Choices, choices. We've all wanted someone somewhere at some time dead, but actually being able to do it with your own two hands? Well, that's something we're conditioned not to do (most of us anyway). And here we have that desire and chance played out.
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Cliff by Jeff Gottschalk
I’d come up from behind the boy as he bravely stood poised on the edge of the high cliff, my elbow cocked back like a loaded spring, my hand an inch from the small of his little boy back.
It wasn’t just waves down way below. It was a lot of rock between him and getting there, to the ocean.
A terrible fall. An accident
And finally a clean slate for my girlfriend and me, where there would be no more pasts, no more thinking about it, no more visitation rights and no more reminders that she hadn’t always been mine. And no more worrying that she’d end up, sooner or later, going back – for the love that might still be there, or for the sake of family
I loved her more than I had ever loved a woman. But I had gotten to her too late; too late for it to be perfect, clean, unencumbered.
I just hadn’t envisioned it this way. I resented him, hated him – even at times hated her. I wanted him gone, stricken from the record.
Yet there was nothing about the boy I wouldn’t have loved and cherished were he my own (which is probably in great part why it tortured me: I couldn’t have conceived of having a son more brilliant and good, qualities not only could I not attribute to myself as his father, but had to credit to this omnipresent ex of hers, the ex, the ex of all exes, the thorn in my side, my rival. He, who was stuck in our lives like a planet of debt or disease through the child they shared, was so often, and in other ways, always, always there, there in our breakfast, there in our bedroom.
But see? I could erase him just as completely with this one simple task.
The two of us, the boy and I, were quite alone on this cliff’s edge. My girlfriend had gone off to find the park restroom. And for a small moment I pictured her there on the toilet, some mere quarter of a mile away down the trail through the woods, even as I contemplated such a violent elimination of the most precious thing in her life. (No! It was not me who was most important to her and I knew that! But still
I was too calm for a moment like this. It was as though I had sat in deep meditation for hours. I seemed to be in a trance of some idealized concept of nature where it was dog-eat-dog and somehow what I was thinking of doing would be okay and go forgotten in time.
But suddenly I found myself operating in a completely different mode. My heart LEAPT as though it was jumping off the cliff itself! At the sound of the crunch and slide of slipping gravel I was shaken from my regrettable pose, and as if in slow motion, I saw the boy’s foot slip out from under him and kick forward into the sky. Immediately my hand (the hand which just a second before was ready to do just the opposite) reached forward and scooped him around his waist and, nearly losing balance myself, with both arms I hugged my boy as we fell back away from harm. Another inch, another second and he’d be gone. I had saved him. He looked into my eyes like a son would his father’s, his eyes flashing with fear and shock. I almost fell
Down, down, down there
When my girlfriend soon arrived back to join us in the beautiful view of the far-off mountains and the sky and its clouds, the wide-eyed boy told his mother of how I had saved his life.
Lyle Rosdahl, a writer living in San Antonio, edits the flash fiction blog & best of in print for the Current. He created, facilitates and participates in Postcard Fiction Collaborative, a monthly flash fiction response to a photo. You can see more of his work, including photos, paintings and writing, at lylerosdahl.com.
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