Adrianne and Patrice were on their third martini when Patrice’s son Samuel joined them around the fire pit. Three German shepherds trooped behind him. When he glanced back at them they looked down in reverence.
The women were laughing at themselves for burping. Breathless, Patrice asked, “Adrianne, are you good? Are you having fun?”
“I’m having so much fun, Patrice,” Adrianne said, “This is a perfect night!”
Wild grasses beyond Patrice’s manicured lawn were lit gold by the moonlight. Black clumps of trees dampened the hollow calls of owls and crows.
Samuel sat across from them. Adrianne had not seen him in over ten years when he was in high school. She remembered him as a round-faced, calm boy with an open smile.
“My goodness, Samuel, it’s been so long. I remember when you were -” Adrianne stopped, noticing his flat gaze and remembering that before they started on the martinis Patrice said he had done three tours in Afghanistan.
Adrianne said buoyantly, “Well, I’ve had a few and don’t want to get all sentimental on you, Sam, so just bring it on in!”
She spread her arms wide and wobbled over to him. As they hugged Adrianne patted his quilted flannel that hid his bony shoulders. He held his taut arms in a guarded embracement.
Patrice’s fathomless brown eyes reflected the firelight. She yelled to Samuel, “Hey, Boy! Tell Adrianne about your job!”
Samuel unwrapped his arms from Adrianne, dropping them by his side. The German shepherds flinched.
“I’m heading to North Dakota to work on the fracking. It’s about time I got something.”
Patrice winked and nodded at him as if in prayer. She gulped her martini, “My boy, he’s been through it, all right. And it’s finally his time,” she squeezed her eyes shut, relaxing into a fatigued meditation.
Adrianne said, “Be safe out there, Sam.”
Samuel laughed quietly and said, “Danger can’t touch me anymore,” like an old man.
Susan DeFelice graduated from Sonoma State University and lives in Georgia. Her stories have been published in Flash Fiction Magazine, Literally Stories, Toasted Cheese and Flashes of Brilliance.