Crossings and Stepping Stones is a short story I co-authored with Dustin Brackbill. This is our second completed story. Our first one, Crumbs of Curiosity, started with a simple prompt. I began the story while he finished it. We alternated turns in between. The rules were simple: no discussion of the story whatsoever. This was difficult and fun and it certainly stretched our creative writing muscles. With Crossings and Stepping Stones, we again alternated turns this time with Dustin beginning with an original prompt and the first part which left me with the job of finishing it. With this particular story we did have several conversations and as you read you'll see why that may have been a wise choice. Still stretching our creativity, we are very pleased with this story and we thank you for reading and sharing our dream...(speaking of sharing, please share on Facebook).
Crossings and Stepping Stones
A Short Story by: Dustin Brackbill and Ryan S. Graybill
Ashlyn avoided the question, making Anvay a bit uneasy. “So, we all know each other. Right?”
“Yes.” Anvay responded, his frustration more transparent.
“But not necessarily as adults.” This caught Dwayne’s attention. So much so, that he felt inclined to step even closer to his present company. Ashlyn continued. “I knew I recognized that smile. As soon as you stepped out of that car I knew it. It lost itself to arrogance and perhaps greed, but I remembered it. It was a smile that lit the room.”
Anvay listened more intently as she went on, seemingly enlightened by the story she was unfolding. He felt strange, or rather, the memory felt strange, disconnected. His eyes became wide and tears almost fell. All of the sudden, he knew. He knew why he was being overcome with emotion and awkwardness. It was a real memory. A memory from his very own life – before everything happened. Reaching out his hand, he almost touched Ashlyn’s arm. Not to harm her, but to link the connection that was being revealed. Stopping short, he realized what only a small touch could and would do. He retracted his hand and kept listening.
Ashlyn smiled. “You were one of my best students.” She laughed through her nose at the memory. “I was your teacher.” Caught up in flooding memory, she paused. Dwayne and Anvay continued their stare. “You were new that year. It was November and unlike most other new kids, you won over the class. It was your charm. It drew people in. The strange thing is…my memories are out of order after that.”
“And?” Dwayne insisted she explain.
“The things I remember happening in my life after that…”
“Yes?” Dwayne persisted.
“I was younger.”
“What do you mean?!”
“When you look back on your life, you know their order. Someone knows they played varsity soccer after field day in third grade. My memories aren’t like that. The chronology of everything that I’m starting to remember is out of order. The next memory I have I was younger, but I’m certain it happened after,” she looked at Anvay, “being your teacher.”
Dwayne furrowed his brow. “Maybe you were around the same age as you were when you were a teacher. You know how things that happened close to each other can be easily confused? Like if they’re marked by a significant moment.
Ashlyn stared out into the empty intersection.
“Are you sure they’re out of order?”
“Yes. Because when I look back I go from being a teacher to living on Glacier Street.”
“How old were you?”
“Eight.” She was caught in more detail of the specific memory. “We had a park nearby, Nickel Mine Park…” Dwayne’s eyes widened again. “There was this huge tree there…”
“We wrote our names on it,” Dwayne interjected. Ashlyn jerked her head towards him. Eyes big. Heart elevating. “You didn’t have a knife. I didn’t have one either, but you had a…”
“…a permanent marker.”
“We didn’t carve our names, but we wrote them with a Sharpie.” Dwayne showed for the first time he was capable of smiling.
“We were best friends.” Ashlyn and Dwayne looked at each other. Feeling emotional due to the memory, they stepped towards one another and were going to hug.
Ashlyn and Dwayne froze and looked at Anvay.
“You don’t want to do that. A touch, of any kind, could send us away.”
“Isn’t that what we want?” Dwayne inquired.
“It’s not that simple. It will send us away, but like you said before, Ashlyn, the chronology of everything is screwed up. We don’t know when we’ll end up.” He turned around, put his fists on his hips and stared at each corner of the intersection that lay in front of them.
Ashlyn spoke. “What is it? What are you thinking?”
“Don’t ask me how I know this, because the truth of the matter is that I don’t know this. I only feel it.” Anvay turned back around. “We need to touch.”
“What?” Dwayne asked quickly and slightly frightened.
“No, remember, a touch could send us away. If that happens, we need to find each other. No matter when we are in our lives, we need to find each other.”
“I hate to be the pessimist here,” Dwayne said, “but how in God’s good name are we supposed to do that?! It’s a big world out there. There’s no way of knowing when or where we’ll end up.”
Anvay responded. “We need to have a place in mind where we can…”
“Glacier Street,” Ashlyn declared.
“Exactly!” Anvay agreed. “We know the both of you will be there and if you grow up to be a teacher there’s a possibility you teach nearby, which means eventually I will show up in the picture.”
Dwayne thought out loud, “Ignoring the fact that seems a bit too easy, let’s say that all works out. Does it make things better if we’re all different ages? There’s a vast amount of time and events and occurrences that happen between all of us. I know, I’m not making any sense…it just seems like whatever we’re to do, we need to be the same age.”
“I don’t think it’s about age. I think it’s about meeting each other. We are here because of our choices, correct?” Anvay asked.
“I didn’t choose to be here.”
“Right, Dwayne, but our choices led us here one way or another. It seems to me, we need to find each other and keep each other on the right path.”
“If we do that,” Ashlyn chimed in, “then we don’t get blindfolded and stripped of our devices?”
“I don’t know. But we have to do something. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” Ashlyn said more confidently than Dwayne.
“So what happens when we get to Glacier Street?”
Anvay looked at his future teacher of long ago and then looked at Dwayne. “We wait for each other.”
Ashlyn looked out into the direction of the mountains and made a decision. Pointing in the opposite direction of the majestic ridges she said, “We need to go that way.”
“How do you know?”
“Because Glacier Street is nowhere near mountains. We need to find civilization and when we touch…well, we can only hope somehow we remember this conversation. Everybody okay with that?”