Monday, February 05, 2007

Tales of the Stranger 9: Picture of the Past

Another Stranger tale hits the intraweb! Again, it's a stand alone 'prequel' of sorts from the In Between Years. Had some tracks from Keith Urban's latest CD on repeat, and this one kind of wrote itself quick. However, even after some tweaks, it's still not as polished as it could be, but I'm posting it up anyway. Enjoy if you can, comments always welcome...

Picture of the Past by Eaglewing

The evening was leaning towards late, as the daylight disappeared, casting shadows on what was just another street in another town. But this one currently had an animated display of differing opinions between a pair of twenty-somethings going on to light up the night air.

The girl’s long blonde hair danced in the wind as she shook her head, hands and mouth in constant movement. The shaggy haired boy listened for a minute, then started in with his own words. Neither wanted to give an inch in getting their own mile, and the collision of ideas that didn’t line up made for a very public display of discord.

Eventually, the fight wore to a point of looking for a finisher, and the young man managed to say something to quiet them both. He shook his head and threw up his hands in resignation or disgust, and turned on his heel to walk away. But he turned a moment too quick, missing the teardrop as it rolled from a sad blue eye to fall to the concrete below. She called his name once, then turned and went her own way as the night stillness closed back in.

Where she headed was anybody’s guess, but the boy made his way down two blocks, crossing a street and then taking a left. He found what he was looking for, a door under a neon sign that promised distraction in either babes or booze, and he wanted distraction. He went through the door with a little more gusto than necessary, causing a few heads to look his way before turning back to their own. He went to the bar, ordering something to take the edge off, quickly downing it and ordering more. He took the bottle with him to the corner of the bar at the end, and sat down on the old bar stool. Another drink, then he spun around to enjoy the view of the dancing girls on stage, trying not to think about anything for a while. He saw the private booths at the back, knew what they were for, and thought about giving it a try. Whatever it took to keep from thinking about her.

“It won’t work you know.”

Startled, the young man looked over his shoulder to where the voice came from. He hadn’t seen a tall stranger sit down on the stool on the other side of the bar corner across from him. But there he sat, beer in hand, cowboy hat low, staring at the bar top in front of him.

Confused, the boy replied, “What? Did you say something to me?”

“Yeah. I said it won’t work.”

Intrigued, he turned towards the Stranger. “Oh? What won’t work?”

“All this,” came the reply with a vague wave of the hand. “Temporary distraction. A few more drinks and you’ll only be thinking about her. A few more after that, you might even pick up a phone and ramble incoherently into her answering machine. May as well stay sober and think it out right. That, and stay outta the back rooms.”

The boy’s eyes narrowed. “What exactly are you talking about? Who are you?”

“I’m the answer to the question you were asking that bottle. I know you had it out with the girl tonight, but if you’re smart you’ll leave here sober and go straighten it out. And be quick about it too.”

The boy was taken aback, and his temper flared. “Are you stalking me? What the hell do you know about me and my gal? Stay outta my business, man!”

The Stranger sighed with a weariness the young boy caught, then he just shook his head. “Settle down boy, and listen up. I don’t really know your business, but I managed to see some of it tonight. Didn’t want to, but you two were putting it on display. You were determined to be the hotshot and put her down. That last line was a blow, a hurtin’ bomb, Rocky style. But you walked away too soon. You didn’t even stick around to see her hit the mat. You didn’t see the look on her face, the tears, and I don’t even know if you let yourself hear everything she said when she called your name. So I’m here to make it clear for you. Heaven knows why, but she loves you. Anybody out on that street could see it. So what do you plan on doing about that?”

By now, the boy had turned away from the dancing girls, calmed down, and even pushed the bottle to the side. Something in the Stranger’s voice had cut through the foolish pride and anger in the young man. He realized he was talking to someone who had seen some things. Maybe it was worth a listen. And the Stranger was right. Just what was he going to do?

“I don’t know.” He let out a long sigh. “She wants more, something permanent I guess. Been together awhile, don’t really blame her. But I don’t know.”

“Nah, I think you do, and I doubt that’s all of it, but you just didn’t like her pointing out the obvious. Besides, that’s just pride talking. Tell it to shut up and use your head. Did you mean what you said to her there at the end?”

“Ah, hell no. That was stupid to say, I know. She’s a tiger sometimes, and she gets to me, but I was just mad. Telling her I don’t need this, I don’t need her, was just stupid. But she wants more, man. I guess I’m just scared.” He looked up quick as he carried on, “And I’ll hurt you if you tell anybody, but I guess I’m scared of letting her down. It’s a big responsibility, you know. But things are good, why do they always want more?”

The Stranger chuckled quietly, then took another swig from the beer before speaking. “More? Is it really more? All she wants is you, for whatever reason. That’s not really more, and it’s certainly not something you don’t have. If you love her, need her, and she feels the same, why would it be something too big to give? You need to learn to hang on to the good things, to the good ones. They disappear just as quick, so hold on when you can. Committing to something as good as that can be worth the pain that comes along with it.” The Stranger’s voice got real low then as he whispered, “I should know.”

The young man heard it and with a start realized why the Stranger had followed him to the bar. “So what’s your story? You had something good, didn’t you? Did she want more too and you didn’t? You thought I was going to make the same mistake as you?”

“No. I had something good, and I would’ve given her all the more she wanted. But she made a choice of not wanting more, and son, you don’t want to feel that. Go after that blonde haired, blue eye of yours and find out if it’s real. If she wants more, give it to her. And that rare thing she wants to give to you, take it like a man, and realize how lucky you are.”

Both were silent for a while, content to think and drink. Then the young man took out his wallet and pulled out a picture. Showing it to the Stranger, he whispered quietly, “She’s all I ever wanted. Having that come true is a scary thing. Maybe I panicked tonight, but I can make it right. Thanks for the wake up call.”

“No problem. Just don’t forget it.”

They both got up from the bar then, paid the bills, and walked outside. Night had settled in and the stars were shining bright.

“Hey, my truck is just over a few blocks, can I give you a lift somewhere?” the young man asked the Stranger.

“No thanks, that’s ok. Besides, you should take a cab, and I’m just gonna head off this way. Good luck to you and the gal in that picture.”

“Thanks. Hey, you know I half expected you to pull out one of these of your own in there. You looked like you had experience in raising a longneck while looking at a picture of the past.”

The Stranger had already started to walk away, but stopped and looked back. The sadness in the meaning of his words made the young man resolve not to let it all slip away.

“I don’t need a picture, kid. I see her everywhere I go.”

The End.

Comments on "Tales of the Stranger 9: Picture of the Past"


Blogger The Original LRU said ... (February 06, 2007 2:59 PM) : 

That last line was a blow, a hurtin’ bomb, Rocky style.

Time.... warp... continuum... mind... stretching... aaaaghh. :-)

Good ending though.

That was a surprise... nice to have the Stranger pop up unexpectedly. Don't forget to update the side bar with the new link.


Blogger Eaglewing said ... (February 06, 2007 11:09 PM) : 

The Stranger showing up in a Tales of the Stranger story was unexpected? ;-) just kidding. Thats what I was going for - a story with the Stranger having a peripheral effect.

Yeah, I'll update the link soon


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