By: John Sheirer
Delia hadn’t pole vaulted since high school, forty-six years ago. But now and random then, she climbed the air in dreams, toes grasping upward, sun highlighting her gooseflesh legs. Her dream slowed each time just beyond the bar, muscles tense, vision locked on sky as she dangled above her future. Would she clear? Would she raise her fists in celebration? Would she plummet to victory? What really happened on that last vault decades ago at the state championships? Each time, she woke when her heel clipped the bar. The fall back into sleep was sometimes deep, but, more often, elusive.
WWII had been over for two decades when young Asher Zwiebel stepped onto the ivy-draped campus for his freshman year. His second class was Introductory Psychology. At the exact hour, Professor Dietrich Huber checked his watch, closed the classroom door, and leaned the trash can against it. When a tardy student tried to enter a moment later, the trash scattered across his shoes, sent him scurrying away. Asher didn’t join his classmates’ laughter. His first class that day had been Recent European History. Asher read ahead in the textbook and found Professor Huber hiding in a footnote in chapter thirteen.
Stuart took a break from the customer-satisfaction seminar and saw someone staring into an under-construction restroom.
“Dude,” the guy said to Stuart. “Come look at this.”
Stuart stopped beside him and looked into the room. A few useless pipe stumps stuck out of the walls in the empty room.
“Tell me,” the guy said. “Were there toilets in here?”
“Yes,” Stuart answered. “The restrooms are being renovated.”
“Cool!” the guy replied with a relieved smile. “I was sure there were toilets in here before. Thanks, dude!”
“You’re welcome,” Stuart said, then returned to the seminar, happy for another satisfied customer.
Dimming the Lights
Married friends set them up for a late afternoon blind date, but things turned sour quickly. The problem was pessimism.
“I bike,” was met with, “I broke my hip biking.”
“These glazed pecans add sweetness to the salad,” prompted, “Fat and calories too.”
Soon, neither said much. The restaurant lights dimmed at five, the transition between lunch and dinner.
“I feel like I just had a stroke.” She nodded at the diminished lighting, her first words in ten minutes.
“Someday,” he replied, “all the lights will dim because we’ll start dying.”
The waiter withheld dessert menus, an act of mercy.
They appreciated each other’s photos, of course, but their words were the main attraction. Aaron was captivated by the way Jenna’s profile paragraph seemed to capture the same life priorities he held dear, and Jenna adored Aaron’s light, flirty tone. Beset with busy schedules, they corresponded for two weeks before meeting face-to-face. Aaron stayed up late composing rambling notes about life and longing. Jenna responded early each morning with organized essays exploring her deepest thoughts. At the end of their first date, filled with unexpected awkward silences, they shook hands. “We were better in writing,” Jenna said. Aaron couldn’t disagree.
John Sheirer lives in Western Massachusetts, USA, and is in his 30th year of teaching at Asnuntuck Community College in Northern Connecticut, USA, where he edits Freshwater Literary Journal (submission welcome). His work has appeared recently in Wilderness House Literary Review, Meat for Tea, Poppy Road Review, Synkroniciti, Otherwise Engaged, 10 By 10 Flash Fiction, The Journal of Radical Wonder, Scribes*MICRO*Fiction, and Goldenrod Review. His latest book is Stumbling Through Adulthood: Linked Stories.