Monday, July 31, 2006

Tales of the Stranger: Episode 7

So, here it is. The last chapter of the Stranger. Enjoy if you can, comments always welcome…


Worth Every Mile by Eaglewing

“Hey baby…it’s finally me. Been a long time.”

He stopped, took off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair. Then he took a deep breath. Some things were hard to say. He looked up at the sky, then focused back again on the granite marker.

“I miss you. I really do. Haven't been myself since you been gone. Kinda lost my way there for a bit and didn't know which way to go. But something...somebody...set me straight. Thanks for the message. I guess I always was a little thick about some things...”

Taking another deep breath, he carried on.

“I get it now, baby. Well, maybe I really don't, but I see something I didn't see before. If it hadn't been for you doing what you did, I wouldn't have had any reason to run. And if I hadn't run, I wouldn't have been there to save her. She was going to do what she was going to do that night, and it had to take someone walking on that road in a snowstorm to stop it. Imagine that. What a chain of events to put me there when someone needed to be. I don't know why it had to happen like it did. Why it had to be me...or why it had to be you. Why I couldn't save you. I should've...could've...done something. Something - anything.

He stopped and swallowed hard, fighting back tears from memories he'd tried hard to forget.

“I guess I just didn't see it until it was too late, and I'm so sorry. But now I do see something, and I pray I'm not too late this time. I lost you, but I found her, and it was you who put me on that road. You always were the giving kind, looking out for others that way.”

He paused and smiled at the good memories that came back. She had saved him from himself, way back when. It was only fitting that in her own unique way, she had done it again, one last time.

Then his smile faded as his thoughts returned to that time…the last time he had seen her, and how all good things had to come to an end. Pulling in another breath of air, he sadly shook his head and continued talking.

“I couldn't save you, and I have to live with that. I figure you had your reasons doing what you did, I just wish you had told me what they were. I wish you were still here, still fighting, and you know I'd have been right there fighting with you every step of the way. I don't blame you for doing what you did. I can't blame anyone for doing that - God knows I've thought about it enough times myself. But I can't quit, not yet, so I'm gonna keep going. I'm going back to make sure that gal I met that night is alright and I'm going to see if she wouldn't mind a beaten up cowboy hanging around for a bit. Maybe we can help each other fight to live again. God only knows if we’ll make it, but I gotta try.”

He paused for a breath, then kept going. He knew he was rambling, but he couldn’t stop. He had to get it out.

“Someday, I'll meet you again, but for now I have to let you go. I have to try to live what's left of me. It isn't much anymore, but for the first time in a long time, I don't wish I was dead and that's good enough. I'll always love you, and I'll miss you till the day I die. But I'm not dead yet and I can't live like I am. Thanks for the time and the love you gave me. I love you and I wish it had been enough to keep you here. But you aren't, and I still am, so I gotta go. But I couldn't leave without sayin' goodbye.”

He stood up and rubbed the back of his hand roughly across his eyes. Then he put his hat back on and pulled it down low.

Smiling sadly, he whispered, "Goodbye, baby...see you on the other side."

He walked back to the Cougar, got in, and started it up. He took one look back, then put it in gear and headed out the driveway. Turning onto the street, he caught the sign for the closest highway exchange, and went that way. In a couple miles he was on the interstate, where he got in the fast lane, put the hammer down, and opened it up. For the first time in a long time, he knew exactly where he was going and what he was going to do when he got there. There was no reason anymore to hesitate, and no more time to waste. There had to be better days out there – had to be – and it was worth the fight again to find them.


**************************

The county fair lights lit up the night and the air was filled with the sounds of those enjoying the entertainment. Robyn had decided to come out to the festivities for a little distraction. Sure, she felt it was a little sad going by herself, but there was the promise of cotton candy and the Ferris wheel, and it’d be enough to pass another evening alone.

She wondered what’d it be like to lose that lonely feeling and her thoughts went back yet again to a recent phone call and back further to a dark night in the middle of a snowstorm, where something special had started for two desperate people. At least that’s what she hoped, because for her it had. And maybe someday, she’d see him again and find out what had happened that night for him.

Looking around the fairgrounds, Robyn decided she’d take one more ride on the big wheel before calling it a night and heading home. She had taken only a few steps when she stopped dead in her tracks, gasping as her eyes went wide as saucers. There, in the middle of a parting crowd, was a tall man dressed in dusty denim blue and a black cowboy hat pulled low. He was a foreboding presence, and people were giving him room. He wasn't moving either, but he was looking straight at Robyn as their eyes met. Then his normal grim expression changed as the side of his mouth started to curl up in a slow smile.

At that, Robyn found her legs and was moving. Fast as she could go, she closed the distance, and if he hadn't braced for it, she'd have knocked him over. She wrapped her arms around him without even thinking about it, and he did the same.

Finally finding her voice, she spoke, "You came back!"

He chuckled, "I said I would."

Then she pulled back and looked at him before adding in a breathless whisper, "For me?"

"Yes." He didn't hesitate.

Her smile would've solved the world's energy problems if they could've bottled it up. Then a thought struck her. “How did you know to come here tonight? How’d you find me here?”

“Hey, I found you out of nowhere once before, didn’t I? Apparently, it’s what I do. Second time around wasn’t really difficult. I just kept putting one foot down ‘till I found you again.”

"And thank God you did – both times.” Remembering the first time, a sudden sense of panic made her blurt out, “And don't leave like that again, ok? I have so much I want to say, ask, know about you."

"Sounds good to me, and there's a lot I want to know about you too. If you don't mind this old wreck of me hanging around, I'll be happy to stay. I ain't no bargain, but hell, a little touch up and a little paint..." He smiled as his voice trailed off.

"I can do that…um, with a little human touch.” His eyes widened in surprise as she caught the reference. She laughed and the sound of her voice felt like cold clear water on the dry land of his soul. It was a real change of pace and it felt good.

“Hey, I’m a fan too,” she continued, “and that's something I know about you now." Still smiling, but growing a bit more serious, she asked the one burning question she had. "If I know nothing else about you though, I have to know this. What do I call you? Frosty? Stranger? I have to know that much..."

He didn't say anything for a few moments, and she started to worry as she saw something intense flash through his eyes. Then he calmed and pulled her closer and her worries faded away as he spoke.

"Can't say as I've told anybody my name in a long time. Figured that part of me was gone, but it wasn't. And darlin', I don't ever want to be a stranger to you."

She had a soft look in her eyes as he leaned in even closer and whispered in her ear, so as only she could hear. "My name is -"


THE END

Well my soul checked out missing as I sat listening
To the hours and minutes tickin away
Yeah, just sittin' around waitin' for my life to begin
While it was all just slippin away.
I’m tired of waitin' for tomorrow to come
Or that train to come roarin' round the bend.
I got a new suit of clothes, a pretty red rose
And a woman I can call my friend

These are better days baby
Yeah there's better days shining through
These are better days baby
Better days with a girl like you

Now a life of leisure and a pirates treasure
Dont make much for tragedy
But its a sad man my friend who's livin' in his own skin
And can't stand the company
Every fool's got a reason to feelin' sorry for himself
And turnin' his heart to stone
Tonight this fool's halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell
And I feel like I'm comin’ home

These are better days baby
There's better days shining through
These are better days
Better days with a girl like you

from "Better Days" by Bruce Springsteen


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Well, there you have it. Seven stories, and a ‘happy’ ending. Not my usual style, but there you go. I also found out that it’s easy for me to write the dark, gritty, reluctant hero stuff – but try to write a happy ending that doesn’t come off as pure cheese is hard to do. Don’t think I quite did it either. Hopefully, I got the point of the story across though.

As I previously noted, I did write a couple other endings, but couldn’t figure out a way to do it and end with the same line. Plus, anything other than the happy ending would’ve led to a sequel, and since I don’t know if I’m going to write it, I thought I’d end it here – self contained. I can always start the sequel up if I want to, but to leave it hanging for a while wouldn’t have been right.

There’s an obvious prequel and sequel here too. There’s one line from the first story that just begs for a sequel to be written – did anyone catch it? Maybe I’ll get to it, but for now there’s some other stories and characters I want to write, so we’ll see.

If you did hang around to read them all though, thanks. Hope you enjoyed it.

Comments on "Tales of the Stranger: Episode 7"

 

Blogger The Original LRU said ... (August 05, 2006 4:51 PM) : 

Well, I finally got a chance to read the whole thing. Thanks for completing the series! It was a cool ride.

Nice graphic too... I'm curious where you got all the individual pieces... the cowboy hat looks a little grainy, so I'm curious if it came from a screen capture or something. :-)

His rambling at the grave site was a little long. I suppose if someone was really rambling in such a situation it could go on for much longer, but for a story, the reader gets a little consideration too. :-)

The history of his previous wife/girlfriend is nebulous, and if I read it right, hints at something rather disturbing. Suicide? Not sure, but that's what the story seemed to suggest. Interesting how the series starts and ends with that.

Also, the stranger seems to believe he will meet his wife again, which I take to mean heaven. If suicide was indeed the cause of his wife's death, it might be interesting to note that some folks believe that people who commit suicide do not go to heaven. I'm not sure of that myself, but it causes a bit of distraction to your story to those who care about such things. :-)

I'm glad you went with the happy ending. There is still lots of room to provide heartache in a sequel if needed (just look at the Bourne Identity movie sequel, haha). And it gives great closure to this series.

I wish the Stranger and Robyn well in their future adventures, and their prolific Author much success! :-)

 

Blogger Eaglewing said ... (August 05, 2006 6:28 PM) : 

Well, calling me prolific is like saying JK Rowlings needs more money - it's a bit of a stretch :)

Yeah, the rambling was a little long, but certain points had to be made. As for your other points, I could certainly go into what I was aiming for and the points I was trying to make and how I meant it, but over explaining it might take away from what anybody might take out of the story for themselves, so I won't go into detail. Besides, I always hate movies that 'dumb it down' for the audience just in case they don't get it. I prefer stories that let you take away the meaning you got out of it yourself, whether or not you like the story or loathe it or missed the point completely.

As for the pic, yeah, it was tough to do and got a little grainy. The hat had to be added, but it just came from the same pic of the leaning cowboy from the previous pictures. No screen caps, just Google Images :)

Anyway, thanks for the comments :)

(Oh, and the less said of the Bourne sequel, the better. I'm just going to pretend that horrible movie doesn't exist :)

 

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