Stan and Joe – short story

The point of view is going to dance around a little bit.  I’m okay with that – this time.  Also, I’m not sure if the setting comes through well enough.  It’ll be one of the questions at the end.  I won’t answer the questions because I don’t know if that’s spoiler-ish.  I know some people like to read the questions first, which is not a good idea, but I’ll wait for comments and then let you know what’s right.  

Long one, about 5,600 words.

campfire, depression, homeless

It was late in the day, nearly sunset, when a man in a faded, gray suit stumbled out of a store on dusty street in the town of Heart.  Shortly after the door slammed shut, it opened again as the owner of Goddard’s Pawn Shop stared at the man on the sidewalk.  The store owner, though noticeably older and shorter than the man glaring back at him, chased him out rather easily despite the size and age difference.

“Let me make this clear,” said Goddard, pointing a finger towards the other man’s face.  “You were wanted here yesterday.  You are not wanted here today.  You will not be wanted here tomorrow or ever.  Not you.  Not your kind.”  The older man tightened his fists, then relaxed.  “Please.  Go back to where you belong.”  The older man turned and re-entered the air-conditioned store, leaving the man in the gray suit tugging at his lapels and collar while attempting to regain a semblance of dignity.  The suit, which matched his thick, gray hair, was as worn out as once-black shoes.

“You haven’t seen the last of me,” he called.  The door had closed, but his voice echoed through the glass.  He watched Mr. Goddard’s walk pause for a moment while walking to his place at the cash register.

The sun was setting at just the right time to ignite the street from one end to the other, making the man in the gray suit appear as if he were walking straight out of a fire.  He checked the buttons of his jacket, straightened his lapels, and was ready to take a step along the sun-baked street.  From the moment the pawn shop door had opened, he had been aware of a man whose eyes had locked upon him.

“Young man, is there something I can help you with?”  The other man, leaning on one of the few trees on Main Street, said nothing.  His lower lip quivered and his eyes averted from the sunset glancing off the older man’s shoulders.

“No, sir,” said the younger man.

The older man cocked an eyebrow.  “Let me guess.  Maybe twenty-five?”

“Y-yes,” said the younger man, eyes lifting again.  “I was wondering if you could – ”

“Help you get something to eat?”

“Y-yes, sir.”

“And what makes you think I’m the man to ask for help?”

“Well,” the younger man began while studying the older man’s face a little more closely, “Nothing.  Sorry to bother you.”

“Call me Stan,” said the older man.  He put an arm around the younger man and led him away from the sunset.  “What’s your name, son?”

“J-Joe.”  As Joe looked ahead, he could see their shadows stretching over a dozen yards ahead.  The sun, almost gone behind them, cast an orange glow upon the buildings up the street before them.

“Tell me about yourself, Joe,” smiled Stan.  “Tell me what I can do for you, and I will try my best.  But first – why me?”

“To be honest, you just looked like someone who might be a little more well-off than me.  I know lots of people are on hard times.”  Joe’s voice wavered.  “But I know there’s still some good people willing to help out others.”

“Joe,” said Stan, “I just love the name ‘Joe.’  It’s so simple and honest.  It’s like when you talk to someone named Joe, there’s nothing to hide.  But let me warn you, Joe.  There’s a difference between good people and people willing to help.  They’re not always the same people.”

They approached a corner where a boy ruffled through a trash can looking for anything he could either eat or sell.  A car approached from the side.  Joe was ready to stop, but Stan continued and forced the car to sudden halt.

“Take the bankers,” Stan continued.  “Sure, they want to help.  They’ll lend you anything you want, but they’ll expect more than triple in return.  And if you’re not making your payments, you’ll be in the clink.  Am I right, or am I right, Joe?”

“Oh, I know you’re right about that.”

“Of course I am.  But you haven’t answered my question, Joe.  Why me?  You said I looked like someone who would help?  What is it about me that looks like that?  I should know so I can make sure I change it.  I don’t have time for every who is down-on-their-luck, no offense, but I don’t need everyone asking me for help.  I mean, what about me?”  Stan raised his left arm high, his right still around Joe’s shoulders.  “Maybe I need help too?  You saw that man chase me out of his store.”

“Yes, I did.”  Joe noticed that they had walked much further and faster than he would have guessed, and they were approaching the edge of town.  The houses were fewer and the trees taller and thicker.  Ahead was a dirt road that wound into the darkness.

“But don’t change the subject, Joe.  Why me?”

“Well, sir.”

“Stan, please call me Stan.”

“Okay, Stan.  I don’t know how to say it for sure, but you seemed like someone who had an air about you.  Something told me that you seemed like you were someone in charge of something.  I figured you’d be in a good position to spare a dollar or two.”

Joe looked again at the Stan as night was nearly upon them.  Stan’s suit seemed much cleaner and nicer than it had before, even with barely enough light to read a newspaper.

“Well, Joe, I appreciate that you’d look at me as someone who can help.  And because of your honesty, I’ll do what I can.  But I must admit, I’m really not much better off than you are.  I know this suit makes me look better, but it isn’t much more than that.”

Joe’s head grew a little heavy, but he walked on as if a father he hadn’t seen in ten years had come to guide him somewhere.

“For someone down on your luck too,” said Joe, “you sure keep a good air about you.”

“Yes, Joe, I do, and that’s important.”  They stepped on, in and out of trees and into a small clearing.  The half moon was enough to light up the stray clouds that seemed frozen in the early night sky.  “It’s important because people will judge you.  Every day.  They’ll say they don’t judge you, but they do.  They lie.  We all lie sometimes.  You’ve lied, haven’t you?”

“Yes, I have.”  Joe’s legs grew heavy, as if he were walking through snow drifts.  “But are you sure it’s a good idea to go into the woods like this?  There’s lots of people nowadays who are struggling.  I hear they hide in the woods and rob strangers passing by.”

“Oh, no worries about that, Joe.  We’ll be fine.  I know most of those types, and they know me.  They won’t bother us.”

Joe’s steps hesitated for a moment but he continued on, just as Goddard had when Stan had warned him that he would be back again.

“Relax, Joe.  You’re safe with me.  I have a small camp up ahead here.  I’m inviting you to spend the night here, if you wish, unless you have somewhere else to go.”

“I wish I did, but I’d be happy to stay around.  I passed this way last night, but I was lucky I didn’t see anyone.  I mean anyone who might be up to no good.”

“No, not in these woods.  I can promise you that.  These woods are safe.  I’m certain of that.  You stay here as long as you like, son.”

Only a few minutes later they came upon a clearing twenty feet across.  In the center was a ring of stones about the size of bowling balls and half a dozen tree stumps around as if they had been placed like seats for a meeting in the woods.

“Joe, do me a favor, and just feel around out there for some sticks and branches for a good fire.  I have some stuff hidden around here, some flint and steel for making a fire.  I’ll get some dried leaves to get started, but your muscles are better suited than mine for the heavy stuff.  Okay?”

“Will do,” said Joe, and he was off with more energy than the he had all day prior.  When he returned a few minutes later with a hefty branch longer than his own six-foot height, Stan had already begun a small fire.

“Wonderful,” said Stan, rising from one of the tree stumps, “now if you wouldn’t mind breaking that up into smaller pieces, I’ll go get us some dinner.”  Before Joe had a chance to ask, Stan disappeared beyond the ring of trees just faintly lit by the beginnings of the fire.  Only a few minutes later, Stan returned to find the large, hefty limb broken into many smaller chunks.

“Marvelous,” said Stan.  “How’d you manage that?”

“Well,” Joe was still catching his breath, “I put the limb on one of the tree stumps, and I stomped on it one piece at a time.  What do you have there?”  He pointed to a handful of something in each of Stan’s fists.

“Dinner,” said Stan, and he lifted his arms to show two lifeless rabbits.

“How’d you get them?”

“I have traps set.”  Stan pulled a knife from a sack behind one of the tree stumps, leaving Joe to wonder why he hadn’t seen it before.  “Usually, by nightfall, I come back to find something caught.  It has rarely disappointed me.”

Stan pulled another knife from the sack, handed it to Joe, and showed him the proper way to skin an animal.  Roughly two hours later, two men with satisfied stomachs leaned against adjacent trees and picked at their teeth with sharpened sticks.

“There’s a few things I don’t understand,” said Joe.

“I’ll do my best to help you,” Stan smiled.

“Well, if you’re living out here like this, how do you keep your suit looking so good?”

“This old thing?” Stan laughed, then he stood and removed his jacket.  He held it up for Joe to see and smacked it with his broad hand.  Dust flew in all directions, and frayed cuffs and seams showed themselves to Joe, though he couldn’t recall seeing such wear earlier in the day.

“I know what you’re thinking, Joe.  But let’s talk about it in the morning.  Take this,” Stan said while reaching into his sack again.  Joe watched the burlap ruffle up and down as the older man pulled out two dark blankets and tossed one over to the younger man.  “I know you have questions, but let’s get some rest, let our bodies refresh themselves with the help of that rabbit dinner, and we’ll talk in the morning.  Good enough?”

Joe wasn’t fully convinced, but he nodded and said, “I guess so then.”

Each man rolled himself up in a blanket, wriggled a little closer to the fire, and needed only minutes to fall asleep.

 

In the last moments of Joe’s dream, he imagined the woods in which he had been sleeping were on fire.  Branches were falling and leaves crackled as they burned.  He sat up quickly and noticeably sweaty compared to the cool morning.

“Good morning,” called a voice from behind him.  He turned to see Stan’s sharp grin coming from the other side of another campfire.  The man held a frying pan in which eggs sizzled and popped.  “I hope you’re hungry.”

“Of course I’m hungry,” said Joe as his eyes adjusted to the daylight.  “Where did you get eggs out here?”

“Well,” Stan paused, smiled more, “let’s just say I know where there’s a farm nearby.  And that farm has some wonderful chickens.”

“That’s amazing,” said Joe.

“And,” Stan continued, “let’s just say that farm has some very healthy cows too.”  From behind his back, the man in the gray suit produced a bottle of milk.

“Well I’ll be darned,” said the wide-eyed younger man, now sitting up straighter than he had in weeks.  “I knew you were someone to turn to for help.  You just seem to be getting along just fine for someone living in the woods.  But isn’t that stealing?”

“Oh, not at all.  I didn’t take these things, Joe.  They were given to me, scout’s honor they were.”

“That’s a right generous farmer then.”

“Not the farmer, but the farmer’s wife.  She’s the one being generous.  I do favors for her, and she does these kinds of favors for me.”

“Do you think,” Joe paused for a bite of his eggs, “that maybe she’s got some odd jobs that I can do in trade for some food?”

“Sorry Joe, but there’s only so much that can be done.”  Stan served Joe more eggs but didn’t eat any himself.  “And the chores I do for her take a special kind of skill that you might not be able to do.  But let’s just finish up your breakfast because we have some places to go today.”

“We do?  Where?” asked Joe.

“It’s trash day in town.  That means there will be a fresh pile of donations at the dump outside of town, and we’ll have our pick of what we want.”

“Trash picking?” said Joe.  “Never thought I’d ever sink that low.”  He stopped eating.

“Low?” barked Stan.  “Now just a minute.  A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.  If that means a little trash picking in order to feed his family, then that’s what it takes.  You better learn that lesson fast, young Joe.  A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

Joe finished up the rest of his eggs and said, “I guess you’re right, sir.”

“Didn’t I say to call me Stan?” said the older man as he kicked dirt on the campfire.

“Yes,” said the younger man as he did little more than sit, watch, and feel rather helpless.

“Big day today,” said Stan.  “Let’s get going.”

Later in the day, about an hour before sunset, Stan and Joe had created quite an appetite for themselves.  They had spent the bulk of the day strolling up and down the various streets of town poking through trash cans at the curb in front of most houses on the southern side of town.  Each man had a burlap sack in which they’d stash anything that seemed as if it might be worth something.

“Joe,” called Stan from the other side of the street, “time to head back to camp.”

“But there’s still at least two more streets we haven’t visited.”

“It’s getting dark.  We won’t be able to see anything.”

“I can see just fine,” said Joe.

“Time to go.”  Stan turned and headed back towards Main Street.  Joe followed, but not without peeking at each trash can they passed.

“Keep up with me, Joe.”

Joe wanted to keep searching, but he trusted Stan enough to quicken his pace.  Just as the previous night, the two walked side by side as the sunset followed them out of town and into the woods for a campfire and wild rabbit for dinner.

“Say, Joe,” said Stan, “let’s see what we collected today.”  Like two kids pulling gifts from a stocking on Christmas morning, each man showed the other what he had found, random things including glass jars, worn clothing, kitchen utensils, tools, and more. 

Eventually, then sat back and, like the previous night, picked at their teeth with sharpened sticks.  Branches thick with summer leaves and stars in the night sky watched from above as if they knew something was on the horizon.

“Joe,” said Stan, “let me have your sack so I can keep it safe.”  Joe balled it up and tossed it towards Stan who did not catch it but let it land nearby.  When it landed, there was a distinct thump.  “You must have missed something.”

Stan reached into the sack and, with a look of surprise, slowly removed something with edges that reflected the fire light.

“What is that?” asked Joe.

“Why, it looks like,” Stan paused, “yes.  It’s a gun.”  He held it up, turning it over and over, feeling its weight.  “A revolver.  Looks like police issue.”

“Gun?”  Joe sat up from the stump, instantly feeling more of the heat as he leaned closer to the fire.  “I don’t reckon picking that up today.  I’da definitely known had I found something like that.”

“You would think so,” said Stan, “but it was an awful hot day.  Sometimes things just slip by, you know?  Sometimes we can’t give attention to everything.  Sometimes, we just miss things.  Right?”  Stan watched as Joe slowly leaned back against the tree stump again.

“Right,” mumbled Joe.

“Something got you down?” asked Stan.

“Yeah, you might say that.”  Joe’s eyes were growing misty, and it reflected fire light.

“You look sad about something.  Do you want to talk about it?  Get it off your chest?  I’d be happy to listen, maybe offer some advice.”

Tears escaped Joe’s eyes.

“I don’t want to talk about nothing,” said Joe.  “In fact, what I’d really like is to take that gun and just use it on myself!”

Stan’s eyes popped and his mouth twisted.  “Don’t say such things!  That’s a serious call, Joe.  Very serious.  You must be hurting awful bad to say something like that.”  Stan leaned forward from his stump, stood, and sat upon it.

“I’m just not,” Joe began, looked away, then back, “I’m just not a very honorable man.”

“In times like this, none of us are very honorable.  We all make mistakes, but it’s not as if you did something as horrible as use a gun like this against someone.  Right?  Of course not.”

“No,” Joe mumbled, “never a gun.  No.”  He stared into the fire, allowing the flames to dance in his eyes.  Those same flames seemed to reach up and brush against Stan’s face on the other side of the fire.  The waves of heat climbed up from the fire, making Stan appear as if he were underwater.

“You’re thinking about something,” said whispered Stan, “something important.  What are you thinking about, Joe?”

The young man’s eyes might not have blinked for half a minute as he stared back.  His mind wavered between weightlessness and smothered.

“Yes.  I’m thinking about that gun.  I’m thinking about putting it against my head and pulling the trigger.”

Stan leaned closer to the fire.  “Son, those are strong words.  Tell me what’s eating at you.”

“I’d rather not say.  I’d rather just have that gun.”  Joe’s eyes moved from the older man’s eyes to the black, metal object in his hands.  Stan held the gun up higher so it was in line with Joe’s face.

“I know how you’re feeling, Joe.  I’ve done some horrible things too.  I can’t lie.  If most men had done the things I’ve done, there’d be a lot more people taking a gun to their own heads.  I know how you feel.  And to tell you the truth, I’m thinking of doing the same thing.  But there’s only one bullet in here.  Why should I give it to you instead of using it myself?”

“I found it.  It was in my bag.  I have rights to it.  I don’t mean to threaten you, but I want my gun back.”

“Let’s talk about this,” said Stan, almost pleading.

“If I talk about it, I’ll end up fighting you and taking it by force.  I don’t mean any disrespect, but I think I’m strong enough to take it away from you.”

“Yes,” said Stan, “I know that.”  He held the gun in a more useful position.  “But I have it right now, and I doubt you’ll try to take it from me.”

“And if you shoot me, then you’ll just be doing what I would have done anyway.  So go right ahead.”  Joe stood, arms limp at his sides.  “Do me the greatest favor a man can do.  Put me out of my misery, and I’ll be forever grateful.  I’ll be sure to put a good word in for you on the other side.”

Stan smiled.  “That’s not possible, but I appreciate it.  If I were going to shoot you, it would just be in the leg.  Not to kill.  However, I’ll make you a deal.”

Joe sat down again.  “I’m listening.”

“You tell me your story.  If it breaks my heart, then I’ll hand you the gun.  Provided you plan to use it on yourself and not me.”

“That’s a deal, but let me add to it.  If I use it, will you please give me a decent burial?”

“Deal,” said Stan.  “Let me hear your story.”

Joe looked down into the fire and kept his eyes there as he began.

 _________________

I was just a regular guy with a regular job in the town general store.  Mr. Parker, my boss, was a good man and took a liking to me.  He helped me find a home.  He hired me to do work around his house because he had a bad arm and couldn’t lift much.  I would have dinner with his family sometimes.  Went to his church too, and I met a great girl there. 

We got married and had two kids.  Beautiful kids.  Everything was great, and then hard times hit.  First, people started losing their jobs.  Farmers were killing their milk cows just to eat.  The cow’s feed corn became the family’s dinner.  Everyone in town was hurting, but the store was doing okay because people still needed things.

Then things got worse.  People needed things, but they couldn’t afford them.  Mr. Parker, being such a nice man, let people open charge accounts.  He kept records, people promised to pay him back, but he knew they might not.  Still, he allowed it.  Then, he had to make a choice to either let me go and put me on a charge account or keep me on without paying me.  He decided to let me go because he said that a strong, young guy like me can find a job somewhere.  If he kept me on without paying me, it would keep me from finding something else.  I told him that I would be okay if I stayed on, but he felt wrong about it.

I didn’t know how to tell my wife.  It was too embarrassing, and I felt too worthless.  I pretended I was going to work every day, but really I was just wandering around the county.  I was going to abandoned houses, seeing what I could take that might be worth something.  But it wasn’t stealing, not to me, because those folks had up and left their homes to find work somewhere else.

When I would get home, I explained to my wife Mary that Mr. Parker couldn’t pay me with money but was paying me with things from the store.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth, but I knew one day I would have to explain.  I kept putting it off.

Then one of my kids got sick, but I had nothing to pay the doctor.  He made her well, bless his heart because he knew I was stuck, but I told him I would pay him when I got paid the following week.  Had to say that because my wife was right there.  Doctor looked at me a little funny because he probably knew I wasn’t working for Mr. Parker anymore.  But I could tell he knew to just let me talk in front of Mary and the kids.  Good man, that doctor.

The next day, I had an idea.  During the day, instead of wandering, I went to Mr. Parker’s house to speak with his wife.  I was planning to ask her if it was possible to convince her husband to let me do some more work around the house to pay the doctor.  I could build a shed, fix a roof, and all kinds of things around the house.  I was sure there was something I could do. 

I knocked on the door at about ten when I knew Mr. Parker would be at the store, but nobody answered.  I thought it was odd, so I went around the back of the house and knocked there.  I saw his car still in the yard, and I knew he never walked to the store.  Nobody answered when I knocked out back, and I didn’t know what to do.  I stood there and looked out at the pond behind his house.  It was such a beautiful day, the ducks were swimming, and the sun was shining down on everything.  Then I heard a noise inside the house.

It sounded like a scraping, or maybe it was like someone was hitting something, like with a stick.  I don’t remember, but I felt like I had to find out.  I tried the back door.  It was locked, but I pushed it open easily.  Everything downstairs looked just fine, nothing looked wrong, so I went upstairs.  In the first bedroom, I found something awful.  His son, only about ten years old, was on his bed.  His arms were at his side, he was blindfolded, and he had been shot in the head.  In Mr. and Mrs. Parker’s bedroom, his wife was the same way in their bed.

I went into the bathroom, and there was Mr. Parker.  He was in the bathtub.  Whiskey bottle was smashed on the floor.  He had a mark on his head, and I think he tried to shoot himself but didn’t get it right.  I guess he was either already drunk, or he then got drunk.  His right hand was cut, so was his left wrist.  The tub was full of blood.  He must have shot his family and then killed himself.

I said a prayer, and then I was planning on going to the police.  On my way out of the bedroom, I saw a piece of paper on the bed next to his wife.  It said, “I didn’t know what else to do.  I’m sorry.  Please God forgive me.”

I don’t remember leaving the house, but the next thing I remember was being downtown in front of his store.  People were knocking, looking in the windows, and wondering why he wasn’t open.  I knew everyone there, everyone knew everyone in town anyway, and one of the people there was the bank loan manager.  He saw me and waved me over away from everyone else.

He asked me if I had seen Mr. Parker.  I didn’t answer, didn’t want to say yes or no, just wanted to wait him out.  I knew him because he had come to me privately about my bank loan.  I had missed my last two payments, and most people knew that him looking for you was bad news.

He said, “If you see Parker, tell him to come to my office as soon as possible.”

I asked, “What’s it about?”

He said, “You don’t have to ask.”

Then I went home.  I saw my wife and told her that there was a problem at the store and I might be late tonight.  I said that Mr. Parker had a lot of heavy deliveries and lifting to do, and that it might take long.  I told her not to wait up for me.

Then, when everyone had left hanging around the store, I went around back.  I knew where an extra key was hidden, and I went inside.  I kept the lights off and started filling a sack with as much as I could.  Mostly canned foods, things that might keep me going for a while.  I took some camping things, candles, matches, knife, sharpening stone, a few other small things.  Then I said another prayer, for both me and my family.  Prayed to God to forgive me for stealing.  I locked up, and I just started walking.

  _________________ 

Joe lifted his eyes from the fire up to Stan.

“That was about four months ago.  All I’ve done since then was walk.  I don’t even know what state or town I’m in right now.  I think this is Missouri, but I can’t be sure.”

Stan shifted his weight back and then forward, leaning his elbows on his legs.

“Explain something for me,” said Stan as Joe’s eyes fell back down to the fire.  “Why did you leave?”

“I looked up to Mr. Parker.  He was someone I admired very much.  When things got tough for him, he did something horrible.  Things were tough for me too.  I started to worry about myself.  If someone as great as Mr. Parker could feel so hopeless, so scared, that he was too afraid to face his family, then what about me?  How could I be sure I wasn’t going to eventually do the same thing he did?  I left because I was afraid I might hurt my family.  I’d rather leave them, know they’re safe, and hope someone else will step in and take care of them.  I’d rather leave than risk something happens to them.”

Joe looked back up at Stan again.

“You walked out of your family,” said Stan.  “You abandoned them.  You turned your tail and ran instead of being a man and facing your fate.  Is that what you did?”

“I don’t know if that’s what I did, but I won’t deny it if it’s so.  And that’s why I just want to take that gun and do what Mr. Parker tried to do.  But to just do it to myself.”

Joe watched as Stan stood, which made the younger man feel even smaller than he already felt.  Stan moved around to the other side of the fire.  He reached and put a hand on Joe’s shoulder.  When he did, Joe felt something like a spark bite right through his coat.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do, Joe.  I’m going to sleep.  I’m going to put this gun right here on this tree stump next to you.  I’m not going to tell you what to do, not going to tell you what not to do.  You’re a grown man.  You’ve made your own choices in life, and you’re living with them as best you can.  It’s not for me to decide your future.  It’s up to you.  I only ask two things, that you give me your word that you’ll make sure you don’t harm anyone other than yourself.  And that if you’re going to pull that trigger, you make good and sure that I’m asleep before you do it.”

“I give you my word on that,” said Joe.

“I’m going to sleep,” said Stan. 

Joe looked to his left to see the gun.  The barrel was aimed away from him.  It seemed as shiny as a brand new car in a parking lot.  He wasn’t certain how long he had stared at the gun, but by the time he looked up again he saw Stan motionless, wrapped in his blanket with his back to the fire.  Joe found two more chunks of wood and added them to the fire, making sure to keep the area warm for the next hour or two.  Then he sat back down and stared at the fire again.  Flames danced and teased him.  The strips of orange, red, and yellow waved at him, taunted him, licked at him like teasing tongues of heat and hate.  Hate for himself.

After what seemed like only a few minutes, Joe blinked away the dryness in his eyes.  He thought at first the wind might have kicked up and pushed some smoke in his face.  But when he looked at the fire, he saw that the two small logs he had added were nothing but ashes.  To the best he could think, he had been sitting in some kind of trance.  He tried to stand, but his back and legs ached, convincing him that he must have been motionless for as long as it took those chunks of wood to burn down.

He looked to is left again.  The gun was still there.  He looked again into the fire, what remained of it.  He looked at Stan, motionless and still wrapped in a blanket.  He looked again at the gun on the tree stump.

A man in a faded, gray suit entered store on dusty street in town of Heart.  Shortly after the door slammed shut, the man strolled up to the owner of Goddard’s Pawn Shop.  The store owner folded his arms and narrowed his eyes.

Stan smiled.  “Afternoon, Goddard.”

“State your business,” said the older, shorter man.

“You know my business.”

Stan reached into his coat and removed a shiny, black gun and placed it carefully on the glass case that separated him from Goddard.

“Too bad.  Such a nice, young man,” said Stan.  “He said he prayed.”

Goddard looked down at the gun.  He face grew gray.

“Lot’s of people are praying these days.  Now please leave.”

Stan turned on his heels and headed for the door.  Goddard wobbled left and right as he followed Stan to the front of the store. 

It was late in the day, nearly sunset, when a man in a faded, gray suit strolled easily out of a store on dusty street in Heart, Missouri.  Goddard tightened his fists, then relaxed.  “Please.  Go back to where you belong.”

“You haven’t seen the last of me,” he called.  Then he turned and walked away.

The sun was setting at just the right time to ignite the street from one end to the other, making the man in the gray suit appear as if he were walking straight into a fire.


  1. Did I make it clear who Stan and Goddard really are and what their relationship is?
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  2. Did you get a sense of the setting?  Although I tried to keep the language so that it would seem like the 1930’s, kind of a depression era thing, I also want the events to be versatile enough to be present day.
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  3. Originally, Stan’s suit was very crisp, new, and shiny.  Shoes too.  Then I changed it.  I might not have caught all of the changes.  If not, sorry about that.
    .
  4. If you have no idea what I mean by those two questions, then I did not write this well enough at all.

Thanks for reading.

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