Conviction

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Life never ceases to amaze me. You’re thrown this direction one minute and then the complete opposite in the next. It leads you to think strange thoughts and do even stranger things, and you hardly know why. At the moment I prefer solitude. Alone in a cozy diner with a thick mug of coffee in my right hand and my idle fingers drumming away on the countertop. The crowd amongst me is hardly anything but varied. All of them soulless and shady individuals scattered about the area in sparse little clusters. The electric whine of the fluorescent lights above me overpowers their hushed conversations. I’m sure they all came here with the same thought in mind. They want to escape life and its endless toss and toil. It never works. Never has for me and probably never will.

Still a little soggy from the damp, cool night outside, I take a sip of my fresh coffee. Its bitter sweet tang rushes down my throat warming me from the inside out. It tastes terrible but that hardly matters right now. My eyes, swollen bags drilled into my head, have trouble staying open but find it easier and easier with each gulp of caffeine. Not a moment later the diner’s bell chimes, announcing a guest leaving or entering. I don’t bother to look. That’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it? A blank expression, fueled by coffee, not a care in the world. That’s how we all want to grow up to be, right?

There is something about the last 24 hours that doesn’t sit well in my stomach and for once it isn’t the coffee. I’ve just come back from a funeral for a co-worker. I could say more than that actually but I think I’ll just stop at friend. He left his family and this world about a week ago, one of the lucky few who have been granted access to something much greater. The rest of us? Left behind. Left for dead maybe. How ironic. But there is more to it than that. All the while at that funeral, the silver gleaming tears of his loved ones softening the ground, I thought to myself over and over how I would come to terms with even worse news for my wife back home. Stress is a heavy burden and I’d say mine is just as cumbersome as any other kind. Bearing that in mind and my friend’s death, I have the painful agony of sharing to my family that I am no longer employed. I suppose a job well done is only well enough for those that care. And a man that has lost his vigor? His instinct? Passion for life? There isn’t a care in the world. Most would think that removing a human being from a job that keeps his life afloat, would be a difficult decision. But what about letting go an empty shell of a man who drags your business below the ground with each passing hour? Not so tough, now is it?

So I take another sip of coffee and allow my mind to relax, if only for a moment. The coming storm announcing it’s presence with a low growl startles a few patrons including myself. Seems we’ve all been lost in thought. Even the waitress, whom I must admit hasn’t come back to check on me in a while. It isn’t like her to be late, considering my daily routine all this week has been nothing but three cups a day, four sugars each, no milk. And none of that sweetener crap. I’d rather have something with substance so my coffee is at least half decent. The buzzing lights above me flicker a few times, dimming down to a dangerously low intensity. I check my watch, astonished at the time. I hadn’t figured I’d been in here for three hours. I double checked the time with my phone, sliding my thumb gently across the screen and recognizing its familiar ‘click’. The watch was correct. I had been dozing away in this hole of a place for longer than I had wanted.

It’s definitely time to pack up and go, hopefully drumming up some convincing words for why I’m without work anymore. I scoot my unfinished second cup of coffee to the edge of the counter, sliding my way off the barstool. Taking one last look around me I notice something peculiar about my surroundings. I’m the only one left in the diner. An eerie chill runs down my spine but I figure I ought to ignore it. Honestly, when was the last time this place was packed? I pull twelve bucks from my pocket and slap it on the counter, paying for three cups and generously giving her the third cup’s price as a tip.

“Leaving now, alright? I left the money on the counter so…” I call out, my words echo around me. “I guess…I’ll see you tomorrow.” A dissonant tone in my voice, I turn to leave, clumsily fingering the digits on the screen of my phone. Frustrated with my futile attempts to dial home on a smart phone, I hold down the center button and announce my demands in as monotone a voice as possible. Thankful that the technology at least realizes that much, I wait for someone to pick up the phone on the other end. I half expect it to be my youngest son partly because he’s been so eager to appear “grown up” and talk like daddy. What I wouldn’t give to be in his shoes right now. Instead, the only greeting I receive is the cold reply of a single tone, stiffening my limbs and chilling the air. Confused, I step outside, the door’s bell chiming. I redial the number. Once again I’m met with the same noise.

In a panic I wipe through every name on my contacts list that I know, hardly paying attention to my surroundings as I wander around aimlessly in the general direction of my car. With each new number tried I find the same monotonous reply until its unnatural tone traps itself deep within my memory. A frigid breeze picks up around me, the rain falling down in thin water droplets. I hardly reach my car when I have the idea to attempt calling from a payphone. Finding one nearly on top of the street leading to the diner, I rummage through my pockets and discover a few quarters lying about. Inserting the silver currency into the slot, I dial the numbers listed on my contacts. I take a few tries before I believe that none of this is coincidence. My heart is pounding out of control as I gaze out onto the empty street, shielding my eyes from the thick drops of rain intermittently falling from the sky. In all my frantic searching, only one car is visible from my position and my heart lifts briefly. During this entire ordeal a crazy thought had crossed my mind that I dare not think ever again. What if I were the last man left alive? I promise myself not to let these crazy conspiracies seep into the forefront of my thoughts once more. After all, with what appears to be some sort of pick up truck heading my direction, there is no reason for me to believe such idiotic theories. As the truck speeds closer it swerves from side to side, drunkenly suggesting that the driver was indeed under the influence.

Slowly inching away from the payphone, I find my tactics useless as the truck makes a mad cut across two lanes and barrels toward my direction. I make a mad dive for the wet grass beside the road, missing the truck by mere centimeters. In a deafening crash, the vehicle slams itself into the payphone, knocking the entire device to the ground in an instant. Smoke billows out from underneath the hood, a few of the lights flickering on and off. Wiping the grass stains from my clothes, I cover my scraped elbow with my right hand, thankful I wasn’t hit.

After peering inside the truck’s window to make sure the person inside was alright, my heart, without question, skips a beat. The entire vehicle is void of life. Not a soul sits inside its plush interior. I broke my promise.





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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

TheGoodTwin said...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm

I remember first reading this story!!!!

i still think it's amazing.......

 
JackLoveless said...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 2:14 pm
This is a sad story of the life of a crazy homeless man. Its very good.
 
TheAuthor95 replied...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 2:16 pm
Ah! I knew the picture would mislead people...he's not homeless...just...lonely. lol
 
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