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.
Crossings and Stepping Stones
A Short Story written by: Dustin Brackbill and Ryan S. Graybill
“No waiting, darlin’.”
It being a woman’s voice caught Ashlyn off guard - which adequately portrayed the aggregated events leading up to this particular moment.
“And, seriously, you’ll see ‘what’...soon enough.”
With that unconventional exchange, the taxi burned rubber and left the helpless and mostly hopeless young woman stranded by the side of the road. Fortunately for her, the road was not busy. Hardly any traffic had come by the intersection, so she was not in danger from getting run over. On the flip side, she was now alone. Without a cellphone. Or wi-fi device. Ashlyn did not do alone very well, so the panic of that thought was now creeping in.
She also lacked the abilities of direction and decision. As with many in her generation, technology was in charge of the thinking and planning, she merely followed and dutifully reported back on social media. Without her cell phone, Ashlyn shouted out into the world her current status: “This sucks, this sucks! This SUCKS!” She repeated in an increasingly bewildered state. She reached for some pebbles on the street and threw them in frustration. Choosing her next step would not be a happy or easy process.
Fortunately, ...or not, after some time had passed, a large tractor trailer cab chugged slowly down the street. The reflection from the hot mid-day sun on the well polished surface of the truck gave a blinding glare to Ashlyn’s view, but she was optimistic for a rescue. Instead, she got a companion.
“Really?! Here? Come On!”
“Here and now buddy. Good luck and GET OUT!”
The middle aged black man hesitantly stepped down from the truck, a bit upset, surprised and depressed at his new surroundings. The truck pulled away slowly with some exhaust from its stack and a very loud honk for good measure. It was strangely both ominous and cheerful when the driver waved out the window.
“Now what?!” exclaimed Dwayne. It was a comment as much to himself as to the girl or to God above. He stared across the intersection at Ashlyn, who he noticed was unwilling to make eye contact with him and seemed desperate for the truck to return. With no stores around, no homes or signs of help, he was starting to feel some of her concern. But he was a practical man given to thoughtful work and effort, so no moping or fretting would avail to any good at this point.
“Hey, you, umm, do you have a cell phone?” Ashlyn half-heartedly yelled across the street.
“Nope. I was asked to leave it behind. Seems like I should have thought that through,” replied Dwayne. He wondered about crossing the street, yet wanted to wait until the girl was feeling safe enough so he wouldn’t need to worry that calling the cops on him would be her first priority - if she had a phone.
The minutes of silence between them stretched uncomfortably. Sweat was dripping down Dwayne’s back and the sun was burning Ashlyn’s freckled face. This was almost as lonely as going solo, she thought. But then another car approached. To her delight, it was a long stretch limo! What was that doing in this empty landscape? The anticipation as the heat waves rose off the road and the approaching car brought hope back to Ashlyn and curiosity to Dwayne. Both were making a plan for how to get in that limo - which no doubt had the A/C cranked.
In sync, they both stepped bravely into the road and put up their hands to flag down the car. It would’ve been impressive to watch from an aerial view, right up to the part where the car kept speeding forward and they both had to dive back to their corners - bruised and rejected. Hope and curiosity seemed dashed, but the limo threw them another surprise and slowed to a stop about 100 feet passed them. Eventually the rear door opened and an Indian man in a blue business suit stepped out.
“Just a sec. It’ll be fine. I’ll get this all taken care of.”
Wanting - or rather, expecting a response - Anvay didn’t get one.
And before Anvay could even close the door, the disinterested chauffeur pulled away at the same speed as his approach. It startled Anvay, but he quickly recovered, smiled, and turned to the stranded pedestrians. Turning on the charm was second nature to him, so he switched gears and approached Ashlyn and Dwayne as old friends would.
The intersection now seemed crowded and the three wanderers began to converge at last.