close-up of footprint on concrete
Gordon Duffy

Leaning up against railing on a small bridge over a small stream in which there may or may not be fish. Early foggy morning alone in a park though not the first park. The sweater which could be helpful is left folded on a bench back at the first one. Resting his weight upon elbows Jeffers repeatedly thumbs his lower lip with, well, his thumb.

A small park, there are large fake stones carefully placed so that seemingly no children might actually play there, two wood benches with the decorative iron trim, both to his back, and before him a few yards away a stone wall about waist high which marks the demarcation of the park as it edges into the high rise apartment buildings, a division that plainly could not otherwise be seen. Half dozen denuded cherry blossom trees good for about the two weeks yearly. And not another living soul.

The fog during his walking tended into mist which had tended into drizzle which offered in time about three or four actual drops of rain and its effect was to make the morning feel newer, more raw here than at the first park. There was now less light and the air seemed cleaner. Day seemed newer somehow.

Jeffers tumed his right shoulder against a purely fictional breeze as he lit a cigarette wondering vaguely if it were legal to do so. He recalled the two marijuana dispensaries he’d passed in the night and thought to himself that it would be just his luck to get caught smoking the very wrong thing.

The woman was gone now that was for certain, though that was not really the point. Maybe that should be the end of all of them and maybe that would be a good thing, tending as he did to bad decisions there. And this time things had gotten especially complicated.

One elbow slipped and Jeffers hit his chest against the top of the railing and cursed himself for his lack of focus.

In the pocket of the sweater left folded on a bench at the other park was a phone which he’d turned off prior to his meeting with his woman the previous evening. A cell phone simply stuffed by now with urgent pleas screaming for decisions urgent and especially important. The lot of them.

Jeffers had removed the sweater when their table turned out to be by the fireplace. She hadn’t wanted it in a bar because of course she wasn’t drinking. But Jeffers had a couple, in fact Jeffers had more than a few during the course of their meal, which was not Jeffers’ usual manner, so that during the crushing silences in their discussion there was always something to be doing and although his girl, the woman, couldn’t eat, in fact didn’t order a thing, the bill was enormous.

Which had allowed him to say yet again,”You see. It’s not about the money, is it?”

And point again to his wristwatch.

“It’s simply a matter of timing.”

And as he paid the bill with exaggerated pen strokes, “In any event, I will take care of the matter likewise.”

And had not noticed the sound that a small lump in a woman’s throat can make for the swelling of the music in his head.

So as Jeffers loosened his hand from the woman’s and closed the door to the taxi they also would not be sharing, he turned on his heels the opposite way for the walk it seemed so abundantly clear he needed to take. And the cell phone in the pocket of the sweater he put on to brace against the cold stayed turned off. Bulging with decisions to make as it certainly would be, he’d simply had enough of those for the evening.

He continued to walk through that part of the city, skirting the edges of the night life there, with its restaurants and bars and surplus of people. Then on past the very famous building, dim and remote and utterly diffused in its emptiness. Then along the river walk to the edge of the university district as barren at night as full during daylight with doe-eyed girls who simply have no idea…

To the first park, by student family housing, where he’d removed his sweater finally, in the drizzle and folded it neatly on a bench, forgetting, or not, about the telephone in its pocket. He continued with no real purpose along the walkway to the second park, a half mile fuither, a park for a different set of children, their parents, the games they would play.

Truth be told, Jeffers was tired of all the decisions. Decisions just all of the time. Sell short or long? Crude oil or natural gas? What exchange rates on the Euro? Futures or Foreign Exchange, spin the wheel, what is the game we are playing today? Decisions, decisions, all of the time. Up and down ten fifteen thirty thousand daily. Hourly sometimes. Spin the wheel, throw a pin. Pin the tail on the donkey. New York or the Canadian dollar, which one to win?

Oh let the donkey put the pin on the wall for a change!

And then that business with the woman on top of it. Maybe he’d simply gotten tired of the playing, all of those decisions all of the time. Somewhere in his walk, around the very famous building in fact, the idea had descended on him that going faster all the time might not be the answer. The night wouldn’t hold. Daylight comes and with it come people and complications. Demands and decisions. Then daylight itself would give way, the whole thing over and over. It was a cycle that could not be outrun. The very famous building so very deflated.

Jeffers knew he was too tired right then for that kind of thinking. Focus was fleeting,making light of Jeffers’ long held belief that clarity was a decision also.

He now relaxes the tension in his arms and his ribcage presses up against the railing on the bridge. His eyes close and he allows himself to imagine the feel of the cold rushing water on his face were he to take a drink.

Exhaling he realizes he is no longer alone.

There is a small boy on the bridge standing next to him, eyes looking upward to Jeffers’. Bed head and sleep on one cheek and freckles on the bridge of his nose much like Jeffers own-wants nothing so much in the world as to know whether there are any fish in there.

Jeffers stands there looking at the boy and not moving. Startled. Can not answer, his thinking betrayed by not one word. Cigarette falls from his fingers to the water.

Absently his hand gestures for his cell phone as if to correct himself with a phone call.

His foot slips and he takes a step back almost stumbling onto one knee. And when he looks up again the boy is nowhere to be seen.

A thought takes a moment to occur to Jeffers.

In truth, he has never really liked children. Snot on the cheek, cheerios on the floor forever, crayon ground into carpeting, disorder just every place. Jeffers exhales. Never liked them. Jeffers relaxes. Remembers wherethe phone actually is.

Smiling to no living thing, thinking that some things do happen for a reason. And just like that he elects to leave at least that one decision be. He’d stumbled for the moment in the presence of the boy but now that was over.

Cigarette safely lit Jeffers leans against the railing once more and begins to wonder how he ever gets home from here. Thinking about unemployment reports and the Dow Jones. Does not bother himself about the child.