Under the Welcome Mat

Under the Welcome Mat

A Story by Genie Crick

A surreal flash tale and the inaugural piece for If it's up your alley, please consider submitting your own flashes. We need stories! :)

Mr. Pewter almost didn’t see it on his walk back from the mailbox. Just a flake of it was visible, the bulk hidden under the mat.

Tiny, it still buggered his routine. After a few invigorating blinks, Pewter shuffled his Tuesday flyers and bent to steal the thing from his bristly WELCOME wedge.

It was an envelope, ten yards off its mark. This envelope was the hue of tawny papyrus scrolls. It felt…substantial for an envelope. Pewter didn’t know what that meant, but he knew he meant it, which surprised him.

He sieved it through his fingers--no legible markings, no postage. He faced the drowsy London neighborhood and held it two ticks off the horizon. As if through a periscope, he squinted. 

Definitely something inside. Something bookmarkish...

While placidly intrigued, it wasn’t his dominant nature to open anonymous letters which, especially now so close to his face, smelled of things which he lacked proper names for, and doubted had proper names entirely. It reeked beyond tangible means. It reeked of the possibility of scent.

Was was his dominant nature involved shepherding a chronic, syrupy pulse of unperturbedness through his veins, which tomorrow would see him to the post office, accept a carrier’s dutiful whitewashed apology, and return home to flip through cable television, overwhelmed in the private knowledge of helping a mate secure his mail.

Without another sniff or thought, the robed Mr. Pewter armpitted the envelope and pink bunnied into his flat.

Inside, Pewter was a human turnstile. The more energetic of the two, his rental moved him round in days of aimless circles. Today the halls tolerated him on his lanky melt into the kitchen, wherein that room orbited him past his little table, onto which he piled his papers.

Appliances, too, begrudged the lone man’s presence. Nonetheless, he managed another unremarkable pot of decaf.

Pewter sipped in apathetic moderation, staring through his opaque surroundings. Recently he’d likened himself to a starfish interred by the unscalable walls of its tide pool. It was a simile he quite admired having come up with. Starfish were plain, sedentary, symmetrical. Only ever suckered onto aircraft carriers out of some chemically obscure adventurousness they themselves were incapable of defining.

Pewter blew on his coffee; its caramel surface quivered. He imagined a sugar star clinging to an ocean liner cleaving the waves like a butcher…tropical beaches as white as the moon’s reflection--

Pewter started and blinked frantically as the riotous sound of seagulls swarmed his kitchen. The sound prolonged and slashed at his chest in circus and then all at once it just wasn’t. 

His eyebrows, normally an expressionless monument atop his face, craned down in a singular girder. He waited sinkside with his cup poised at his lips, pursed now in arrival of returning birdcall.

Five minutes. Five minutes one second. Nothing remotely avian harassed his senses. The tick of the wall clock penetrated his silent brain.

Nonplussed, Pewter turned at the hip and emptied his coffee down the drain. His eyebrows hoisted to starting position as he took a seat at the table and combed through his mail. It was all he could do not to crack.

The pile was scarce. He reached the unclaimed letter.

In the teetering comfort of his kitchen, details emerged on the envelope. Details impossible since the stoop. The stationery's muddled aroma had found a niche now: saltwater and sunblock. Its corners were slightly dampened. They glittered with sand and guano.

Pewter yelled. He hiked the envelope across the table where it flattened and behaved as expected.

Expectation wasn’t enough. He could still smell the damn thing.

His kitchen pushed and shoved more than usual now, vortexing his sensible head until Pewter rammed his face into his elbow’s crease, pressuring against the tabletop like one does a mortal wound.

Midst the darkness of skin, he surged to think against seagulls and wharves and the odor of palm tree bark on the wind. He needed an escape hatch. Anything. Now.

An elephant obliged him from two chairs away.

The envelope, as he looked, pushed into yet another mode. Mud stain here…a blood smear there. Its sound morphed into menagerie--the pale gold slither of Serengeti grasslands. The locusts of the bush. Jester hyenas.

Pewter inhaled. His nose delivered lion hunt and afterkill.

Instead of imploding, something evoked the fallow embers in Pewter’s suburban-dulled eyes. How long had he longed for safari? Ever since he was a lad? It was such an undying desire within him that he could hardly remember…

He stared at the closed, blaring bit of parchment. He hadn’t yet considered it was ever meant for him.

Right before his eyes it transformed itself again.

Right before his eyes it got it right.

Pewter uprooted, kicking back his seat. He lunged the wobbly table to pre-empt the next destination, the next dream deferred too long to a perpetual middling class. 

He snatched it, clawed at it. What was it inside? A bill? A ransom note collaged with rubber cemented letters? Pewter dug his thumbs into its creases all-out. It was an envelope. It didn’t resist.

It opened with a revelry of passions long yoked. The sounds…the smells…too many to choose from, to dare hope or pray. Pewter dipped his fingers into the central fold. He made his mind a blank. Somehow, he wanted it to choose the best of him. That which he’d all but forgotten.

Pewter felt the ticket before he knew what it was. He drew it out to read: One Way. First Class from Heathrow straight to--

There. He’d always wanted to go…there.

He didn’t pack; he didn’t shave. Mr. Pewter, robe and all, called a cab and paced his flat. When it honked on the street he locked his door, lifted his mat, and left his key in a spit-sealed envelope. He got into the checkered car and flew away.


Along with his key, Pewter left a note. Whoever held it to the sun would think him daft:


© 2011 Genie Crick

Author's Note

Genie Crick
Any criticism is welcome.

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Added on August 20, 2011
Last Updated on August 20, 2011
Tags: fiction, flash fiction, flash, surreal, sci-fi, fantasy, England, shark


Genie Crick
Genie Crick


I've lived in Colorado most of my life where I school, sax, and write. The things I write about tend to register in the Michael Crichton to Neil Gaiman spectrum of ideas--surreal, near-future sci-fi a.. more..