Murph pulled weeds for four of his neighbors from the age of five until he was eight. On his eighth birthday, he passed out flyers offering to shop, babysit, or cleanup before or after parties or barbecues. When he was twelve he was allowed to have a paper route and built it up from fifty customers to almost a hundred. Along with that he mowed lawns and took on odd jobs like cleaning out basements and garages for some of his customers. Soon he was making enough money allowing his mother to give up taking in laundry.
Murph was always in great demand. Mrs. Lacy tossed him a juicy tangerine after he handed her the paper and later on, while sitting on Mrs. Stewart’s steps trying to get the silk from the tangerine out from between his teeth, Mrs. Stewart brought him a packet of dental floss and taught him how to use it. He liked the feel of flossed teeth and carried the dental floss everywhere. He kept the new floss in one pocket and the used in the other.
Murph concentrated on making a dental floss ball and when it got to be three feet he hoisted it out of his basement with a fulcrum, and put it on his old Radio Flyer red wagon and covered it with his Sponge Bob sheet.
On a suggestion from his father, he went around town charging a nickel just to look at the ball but a dime to look and touch. He’d take your picture with it for a dollar and pretty soon, after the local papers featured him in an article, he was able to quit his other jobs and became a major contributor to the family’s income allowing his father to leave his second job.
All the while Murph continued adding to his three-foot ball of floss—and it grew to four and then to five feet and became too heavy for him to push into the basement so he went through the kitchen door, down the basement steps and over to the hatchway to pull it down. But then the rainy season came and the floss began absorbing water, becoming both heavier and smaller when
Murph walked to the bottom of the stairs grabbed a hold of a long loose floss, and gave it one final tug and it rolled down the steps and atop Murph— crushing the life out of him.
At the viewing, Murph’s casket was set low so the well wishers could see him. His face, remained just as it had at the end— a surprised mouth-open look, eyebrows raised up high, arms wrapped around the floss and one leg stuck out at a ninety-degree angle. And that was how Murph went to his final resting place, in a box stamped Steinway, while his parents collected five dollars a head to view and ten for a picture standing next to him.
Paul Beckman’s story “Healing Time” was one of the winners in the 2016 The Best Small Fictions and his 100 word story “Mom’s Goodbye” was chosen as the winner of the 2016 Fiction Southeast Editor’s Prize. His stories are widely published in print and online in the following magazines amongst others: Connecticut Review, Raleigh Review, Litro, Playboy, Pank, Blue Fifth Review, Flash Frontier, Matter Press, Metazen, Pure Slush, Jellyfish Magazine, Thrice Fiction, and Literary Orphans. His latest collection, Peek, weighed in at 65 stories and 120 pages. Paul lives in Connecticut and earned his MFA from Bennington College. His published story website is http://www.paulbeckmanstories.com and blog is http://www.pincusb.com He also runs the FBomb flash fiction reading series at the KGB Red Room in NY.