Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about independence by Holden Schmale.

Holden Schmale was born in the year 2000 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is currently completing his bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in creative writing at the Towson University Honors College in Towson, MD. He has recently been appointed Fiction Editor of the Grub Street literary journal at Towson University.

Holden started writing as a young child, around eight hears old, and started seriously pursuing writing as a profession while in college. ‘Acquaintances’ is his first story to be published. His other work includes two more short stories and two poems. He is also currently working on a novel titled The Unexpected Virtue of Coincidental Circumstance.

‘Acquaintances’ follows a man reconsidering his idea of independence.



Jackson’s first reaction to the phone ringing was one of pure annoyance. Music had been blasting in his car as he flew down I-95, and the call had come just before his favourite verse. He was already in an uneasy mood after a not-so-great visit with Mindy in Jersey. He grabbed his phone off the empty passenger seat and checked the caller ID.


Jackson maintained a cordial but not quite regular correspondence with his mother these days. Ever since he’d graduated from college and opted to move to the Big Apple instead of back home to Virginia, their relationship had been colder, more acquaintance than family. But still, it was not out of the ordinary for an acquaintance to make an occasional call when there was news to be shared, so Jackson thought nothing of it. He tried to think of the last time they’d spoken but could not remember. The phone rang on as Jackson merged to his right. Traffic had begun to slow in the approach to the George Washington Bridge. Before Jackson could decide whether he would answer, the ringing ceased, and the music resumed where it had left off.

Jackson relaxed back into his seat as Kurt Cobain prepared to enter his third verse in The Man Who Sold the World. Cobain had barely gotten started, and Jackson’s mind had already drifted into how he liked the Nirvana cover of this song far more than the original David Bowie version, and away from the unpleasant thought of a conversation with his mother. His moment of serenity was interrupted by the familiar ring. Jackson cursed out loud to himself as he reached for the phone.

‘Hey Mom.’

‘Jack, I have to talk to you.’

Jackson cursed internally this time. The traffic had worsened, and he was not in the mood.

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