Welcome back to Member Monday. It’s a pleasure to welcome my friend and new Writers Forum member, Aaron Steinmetz.
Author’s Note: Aaron Steinmetz is the ‘word-renowned’ author of Sleepy P.I., a quirky comedy about a private investigator who doesn’t sleep until he closes his case. He is currently working on several more books, including a follow-up to Sleepy P.I. due out in November, and a comedy about a cat with homicidal tendencies. With any luck, his cat will let him live long enough to see these things through.
The Accidental Vigil
Short Fiction by Aaron Steinmetz
I tried to pick the lock with a credit card but it didn’t work. At least not like it works in the movies. Figure the movies are bogus or the door-making industry figured out a way around that old trick. Either way, I won’t be using that credit card again.
So I was stuck. I’d done it again, locked myself out of my apartment. And this time Karen wasn’t around to bail me out. What’s a grown man to do when he has no one to call? He can only sit on the front step and watch the birds eat leftovers from some discarded fast food bag, or the sun as it disappears behind the tree-covered mountains for an early sunset, or the homeless guy who mutters obscenities in his sleep.
There’s always so much to watch, so much to see going on at any moment of the day, and it was so engrossing. You know, I almost didn’t mind sitting there leaning my back against the front door of my apartment.
Mine is a simple complex: the parking lot for it is square, and the light blue buildings surrounding it rise only two stories. There’s covered parking spots for the tenants and a few more uncovered spots thrown in for good measure. There are trees all around the complex, sometimes green, sometimes brown, sometimes naked in the cold mountain winters. It’s a quiet complex, and I was fortunate to lock myself out in August when it’s warm by night and scorching by day. And the sun had set. So I dozed off.
When I woke up, I was still leaning against the front door, and what little activity I’d observed the previous day was gone. It was replaced by a neighbor boy practicing his juggling and his kid sister watching him learn. He was so engrossing I didn’t even mind my numb bottom.
After he and his sister went back inside there came a bevy of birds, probably migratory, arriving late or leaving early. They landed in the giant oak tree near the entrance to the apartment complex. Each one seemed to have its own idea about where to perch and each one had no problem voicing its opinion. I laughed out loud at their screeching noises.
Before I knew it, it was evening again. And the stars were out in amazing splendor. And I think I saw a shooting star though it may have just been a dream. Don’t really remember because I woke up the next morning a bit sore. That’s when Catherine found me. She’s an older lady who lives in section ‘A’ across the parking lot. She said she’d seen me sitting here quite a bit and wondered if everything was okay. I told her everything was grand. I’d completely forgotten about the locked door.
She still seemed worried, so she asked me if I’d had any food or water recently. To be honest I hadn’t even thought about it. She brought me some leftovers and a few bottles of water. They lasted me through sunset, that glorious evening show and the follow-up sunrise the next morning. It was pure bliss. I had even forgotten about Karen.
I’ve lost track of how many days went by. Sorry. Never was good at counting. That was Karen’s thing; I was just the janitor. And I forgot about my job too. Didn’t know I lost it ‘til Jimbo came by to check on me, see what was wrong and all. I didn’t mind all that much losing my job because the juggler was back out and he was getting better. He even had the two-in-one-hand thing going. Jimbo wanted to know how I was taking Karen leaving me. I told him the juggler was getting better.
Jimbo must have thought so too because he showed up a little later with some food and joined me for that night’s sunset. We chatted a bit but he wasn’t the least bit interested in the splendor around us. He kept wanting to talk about Karen and how I was doing, completely irrelevant stuff about feelings and reactions and moving on. I don’t remember everything. The stars were back and they were fantastic!
Karen showed up mid-morning the next day and told me what I was doing was childish and stupid, that no dumb vigil would bring her back. I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about. I didn’t really care, though. A vulture was circling around overhead and I was trying to figure out what it was watching. I think it was a squirrel, because he seemed to be over the park where a lot of people feed the squirrels so their population has increased to record numbers, though I’m not too sure about that. He could have been examining road kill or rodents or anything really.
Karen said a very bad word and left.
Catherine kept me fed and watered. I don’t understand why she was so worried. I was enjoying the outdoors so much. I’d never been happier. Between the birds in the air and the people in the complex and the stars at night and the sounds and smells and warm atmosphere of the outdoor complex I really wondered why I even had an apartment.
Some more time went by. Don’t know how, but a news crew found out that I was sitting there. Jennifer Waters herself interviewed me! She called it some kind of human relations story thing. Don’t know what she meant by that. Catherine said they ran the story that night on the news, and apparently a lot of people found out how great nature is at my complex because a whole bunch came out to hang out with me. Some of them held signs that read, “Come back, Karen” for some reason. Guess they were friends of hers who wanted her to enjoy the scenery. Doesn’t really matter. The juggler was teaching his sister the two-hand thing.
More people showed up to watch the world around us and they started inviting other friends. One guy held a sign that read, “Take me Back, Becky” and another held one that read “I’ll Stand with the Parking Lot Patron.” Don’t know who the Parking Lot Patron was. Probably the juggler. Some folks brought a barbecue and we all ate well. They even brought me my food so I wouldn’t have to get up. Good thing, too, because I’d lost all feeling in my legs.
Someone must have called her because Karen showed up again and she had this worried look. I wanted to get up and greet her, tell her about the cloud that looked like a giant abalone and the worms that crossed the sidewalk that got cooked in the sun and the ants that came to clean them up. I wanted to show her the bee that had pollinated the flowers next to me but my legs wouldn’t work. She helped me, though. Karen was always good at helping me out. She had a key to my apartment. Karen helped me inside, told me she wouldn’t leave me again.
And for some reason, everyone outside cheered.
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