I’ve always found the freedom of the open road to be both terrifying and liberating.
It was the first thing he’d said in hours and it startled her out of her own thoughts.
They had been driving for 2 days straight now and barely spoken a word, each of them intent on leaving their old lives behind and increasingly uncomfortable with the partner whose presence reminded them of it.
“Why’s that?” was the best response she could muster, not really interested but asking mostly for the sake of politeness.
Well it’s like Tolkein said isn’t it? The road goes ever onward and they’re all ultimately connected, really there is only one road with an almost infinate number of beginnings and ends but all of them tied together. And as soon as you step out onto it you’ve gained some degree of freedom and lost some degree of safety because really there’s nothing stopping you from taking off down any of them! If we wanted to we could keep right on driving intil we end up in Peru or Vancouver or just about anywhere else.
“Well, nothing stopping us but our empty gas tank” she replied.with a quiet laugh.
“Point!” was his reply. And as they coasted down the offramp and into the gas station to refuel he relaxed a little. Blue sky, open road, pretty girl, and just enough cash left to get them to the next town.
When she came into the room he was staring into the mirror with a look on his face like a kid who’d dropped their ice cream into a mud puddle.
Just look at me! Yellow teeth, flabby gut, going bald in the back. I’m a complete mess. If I was a girl there’s no way in hell I’d date me. Why do you stick around?
He was depressed, it had been (another) long day at work and the dead end job combined with their endless money troubles had him questioning everything. She was the best thing in his life by a long stretch. And the more he thought about it the harder it was to believe that she’d chosen him of all people.
She laughed and the sound was wedding bells and jet planes and and water rushing down river.
You, sir, are a silly man.
It wasn’t an insult, just a statement of obvious fact.
We don’t choose who we love, it just is. I love you for who you are. But I’d love you more if you quit moping around and did the dishes.
She said the word like it was the ultimate answer and within it he could find any truth he might seek. Her eyes shone with laughter at the look on his face and he smiled back. He hadn’t been sure about being a father and still lost sleep most nights worrying about whether he was doing a good job, but when Molly laughed it felt right. It felt like home.
“Tacos it is then!” He said it like he was introducing a rock band and the response was no less enthusiastic.
Above them the train clattered along it’s tracks and the bridge shook like an over sized dog who’s just escaped a bath tub. Out beyond the overpass the rain came down in heavy sheets muffling sound and painting the world in great splotches of grey like some monochromatic impressionist painting. But for now at least they were warm, dry, and had enough to eat for dinner. As far as his little girl was concerned nothing else mattered.
As he pulled the pans out of his backpack and lit up the little butane stove he thought to himself:
One more day. We can do this, just one more day.
Grey clouds still obscured the sky but the day was finally getting warmer, and about time too! After months of a spring that felt more like winter, John was ready for a little sunshine. The weather forecast all week had been sunny but so far the clouds had managed to maintain their grip on the world and shut out the sun like curtains over an insomniacs bedroom window.
Unfortunately, John had been up since well before dawn. Up at two, at work by three, and hours alone in front of the oven before laying eyes on another human at 6 when he opened the shop. The early risers weren’t much good for conversation even then – most were barely awake enough to walk in a straight line and grasp their coffee cups like life rafts. Even with the new Starbucks that had gone in right across the street, his shop was still full most mornings – his bacon and egg croissants were the stuff of legend. And while his coffee wasn’t as fancy or sugary, most of his customers seemed perfectly happy to be able to order a “Large” instead of a “Grande.”
Today though, John was tired – a crying baby makes a poor room mate and neither he nor Anna had slept much in months. There’s only so much caffeine can substitute for sleep after all! And the Starbucks was doing one of their endless promotions, drawing away his customers and leaving him with more than the usual number of unsold pastries. He gave the leftovers to the guy from the homeless shelter who came by at closing time every day – at least they wouldn’t go to waste! But with his wife staying home to take care of Molly, every dollar was precious and far too many of them went into the donation bag.
He made his way home slowly, feet tired from standing all day. Finally, his door, his home. A wife tired and almost certainly cranky after spending all day with an infant. Once more into the breach! And in the door. Kiss the wife, take off the shoes, take the baby, and sit in his chair by the window to try and rock her to sleep. To his great surprise, Molly didn’t cry or fuss but settled down and fell asleep on his chest almost immediately. As if on cue, the sun broke through the cloud cover and streamed in through the window like liquid gold.
It was a good day.
I’ve done a lot of writing over the years but the form has shifted. I wrote hundreds of songs and poems throughout my 20’s, then a bunch of technical writing and blogging on the tech industry for work starting in 2010, and now I find myself writing a lot of short stories for practice setting scenes while I work on my novel. Up until recently though, this site has been almost exclusively tech industry blogging. I think it’s about time that changed.
Starting this Friday at 9am I’m going to post a short story every week. Some no more than a few lines, some much longer. The first set of stories all deal with family and looking for meaning but don’t be surprised when I start adding other subject matter as well. At some point I’ll probably post scenes from the novel I’m working on, we’ll see how it goes.
I have the next 5 weeks all written and scheduled to go and will try to keep up the 1 a week schedule as long as I can – and as long as people keep reading! I’ll post reminders on Twitter every time a new story goes up with the hashtag #FictionFriday, if you like what you see please share and retweet. And if you’re not already following me on Twitter, what are you waiting for? I’m @JedWheeler – why not say hello?