Old Hat

I write things sometimes. And sometimes I don't completely hate what I've just written. But given some time apart, my writings and I generally don't get along too well upon reunion. That is, I can't stand roughly 90% of the things I've written once I've successfully separated myself from the process of writing them.

So you can imagine how nice it is to come across some old stuff, re-read it, and still like the way it sounds. Below is a story I wrote almost two years ago. I still don't hate it.

The wheels had slid out from under him without warning. No telltale slip of the rear tire. No tremor in the handlebars. Just up one moment, down the next.

He was not so shocked, really. It was raining. It hadn't rained in weeks. So of course the streets would be slick. Still, he had never guessed the fall would happen so abruptly.

His body had come to rest in a dirty curbside puddle. The bicycle was on its side a few feet away, its front wheel spinning slowly in the air as passing cars swerved clear of the scene.

He lay motionless as his clothes became saturated with puddlewater. His eyes were closed. He wanted to sleep.

It had been just two days. Two days, and already he was prepared to throw in the towel. Life in a puddle on the edge of the street was an acceptable fate anymore. After just two days.

He heard a car slow down as it passed, then pull to the side of the street ahead of him. A door opened and he winced at the sound. Short, quick footsteps approached, becoming steadily louder.

Rain continued to fall. He listened intently to the raindrops as they struck the surface of the puddle next to his ears.

"Are you all right?"

A woman's voice. He didn't answer. Didn't move.

"Oh no," he heard the Voice whisper. Then, at full volume again, "Hello? Can you hear me? Are you conscious?"

He was annoyed. He was tired and wanted to sleep. He wanted to sleep and this Voice wouldn't let him.

"Yes, I can hear you. And yes, I'm conscious."

There was a moment of silence. He was grateful for it. He thought the Voice might leave him alone now that he had answered its questions.

"Can you stand?"

Again, he did not answer.

The footsteps came nearer still, grew even louder. When he heard the Voice again, it came from a place just a few feet above his head. Raindrops had stopped falling on his face.

"We need to get you out of the street, okay? If you can't stand on your own, I can help you up."

He made a point to speak very clearly this time, pausing briefly between each statement: "I'm not getting up. Okay? I don't want help. I don't want to stand. I just want to be left here, alone. I want to stay right here. All right?"

He was being very rude to a voice that seemed genuinely kind, genuinely concerned. He felt guilty. "It was good of you to stop. Thank you for that. But I'd really appreciate it if you'd leave now. Just get back in your car and drive away. Okay?"

The ensuing silence lasted longer than the first. Again, he was grateful. And again he thought that perhaps he had succeeded in persuading the Voice to let him be.

He listened for the sound of footsteps walking away, waited for raindrops to fall on his face again. He heard nothing, felt nothing.

"I can't just leave you here." The Voice was quieter now. It sounded confused and sad, even hurt. "I can't just leave you here in the road. In this puddle."

"Yes, you can. You can. It's a very simple thing to do. Turn around, walk back to your car, open the door, get inside, and drive away. Just like that. It's easy."

He listened again for footsteps. Waited for raindrops. Nothing.

He opened his eyes suddenly. Big brown eyes stared back. The Voice's eyes.

The Voice belonged to a not quite middle-aged woman. The woman's face possessed the sort of youthful beauty reserved for confident young mothers. She was crouched next to his head, her face directly above his. Her lips didn't move; she made no effort to speak.

"Please. Go away. Let me sleep."

"No." Her response was simple and resolute. Any indecision she may have felt was long gone now. "You're not going to sleep here. That's stupid. It's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard."

She paused. "I won't let you do something so stupid. Get up. Get out of the street."

Full disclosure: I changed a few things from the original. All edits were minor, however.

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