Better Late... is a flash fiction story based on the Ace of Pentacles card of the Universal Waite Tarot.

Better Late…

“I’m late, late, late!” Daphne zigzagged through the house in a frantic search for her keys. 

Ever running late, she resolved to change when her date, whom she had hoped would soon be her boyfriend, ended their budding relationship because of her constant tardiness. He was not the first to complain, and after a teary-eyed foray into a tub of ice cream and a revealing moment of self-reflection, Daphne determined to become Miss Punctuality. A brighter, punctual future lay ahead. No more embarrassing excuses, no more exasperated stares; witness the dawn of a new Daphne.

Then came Wednesday morning. Her keys seemed to have grown legs overnight and hidden in the deepest, darkest cranny. Not finding them, she zoomed through every room, upending cushions, opening drawers and moving chairs, to no avail.

“I’m late,” she panted, “why, why, why? Why today, of all days?”

The boss had called an early morning staff meeting to announce important changes to the department, and a sense of impeding doom had settled over her colleagues; they rumored layoffs. The boss was never late, never ever. How he managed such precise and constant punctuality, no one knew. Though he and Daphne drove the same route, she always got caught behind a garbage truck, or at a malfunctioning stoplight, causing her considerable delay.

Daphne let out a delighted shriek. Underneath the refrigerator, she sighted a glint of metal. She shone a flashlight at it and the fugitive keys winked at her. Running upstairs, Daphne snatched a hanger from the closet, and used the hook to pull out the keys. She grabbed them, glanced at the microwave clock, and, muttering, “I’m late, I’m late,” ran out the door.

Sitting in traffic, she blew out several exasperated sighs. As the cars inched forward, she glimpsed flashing police lights ahead.

“Oh, boy, I hope everyone’s OK,” she muttered as she crawled towards the accident.

Daphne’s eyes widened when she saw the overturned and mangled car. Her mouth dropped, and she stared agape as the paramedics loaded a zipped-up body bag into the silent ambulance.

As the traffic jam loosened past the accident, it occurred to her that, had she been on time, she might have been driving on this stretch of road when it happened.

“Hoo boy,” she breathed, “it could’ve been me!”

Somber and somewhat downcast, she hurried toward the meeting room, hoping to sidle into the ongoing meeting without too much interruption. Instead, her colleagues were chatting amongst themselves.

“What’s going on?” She asked Hannah.

“Boss isn’t here yet, he’s late,” she answered, “did you hear about the accident?”

“I saw the body bag taken away,” Daphne replied.

“Rob was just saying it sure looked like the boss’ car,” Hannah commented with wide, portentous eyes.


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