Short Fiction – “A Man Alone”

The moon shone through the leafless branches of the trees lining the path through the park. The layer of decaying leaves muffled his footsteps as he strode slowly up the gentle incline, sweeping round the edge of the park.

It was early, barely five, and the city streets had not yet begun to sing their morning song. Even the robins were barely awake, only the occasional cheep breaking the silent reverie of his morning.

He pushed his hands deeper into the pockets of his jacket against the chill. The snow would come soon, but not yet. He would enjoy a few more mornings before Winter asserted itself, driving the last vestiges of Fall from the land.

A flash of brown, and a squirrel—even now working to shore up his winter cache—scrambled up a tree to his left, the skitter of claw on bark as he ascended as loud as a chainsaw in the stillness. It circled the trunk and did not reappear, having found its nest.

He wondered if there was a little family there, waiting, preparing to endure the winter.

As he reached the far end of the park, a mile distant, the sound of a truck rumbling down the road grew, pushing back the silence as the sun began to push back the darkness on the horizon. The world was awake now, his solitude broken, as he crossed the street and entered his favorite coffee-shop.

A few minutes later, he left, a steaming concoction warming his hands, the smell reminding him of other mornings, not so distant, when it was two cups he held on the short walk home.

He took the three steps up to the door slowly, not just because of the stiffness in his knees.

He opened the door—he hadn’t bothered to lock it—and set the coffee on the table just inside. He hung his jacket on one of the hooks, all the others empty now, and picked up the cup again. Moving into the dining room, he pulled out his chair and sat down, blowing on the cup to cool it, though he no longer needed to.

Taking a sip, he looked around at the remnants of his life: sixty years of things, though none of it held his interest, now. He sipped again, and moved his gaze to the window. The sun was almost fully up, now, and a lone bird streaked across his vision against the blue-gray sky.

He sipped, not noticing the dampness on his cheeks.

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