“Hello, Maddy,” Cy said after clearing his throat. He gripped the carnations in his hands, then rolled the stems through his fingers. Several petals fell slowly to the ground.

“You picked a beautiful day,” Maddy replied.

His gaze dropped to the surrounding trees, still leafless but covered with buds. “For a spring day, not too bad.”

She chuckled. “I know how you hate tree pollen.”

“Don’t forget grass,” Cy said, rubbing his nose. Already he could feel the annoying tickle of freshly mown grass in his sinuses. It was better when everything was still dormant.

“I always loved spring,” Maddy said with a sigh.

True. “Last time I was here, snow was still on the ground.”

“Like a blanket.” She paused before continuing. “How long ago was that?”

That was, what, three or four weeks ago? Funny, they used to meet weekly – like clockwork, but now, not so much. Was that a bad thing? Hard to tell. He paused to consider what had changed since then. “Guess I should bring you up to date.”

A few more petals fell and stuck to his black pants. A swift swipe with the back of his hands sent them off to the ground. Where was he? Oh yes. “The bar is doing fine – at least until Roger started dipping his hand in the till. Thankfully the idiot was as stupid as he was dishonest. Made it easy to can his ass.”

“I never liked him. Always looked shifty to me.”

“It ain’t easy to get minimum wage help to be more than they usually are – two-time losers.”

“Pay more then.”

Cy let go of a sigh. Money was tight – not as it had been last year. Things are also less complicated in many ways, for better and for worse. “Yeah, I suppose I should. Maybe next time.”

“Life is short. What are you waiting for?”

He gritted his teeth. “I don’t know how to answer that.”

“It’s okay. You’ll find a way. You always do.”

“Yeah, but you usually kept me moving, even when I didn’t want to.”

“Well, not lately.”

“Don’t say that.”

“It’s true, and you know it.”

He twirled the flower stems again. He didn’t like where this was heading. Time to change the subject. “I heard from Elijah the other day. He’s doing well, all things considered.”

“How’s Maria and their son Jonathan?”

“Oh, I saw Maria the other day. She’s got a new job.”

“What about Jonathan?”

Cy shrugged and scratched his chin. “Don’t know, never met the boy.”

“Must be hard for them with Elijah in jail. I made their lives miserable.”

A lump appeared in his throat. “Don’t say that. Elijah knew what he was doing.”

“Even so, it’s a choice he shouldn’t have made.”

“You were in pain.”

“I never meant for Elijah’s family to pay the price. It wasn’t fair or right that they did.”

Cy wanted to list the reasons, the pain etched on her face, the insurance company’s denial of coverage, and the extreme cost of the medicine. All valid reasons in his mind, but not hers. “I asked him too.”

“You shouldn’t have. It wasn’t worth it.”

He wanted to argue the point but found little strength for it. How much did they gain? Six months maybe, before the pills ran out and the means to get them. “I had to try.”

“I know, honey.”

“I love you, baby. Never forget that.”

“Always. I love you too.”

He stared hard at the headstone. Reaching out, he laid what remained of the flowers on it. After climbing to his feet, he wandered amongst the graves toward where his car sat parked under a tree.

At the opening in the fence surrounding the graveyard, a breeze slipped past him, sending a chill through his black windbreaker. He glanced back over his shoulder. The flowers lay scattered on the grass, where the wind has tossed them.

He fought the urge to go back. Suppose it didn’t matter. They were dead anyway.


After leaving The Iron Horse, Jonathan jogged along the railroad tracks, trying to get home before dark and to reach the crossing before the approaching freight did. A quick glance over his shoulder confirmed he wasn’t going to make it. A break in the fence loomed to his right, and he darted through, kicking up gravel behind him until reaching a narrow-paved side street. The long train rumble past, now blocking the most direct path home. Still, the freight should have cleared the tracks by the time he could detour to another crossing. But first, he had to navigate wherever he was. He slowed to a walk. Surrounded by ramshackle homes, many squatting mournfully behind overgrown lawns, he tried to orient himself. In the past two months he’d lived in Jamesville, he hadn’t seen this part of town. But somewhere ahead was Academy Street, which would carry him back toward the North Street crossing and past the backside of the trailer park.

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How it rolls in the boys’ club

Paul stared out his living room window at sunset. “How beautiful.” Anne always enjoyed the pastel colors of the clouds at this time of day. He glanced at her framed picture on the table, and once again, a twinge of pain and longing pulled at him. Had it really been a year since she’d passed away? Yes, I suppose so.

His chest tightened at the recollection of it. Totally unexpected. Went to bed and never woke up. Cerebral hemorrhage. Probably a peaceful way to go, but still . . .

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