short story

the dreamers | short story #2

Here's the thing about dreamers: they aren't always the obvious ones. People like Antonio, who worked in the restaurant for as long as he could remember, his knuckles large from the arthritis that always came at the most inopportune times.

He'd had a dream once.

It was one of a better life: a family and a more fulfilling job and a snug house in a neighborhood of trees ripe with secrets. But he got caught in the grinding machine of life, and one day he woke up and discovered wrinkles etched deep in his weathered face and bones that ached more than usual. And the sad truth was that he'd turned old, too old to pursue the dream he'd built for so long.

Antonio wasn't the only one with a dream he didn't pursue: the man trapped in his office from nine to five every day, doing the same pointless work he did the day before; the tired-looking woman standing behind the cash register at the grocery down the street, scanning the milk, the vegetables, and finally the eggs; the girl with one too many kids than she'd bargained for at this age and a house on 2nd Street overdue for a cleaning the past three years. It was in the lives of these people that dreams were most alive. They were the dreamers, the hopers, the wishers; they all wanted something better.

Chase your dreams, they always said. But there is something you have to understand about dreams: when they are in their rawest form--just dreams--they are free to grow and morph and open imaginary doors. Chasing them in an attempt to make the dreams come to life, though, is a herculean risk. While the dreams are still kept alive in a mind, there is hope. But when the dreams attempt to come to fruition, there is the nagging thought: what if the real-life version isn't as wonderful as the dream? Sometimes it's just as wonderful, or even more so. But if it's not, hope is gone until a new dream forms (easier said than done), and living without hope is the start of a long, slow, painful suicide.

In leaving dreams as dreams, there is hope in what could have been or what could be. And sometimes...sometimes hope is the only thing that carries a man like Antonio out of bed each morning.

jack and his girl | short story #1

photograph by Nina Leen, 1947
When old Mr. Swanson died, there was a letter. Hidden in the crevice of a forgotten drawer, it was brittle with age and the flap of its yellowed envelope was unopened.

Mr. Swanson was a man who kept to himself. It's not that he wasn't liked by the other residents of Huntsboro, but he was a private man. Out of his mouth came only what needed to be said and nothing more. His home was always tidy and he lived alone--but it hadn't always been that way.

You see, when he was young, Mr. Swanson was not "Mr. Swanson," but just Jack. There was a girl, too, his practically betrothed. Of course, Jack hadn't exactly asked her to marry him yet, but everyone knew they were meant for each other. After all, in the summer of 1957, there was still time to be young and free and merry. Still, everyone treated them as a married couple, even if Jack wasn't quite ready to commit yet. 1957 slipped into 1958 and still it was just Jack and his girl. But then...

November 28th, 1958. A fight on a cold night. A screen door splintered from being slammed. Two shattered hearts from words screamed.

It was no longer Jack and his girl after that night. She was gone--where, nobody knew--and Jack became Mr. Swanson, a man that kept his words close and feelings closer. When he died, the church pews were packed full of people wishing their last respects. After the service, there was the obligatory sympathetic twittering from the little groups of women, while their husbands stood with their hats in their hands, necks stiff against starched suit collars, and looked longingly towards the exit.

It was fitting that Mr. Swanson passed from this world to the next in the house he'd shared with his girl, back when he knew the touch of love. They said he'd never stopped loving his girl, and it was true. In his heart, his name was still Jack and his girl was still with him. Mr. Swanson died with words of regret on his breath, but it didn't have to be that way. When he died, there was one thing he didn't know about: the letter.

"November 29th, 1958
I still love you. Ask me to stay.
Love,
Your Girl
PS I'm sorry about the fight last night."

It was unopened.
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Story number one in the beginning of a voyage into the realm of short stories.