Flash Fiction – Joseph

“Joseph!”

Ten heads in line dropped a little, from aggravation, from disappointment, from frustration, from annoyance. There were a few chuckles but only enough to cover the harsh whispers.

“Joseph, stop that! You’re going to break something and hurt yourself. Go stand with your father.”

But the metallic clanging didn’t stop.

“Honey! Honey, will you please watch Joseph. I’ve got to change the baby.” As if to back up its mother’s pleas, the baby began quietly whimpering before deciding it was up to the task of competing with Joseph.

“Honey!” she shouted at a man standing towards the back of the line resembling an overburdened coat-rack reading through the paperwork that would be necessary when the position at the front of the line was finally achieved.

“Yeah, Babe? Right, go ahead. Joseph, come here and stand with Daddy.”

The metallic clanging stopped but was soon replaced with the nails-on-a-chalkboard screeching of hinge in dire need of grease as Joseph caught hold of a door handle and used the little weight he had to swing the tired door slowly back and forth.

“Joseph,” his mother hissed over the gradually increasing volume of the distraught infant strapped across her chest. Throwing her large purse over the head of her husband so that he listed to one side, she strode off to where Joseph’s feet hovered inches above the floor. Her voice became gentler but the crying baby kept her volume at an easily overheard level. “Joseph, do you want to stand here with Daddy or do you want to come to the bathroom with Mommy?”

No one heard Joseph’s response. Apparently speaking was the only thing he could do quietly.

“Honey!” she called across to her waiting husband. “Joseph’s coming to stand with you while I go change the baby.” As she stood she gave Joseph a little push towards the line before spinning around, momentarily startling the baby into a quiet lull that lasted until she paused to open the bathroom door. Then the infant’s wails were magnified and multiplied as they echoed off the walls of the long and empty bathroom.

Joseph took a few steps towards his father before veering off in the direction of the restroom. “Babe, he’s going with you instead!” the baggage covered man called from his spot in line.

As we crossed the threshold to the next room where those waiting in line were divided amongst four manned desks, we collectively glanced over our shoulders and watched as Joseph changed course before making it through the bathroom door.

We continued shaking our heads as we made our way out of the airport and into our taxi.

“Can you believe?”

“It’s amazing.”

The quiet drive was welcome to our travel weary ears and we were nearly asleep as we pulled up to the hotel. The desk manager took our reservation for dinner and told us to wait while the bellman fetched our bags.

As we sank into the couch, we heard a distant echo of “Joseph!”

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