Wednesday, December 31, 1986


A short story from college days, sometime in 1986

“She’s beautiful,” he tells his always sensible doctor-brother.
“I think she may be the one.”

“Yeah, but probably not the one for you.”

Autumn leaves. Fuzzy street lamps. Her hand doesn’t grip as tight.
“I’m just not sure where we’re going anymore... but I always want us to stay friends."
He tugs his trench coat closer to block the chill.

“No thanks,” he whispers.
“None of my friends have ruined my life before.”

Soft jazz. Dim lamp. Moist eyes. Empty bottle.
He collapses on the floor, sobbing.

“Mom, I don’t need someone to tell me what to do!” he screamed at seventeen.
“Help me, help me, help me,” he begs at twenty five.

Clenched fists. Thrown magazines. Broken vase.
“She isn’t coming back,” his brother says.

“But she was everything to me. She was the one.”

Excited. Slightly buzzed. Feeling rather chatty.
He calls his brother late one night.

“I met this gorgeous girl tonight. I think she may be the one.”

Skyscrapers and Oak Trees

Short story originally written sometime in college, 1985/1986.

George and his lap-top computer were very close. His wife, Linda, called it “The Lamb,” because “everywhere that George went, the lamb was sure to go.”

George’s boss, Mr. Bellwether, wasn’t particularly concerned what George or his wife called it, so long as it ran 25 hours a day. “You get out what you put in,” he bellowed.

“Uh huh,” Linda countered, “and if you put in ulcer-creating hours then you’ll get an ulcer.”

“But my work...,” George would sputter, “my work doesn’t stop just because the work day does.”

“Yes,” his doctor would confirm, “but when the battery on your lap-top runs out, you can plug it into the wall.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” George would nod in mid-eye roll, “and when my battery runs out there’s no rebooting. There’s nothing I can do. I have to put food on the table.”

“And a cabin at the lake and three cars in the garage? You can’t drive three cars at once and your summer home probably wouldn’t even recognize you if you dared to actually visit it! It isn’t about you needing money, George. It’s about you wanting money.”

“So what are you gonna do? Write me a note and get me outta class?”

“If you ever left class, as you put it, that might work. The only problem is when you’re not at work, you’re still at work. Your office goes wherever you go.”

“Doc, stick to medicine. You’re not my shrink.”

“George,” his shrink would retaliate, “listen to your doctor.”

“George,” commanded Linda, “You need a break. I think we ought to go to the cabin for the weekend.”

George pondered his doctor’s words and contemplated his boss’ expectations. “I do have that proposal due on Bellwether’s desk by Monday, but if I brought my lap-top and cellular phone and fax machine with me...”

“You just can’t survive without your office equipment, can you? Just forget it, George. I’ll take the kids and we’ll go without you. You have a ball spending the weekend with your ulcer machines; the kids and I will try swimming and waterskiing instead.”

Attempts at appeasement failed and around rolled Saturday to find George at home working all day accompanied only by The Lamb. “Maybe Linda’s right,” he thought, “I need to learn to put work aside once in awhile.” He headed for the kitchen to see what relaxation the fridge might offer. Armed with a bowl of cereal he hunkered down at the table determined to take it easy for a whopping five minutes.

The fading sun outdoors signaled the patio light to flicker to life. George gazed at it for a moment before his eyes rolled down to the kids’ toys decorating the patio and spilling their way into the yard. A smattering of tree saplings majestically guarded the yard, assuring that no harm would come to the children’s playthings.

George’s spoon clattered into his empty bowl. He sat for a moment, pondering the work yet to be done. At that moment, though, George did an uncharacteristic thing. He didn’t go back to work. Instead he let his beckoning backyard have its way.

George pried open the sliding glass door and was greeted by a light wave of summer wind lapping across his cheeks. His feet padded lightly across the concrete slab of the patio to the edge of the grassy sea bathed in impending moonlight. The voices of locust croaked in his ears as insects began huddling about the backyard lamp. George stepped hesitantly onto the ocean of green as if testing a newly frozen pond to see if it would support his weight.

Six hours later George opened sleepy eyes to stare up at a starry sky instead of his bedroom ceiling. A clearing and a fallen tree had begged him to sit down for a moment to take it all in. An accidental nap later, he imagined an irate Mr. Bellwether pounding his desk Monday morning and screaming about how “it was foolish to trust an idiot with a deadline!” George rushed back home to beg The Lamb for its forgiveness.

With his deadline looming even larger, George once again felt a need to get away. “No,” he told himself, “I can’t waste my time relaxing. I’ve got to get this done.” Minutes later he settled for compromise and scooped up The Lamb and headed out the back door. While he couldn’t rely on either his business or pleasure proving quite as fruitful, this method would allow him to accomplish both.

Sunday morning rolled around and George and his good intentions were fast asleep in the forest clearing again. Or so he thought. George awakened to the same beautiful creek bed and tree line as before, but now a window stood between him and his view. “That’s odd,” George thought, “I must be dreaming.”

George’s gaze fell down on The Lamb, which now rested on his desk instead of his lap. He glanced around to see his fax machine, his trash can, his stapler, and his paper clips - all the trappings of his office at work. It was real; he really was looking at the woods from his office window.

He wrinkled his brow and walked to the door. Bewilderment became alarm when he tried to turn the knob of his apparently locked door. Beads of sweat crawled across his forehead as he tugged his collar. George frantically tugged at the doorknob and pounded at the door. “Help! Help! Somebody get me out of here! The door’s locked! Somebody help me!”

It was to no avail. His office had followed him home and taken his life and family away from him. When George strolled into a small clearing in the woods to find the most peace he’d had in years, he wasn’t content to allow it. Instead he let his lamb follow him there too. Now his own little prison cell of an office had transplanted itself into the midst of his supposed getaway, a getaway he abused.

George ran to his desk and picked up his chair. He charged the window, smashing it with his chair. Over and over he smashed the glass until it splintered. On his last charge, the glass shattered and George’s momentum plunged him through the window.

“Linda Jacobson?”

“Yes, yes, officer. Is something wrong? Where’s my husband? Is something wrong with my husband?”

“Ma’am, your husband was found downtown by his office. He apparently charged through the glass in his office window and fell. I’m sorry, ma’am.”

Linda’s eyes welled up as she stood in shock staring at the uniformed man standing in her doorway. “Oh, George,” she whispered, crumpling to the floor.

“Mrs. Jacobson, I’m sorry to bother you, but I do need to know if your husband had any enemies or would have had any reason to kill himself.”

“Sir, my husband didn’t have any reason to live.”