Carolyn double knots the laces on her
running shoes and steps from her apartment building.
"Morning, Caroline." Harold
sits on his front stoop in his pajamas, smoking.
She sits beside him, waves away the
offer of a cigarette.
"Just six o'clock and the parking
lot is almost empty. Where these people got to go so early?
Work'll still be there waiting for them at nine." His laugh, an
easy rich baritone, never fails to make Carolyn smile. "What do
you make a' that bike there?" He gestures to the dumpster with
his cigarette and the length of ash falls to the stairs.
She squints. "Indeterminate color.
Rusted in spots. Flat tire."
"Think I can fix it up?"
"I know you can, Harold." She
stands and brushes the dirt from her sweatpants. "See you soon."
"You be careful crossing that
street. It's dangerous."
She smiles. "You say that every
"And every day I mean it."
For Harold's benefit, she takes her
time looking before crossing Edgewood and heading down the path, six
miles of asphalt running mainly parallel with the street. White
clover surrounds the path in a carpet of white. Tall spikes of
buckthorn plantain wave in the wind created by the passing cars.
Four miles in, the path dips into the
Great Oaks apartment complex and ventures into the woods.
Her cell rings. Trish.
"Rise and shine!" Trish
singsongs, the way she did when they were college roommates.
"I'm awake," Caroline says.
"I have news," Trish says, an
edge of excitement in her voice.
Caroline steels herself.
"I got the promotion!"
"Europe, to start," Trish
says. "Six weeks. Then Asia. We're going to saturate the market.
By the time I'm through, we'll be in every major country of the
Caroline nods and continues on the
path, walking now. She passes sweet gum trees and black locust. Wild
raspberries and ancient pines. Honeysuckle growing among maples. She
half-listens as Trish prattles on about jet lag and currency exchange
rates and the stock market. A bridge crosses a small stream and here
she pauses, studying the brown foam swirling around a bag of garbage
caught up on the rocks.
"That sounds terrific."
"I asked how things were with
"Oh." She glances around for
something to satisfy Trish. "Do you remember Indian gum?"
Caroline squirms. Waits.
"You need a job, Caroline."
"I have a job."
"A job that gives you more money.
A job with a future. It's time to move forward. I can get you an
interview at my firm."
"I'm happy where I am."
"No you're not."
"Look...I'm in the middle of my
"No you're not. You're lying in
Caroline can't bring herself to hang up
on Trish. She stuffs the phone back into her pocket and heads home,
sprinting this time, each step a confirmation of what Trish had
always told her. She's lazy. She has her head in the clouds. She'll
never amount to anything.
Harold is still outside when Caroline
returns from her run, frowning at the bicycle before him on the
"You talked to that gal again,
"You always get that look on your
face after you talk to Trish."
Caroline sighs and sits.
"You see that?" Harold points
to a crack in the asphalt.
"All them cracks in the pavement
are the expectations of others. You let yourself fall into one a'
them and you gonna' lose yourself for sure." Harold smiles.
"Ain't worth losing yourself over someone else's needs, honey."
He takes Caroline's hand. "Come with me," he says, and
leads her to another crack in the middle of the lot. "What you
She studies the circular pile of dirt
bleeding across the cracks. "An anthill?"
Harold shakes his head. "That
ain't a anthill, Caroline. That's the remains of another soul who
lost herself in the cracks." And he smiles and steps over the
crack to head back to his stoop.
the Scriptic.org prompt exchange this week, Grace O'Malley
at http://www.librivore.com gave
me this prompt: "Maybe I should just leave that on you,
gave Anna N. Mouse at http://annanmouse.blogspot.com/ this
prompt: You meet an old friend at the farmers' market. What is
in his/her basket? What does it mean?
Labels: flash fiction, scriptic.org