Short Stories

The Clock
“I've been accepted to Michigan,” she said, her black hair waving majestically in the wind. At least, I thought it was majestic. She, apparently, thought it was annoying, and grabbed at in unmercifully. I remained stunned by the news. I guess I had never truly believed she was leaving. I'd known Alice Brennan ever since we sat next to each other in the third grade, and now that we were graduating high school, I figured she do what I and countless other local kids were doing- go to the city's community college. “I'm leaving next month. There some sort of orientation I have to go to, and I figured that since I'm up there already I'll just stay with my aunt until the beginning of the first semester.” She stood up from the steps we'd been sitting on and began walking towards the parking lot. She paused for a second, and I wanted to call after her, but I didn't. She kept walking. As she drove off in that faded baby blue Mustang she insisted on driving everywhere, I couldn't help but call after her. “Alice! Wait...” I yelled, surprised at the volume of my call. But she couldn't hear me. I walked home down the same streets I'd walked for the past four years. At the corner of Washington and Terrell I sat down, remembering the time we kissed in the rain at this very spot. The black telephone pole was more worn, with a new jagged scratch across its back. The pavement was even more cracked, and the fence behind me had a new layer of graffiti. It was the same spot, though. I passed the Johnson's, where I first became aware of my attraction to Alice at Timothy's thirteenth birthday party. She wore a red and black swimsuit to the pool, and I remember dangling my feet in the cool water and trying to hide it. I'm sure she knew eventually, because since then things had been different. There was the pecan tree were we'd load up on a day's worth of ammunition to throw at the neighborhood bullies. We were caught once, and they let her go with a laugh. She ran home crying, and I went home with more than a few bruises and a black eye. I looked at myself in the mirror at home, proud of the fact that I could play the hero. She insisted we stop attacking them after that, and I let the matter be. I turned on my own street, and thought of the countless bike rides and lazy afternoons we spent on this street. There was the chain link fence where I caught my favorite t-shirt, a black AC/DC shirt, trying to escape a few vicious looking dogs. My back was scratched up, but I was much more concerned about the shirt. She was a much better climber than I was, and she made it up and over without a seconds hesitation. I guess that's what I liked so much about her. She made decisions so quickly and then forgot about them. I wish I had that freedom. Then there was my front porch, with the same dead plants my mother had promised to grow, and then promptly forgot to water. Here she told me she just wanted to be friends. A romantic death sentence. I told her I understood and watched her drive off into the night. She had several boyfriends

after that, each one of them jerks. She would always talk to me about them, and I'd pretend to be interested. But the whole time it was torture. I always thought she might decide that I wasn't so bad after all. She was leaving now, for good. I opened the door with a squeak and sank onto the living room couch. It was silent, save for the constant ticking of the grandfather clock. As I lay there, I thought of all the seconds, minutes, hours, I had sat there, thinking about her. And she would be gone, just like that. We had such a long time, but at that moment it felt like only yesterday that I saw her for the first time. The black cordless phone rang in the kitchen. After a few seconds I heard my mother answer it, and then walk into the living room, smothering the receiver against her neck. “It's Alice. For you,” she said expectantly. I felt a sudden chill run through my body, and I stood to take the receiver. My hands were sweaty as a thousand thoughts raced through my mind. Perhaps she was calling me to tell me she was going to miss me. Or that she had decided to stay. Or that she loved me. Wild and crazy theories came alive in a matter of seconds as I approached the telephone with the same uneasiness I always did. Then something inside of me stopped. I'd been here so many times before, and I couldn't bring myself to have my hopes crushed again. Perhaps she really did have something nice to say to me, something that would give us closure, but I would never know. I didn't want to know. I just wanted the ability to look back at this moment and imagine what the conversation would have been like. I said, “Tell her I'm not here.” I grabbed my jacket and went out of the house.

The End

The Gardener
“Eh... excuse me.” Officer Green finished the sentence he was writing in his favorite black-ink pen, and glanced up without much concern. “Yes?” he asked, a little annoyed. It was almost time for his shift to end. He had already been thinking about the warmness and ease of his home, instead of the cold stress of his job. “I've come to confess to the murder of James Vaughn and Lisa Weatherwright,” the man said in the even tone, a deep sadness in his eyes. * * * * *

The orange sun blazed forth with a ferocity far surpassing its usual heat. Sweat ran in tiny streams down his forehead and arms, clearing away the dust that lay caked upon his body, but the gardener didn't seem to mind. His hands moved slowly, methodically, his eyes never wavering from his task. The rest of the neighborhood buzzed around him. Dogs barked, cars honked, men and woman left for work, children left for school, but the gardener remained in his garden, stoically pruning and planting. Now and again a stranger might stop and complement his garden, but the locals knew better than to try and converse with the gardener. It wasn't that he was mean, necessarily. Just... different. Mrs. Waternoose picked up her knitting and moved towards the one window in the house that east, so that she could do her work by sunlight, which was the only light by which she could see any more. She opened the window with a creak, disapproving it's dirty state, in order to get some fresh air into the stuffy house. The sounds of the early morning died down as the sun approached high noon, and it was then that she could hear the steady, soft plink of her neighbor's spade. Poor Jonas! She thought to herself. He hadn't been the same since the incident. He used to be such a passionate, bright young man. Now he was obsessed with his gardening. Father Thomas said it was the one thread he could hold onto. There was no use talking to him about it. He gave that same blank stare back. Father Thomas said that conversation would come with time, once he accepted the incident. Father Thomas had talked to Jonas a few times. The Father was the only person Jonas would talk to. Jonas had never been a religious man before, but he had a clear respect for God and the local parish. Before the incident he had been such a nice young man, doing odd jobs for the parish free of charge. She sighed again and squinted. Her eyes were getting steadily worse. Soon, the doctor said, she would have to give up knitting. She didn't like the doctor much. He was young and naïve, always giving out bad news and never offering solutions. She wished Mr. Waternoose was still alive. He would give that young doctor a piece of his mind, telling her she had to give up knitting. But it was true, she knew that. I guess I'm like Jonas, she thought, too scared to give up the one thing I'm good at. Afraid I'll go crazy from the loneliness. There were some people that thought Jonas was crazy, or at least unbalanced. But those people kept quiet, recognizing the intense sorrow that he experienced, pitying him in his condition. The gardener himself paid little attention to the others. He knew they thought him strange. He wasn't blind. The looks he got, those of mixed fear and sympathy, did not pass without him noticing. Sometimes he wondered why, but most days he didn't think about it. He knew he was sad... and angry.

The gardener tried not to think much these days. It made his head hurt. Oh, his head hurt. Sometimes the headaches would paralyze him, and he would lay stretched on in the dirt, breathing the warm breath of the earth, feeling the quietness of the garden envelop him while his head felt like it was slowly filling with air. Those that observed his attacks took little notice of them. Jonas was just strange. After a little while he would get up again and continue with his constant work. Today the gardener decided to tackle to far corner of the garden. For some reason, he always felt a slight bit of hesitation when entering that corner- it received very little sunlight, and few plants would grow there. It stuck out like a sore thumb, since the rest of his garden was vibrant and healthy. The gardener began attacking the weeds with a vengeance, clearing the majority of them out by mid-morning. He took a quick break from his work, pleased at what he had accomplished so far. Before the sun got higher in the sky, he began turning the soil over, trying to breath some life into the hardened clay. One hour.... two hours. He became lost in his work, ignoring the bright sun that beat on the back of his head or the sweat that poured down his neck. The his shovel struck something. He dug some more- a faded blue cotton sleeve, and then A hand. And on the hand was ring. It was the ring that caught his attention. The ring itself was rather ordinary, a simple gold band with a small diamond embedded in the top. The gardener picked it up, brushed off the dirt caked around the stone, examined it. Then his head began to hurt. For a second he recognized the ring. He remembered buying it, how the price seemed to pale in comparison to the joy he was brining to her. Then his mind felt like it exploded. He fell to the ground, his head pounding with the pain. The gardener tried to fight through it, his hands grasping and clawing at the ground, the plants, tearing a wide gash in his garden. Then he caught the barest glimpse of light, a small ray in the great blackness of his mind. He struggled toward the ray, now running, now crawling. Then the pain was gone. Jonas stood, brushed the dirt off of his shirt and dug it out of his fingernails. He couldn't remember how he got to be there, in the garden. The he looked down at the ring in his hands. * * * * *

At the first sign of Jonas' attack, Mrs. Waternoose stood to get a better view. When she was sure he was having another attack, she called Father Thomas. He promised to drive over right away. He hurriedly changed into his priestly garments, grabbed his car keys and drove moderately fast to Jonas' house. He took a brief glance at the torn garden and rushed through the garden gate, down the path and into the house. It took a second for his eyes to adjust to the light, but at once he could hear a quiet, muffled sobbing. The living room was a mess- furniture was overturned, lamps smashed and mirrors in pieces. The Father picked his way through the mess, making for the sound of weeping. At last he found Jonas in

the back bedroom, sitting on his bed. In his hands he held a picture in a square black frame, and he was weeping unashamedly. At first Father Thomas thought he was still in his broken state, but when he knocked on the door frame to alert Jonas of his presence, he saw the clear frankness of sanity in his eyes. “Jonas, what's wrong?” he asked, agitated. Jonas stood up and set the picture on the bed, “I've sinned, Father,” he said calmly, “I need your forgiveness.” “How have you sinned, my son?” the Father responded. Jonas said nothing, but handed the father the picture. It was of Jonas and his wife, Lisa, early in their marriage. Father Thomas recognized the ring in the photo, because Jonas was holding it. The sudden realization shocked the Father, but he composed himself as best he could. “I cannot absolve you, my son, until you make things right,” he said softly. Jonas sighed and wept a silent tears. So many different thoughts had entered his mind the past few hours, from covering the bodies back up to suicide. But he knew that neither was the right thing to do. He didn't want to return to his madness. He knew what he had to do.

The End