NPR logo The Young And The Old

The Young And The Old

For Round 7 of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that have a character come to town and someone leave town.
Past and future signs.

Brilliant rays of piercing sunlight broke through the wisps of mystifying clouds in the morning. A train churned to a halt as travelers and passengers began to flow out. Somewhere, a bird answered the train's whistle with a song of its own. It was his first time here. The young man could feel the sprouting city calling; it was alive, a living and breathing behemoth of opportunity. The day itself coated the town in a veil of amiability and mist. The thin mist only made the daylight all the more radiant. A new start for this man, a new home, a new life. His office was on the 12th floor of the burgundy building in the heart of the meager, yet eager city. It was a heart of ambition and achievement, a heart young and lively.

The old man groaned as his piercing alarm sounded. The morning wasn't as vivacious as he had remembered. Time doesn't stop for anyone, he supposed. The lifetime he had spent in the once small town was beginning to overstay its welcome. Even the noble spruce tree was beginning to wither. He looked with his failing eyes at the spruce, his childhood friend. The first time he talked to his wife was when he was 7, under that spruce tree. He thought of her as the ancient Chevy coughed and moaned to life. Perhaps it was the only thing with any life left. Where did it all go? Where were the times spent together? The times growing and not knowing where next week's paycheck would come from? The times when all he had left was himself and his dear wife, his best friend? All of those moments were scarcely memories anymore; it was all that was left.

The young man settled into his new office. The chair was a fine, black leather, but felt like soft, cushioned silk. It felt right. The window panes painted a picture of the city. The man looked down and sighed. It was a sigh of relief, a sigh of security and a sigh of assurance. Things would finally work out. He finally had the better hand, the aces he had been working and waiting for. It was time to start living. His phone rang to the song of some '90s alternative rock band. The woman's voice was cheerful, warm and bubbly, as usual. The woman he loved, the woman he would marry. He shared the sites and experiences of his new home, the home she would be arriving to in the following week. Things would finally be OK. It was time to start living.

A rusted Chevy dashed through the town, as if in one last effort to win a phantasmagorical race. An old Creedence song sang out as the old man's worn hands gripped the wheel. Time doesn't wait for anyone, he was afraid. This was not the town he grew up in, not the town he remembered, not his home. It had died. The truck barely kept up with life's final hurrah as the old man drove away, away from the world and the nightmare of today. Vainly, he drove, as if expecting to find his old home and friends, just around the corner. Just a little more, and he would reach it, he could feel it, the life of long ago, all of the happy memories resurrected, just as he recalled. The car slowed, but the old man ran and ran, as far as his legs would carry him, he ran. Through blurred eyes he could see it. He stopped. He fell. He made it.