The Public Safety Writers Association, 2022 writing contest awarded “Coming Home” second place in flash fiction. The 302-word story chronicles the welcome a Vietnam Veteran received upon his arrival in San Francisco, California. The ending is open to the reader’s interpretation.

Coming Home

I’m still running. I’m running from something; I’m not sure what. It’s time to stop running.

It could have been the reception I received at the San Francisco Airport on that cold and foggy day. I had worn the uniform for what seemed an eternity. I took a cab into the city, but it had started before then. First, the baggage handler threw my duffle bag at me, and then the cabbie acted as though I was Typhoid Mary.

I’m confused. I only did what was expected of me. Why this?

Dropped at the Greyhound Bus Depot, I was treated as a pariah. People glowered at me, most backed away. One woman spat on me after saying something about babies, a killer. I had never imagined a woman could do something like that.

The bar was the same; one drink and I walked away. I found myself standing in front of a Harley-Davidson dealer. I went in—it was different. “Hi, welcome home, welcome to Dudley Perkins.”
The man treated me with dignity. Maybe that’s why I bought an Electra Glide in blue. I threw the uniform into a Dempsey dumpster. I didn’t go back for my duffle bag.

Now five days later, I’m in Utah, stopped alongside a lonely highway. Leaning against the motorcycle, I stare at a stark rock formation in a long-dead sea bed. The trees, those with foliage, display orange and yellow leaves that shift and drop as a cold wind passes through the lonely valley. I feel as cold and lonely as the scene in front of me as I prepare to say goodbye to a world that no longer cares.