All Stories, General Fiction, Short Fiction

New Strangers by Rylan Shafer

“Hi, is this Mark? Mark Chance from Deakins High School?”

Shane was sitting in front of his laptop. On the screen, an image of two young boys standing in the shade of a half-pipe, their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. A date, digitally imprinted in yellow, told Shane the photo was taken the spring of 2006. The boy on the right had a bloody chin and was smiling, pushing his cheeks up and squinting his brown eyes. His hair was black with brown roots and hung past his jaw. Red speckled his white Thrasher shirt. The other threw his head back in laughter, his half-black-half-bleached hair unkempt. This one wore black pants and a black The Clash tee.

“It’s Shane Lynch.”

Texas summer rolled into the garage. Shane blessed his throat with a cold beer. Pieces of a dismembered skateboard littered the plastic folding table Shane sat at. The trucks, bearings, and wheels cleaned set out to dry. Months of skating scratched the image from the bottom. He remembered how, when he got his first board, he used his hands to run the board down stair rails when no one was around to make it look more worn.

“Yeah, I’ve been good. Thanks for asking. How about yourself?”

The gray walls were bare. Only a fridge, the plastic table, and a few chairs tucked into the back corner were with him. His father always kept his tools in a shed in the back yard, so he did the same. He sipped the rest of his beer and got to his feet.

“Arizona? How’d you end up there?”

The kitchen connected to the garage through a metal door. Air conditioning greeted him. A dramatic dialogue on TV spilled out from the living room. Glass rattled and the refrigerator hummed as Shane swung its door open. He grabbed another beer from the bottom drawer and shut the fridge. He cracked the beer open, sipped it, then walked to the living room. School portraits of his daughter hung from the wall. Kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third — backgrounds of soft blue, gentle green, fake forests or bricks. In some, her smile wide and full of tiny child’s teeth. In others, teeth were missing or too big for her mouth. Each year, her face a little different, more grown than the last. He turned off the television.

“Tanaya? No, we broke up in college. We’re best friends to this day. But it turned out she was struggling with being gay for a long time and finally came to terms with it. Yeah, it’s okay. Like I said, she’s still one of my best friends. My daughter is over at hers now. Yeah, a daughter. She’s seven now. Her name’s Megan. What about you? Are you married? Do you have any kids?”

He stepped outside and looked out over the yard as Mark spoke in his ear. Light glared off the maroon Mazda in the driveway across the street and into his eyes. He wiped the cold beer can across his forehead. Tan, sun-scorched grass crunched beneath his feet as he paced and talked. Warm wind carried sand. It made him think of the green grass at his parents’ home in Tennessee. Maybe I’ll give them a call too.

“I’m happy to hear it. God, it’s so nice to talk to you. I found an old skateboard at a yard sale yesterday and it made me think of you. I’ve spent most of the morning cleaning it up. I think it was an old Enjoi board.”

As Shane walked in circles, a few cars roared by. A dog barked from inside a house. The scent of hot pavement filled his nose. He laughed at Mark’s comment and walked over to the silver Fiesta in his driveway and sat on its hood. Its heat radiated through his shorts.

“I’ve got some vacation time saved up,” said Shane. “It’s only a ten-hour drive. I could easily do that in a day. Maybe next month I could come up for a few days, I could bring Megan to play with your kids.  We could shoot the shit like old times.”

The sun burned the back of his neck as he stared down at a patch of curled grass that grew through a crack in the cement. The hot, still air dried his throat. He swigged at the beer. It was getting warm. He poured it into the grass and went inside to grab another.

“Oh,” he said, reaching into the fridge. Beer sprayed as he pulled the can’s tab. He walked out into the garage. “No, it’s okay. I get it. Life gets in the way. We’re all busy now. I should save my vacation for Christmas or something else anyways. I promised Megan I would take her to Six Flags before school starts again.”

He sat at the table.

“Anyways, I’ve got to go. I’m picking up Megan in about ten minutes. But it was nice catching up. For sure, we’ll talk another time.”

Shane hung up the phone and set it down. He looked at the photos on his laptop and continued to drink.


Rylan Shafer 

Image by adamtepl from Pixabay


8 thoughts on “New Strangers by Rylan Shafer”

  1. I perceive that Shane’s trying to make connections. His character’s oddly flat. It’s like he hits all the bases for this type…. a Ford Fiesta, short pants, skateboard under repair, drinks beer.. the curve ball is his daughter, he seems a responsible Dad. He makes an offer to his old friend and it is rejected. Has Mike judged him and found him lacking? Could be. Or Mike’s just not into the lifestyle any more. Good title.


  2. Hi Rylan,
    We’ve had quite a few stories structured this way.
    The ‘one-way’ conversation seldom works. But you did this so well.
    This takes a confident writer with a lot of skill to be able to pull this off.
    This is an accomplished piece of writing.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh on behalf of Literally Stories.


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