An Element of Time
Second Place in the Letter Review for Flash Fiction
New Flash Fiction by Dale Shank
June 29th, 2023
One evening while Argon went through his parents’ documents to settle their estate, he discovered in their will that he, the estate’s sole beneficiary, was born a generation before them. Immediately, he went to the front porch and woke Ergo and told him the startling news. “See, I told you,” the dog said, chasing his tail in delight. “But you always refused to believe me. Now we have verification. Proof positive.”
Lost in thought, they sat, side by side, in silence on the porch until the sun set. Ergo watched a large raccoon scamper aross the lawn and into the shadows beyond, but he didn’t bark or run to chase it.
As Argon watched the half-moon rise over the distant foothills, he spoke. “This is all too eventful to discuss now. This will change everything. I have to sleep on it. We’ll talk in the morning.”
Ergo nodded and said, “Sleep well.” He grabbed his toy squirrel and trotted inside to his upstairs bedroom.
The next morning the aroma of bacon filled the house. Ergo came into the kitchen, yawning, without his squirrel. “Sorry, I guess I overslept,” he said. “How did you sleep, Argon?”
“I overslept too. Well, not exactly. I hardly slept at all.”
“Is something wrong?” Ergo asked, between bites of bacon.
“I’m afraid so, my dear best friend. It came to me in the night.”
Ergo stiffened. “What’s wrong? What came to you in the night?”
“It’s the will,” Argon said. ”The will contains proof that I was born a generation before my parents. But when a probate judge sees that, my benificiary status will almost certainly be revoked in a flash. It’s terrible. Absolutely terrible. We will have nothing.”
“Well, now, wait a minute, Argon,” Ergo said. “That might not need to be the case. No one else knows the will exists, do they?”
“No, I have the only copy.”
“So, as long as no one ever knows the will exists, no one, except me, will know you were born before your parents. And without a will to process, the probate court will create an intestate succession document which will designate you as the beneficiary of your parents’ entire estate. That happens all the time.”
“You’re a genius, Ergo. I always knew it.”
“Thank you. But let’s make sure the will disappears. Get it and I’ll meet you in the meadow.”
Ergo ran to the meadow and stopped where, for several days, he had been trying to dig out a woodchuck. Furiously, he dug deeper, the soil flying behind him. Exhausted, he sat down, panting, just as Argon arrived with the will.
“There,” Ergo pointed with his nose. “Toss it in the hole.”
Argon tossed it and together they filled in the hole and spread dried grass over the fresh soil. “That should do,” he said. “And what a relief; no more evidence.”
“Right, no more evidence.”
On their walk back to the house, Ergo stopped for a scratch.
“I don’t mean to be distracting, Argon, but I really need a new flea collar.”
“Yes, sorry, Ergo. I forgot. I’ll pick up one tomorrow.”
Dale Shank’s fiction and poetry have been published in: Exquisite Corpse, The Healing Muse, The Raw Art Review, Akros Review, Croton Review, and University of Portland Review
Original Artwork by Kita Das