All Stories, General Fiction

Early Stages by Frederick K Foote

I’m driving west into the setting sun on streets I’ve known for over 50 years in a car I bought brand new seven years ago. I’ve been driving for fifty-eight of my seventy-three years.

The sun flares, a blinding, bright, flash for a few seconds. The flare recedes as quickly as it came. I look around. I don’t recognize the street or any of the buildings. I’m not sure of the meaning or purpose of the lines, signs, and markers on the roadway. Where am I? What am I doing here? Where am I going? Hell, who am I? I’m lost even to myself and terrified of this limbo.

My first inclination is to slam on the brakes, stop before I violate some rule or right away. Instead, I grip the steering wheel as tightly as possible and hold the automobile to its current direction and speed. I’m dry mouthed, sweaty and feverish.

I creep along the street as cars and buildings flash by at an incredible speed. Lights, red, white yellow, green blinking, dazzling, an alien code that I can no longer decipher.

Ahead, across the street, there, a, a building I recognize. I recognize the Bank of San Juan! On Prospector Boulevard.  Prospector Boulevard and T Street. East San Juan. East San Juan, California. About three miles from home. Three miles from my house. A right at the next light. A right at the next light.

I dart into a parking space. I wipe my face with a Kleenex. I calm my breathing. I check my driver’s license, confirm my identity. I say a silent prayer as I pull back into traffic and start home.


Almost home when the phone rings. I answer.

“Where are you? You’re late?”

Who… “Melody? Melody, I, I where are you?”

“At the Johnson’s, where you we’re supposed to be forty minutes ago. Are you OK? Are you all right?”

“Fine, OK, OK, now. I’m going home. I don’t feel well. I’m going home. I’m going to rest.”

I hang up. The phone starts ringing again instantly. I ignore it. I have to concentrate on getting home.


At home, at the dinner table, in the middle of a laugh, I look at the pretty, dark-skinned girl with the buzz cut natural and the huge gold hoop earrings. Who is she? How did she get in here?

“Daddy, Daddy are you okay? You look like you were adrift there for a minute.”

Carla, my oldest daughter. Carla. “Carla, I, the wine, too much… I’m glad you’re here.”


I put the ice cream carton in the microwave. I put the ice cream in the microwave, not in the freezer. I did that.


I can’t sleep. I watch old movies. What if I go to sleep and wake up in limbo again, not knowing who or where I am?


I put the ice cream carton in the microwave.


I tried to go see Dr. Breedlove. I only got a few blocks. I forgot how to get there.


Now, I have exercises for the mind and body. I have some magic pills. I have training classes on memory retention.

Melody, that’s my wife, I have her name marked on the family picture. Melody keeps my appointments calendar and takes me to my classes.

I no longer drive.


I see it in their eyes pity, fear, shame, maybe disgust.

I’m ashamed, so ashamed and so disgusting.

I’m a burden.  A heavy cross to bear.

I’m a coward. I know what I should do.

Now, I long for limbo.

I sit facing west, looking into the setting sun, waiting for the flash.


Frederick K Foote

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8 thoughts on “Early Stages by Frederick K Foote”

  1. Like this Frederick. Great example of how to use form to convey a state of mind. You convey how the character’s mind and control diminishes as the piece moves to its end.


  2. A real life horror story. This is reminiscent of a speech by a stroke victim. As someone older than the narrator with a grandmother who went through a similar process, it is on my mind. I agree, a very clear story of unclarity. When does being forgetful cross to dementia?


  3. Loved the way Frederick broke the piece up. I think that is an extraordinary literary tool to illustrate the fractured thoughts of the narrator. Also found the repeat of the line, I put the ice cream in the microwave, very effective as, each repeat, for me, illustrated stages of disbelief, shock followed by a sad realization. I think he showed fear and confusion very well.


  4. Hi Fred,
    I don’t think that I would have spotted this as one of yours. Well maybe when I looked at the quality of the writing I would have begun to suspect.
    You tackle different genres, ideas and styles. This all goes to show the natural skill that you have.
    Excellent as always!
    All the very best my friend.


  5. Thank you all for your kind and thoughtful comments. Dementia is the 800 pound gorilla in most of our lives today.

    Some of us fear it far more than death.



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