Wordsmith.org’s theme this week is “terms from law.”
Today’s Wednesday, here’s the word:
barratry. noun: the practice of stirring up groundless lawsuits.
If you’re new to my Wednesday’s word of the day routine, know that the word is looked on as inspiration. You can use it in a story, or you can use it as a catalyst for a story. For me – today – barratry takes me back to another flash fiction post about welding and bodies and missed perceptions.
Here’s where we left off last time:
He wore his welder’s helmet. Sparks flew up and out around him. He must not have heard her walk in, but he surely felt her pointed tap on his shoulder. He jumped, dropped his torch, and swung his elbow around. In an instant, her eyebrow burned and she fell back, heard a loud clang, and blacked out.
When she opened her eyes, she looked up into flourescent lights. She blinked once, twice, and then saw him again. Only this time he wasn’t peering out from behind a green welding glass.
“You’re awake. Thank god. You scared me woman. You fell back into a pile of scrap and sliced open your head. I thought I’d killed you.” With that, he put his hand on her arm and squeezed.
Her heart popped and beat fast, and her head swirled. The heat of his hand confused her.
“Those people,” she whispered, “on the front lawn….”
He smiled. She squinted. Then, the nurse pushed open the door.
He left the room to give her some privacy. When he tried to go back in, the nurse side-stepped in front of him. Her words were irrelevant; it was her expression that warned him not to return. He left a note at the nurse’s desk and went back home to his welding. She stayed overnight to recover.
A few days later, she sat in her recliner watching TV. During a commercial break, she got up to pour herself another cup of tea. She walked past the TV screen and stopped short.
[Are you the victim of a personal injury? Insurance company not returning your call?]
When victim and personal hit her ears, her mind returned to the scene of the crime. She marched to the window and snapped back the curtains. He had moved the figures, sure, but she still saw evidence of their former positions in the depressed grass. She grabbed her spring jacket off the coat rack. In her frenzy to wrench it closed – tight – with the waist belt, she ignored the in-turned collar. She flung open the front door and made her way across her manicured lawn, through his overgrown yard, and straight to the garage. She heard clicking and then the sound of his torch.
This time when she pushed the door open, she held it back against the wall. She kept one hand on the door knob and one on the door itself for balance. Then, she weaved her foot around a chunk of metal and careened it her way to use as a door stop. He turned from his work and peered through his welding glass.
She sighed, rolled her eyes, and moved towards him. She stopped twice to make sure he put his torch down before she got too close. He raised his welding glass.
“What can I do for you?”
She couldn’t decipher the tone of his voice. “I got home from the hospital three days ago.”
“You haven’t bothered to call to see if I’m okay. You haven’t said a thing about paying my bill.”
“I left a note with a nurse. Have you gotten a bill?”
“Well, no, not yet. But when I do….”
Again, the tone puzzled her. “You left a note? I never got a note.”
He turned back to his work and pulled down his glass.
She leaned over and tapped him on the shoulder. His response was muffled by the glass, which he didn’t raise this time. He held his hands frozen in position, and she saw his shoulders rise and fall as he took a deep breath.
“I’m calling a lawyer,” she quipped.
He set down his tools. He raised his welding glass. He was smiling.
“Did you hear me?” She moved one foot back. “I said I”m calling a lawyer.”
“Yes.” His smile didn’t budge.
Her feet shuffled back and forth, and her shirt felt wet under her arms. She looked around at the other iron bodies, but their menacing looks had changed, probably from the extra light through the doorway she thought.
“You might want to cut that grass in front. It’s a hazard if we hit dry conditions.” She wanted to add insult. “Not to mention it looks like a jungle.”
“Thanks for the tip. And, you might want to fix your coat collar.” That was all he said. Not one word more.
She watched him as he turned back to his metal and lit his torch. She turned to storm out, but stopped at the door to fix her collar. Then, she reached down pushed the chunk of metal out of the way. The door closed slowly behind her.
She stood there for several minutes and listened to him work. When her eyes came back into focus, she saw speckles of color all over the back yard: purple and yellow and a soft orange. More weeds, she thought. Then, upon closer inspection, she noticed a stone path winding through the flowers.
Disgusted, she did an about face and marched back towards her house. But this time, she took the sidewalk.