bathroom of the gas station at midnight where you stopped to get yourself gas cause you ran out on the way to the hospital.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t-”

“Don’t be sorry for me honey.  I wept. Shit, I screamed.  Went catatonic for better part of a month.  But then one day when I was laid up in bed, I looked up and there was a beam of light shining in from the window right down onto the empty crib in the corner.  I knew then that I was destined to have a child.”

“I think the Lord done overdid it,” said Chancey.  “Givin’ us three after that.   Year after year, one right after the other.”

“You watch your tongue now, them my babies you talkin’ ‘bout.”

“Here’s your coffee,” said Chancey to Sung as he finished pouring the brew into an insulated cup and set it before her.

“What do I owe ya?” asked Sydney before Sung could ask.

“Free o’ charge,” Chancey replied,giving Sung a wink.  “It’s ladies night!”

Sydney chuckled slightly and shook his head catching a glimpse of the clock on the wall.  “Oh hey, Sung, we better get going, that bus’ll be there by the time we walk back.”

“But we were just getting to know  ,” whined Tawanda.

“No, he’s right,” Sung agreed.  “I should get going.  But it was nice meeting both of you,really.  I appreciate your efforts, all things considered.”

“Listen, come back sometime and I’ll fix you one of my homemade apple pies,” Tawanda called after them.  “You ain’t lived ‘til you tried one!  I call ‘em Tawanda’s Tasty Apple Pies!  I feature a new apple every time!”

“Later guys,” said Sydney as he held open the door for Sung.

“They’re really sweet, in their own way,” said Sung once they were back outside.

“Yeah, they’re kind of like family.”

“I want to thank you too,” she added.  “It means a lot that a stranger would go out of his way to make someone feel better.  You’re a good person.  There aren’t enough good people in the world.”

“It’s just something my Auntie taught me.  Be good to people cause they naturally good.  Just need someone to give them the time of day is all.  I mean, imagine how it’d be if we all just gave a damn.”

Sung smiled and soon they were back at the bus stop just as it pulled up. Others had crowded the stop and as they moved on up inside and out of her way, Sung couldn’t help but notice a small beam of light from somewhere unseen, probably a storefront, shining on an ad on the outside of the bus.  It was a picture of a child’s face, saddened and solemn. Be the solution!  Mentor an abused child!  Join Mentors against Meanness. 

She knew then what her calling was.

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