Clinton wasn’t surprised, when he opened his eyes, to see the old man standing in his bedroom. But he did have one question. “How are you still alive?”
The old man smiled.
“I mean, I have a vivid memory of you from when I was twelve. You talked to me at the park. You said you were going to kill me one day. A boy doesn’t forget something like that, especially not when the same person makes an appearance every few years or so. But it’s been eight decades since then. You should be in the grave long since.”
No reaction. Just the same smile.
“I assume that’s what you’re here for, then.”
Clinton sighed, settled into his bed, closed his eyes. “Fine. I’m ninety-three, I couldn’t run as far as the bathroom anymore. I don’t care. Take it.”
“My life. What you came for.”
“What makes you think I’ve ever been interested in taking your life?”
Clinton opened his eyes.
“Do you not remember the second time you saw me?”
Clinton did. He had been nineteen, a freshman in college. He’d been coming out of a cheap greasy-spoon when he’d caught a glimpse of the old man’s face in a crowd across the street. The nightmares that face had occasioned made him pull up in the doorway. The young woman who’d been walking right behind him with a to-go order dropped her Coke and got his pants wet.
“Yeah, I remember.”
“Whatever happened to that girl who ran into you?”
Clinton smiled. “We got to talking, and then we got to dating, and after a while she changed her last name and gave me four children.” The smile faded. “She’s been dead seven months.”
“I’m sorry.” And the look on the old man’s face was so pained that Clinton actually believed him.
“Yeah, well, we had some good years together.”
“And some bad ones, I believe. She wasn’t very happy when you quit your job that once.”
“No, she wasn’t.” Clinton chuckled. “Why am I not surprised that you know about that?” Then he raised his head from the pillow, startled. “You were there that day!”
And he had been. Clinton had seen the old man in the lobby, and ran — into his boss’s office. Mr. Almond didn’t like interruptions, and blew up at Clinton. He liked it even less when a stressed Clinton finally cracked, called Mr. Almond a “real nut,” and quit.
“But it worked out, yes?”
“Oh, yes. Found a new job, a better one. Became manager.”
“I’m welcome? What did you have to do with it?”
“You never would have quit if it weren’t for me. Isn’t it amazing how every time you run away from me, good things seem to happen? I never wanted to take your life. I gave it to you.”
Now that Clinton thought about it, it was true. In trying to escape the old man, he had met his wife, left his job, stopped a robbery, met three very dear friends. Saved his daughter’s life. And then he thought he knew who the man was.
“But why didn’t you just tell me?”
“You were so stubborn. I knew you would always flee whenever I showed my face. I just made sure you were aimed the way you needed to go.”
“And now you’re here to kill me.”
The old man smiled. “I did bring you into this world, after all. It seems only fair.”
Clinton exhaled, laughed shallowly. “And to think it was you I ran from, all this time. You–”
Then he closed his eyes, and didn’t open them again. The old man walked to his bedside. A small white light floated upward from Clinton’s mouth, and the old man cupped his hands and caught it. Then he brought his hands to his mouth, and whispered.
“No more running, my son. Today you learn to fly.”
Let me know what you think of the story. If you like it, please feel free to forward the link to your friends! If it wasn’t to your taste, better luck tomorrow — a new piece of short fiction goes up every day.