On The Ledge

“So what are we doing?”  He stood several feet along the ledge from where his friend sat.  His friend didn’t seem startled.

“Just sitting here, taking in the view.”  The wind was rather gusty this high up.

“It’s a pretty view.”

“I guess.”

“Do you mind if I join you?”

“It’s a free country.”

He hopped up on the ledge and sat down without moving any closer.  The street below was a long way off.  A little vertigo began to set in, so he quickly looked up toward the horizon.

“Careful,” his friend said, “it’s a long way down.”  There was no trace of irony in his voice.

“I guess so.”  He looked around for a few moments.  “So this view brought you up here?”

“Sure.”

“But you don’t think it’s pretty?”

“I do, I guess.  Just doesn’t matter to me either way.”

“Okay.  You know, several of the guys showed up.  They were hoping to play tonight.  You interested?”

“I don’t know.”

“No pressure.  Thought I’d mention it.”

“They’re over now?”

“Yeah.  Down in the apartment.  Rick suggested poker, as usual.  But I think everyone else was hoping for a D&D session.  Heck, we could just hang out, drink, and make fun of Rick.”

“Guys?  Jen’s not here?”

“Nope.  She wasn’t invited.  Just us tonight.”

“I don’t know.”

“Again, no pressure.”

“Maybe we should play poker.  Rick’s been asking forever.”

“You sure?”

“I guess.”

“Okay, let’s go.  The view will be here tomorrow if you still need it.”

“Alright.”

They both carefully left the ledge and headed downstairs.

The Road to Nowhere, Perhaps

The road was dark and winding.  Behind them, to the west, there was a glow at the horizon, but it wasn’t enough to penetrate the night that had taken hold in the sky above.  They had seen no other cars for over an hour.

She finally broke the silence that had dominated the drive so far.  “Are you sure we’re going the right way?”

“Nope.”

“What?”

“I’m not sure.  I think this is the right way, but I don’t know for certain.”

“Then why are we still going this way?”

“Because there is no other way to go.”

“How about back?  We could go back.”

“Do you want to go back?”

The question gave her pause as she considered the implications.  “No, I suppose not.”

“And that’s why we are going this way.”

They fell back into silence for awhile.  She stared at the stars, noting that their positions had shifted but unable to detect their movement.  The car’s sudden stop brought her abruptly  out of her absorption in the night sky.

“What the…?”  She saw a deer stopped in the middle of the road.  After a moment, it ran away.  “Luckily you saw that in time.”

“Yeah.”  He didn’t start driving again.

“What are you doing?  We need to keep going.”

“What if it didn’t happen?  Maybe we could go back?”

“No, you were right earlier.  We can’t.  See that light along the horizon?  I don’t think it’s the sunset.  And if it didn’t happen, we’ll find out later.”

“What if there is no place left to go?”

She started to worry.  “Look.  Snap out of it.  We worry about those things later.  For now, we keep moving.  Hopefully, this gets us to the bunker, but even if it doesn’t, it’s better than standing still.  Now drive!”

Her command seemed to release him from his paralysis and he stepped on the gas.  She studied him carefully, trying to reassure herself that he was okay enough to drive.

“Do you want me to take the wheel?”

“No.  I’ve got it.  Sorry.  I guess it’s all just getting to me.”

“I don’t blame you.  If you need to freak out, that’s fine.  Just let me drive.”

“No.  Really, I can manage.  At least for my shift.”

“Okay.  How’s our fuel situation?”

“About half a tank.  But the extra cans in the back will let us drive through tomorrow at least, even if we don’t find a station.”

“Fair enough.”

They drove in silence for a while longer.  Still there were no other cars on the road, no sign of any other human beings.  When the silence was broken next, he broke it.

“Do you think we’ll be alright?”

“I don’t know.  No one’s ever done this before.”

The Box

Each box contained secrets and surprises, things long forgotten.  This one was full of grade school pictures and report cards.  That one held love letters from high school.  The entire history of his life, boxed away and collecting dust in the attic.  Until now.

Going through each box, trying to decide what to keep and what to throw away, brought up successive waves of bittersweet nostalgia.  But it couldn’t all make the move to the new house.  Some things had to go.  And throwing away things was cathartic, a way to clear out some of the dust so that new things could happen.

A few things from each box were saved.  A few pictures from childhood.  A journal from college.  Even a speeding ticket gotten while driving to his first date with her, which had been a source of much laughter between them.  But for each thing saved, many more couldn’t be.  As painful as it was, it was also necessary.

The last box contained all the memorabilia from their wedding and honeymoon.  The program from the ceremony.  All the photos that hadn’t been framed.  The plane tickets.  It had all been carefully and lovingly packed away and then forgotten.  As his widow went through it all, she began to cry.  This box, at least, would be kept entirely.  Some things indeed had to be let go.  But not this.  This would stay with her forever.

Countdown

“Do you see that guy over there?”

“Which one?”

“Grey sweatshirt, corner table.”

“Yeah.  What about him?”

“I think he’s making the other customers nervous.  He’s just sitting there, staring.”

“He doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone.”

“I don’t know.  People keep looking at him and acting funny.”

“You’re imagining things.”

“No, I’m not.  I think we should ask him to leave.”

“You know what I think?  I think he makes you nervous.”

“That’s ridiculous.  Why would he make me nervous?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Look.  That woman is leaving.”

“Maybe she’s just leaving.”

“Ask her.”

“Fine.  Excuse me, ma’am.  Is something wrong?”

“It’s that man.  He’s constantly muttering, and it’s distracting.”

“I’m very sorry.”

“See?  I told you.”

“Okay, you’re right.  What do you want me to do about it?”

“Go ask him to leave.”

“Ugh.  Alright.  Sir, will you please leave?  I’m afraid you are disturbing the other customers.”  The man said nothing.  “Sir?”  Still nothing, but the man was muttering.  He leaned in closer to try to make out the words.

“5…4…3…2…”