Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Flashback: Jim And Todd

Through the end of the year, Kurt is re-running some of his favorite Friday Flash Fiction stories. If you like this one, it--and a hundred similar stories--can be purchased on Kindle in a new collection.

Jim and Todd
Word Count: 596
Published: 7/12/13

This is Jim. He is a junior partner at a prestigious law firm. He drives a Miata. He is drinking a sherry cobbler. He is talking with Todd, an ad man. Todd drives a Chevrolet. He is drinking a Mai Tai. He is wearing his favorite suit.

Little do Jim and Todd know that this is the last conversation they will ever have.

Jim and Todd went to high school together. Their spouses get along well. Their children are roughly the same age. They’re on each other’s Holiday Greeting Card lists. They wish each other Happy Birthday on Facebook. They enjoy each other’s company and have many friends in common.

And yet, they will never speak to each other again. They will never see each other in person. They will not speak on the phone. They won’t exchange a letter or email or SMS message.

It’s not about prestige. And it’s not about geography either. They will both stay in the same city, living just two townships away. They won’t have a falling out of any kind. Neither of them is going to die in the next twenty years. There is no reason at all for anything to come between them. And yet their friendship, which they both find rewarding, is ephemeral, and is about to dissolve completely, without either of them noticing at first.

They will, cliche though it may be, grow apart. It can be put no more simply than that. They have dissimilar interests. They live in different worlds. They belong to different political parties. They practice different religions. They attended different colleges. They support different sports teams. Now, either of them would say that it’s important to surround oneself with people who disagree with you. They even believe that this makes their friendship more valuable.

And yet…

One day, Todd will hear some story about Jim and think It’s been ages—I ought to give Jim a call and catch up. But he won’t. This will happen many times to both men. But neither will call, even though their numbers are at this very moment programmed into each other’s phones. Those contact lists will be migrated to dozens of different phones over the next twenty-odd years.

And then one day, Todd will die. He will have lived a happy life, but he has a heart condition that he doesn’t know about, and he doesn’t eat very healthily or exercise as often as he should—he accepts this about himself and he wishes his practitioner would stop hounding him about it. He will die in his early sixties. Not exactly young, but short of retirement.

When Jim sees Todd’s name in the obituary, he will be overcome with something that isn’t quite sadness, isn’t quite loss, isn’t quite regret, and yet it moves him profoundly. He will find Todd’s number in his cell phone. He will hesitate before calling, telling himself that it’s crazy to call a dead man’s mobile.

When Todd’s wife answers, Jim will offer his condolences. He’ll ask if they need anything. They will exchange small talk, ask about each other’s families. “Oh, we’re divorced,” Jim will say. “Oh, he just got a promotion,” Todd’s wife will say. Jim will ask about the funeral service, even though he doesn’t plan to attend, and even though all the information is in the paper right in front of him.

Jim will remember this last conversation with Todd—not what it was about, who can remember what a conversation is about? Just that it was friendly, and pleasant, and a long time ago.

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