The Past Is A Foreign Country

He was sitting, staring into space, not outwardly troubled, seeming like any other man in the middle of a day of cares. But it was him, certainly, the spitting image of the picture, the very same. Thirty years old, the oldest he would ever get. She approached quietly, ignoring the unfamiliar surroundings, the strange clothing styles, the sounds from passing automobiles — actual petroleum-powered automobiles — until her fingers came to rest on the cast iron end of the bench.

“Don’t do it,” She blurted, artlessly, and then winced before the man could even turn and react.

“What?” He asked, as if he hadn’t quite heard, before continuing after it had registered, “Don’t do what?” He looked at his sandwich as if wondering if she’d seen something wrong with it.

She sat on the bench next to him, careful not to disturb the detritus of his almost-complete sack lunch. “Sorry. I’m Etheline.”

“Etheline was my mother’s name. We almost named our daughter that. Funny.”

“I know. She won’t shut up about it, in fact.” She forgot herself for a moment, caught up in a memory. “I used to complain about my name all the time and she would go on about how it was almost hers but her mother wouldn’t let…”

He was looking at her with confused eyes. He hadn’t started glancing around for a security guard yet, which was a good sign; or maybe it was a side-effect of the problem at hand.

“Sorry again.”

“That’s okay. I’m just not sure I follow you…”

She’d rehearsed it. There was no reason to abandon a plan of words carefully chosen, but now, sitting here next to him, it all escaped her. “How are you feeling?”

He shrugged. “Fine today, I guess.”

Fine today. “But you haven’t been fine?”

He paused. “Did someone from HR send you to find me? Are you a counselor?”

“Nothing like that. But I did come to talk to you.”

“You said ‘don’t do it.’ What is it you think I’m going to do?”

“You tell me.”

Now he was glancing around, shifting his weight, arranging his feet so that he could get up at any time. “Listen—”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to freak out.” She leaned in, not close enough to make him more uncomfortable, but enough so that she could lower her voice. “People have noticed you’re having a hard time. Jeannie has noticed. She didn’t… she hasn’t said anything because she didn’t want to embarrass you. She regrets that now. So much. You should talk to her.”

A security guard passed, an honest-to-gosh firearm in his belt, but Gramps didn’t flag him down. After a minute, he said, “She’ll think I’m weak.”

“She won’t.”

“But how do you know?”

“I could prove it to you. How I know, I mean. But then you’d never be able to convince yourself I was just some socially awkward lady from HR.”

He nodded, slowly, and then gathered up his trash and walked away.

Zombie Drabble #415 “Texas Hold ‘Em”

“Pocket Jacks.”

“What, again?” Carl threw down his cards in disgust.

Jimmy shrugged. “It’s been hours since I’ve had Jacks.”

“I’d swear you were cheating, if I didn’t know better.”

“Don’t blame me because you keep trying to suck out on the river.”

They’d been playing since they’d scrambled into the shelter days ago, pausing only to sleep and eat. They’d had the radio on for a while, half-listening to the news to drown out the sound of scratching at the door, but the batteries had died.

“Your deal.”

“Are you sure there aren’t any other games?”

“What, like ‘Life’?”

Fantasy Drabble #336 “Lady Of The Lake”

He casts his line into the still black water and watches the ripples grow around the rowboat infused with a shimmer of moonlight. He doesn’t spend much time recasting. There will be no fish today; there are never any fish. The fish are not the point.

Below him, somewhere, deep in the black, she sleeps. She knows when he comes, knows he’s there, knows he’s waiting. There’s a thing between them that can’t be washed away by water and time. He feels her presence; he smiles. His fingers spin the reel slowly, playing out line.

She never bites. Not yet.