The Red Door [Prologue]

[Based on a true dream.]

Homecoming

The customer service line at Wal-Mart begins to wrap itself around unsuspecting shoppers, all decked out in some sort of  snowflake sweater and scarf combo. In line, Jack carries a folded plastic bag underneath his arm, observing a man trying to figure out what a Redbox machine does, while his children clamor to sit on a bench with Ronald McDonald, chipping away at his paint in the process.

“I can help who’s next,” the woman at the front desk mumbles, attempting to put a frying pan back into its box. She finally gives up, and stashes the box below her desk with a handle sticking out. “What’s your return?” Jack unfolds the plastic bag in front of her, and takes out a sealed Blu-ray of the Back to the Future trilogy. “I don’t get it. What’s wrong with it?”

“I have no use for it.”

“So why’d you buy it?”

“I didn’t. It was a gift from my wife.”

“You’re terrible.”

“I’m terrible? She should know I already have this. It was the first thing we watched together when we started going out.”

“That doesn’t sound romantic. Why didn’t you watch Titanic instead?”

“Because she’s already seen that. We both have. Enough times to kill me.”

“How about The Notebook?”

“How about you just return this?” She rings up the disc on her system, opens the register, and carefully counts the change one coin at a time before placing it in his palm with a few bills. “Thank you. Have a happy holiday.”

“Is that why you’re wearing that bright, ugly turtleneck? It doesn’t even match your green–” Jack snatches up the empty plastic bag before she can finish, shoves it into his jacket pocket, and walks away. On the way out, he passes a man sleeping on the job behind the lottery counter. His head rests against the wall next to a calendar marked December 12, 2017. Jack’s phone rings.

“Hey Pat, I’ll be there in a bit. Just leaving the Wal-Mart. Remember when you used to work here?” He steps outside. It’s lightly snowing. “Yeah, she might swing by later from the university. Yeah, it’s all right. I’ll see you soon.” He hangs up.

Shoppers make their way in and out of the store, quickly grabbing and discarding carts along the side of the road. Jack finds his car parked in the far corner of a secluded section of the lot. Upon starting it, they both sit idly for a few minutes. Jack takes out his phone and scrolls through his contacts, before putting the phone up to his ear.

“Hey, um, not sure when you’ll get this, but we’re all meeting up at the Red Door in like, half an hour, and it would be great if you could make it. All right. Just let me know. Thanks, bye.” He quickly hangs up, tosses the phone on the passenger seat, puts the car in drive, and speeds out of the parking lot.

[Chapter 1]