Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Short Story Type: Short Story Collection
Summary: A college student faces a supernatural battle on a bridge. A man sees the dark side of humanity after his car breaks down. A writer obsesses over a fictional woman, sometimes forgetting about real life. A strange cat reveals much about a young couple. An elderly man experiences new loves and losses ...
... watch these characters evolve!
Twelve Years From Then
Twelve years ago, Anthony began writing his memoirs, sitting each morning in his breakfast nook, where the sun beat on the evergreen outside a small window. Anthony felt old back then and he wanted to write down his life, mostly just to remember how things used to be. Today, an aged black and gold dog named Willy sleeps on his right.
Twelve years ago, 1982, Willy was a bouncing puppy, running across the wood floors, sliding into walls as he rounded corners. He was a gift from Elaine, Anthony’s neighbor, a woman just his age.
“What’s this for?” Anthony asked after opening the box that contained the whimpering animal.
“Company,” she replied. She had been in the two-bedroom house next door for two weeks, and she had been stopping by Anthony’s house every day for the last week. She and Anthony sat and talked, sometimes over coffee, sometimes over dinner. In one week, Anthony had told her most of his life: how he survived war, a scar on his leg from when a mine stumped and killed his best friend just ten feet away; how he almost married the perfect girl in one of those storybook heartbreakers in which her father doesn’t approve and forces his daughter to leave town; how all of his siblings died of cancer; how his father, his hero, lived to be 98 years old.
On Elaine’s third week in the neighborhood, she brought Anthony a journal.
“What’s this for?” he asked.
“Memories.” Elaine told him to write down everything he could remember. She had been doing it for years – writing every morning for at least an hour. She told him she had boxes of journals in her basement and attic.
So he began a new custom – a new tradition of writing everything down. Every morning at eight, he took Willy in the breakfast nook with him so he could write without the destructive puppy tearing up his house. Elaine came over promptly at nine and asked Anthony what he had written that morning, listening to him with her whole body as he read his stories. His deep and scratchy voice enunciated slowly, adding necessary emphasis. He told her tales of war and love. Sometimes she closed her eyes and, when he was finished, they would sit there silently. Then Willy would whimper, and they would laugh.
In about a year, Willy stood full grown at a perfect height – Anthony could pat his head without bending over. Willy learned the routine and waited in the breakfast nook every morning for Anthony to take the seat beside him. The mornings were so precise that Willy slept there for exactly one hour before running to the door to wait for Elaine. Entering without ringing the bell, Elaine would throw Willy a treat and meet Anthony in the nook. One morning, she kissed Anthony.
“What was that for?” he asked.
“Love,” she said and held his hand. He smiled big as he told her his stories. They kissed again before she left. Twelve years ago, Anthony, already aging, shared another first kiss.
This new routine continued for about three years. Neither of the two wanted more than what they had. Elaine had married once; Anthony felt he was too old to marry. They spent most of each day together, teaching Willy tricks, touching each other always – a kiss, a hug, an arm around a waist.
One morning, when Willy waited by the front door, Elaine never entered. Anthony had set his pen down and stood up to greet her. He stood for at least twenty minutes before he sat back down. He knew what had happened. He had seen it with his brothers and sisters. One day they had just stopped calling. The next day, a call had come telling him they were gone. It wasn’t a surprise with them; they had cancer. It wasn’t a surprise with Elaine either; old people don’t last forever, he thought. Anthony sat back down and picked up his pen. By this time, he had filled up about six journals. On this day, Anthony wrote for hours and hours. Willy stayed at the door for a while, waiting for Elaine, but he soon returned to Anthony’s side. When his black and gold fur touched Anthony’s leg, Anthony began to cry. It was a warmth he had come to recognize and love, but it came now at an awkward time, when things were supposed to have been different.
Twelve years ago, Anthony felt old and began falling in love. This morning, twelve years from then, Anthony woke up and met Willy in the nook. Willy had picked up a cough and the vet had prescribed some pills that Anthony worked into his routine. It hadn’t taken long for Willy to stop going to the door after Elaine passed. These days, he just lay beside Anthony for the whole hour. When Anthony would rise to leave the nook, Willy would follow. Where Anthony would go, so would go Willy.
But not this particular morning. When Anthony rose to leave the nook, Willy lay silently in his spot. Anthony knew what had happened. He picked Willy up, the smooth fur warm against Anthony’s frail arms. Willy’s tongue, dead and limp, hung from his mouth and Anthony thought about all the licks. How he would miss Willy’s kisses and the warm mornings against his leg. Anthony cried when he buried his dog. No matter what a man sees, expects, gets used to, loss is hard. That was the last time Anthony cried.
Twelve years ago, Anthony felt old, fell in love again, and began to write his life down in journals. By now, he had acquired numerous stacks of them in his breakfast nook. Outside a small window, the sun beat down on the evergreen. Shadows danced across Anthony’s paper as the wind blew hard. He noticed, and looked out the window. The wind blew so hard that the evergreen swayed heavily, repeatedly disappearing and reappearing. For a second, all was quiet. Then a gust tore the tree at its thick trunk. Finally, after year in and year out of unfaltering green, something brought the tree down. Anthony was not surprised. He had known it wouldn’t last forever.