Directions

It was a cool autumn evening when he decided to go for a walk. Other than the rustle of fallen leaves pushed by the wind and the occasional dog barking, the neighborhood was quiet. As a result, he was rather surprised when a car stopped on the street next to him and two men in dark suits emerged.

“Please come with us, sir.”

His first thought was that they should be wearing sunglasses. Of course, the fact that it was night meant that sunglasses would make them rather conspicuous. They probably weren’t going for conspicuous.

“Who are you?”

The looks on their faces made it clear they weren’t going to answer that. “Get in the car, and things will be explained.”

As lies went, it wasn’t very convincing. But what choice did he have? These two looked prepared to force him into the car, and he was ill-equipped to fight them. Seeing no alternative, he shrugged and got into the back seat.

The driver returned to the wheel, and the other man got in the passenger seat. The windows in the back were blacked out, not merely tinted, and there was a divider between the front and back seats that obscured both light and sound. All of this made it impossible to determine where they were going. That they left him alone in the back suggested they weren’t worried he’d escape, so the doors probably didn’t open from the inside. He decided not to test his hypothesis.

Instead, he spent his time speculating. They probably weren’t cops, he decided. Maybe they were FBI; they had that kind of vibe. But it was probably too stereotypical. CIA? Some other, more clandestine organization? Maybe they weren’t even with the government. No option was very reassuring. Whoever they were, they didn’t seem likely to be his friends.

As they drove, his uneasiness grew. It felt as though they drove for hours with lots of turns. When they finally stopped, and he was ushered out of the car, he found himself in a long steel hangar.

There was a jet, dark and unmarked. If they were trying to convey a sense of mystery… well, this was overkill. A single person waited, a middle-aged man with thinning, greying hair. He, too, wore a suit. And smoked a cigar, of course.

The driver nodded to him as they got out of the car. He nodded to the driver, but his face turned angry when he caught sight of their passenger. “What is this?”

“We brought him, as you asked.” The driver sounded confused.

“That isn’t him, you idiot.”

“He was right where you told us. The 300 block of Oak Street.”

“North or South?”

The driver looked at his partner, a little panic showing on his face. His partner just shook his head. The driver turned back, “South?”

“Argh! You picked up the wrong guy. Get rid of him while I try to fix this.” The man pulled out a cell phone and stomped off.

The driver turned to his partner once more and motioned to the back seat. The other man pushed him back into the car and slammed the door shut. Hearing both front doors close, he felt the car’s engine start and the vehicle begin to move.

Pleading probably wouldn’t work. They didn’t seem likely to be moved by emotional appeals. He wanted to point out that he hadn’t learned anything so there was really no need to… “get rid of him.” If they would just let him go, he would promise not to say anything.

But that wouldn’t work, he was sure. Instead, he would have to try to run for it. The back doors were locked from the inside, as he had guessed. He would have to wait for them to open the door and try to push past them.

When the car stopped, he prepared to launch himself out the passenger side door. But when it opened, the scene before him made him forget his plans. Outside the car was his neighborhood.

“Here you are, sir. Sorry for the inconvenience.” The man held the door open.

He slowly climbed out of the car and just stood there look at the man who had taken him off this very street, unsure of what to say or do. The man simply nodded at him, got back into the passenger seat, and the car drove off. All he could think to do was continue his walk.

And he made sure not to go North.

One Night Stand

I hate to comment on my fiction. I usually like to let it just stand on its own, but I feel compelled to say something. I have been wrestling with this story for almost a month. I would clear through one difficult part only to hit another wall. There is a part of me that wonders if stories have a shelf life, after which they sour. I think if I sit on this story any longer, I will never finish it. So I’m putting it here for people to read and comment on, if they choose. I’m curious what people think. I know what I think. But sitting with what I think hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Enough. I don’t want to color your impressions any more than I already have.

 

The bar was busy without being overcrowded. He sat at the bar sipping his whiskey. Other people didn’t interest him. His thoughts and drink were enough. A simple night by himself is all he wanted. But it was not to be.

“Jack and Coke.” The bartender nodded at the woman who had half-shouted the order. She had curly brown hair, a round face, and brown eyes. He got caught looking at her.

“See something you like?”

“Oh, no… I mean… That is… Sorry.” He felt foolish. First for sharing and then for worrying what she thought of him staring.

She just laughed. There was an edge to it, but it wasn’t mean. Her hand clamped on to his forearm, keeping him from downing the rest of his drink.

“I don’t care that you look. Thought it would bother me a bit if you didn’t see anything you like.”

He felt his cheeks flush a little. Grateful that she had moved her hand again, he drank what was left in his glass down in one swallow. It burned, but it covered his embarrassment.

“So… uh… I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before.”

The look she gave him was unreadable. “Maybe you just don’t come in here enough.” The bartender had set down her drink, and she took a swallow.

“Look… I’m not very good at this…”

“Trust me, it’s obvious.”

His cheeks got a little hotter. “I mean, I just came in for a few drinks. I’m not looking to harass you or anything.”

“That’s too bad.” She took another swallow of her drink and didn’t look at him.

While he considered what to say next, or even if he wanted to stay, the bartender came over. “Want another one?”

“What?”

The bartender pointed at his empty glass. Did he want another one? Maybe it would just be better to leave.

“He’ll have another. And if he won’t pay for it, I will.” He turned to look at the woman again. “Sit. Stay. Keep me company. I came in to drink, too. It’ll be more amusing with company.”

This whole evening had taken a confusing turn, but he was intrigued enough to stick around. He nodded at the bartender and added. “But I pay for my own drinks.”

She smiled. It looked forced and yet also genuine somehow, like she didn’t mean it but wanted to. “Fair enough.”

More that he didn’t understand. But he didn’t have to. Drinking at a bar didn’t require the world to make sense.

“So…. celebration or sorrow?”

“What?” It was her turn to look confused.

“Why are you here drinking?”

“Oh. Neither. Just wanted to get out of my place for awhile.”

“Ah. Well, that’s as good a reason as any.”

They sat for awhile, sipping on their drinks and exchanging meaningless small talk. There was definitely something about her, but the conversation never went deep enough to give him any insight. Instead of pushing, he simply enjoyed the company.

The conversation ended when the bartender yelled for last call.

“Wait here. I’m just going to go to the bathroom, and then I’ll take you home.” She got off the stool and walked toward the back.

He got the bartender’s attention. “You better call us a cab. I know I’m in no shape to drive. And she…”

“Her? She’s fine.”

“What? She drank more than me.”

“No, she didn’t.”

“I watched her. She kept downing Jack and Coke like it was water. You served it to her, for chrissake!”

“Nah. We have a deal. She orders Jack and Coke. She even pays for it. But I just give her Coke. That’s how she wants it.”

This woman got more intriguing all the time. The more he found out about her, the less he knew. But there wasn’t any time for more questions, as she returned to the bar.

“You ready?”

“Uh… yeah.”

He followed her out to her car and got in the passenger seat. The night had been odd, and he didn’t want it to end, but he didn’t know what to say to her. After driving a couple of minutes in silence, he realized he hadn’t told her where he lived.

“Uh… how do you know where to go?”

“I’ve lived in the same house for years.”

“I thought you were taking me home.”

She glanced over at him. “I am. My home.”

And that was that. He had no answer for it and stayed silent. He didn’t really object going back to her place, but it was unexpected.

They pulled into the driveway of a small, two-story house. She didn’t say anything as she got out of the car, but curiosity drove him to follow her inside. He was led up a flight of stairs to a bedroom.

Once through the door, she grabbed him and pulled him onto the bed. They began kissing. It was probably the alcohol, but the whole situation felt like a dream.

Then, just as suddenly, she stopped. She curled up against him and just whispered, “Hold me.” Confused, he put his arms around her. Almost immediately he felt her soft, nearly silent sobs as she cried into his chest. He held her like that all night. And in the morning, he left without any explanation.

Fall Colors

I’ve been working on a story, but it has been going slowly. I’ve also been taking pictures, but I was having trouble getting anything worthwhile out of them. Today, I think I got some good shots, so I’ll share those. And hope that a story might be coming in the next few days.

Road Closed

Really, I just like walking through my neighborhood. (That, and I had some stuff to take care of, so I couldn’t go for a long photo trip.)

A lot of the trees in the are go yellow. So when I find something red, I try to take advantage of it. And there’s something about the juxtaposition of a manmade sign amongst the leaves that I like.

Go Left

Some trees have dropped almost all their leaves, while others remain green. I’m sure there is some botanical explanation. I’m also sure I don’t know it. I just know that the contrast can create some interesting images.

Green and Yellow

As I said, there is a lot of yellow, so I decided to learn a little bit more about playing with photos in Aperture. In this, I dimmed the saturation of every color except yellow, whose saturation and luminescence I increased.

Glowing Yellow Trees

of course, that both changed the color of the trees, and didn’t quite remove the other colors, just dulled them out significantly. The first thing I wanted to try was removing all the color, except for the yellow of the trees, which I did here.

Twins

In that one, I didn’t touch the saturation of the yellow, so that color is truer to the actual tree.

So in a few days, all these leaves might be on the ground. At least I got in a few pictures before they disappeared.