This is another short story, derived from a writing prompt. And, here’s the prompt:
“Nighthawks” – Edward Hopper 1942
Choose one of the four characters shown in the painting. Why is your character there? What is your character thinking? Are they happy, sad, hurting, suspicious? Tell me a story.
Late Night Diner
So tired. Walking, walking, my feet are sore, my legs ache. The sun set hours ago, and I’m still walking the streets. I got rained on a while ago, and now my suit is chafing me. My hat kept my hair dry, that’s one good thing.
Poor Marie, I know she’s worried, but I just can’t go home yet, not ‘til I figure this out. It’s not her fault, she didn’t do anything wrong, but she’s the one to suffer now. Why did I do that awful thing? I’m not a playboy, and I wasn’t looking for anything, it just happened. ‘Til death do us part, but now this. Margie just stopped by my desk, and we were talking about this and that, and she seemed to soak up every word, and I felt so important, and then we were walking down the street, still talking, and then… I don’t know how we wound up at her place. After it was too late, I jumped up and ran into the street, trying to escape, trying to make it un-happen, but realizing I could do nothing now, not a thing.
The war over there in Europe is all the news, Hitler and his tanks, overrunning everyone, but now even that seems trivial to me. My wife, my home, our future; that’s what’s important. That’s what needs to be safe and protected, but now I’m like a criminal, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve been unconsciously heading toward the old Benjamin Franklin Bridge, thinking maybe that’s my answer. Yes, I could climb up over the walkway, and with one simple jump, my problems would be over. I can see the lights of the bridge now, at the end of the avenue. I’m walking more quickly now, trying not to think about my decision, just wanting some resolution. That’s it, just step out into nothingness, keep my eyes closed, tightly closed, don’t think about it.
I’m at the pedestrian walkway now, and I look out over the river, then up at the heights of the bridge, and I pause. Is there no way to come back from this? No way to talk to Marie about it? As I mull it over, I’m walking further and further out onto the bridge, jaws tight, fists clenched. Further and further, almost to the halfway point now, just about right. Just then I see a beat cop coming toward me, and it’s like he can read my mind or something. I turn around and walk quickly back off the walkway, glancing back, but I see now he’s not really after me, he’s walking the other direction now.
I glance over toward the city and see this diner over there on the corner. It’s all lit up, but not crowded. Maybe a cup of joe would be good right now, to warm me up, make me feel a little better. The little bell tinkles when I open the door, and the guy behind the counter glances over at me, then away. Nothing to see here, just a ‘nobody’, somebody wandering around the city late at night. He holds up a coffee cup to me, questioningly, and I nod. He brings the steaming cup of coffee over and sets it in front of me.
“Apple pie?” he asks. “Sure,” I say, “why not?”
My eyes sweep the small diner, just verifying what I saw earlier. Just one more guy there, just a lonely guy, just like me. He looks sad, and I’m sure I do, too. While I’m waiting on the pie to show up, I make my decision, and I step into the phone booth in the corner and give the operator the number of my place.
Marie answers right away, “Sam, is that you?” I answer her, “Sure, honey, It’s me. Say, can you come down to the diner at the corner of Eighth and Broadway? I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.”
Right away, she’s wondering, and says, “Hey, what’s going on? You been out all night, and now you want to get pal-sy over a cup of coffee? What gives?”
“Marie, honey, just come on over, ok? Maybe we can talk for a bit, ok?”
“Ok, ok, I’m comin’, but this better be good.”
She shows up after a while and comes over to sit by me, kinda crowded up near the coffee urns. Right away she starts with the questions, but I stall her, “Just sit tight, enjoy your coffee. Want some pie?” This puts a bit of a smile on her kisser, and she nods.
The other guy is still there, on his third or fourth cup, just thinkin’. I wonder what kind of problems this guy has. I don’t see a ring on his finger, so maybe there’s no woman in his life, at least not one he’s married to. He never looks up, just drinks his coffee.
I swivel my diner stool around a bit to face Marie, and she does likewise, wonderin’ what’s up. I’m trying to work up a little smile so I can do this, and it’s not easy, but finally I think I have it, so I start talking, “Marie, have I told you lately what a wonderful wife you are? Have I told you how much I love you and need you?” Marie looks a little stunned, but then seems pleased. She reaches out, puts her hand on mine.
“Well, Sam, you ain’t the most romantic of guys, but a woman knows. I know, and I feel the same about you. Is that what we’re talkin’ about in this here diner?”
“Marie, I was borderline tempted tonight, but I fought off the demons, and I think I’m gonna be ok, ya know? I hope you know what I mean.”
Marie smiled at me, then said, “Yeah, I know how it can be, with those crowded offices, and all those secretaries runnin’ around, but I never really worried about my Sam. But, if you had a near miss, maybe it’s time to start readin’ those want ads, whaddya think?”
I smiled back, then leaned over and gave her a big hug. “Marie, you’re the best. Tomorrow, I’m lookin’ at want ads!”