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The Race

"If I hadn't put off everything, I wouldn't need to do this," said Walter to nobody. He walked on the old expansion bridge that crossed the river, it would be years before it would be repaired. Every step he took, the bridge shook and sent another random thought through his brain. Sometimes he thought he was a step ahead of his brain, but most of the time, his thoughts hid in the curls of his hair and crawled around like lice until they got comfortable enough to make him crazy again. He cringed. He remembered telling the nurse to unplug the ventilator on his mom. "Really? Now? The twitching? That memory? Do I have to listen to the hospital's standard speech about what to expect when someone is about to die?" asked Walter. He wanted an answer. He shook his head and his stomach turned. He walked faster. He remembered missing a dental appointment, then not rescheduling it, daily. Day after day, he wrote it in his calendar. Every day he looked at his calendar, "Call Dentist," over and over and he would find something to do so he didn't have to make the call. Anything. File receipts. He rubbed his jaw and his stomach churned with another step. He picked up his feet, faster, trying to outrun his thoughts. "I should have cleaned the gutters. That's what I should be doing. I ought to be up on the roof with a trowel and a water hose." He took another step. "Why didn't I buy that stupid stuffed rabbit for my kid when he was ten? That's what he wanted was a stupid stuffed rabbit. It was right there. Why did I buy him that racetrack? He never took it out of the box, and he wanted a stuffed rabbit. The look in his eyes..." Walter said aloud again. Walter ran. "I'm late. I hate this. it makes me crazy. I should have helped with that yard sale Mom had before she sold the townhouse." Make it stop. Walter heard a foghorn off a riverboat he couldn't see. When it bellowed again, he stood up straight, took a deep breath, and held it for as long as he could. he hung onto the rail as he collapsed around himself. River water echoes melancholy and attracts it. Walter's misery swelled and surged in the flow. Shame choked him. Walter listened to the slap of the water against the fog. he thought he would die before the cool and the mist of dark morning dried his tears and let his body become a wick to light his mind again. He grabbed the rail and crouched down and pulled without moving. He held his weight, pulling up without going anywhere, resisting the pull but embracing it, exhausting his arms. He blew out his breath with whoosh and stood up like a diver coming out of water. Silence. There were no words in his head.


Arthur put his hands in his pockets and felt the cold metal of the boxcutter he carried around with him. He admiried it for the razor's edge it hid, so sharp it glistened. Deliberate and precise, his thumb found the switch that pushed the blade ut or pulled it back in. It was his worry stone, a talisman he rubbed to quell his anxiety. So many times, he'd jumped at the sting of the razor point sticking his leg because he'd idly worked the blade button back and forth. He pulled his sleeve up and the knife out and flipped the blade like a maestro's baton. Satisfaction swelled as he watched the pearling of blood on the shallow cut of his forearm. Mesmerized, his eyes followed the beads of red as they ran toward his wrist.


Car lights grew from a distance. White balls of light grew from the mist and headed right toward him then turned blue. An officer, tall and lean, climbed from the car and walked toward him. Arthur hung his head and hid all the evidence he could. The last thing he wanted was to justify his presence on a bridge before daylight with a bloody arm and a boxcutter. His armpits itched and his stomach rolled. Arthur pulled his sleeve over the cut and put the boxcutter back in his pocket.


"Hey Buddy, what're you looking at here this morning? Everything ok?" said the officer. Arthur felt exposed. His face turned deep red and he took a deep breath, steadied his voice, making sure it didn't waver with remnants of panic. He didn't want the cop to worry or ask questions. He had to fight his war by himself.


"Just going for my morning walk, this is where I turn around. Thanks for asking. How're you doing?" Arthur asked. He'd learned a long time ago to ask questions to avoid answering them.


"Yeah, it's been a long, busy night. Chased a couple of bad guys, didn't catch any though. You ever fished from here?"


"Not yet, been thinking about it, I like coming here." Arthur said. he hoped he didn't sound like he was coming out of a panic attack. He didn't want attention, but it felt good to breathe again. The weight on his chest had lifted, and the racing thoughts that had consumed his mind were gradually subsiding.


Arthur's heart pounded, he could feel blood still running. The last thing he needed as a trip to an emergency room. He put his hand in his pocket and found the comfort of the cold boxcutter and toyed with the switch. Arthur knew he'd have to confront his pain one day, but not for now. His insurance wouldnt' allow it.


"Can I give you a lift home?" asked the cop.


"Shotgun," said Walter



© Devonne Brown


Devonne Brown loves to tell tales of all kinds. She is a mother of twin men, and a writer who harbors cats and antiques. She teaches English between summers, writing workshops, and weekends. In addition to her blog, athesaurus.net , a collection of essays, poetry and short stories, she has written a book under the name, D. L. Brown, Norris Tales, the Adventures of an Awful Housecat, an anthology of short stories that revolve around family tyrant Norris, a cat of unusual presence and demeanor. No one needs a cat like Norris, but thankfully, a shelter picked him off of the streets to save other unsuspecting citizens from his unbridled condescension.




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