Talk for Two

His mouth gave him signals that it was thirsty. His lips were dry and his tongue rough. He peered through the crowded plaza and spotted a café. He sat down at one of the chic tables outside. Eric watched the crowd flow as tourists danced around each other looking for the perfect shot from their expensive cameras. A waiter approached him and he asked for a coffee. Most of the tables were taken except for a few. A man was seated beside him who was reading the local paper. The man looked up and smiled at Eric.

‘Do you have a light?’ the man said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette. Eric pulled a box of matches from his pocket and set them on the man’s table. He smiled faintly at the man and continued admiring the views.

‘Where are you from?’ the man continued as he puffed on the cigarette.

‘Australia.’

‘Beautiful place, what brings you to Vienna?’

‘I had an aunt who lived here. She passed away not so long ago. I’d never been before so I took the opportunity. Have you been to Australia?’

‘When I was a young boy I ran away from home. I jumped on a cargo ship at the docks and it took me all the way to Perth. I joined the military there. I spent two years doing a duty for a country I didn’t belong too. They discovered who I was and I left.’

‘So what brings you to Vienna then?’

‘I’ve been here for four years now. I slowly make my way through Europe. For some reason I can’t leave this place though. It’s strange but I feel at home here.’ The waiter returned with coffee and placed it in front of Eric. The aroma was powerful. Eric picked up the small cup and took a refreshing sip. He could already feel the caffeine rejuvenating his tired body.

‘What’s your name?’ the man asked.

‘Eric, you?’

‘Joseph.’

‘Nice to meet you Joseph. Do you work here in Vienna?’

‘I do odd jobs every once in a while, wash windows, clean gardens. I try to live a very simple life. I don’t like to be burdened by money and responsibilities. I believe that living a free life enables you to pursue whatever lies in your heart.’ Eric lightly chuckled.

‘I wish I had an attitude like yours. Money basically rules my life. I have a family to look after. I need that steady income coming in.’

‘You’re family is not with you?’

‘No, they are at home in Australia. I’m only here for a few days.’

‘How does it feel not being responsible for others?’

‘What do you mean?’ Eric asked as he sipped his coffee.

‘You are here; you are free from your responsibilities. You do not have to worry about money or anything like that. You can sit here like me, enjoy the view and drink a cup of coffee. Hell I could spend all day here and not care. Don’t you feel the same way?’

‘I guess so, I mean money is always in the back of my mind but it does feel nice just to sit here. I could definitely get used to something like that.’

‘So why don’t you?’

‘You mean just abandon my family and my job? I don’t think anyone could possibly do that.’

‘Why not? I did when I was a boy, I never even told my parents I was leaving.’ Eric was amazed at what Joseph was saying. He turned his body towards him.

‘You mean you just up and left? Without telling anyone? They must think you’re dead or something?’

‘I wrote them a letter when I arrived in Perth, they weren’t very happy with me but they respected my decision and I haven’t seen them since I left. We write back and forth occasionally and I suppose one day we will all meet up again, but until then, we are all living care-free lives.’ Eric was stunned. He couldn’t possibly imagine doing anything like that.

‘Okay, but I could never leave my family, not now, not like this. It wouldn’t be right.’ The old man extinguished his cigarette in the ashtray.

‘Hey it’s your choice. If you wanted to have this kind of freedom, that is the kind of choice that you would have to make. You have burdened yourself with so much that it is hard for you to break free. It was easier for me when I was a boy because no one was depending on me. We both took a path but mine was slightly different from yours. Look at us now and what our lives have become. I am free and you are tied down. It isn’t too late though. You could still deviate from that path. Who knows what will happen.

Eric just stared at the man. He turned back towards the plaza and watched the tourists hurry through the crowded space. His mind was working overtime. How could he even consider Joseph’s advice?

They sat there together for the rest of the afternoon. They made small talk and played chess.

The End

It seemed time was in slow-motion. I had raised my hands to block the view of what was forthcoming. The screams evolved in a suppressed muffle as people ducked for cover under desks. The feeling of force as the gigantic crane swung a giant beam of steel in through the office windows. The building began shaking fervently as ceiling tiles came crashing down sending a conglomerate of what looked like snow cascading through the air. Electronics fizzed and water coolers exploded sending waves of water down onto the beige carpeting. The crane continued its swing as it carried men and women with it back out through the windows. I could hear their bellows as they plummeted to the ground. Somehow a fire began in the back corner and the flames began to spread as it made contact with the crashed ceiling tiles and wooden desks. The building was still swaying back and forth as people attempted to evacuate the torn structure. In a haze of disbelief and utter panic I followed the swarm of suited civilians out through the emergency exit towards a flight of stairs. We were twenty floors up but we didn’t seem to care. We ran for our lives while the echo of screams pulsated through our ears. A thought ran through my head that the entire building was going to collapse. The panic in my body grew and the adrenaline pumped throughout. I was on the verge of blacking out.

As I seemed to float down the myriad of stairs, my thoughts converged to that of Tina. She is my girlfriend who works on the 13th floor. I felt the need to find her and make sure she could exit the building. I watched the doors fly past me as I flowed down the steps and counted each floor. I hit the 13th and I swam to the exit. Someone grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away. I felt alarmed but I broke free from their grasp and opened the door. The office was empty. White sheets of paper covered the carpets and overturned desks were strewn throughout. No one was around, she must have gotten out. I had to check her corner office to make sure she wasn’t still in there. No sign of her. I ran back towards the exit when it happened. The building began its downfall. The screech of steel was tremendous. The grinding and snapping as girders broke free from their still life. The floor above me collapsed showering me in plaster and steel. I could only watch as my body became trapped beneath the rubble. I had a view out through the window and I could see the ground racing towards me. People were scattering for their lives but they had no chance. As the building got closer to the ground the rubble felt the force of gravity and slid towards the windows. I realized that a shard of steel was protruding through my leg. I hadn’t felt the pain and I didn’t care. Just before the building came one with the ground, everything slowed again. I closed my eyes and I could feel the wind brushing my hair. I felt alive. I felt scared. I thought of Tina and I hoped she was okay. I hoped she had gotten away safely. I thought of my parents and how much pain they would be put through. I opened my eyes and time sped up. Everything went silent.

Harry and His Treasure

Car exhausts pushed black smoke from their containment while the swirling winds pushed pop cans over the hardened ground. Young children ran through the streets in ecstasy not realizing the commiserations that were to come to them in their older days. Harry Nichols pulled his empty cart across the scarred cement that was Davis Street. He wore three layers and a coat to cover it. His socks torn and so were the plastic bags that canvassed his shoes. His hair matted in a way that resembled seaweed washed up on a vacant beach. To Harry it was just another dreary Tuesday. He knew that garbage day was upon him and he had to collect as much as he could before it was gone. Harry made his best efforts to fill his cart with useless tools that ordinary people didn’t need. Harry would find use for them. He always did.

As the sun began to set, Harry was ending his search and returning back to his cave as he liked to call it. The cave was a couple of old T.V. boxes, mostly 42 inches, stacked in a way that provided shelter. He pulled a blue tarp from beneath his home and settled it over his cart. Rain was coming that night. Harry retreated inside his box and slept easily.

When Harry woke he was startled by a look he hadn’t seen in years. A young boy was staring into his eyes. The boy carried the look of sympathy as he gazed upon the scruffy man. Harry returned the stare and was bewildered. Not only was the boy staring at him in this empathetic way but the boy was also not frightened by his wild appearance. Harry slowly rose from his blanket of newspapers and naughty magazines. He quickly aroused from his bemusement and yelled at the kid to leave him alone. The child obeyed and ran for his life. Harry continued his journey for useless junk that day.

The next day when Harry woke the boy had returned. Harry, still bewildered at the situation, decided to ask the boy why he was here. The boy simply answered that he was on his way to school and with that he left. This appearance continued to happen over the next several days. The young boy began bringing food mostly apples and granola bars. They would sit and enjoy a meal together. A word was hardly spoken and the boy would leave without a goodbye.

Saturday came, long past garbage day; it was Harry’s day of rest. The boy was there which was strange because he didn’t have school on Saturdays. Harry asked the boy why he was here. The boy simply shrugged his shoulders and continued to eat a shiny green apple. He didn’t delve any further. When Harry told the boy he was going to the park for the day, the boy’s eyes gleamed with joy. Harry was a little uneasy with having a companion on his trip but he couldn’t say no. He actually came to enjoy the company and they began talking with ease. They told stories of their lives. Harry did mostly; the boy just listened and pranced through the grassy lawns.

Harry and the young boy became good friends. The boy didn’t leave after breakfast anymore. He hung around with Harry most of the day helping him find beloved treasures. Harry didn’t take notice at first but he soon realized. He asked the boy why he wasn’t going to school anymore. The boy became sad. He said that he never went to school, that he was like Harry too. Harry also became sad. They sat close at a fire they had built together and held a silence. They returned to the cave where the boy would start to live. He brought all his possessions that he owned, which wasn’t much. The boy became like a son to Harry. He felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time.

A few weeks later the boy became sick. He had a terrible cough and his skin was  gaunt white. Harry wasn’t sure on what the problem was. He thought the boy just had a cold and that it would eventually go away. It never went away, Harry had done his best to care for him and he tried to get him some help but the damage had already been done. The boy died soon after from pneumonia.

Harry emptied his cart and placed the boy inside. He was heavily wrapped in blankets. He pulled his cart through town, across Davis Street and into the park. He buried the child while tears cleansed his face. When he finished he lay next to the grave and wept throughout the night. He slept and dreamt occasionally. He dreamt of the boy and he dreamt of garbage day.

A Daring Escape

Just get the idea down. Those were the exact words that flowed from his impertinent mouth. Right before I strangled him to death. Right before I watched the blood flow gently from the corner of that mouth. Right before his body collapsed to the floor with purple abrasions around his veined neck and the glass shards protruding from his balding scalp. It was the last time he ever pushed me. I hated him and I hated that building. Everybody was forcing me to do things. Swallow pills, paint leaves in the garden a blanched white, keep a daily journal, and worst of all, share a room with an incomprehensible roommate; a roommate who snored constantly. It didn’t take me long until I officially cracked. I felt the need to escape physically, not mentally as they were demanding. I believe that is their ultimate goal. Right above shoving pills down a person’s throat at least three times a day. They obviously feel the need to prove their superiority to everyone around and their mental stability.

I decided to make my break during English class. It took place every Thursday afternoon after lunch. I was sitting patiently at my desk staring promptly at the blank sheet of paper lying directly in front of me, if not a little to the left. I was waiting for the old man to arrive at my desk after storming the aisles in a manner derived from a military academy or something. He eventually arrived at my work station where his march came to a halt and his head took a turn to my clean sheet of paper. He swivelled on his heels and asked me politely why I had not written anything for my daily reflection. I did not answer. He repeated the question a little more bluntly. I turned my head in the opposite direction and watched as a yellow butterfly playfully flew through the midsummer air as it tried to fight the opposing wind currents in a little game of struggle. The old man began mumbling something; it may have been on the premise of my ineptitude of writing. I turned to him and his voice became clearer. His final words were, “Just get the idea down.” I stood up from my desk and wrapped my hands around his neck. His eyes bulged from his head and tiny blood vessels appeared among the white space. He gurgled a little and stumbled over Joseph’s desk. Joseph managed to escape from the confines of his wooded area and seemed to understand my intent. He grabbed a glass vase from an ornamental table and swung his hands in an arc through the English teacher’s head. The glass made contact with his skin and shattered immediately. His body slumped in my hands. I let go of his body and avoided his downfall to the linoleum. I made a dash for the door. Fortunately, the guards weren’t able to respond to my cat-like abilities as I pounced through their attempted grabs. I sprinted through the mopped halls and out into the courtyard. The fence was no match for me and I bounded it with ease.

I made it to this forest where I stumbled across you and your charismatic presence. I hope you liked my story Mr. Frog. I sure don’t want to go back there. I was hoping I could stay here with you. We’ll get along just fine.