A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Spring"
Originally featured on 03-14-2007
As part of our series "Springset"

During the night, a coiled spring broke free inside an otherwise reliable timepiece. This timepiece sat forgotten inside a seldom opened drawer. It was the night before Daylight Savings.



Dale awoke at six which would have been seven. His arm jerked from the bed to the “off” button on the silent black alarm clock.

In the shower, Dale whizzed through his routine wash and was amazed when he walked back into his room to find that his clock only read 6:02.

“Strange,” he said.

Before he knew it, he was tying his necktie and looking in the reflection to see his hair was meticulously combed. He looked at the clock. 6:03.

He spooned the last of his cereal into his mouth. Taking the bowl between his thumb and forefingers, he tilted it letting the sweet milk hit the back of his throat and then swallowing. As he tapped the bowl down in the sink, he turned to look at the microwave. 6:05.

Dale shook his head. Still 6:05.

The calm in the house felt fluid. Dale felt it pour out the front door with him and then follow him across the lawn and into the car. As he walked he heard the crunchy sound of sprinklers down the block.

Turning the key, he glanced down at the car radio. 6:06.

He breathed hard through his nostrils as he took the smooth turns through his housing community. Looking at the olive and yellow houses, Dale tuned the radio to his jazz station. An alto saxophone began belting out licks as Dale made the last turn through the iron gate onto the town’s main road. He looked at the sun peeking out over the trees down the road. It was barely visible and Dale’s was the only car. The road was his. He rolled down his window and moist warm air blew gently over his upholstery.

Dale rubbed a sleeper out of his eye as he made a right turn into the parking lot of Coffee Roasters. He could hear with eerie clarity the crisp taps of his soles on the cement. A soft electronic tone sounded as Dale stepped through the doorway. A middle-aged woman looked up from the counter.

“Two large coffees, please.”

“Room for cream?”

“A little.”

She handed Dale the cup and lid.

“Do you need a receipt?”

“Yeah, sure.”

As Dale walked the ten feet to the condiment station, he glanced at his receipt. He rubbed his eyes again. The time read 6:08.

The engine, already warm, turned over instantly and Dale sipped his coffee while reversing.

He drove fast. His car cut the air and papers flapped in the back seat. Dale found himself focusing on the soloing saxophone. After another sip, his arm reached out to turn the volume knob. The music echoed across the dry dirt adjacent the two lane road. He inhaled as much air as his lungs would hold. He swallowed and inhaled again. His foot pushed harder on the gas pedal. Wide eyed, he looked at the clock on his dashboard.


His mind was now made up.

As the needle on his speedometer pushed forward past the dashes for 85 and 90, images flashed in front of Dale’s mind. He saw dyed blond hair, emerald eyes and the pursed lips mouthing the words, “If only I’d met someone like you before I got married.”

A hundred yards ahead was the exit he’d taken for the past two years to let his mouth water over those lips, to look into those eyes with the intention of telling her how he felt.

Why not now?

Dale didn’t slow to pass the exit. He picked up his coffee swallowing steaming hot mouthfuls. The song had ended and he flipped over to the classic rock station. George Thorogood declared “I Drink Alone.”


The exit came faster than he expected and he felt his blood rise. His heart pounded near his throat. His tires screeched but he couldn’t slow down, not now.

He turned onto her block. Six blocks away was her house. Dale slowed the car momentarily but then sped up again. He didn’t want to think. He fishtailed into the driveway, barely avoiding crashing into the parked mini-van. A bedroom light turned on.

He picked up both coffees. As he shut the door, he watched as the lights came on in the house, one after the other like dominoes. The front door opened.


“I’m just here to bring your wife her morning coffee.”

“So today’s the day, huh? You’re gonna tell her you’re in love.”

Dale nodded. He thought he could see movement over the man’s shoulder, in the living room. He started towards the door.

“Goddamnit Dale!” Dale marched forward. “You know what? Go ahead and tell her. See what happens.”

Dale sprang forward up the steps past the man.

Read More By Doug Dean

COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project

Archives Archives