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
A Short Story by: Dustin Brackbill and Ryan S. Graybill
The destructive noises were coming from a place of anger. Not just within the storage unit, but also within a man whose battle with anger had led to many harmful things beyond normal manners and behaviors. The irrational, lashing out at random objects - the unfortunate tools needed to release his outbursts - had become routine.
In truth, his anger was not in its infancy stage. The feeling was becoming much more familiar - embraced even - in the last few years of his life. There were certainly reasons, mostly justified, but not shared with anyone. A solo burden which had squashed out uplifting things such as friendship and joy. Dwayne knew those feelings, but it was anger that was controlling him.
As with many things, the negative feeling started as a drop in a bucket and steadily dripped from his gray cloud until it was overflowing. As a sick child he missed many events that other youth took for granted: trick-or-treating, field trips, and even bike rides. Then, just as Dwayne reached a healthy physical state, his parents’ divorce and the loss of dear friends left him struggling with emotional distress. When a mental breakdown from all these events haunted him, he no longer could count his bucket as half full. Optimism was fading, and Dwayne knew he had maybe one chance to get it back. But the odds were against him (as they often were), and it had already taken time and effort which he couldn’t get back.
“If I knew where that stupid thing was, I could get out of this dump.” Dwayne muttered more, and then kicked another box in frustration. Ashlyn watched in awe from behind him. Then she made a move that only a true former friend might make.
“Do you need a hand, sir?!”
Dwayne Forrester reeled around and almost fell into the pile of junk behind him. He eyed up the young lady in front of him like she was either going to be a nuisance or his next target. For the moment, he chose to be dismissive.
“Go away. This is none of your business, and I don’t want what you are selling!” He turned around and hoped that was the end of that. Ashlyn, however, had things to say which could be considered a release of her own frustration.
“Well, yes sir. I will go. But I am not sure exactly where. See, there is a lonely boy over there who is getting ready to run off with me, but he is afraid of you. And there was another boy and girl who sat by that tree over there until they heard loud noises from here. Well, I hope they all found safe places to hide, but the place that I would hide doesn’t seem to be mine anymore, even though I lived there a lifetime ago. Now it belongs to some grumpy old taxi driver who is my only ticket out of this mess, except that again, I don’t know where to go next!” Ashlyn finally exhaled and realized that she had been getting progressively louder and more frantic as she spoke about her situation.
Dwayne exhaled too. This girl had just given him the diversion and change that he needed. Rummaging had proven to be counterproductive. He faced her again. “Alright then. Let’s go. My cab is around the side. And then you can explain why we share a house.”
“Wait, what?!!” Ashlyn exclaimed, “Do you mean that you are the ride that Anvah mentioned, and that you live in the house with the attic above all the rest?”
”Yeah, that’s me.” The man, in a subdued manner, extended his hand. “Dwayne Forrester.”
Accepting the handshake, Ashlyn felt another loud and clear memory come to her. In this case, it was one that she just re-lived. “You and I just wrote our names on that tree!!”
Regretting the handshake, Dwayne’s conquered anger now resurfaced with added disbelief. He growled, “Listen, miss, I think you are officially a lunatic. There can be no possible way. The only boy who wrote on that tree was me thirty years ago, and I have no doubt about that. I had just gotten a clean bill of health from the doctor, only to find out that my best friend was moving out of town. And she isn’t you for a lot of reasons, especially ‘cause her name is...”
“Ashlyn Sojourn.” There was a strange certainty in her eyes now, as she watched Dwayne’s face. “I remember that we were scared of your father, who was coming home jobless and drunk. We ran… and that was the last time I saw you. Well, until today.” Then she said to herself, “Several times today, in fact.”
Dwayne was exhausted. Now that the anger had let go and moved on, other emotions surged forward and filled the void. Sympathy, pain, sadness, happiness, and even relief all mixed together and came out in a single tear rolling down his cheek.
“I needed to find a cross. It belonged to that girl… I mean, you.” There was such disbelief and relief in his eyes as he realized his quest was no longer a solo mission. “I think it’s my ticket out of here. It was my best hope, until now. Can… can you help me?”
“More than you know,” she said, “let’s go home!”