A journal of narrative writing.
Bait or Flight
by Amee Schmidt

* * *

“Well, I suppose that’s it,” Crandal says as he pounds the cap back on to the paint can. “Sue’ll be here soon, and I suppose you’ll want to pack up.”

“Thanks,” Roger says, “for everything.”

Crandal nods and goes up to the house. Roger gathers up the scrapers, pulls the paint thinner off a shelf in the barn, and washes the paint out of the brushes when he sees Sue’s red pickup pull in the driveway. She waves her hand out the window and hollers for Roger. He walks over to the truck, and she hands him a basket. The rich scent of roasted chicken and rosemary fill his nostrils, and Roger says thanks.

“I only had time for two birds and a dozen biscuits. My daughter-in-law is in labor, so I gotta go,” she says.

“Good luck.” He realizes instantly how awkward that phrase is for the situation.

Sue laughs. “You’re the one who needs the luck.”

“Yeah, thanks. Me, too.”

“You were good for him, you know,” Sue says as she leans out to kiss Roger’s cheek. Roger waves as Sue backs out of the driveway, and he wonders what it would have been like to have a mother like her.

The sky is bright pink and sinking into the horizon as Roger makes his way to the house. He gathers his soap, shaving cream, razor and toothbrush from the bathroom, packs his change of clothes that Crandal washed yesterday and folded neatly on the arm of the couch, and lays his stack of maps and schedules on top of his brown bag.

“I guess that’s it,” Roger says, wondering what to say to the man who saved his life. There just aren’t words enough, he thinks.

“Well, get to it,” Crandal says, ushering Roger toward the door. The two walk in the dusky light, and Roger notices a faint star off to the east. After loading the truck, they fasten the latches, and Roger starts to speak, “I really…”

“Yup,” Crandal answers, and shakes Roger’s hand.

“Yup.” He’s scared to leave. He’s felt so safe for the last week, and he’s not sure how to find that feeling again. Besides Crandal and Sue, Roger doesn’t have any friends, and he worries that he won’t ever again. He can’t be safe here for much longer, though. Joe has come looking. He won’t stop.

Crandal gives Roger a final pat on the arm, and then walks up to the porch where he waves as Roger backs the truck out of driveway. Roger drives away from the house, away from the setting sun, resolved to make himself into something stronger.