From a Distance

By Bart Bultman

Y-2webou’re responsible for your own fate. Don’t let a loud-mouth tell you otherwise.

“Hey, Luther!” Aaron yelled from down the hall. “Wait up!”

The door in front of me opened as someone walked out, and I followed to leave the foyer, which echoed.

Outside it was bright. Everywhere I looked it was like looking into the sun. My last fifty minutes had been spent inside, down the hall, in a classroom with half the lights turned off and both blinds pulled as a PowerPoint was cycled through while the professor talked, twitching his red laser pointer over the slides.

I pulled my sunglasses from the pouch on my backpack that’s meant for a water bottle, and put them on one-handed and the sun’s glare disappeared and revealed what looked like a train along the curb, a single line of parked cars.

Aaron came out, already talking. “What angle am I supposed to take?” His backpack was over a shoulder.

“Whichever one you want. It’s your story.”

I’m editor-in-chief for the school newspaper. It was called The Paper because our mission statement was to be blunt. Our hope was that that made it sound like working for it involved minimal writing, something we thought would appeal to prospective journalists.

“Okay. But if you were writing it—”

“I’m not,” I reminded him.

I wrote one article a month, usually an opinion piece. The rest of my time was spent on managerial duties, as in bringing along first-year correspondents, like Aaron. Typically they came in two types. Type one was zealous to a fault. They would cover any topic: the dismal quality of cafeteria food, the university’s budget, the reshuffling of faculty titles within departments, or the lethargic process when school policy changed, called resolution. The second type signed up to write for the paper because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Those people liked to write, when they felt like it, and deadlines had a way of killing that. As editor-in-chief I had one major bargaining chip—where in The Paper an article would appear. To convince a meager correspondent who had written a meager article that their work was any good, and to encourage them hoping it would improve their next effort, I would put their article near the front. I don’t think anyone read The Paper anyway.

“But if you were,” said Aaron. “What angle would you focus on?”

“Look, there is no angle. Just write it, then figure out what it is. You’ll be fine. You’re one of the better writers on staff.”

If that was true, it was news to me.

“I kind of liked my last article,” said Aaron.

He had written an article about undercover cops trying to gain access to off-campus parties. It was pretty good because most of it was information he had gotten first-hand, which, if simple math is a skill of yours, you can probably figure out how old Aaron he is. In writing the article he had felt as though he was getting away with something. Within him that manifested as energy, which fueled the story. And yes, to date, it was his best work. A few students actually read it, which got back to him. Now he wanted to do a serious piece. That timing was in conjunction with some untimely tornadoes that had just ripped through the heartland. I had told him to write about that.

“You know, some people in my macro econ class said they had read it.” Aaron was referring back to his old story.

“That’s why we print it.”

“They said they liked it, but I reread it yesterday, and I think I could have done better. There were some things I wanted to change. My first paragraph didn’t have the punch I wanted it to. I didn’t spike it enough for the reader.”

“You’re always going to feel that way.”

“I guess. But the mistakes, or, I wouldn’t really call them mistakes…”

“They’re called whatever word you give for their meaning.”

“Yeah, but the things I want to change now, seem so obvious. And I read it over four or five times before I handed it in to you, and now it’s like a different article. Or like it was written by someone else. Someone who isn’t as smart.”

“The only cure for that is writing another article. But right now I’ve got class. Write something, and get it to me by tomorrow night.”

I saw him next three days later when I called him over to my apartment and sat him down in front of a scotch and water. At first, he didn’t touch the drink.

“The quality isn’t the problem,” I said. “It’s the stance. It’s too unsympathetic. I can’t put it in. I’m sorry.”

I looked out my front door, pulling one of the blinds down with a finger. Cars were driving by in the street, one of the busier streets in the area.

“I could rewrite it and add sympathy. When would I have to have it done by?”

“No, I like it how it is. In fact I don’t think it can be any better. Changing it to get it in The Paper would tarnish it. It just doesn’t fit with our platform. But as a work by itself, it’s good.”

I sat down across from him. “Look. I shouldn’t have told you to write this story.” Between us on the coffee table was a printed version of the article. That morning I had read it over spinning my red pen around my thumb, the way a drummer twirls his sticks, but I never uncapped the pen. “Forget the serious story for now, you’ll hurt your readership. Write another one that people will enjoy.”

“But if it isn’t bad, why can’t you put it in somewhere, like the back.”

“Inclusion isn’t possible.”

“Can’t you say this article doesn’t reflect the opinion of the staff?”

“The article doesn’t have an opinion. That’s the problem. And why it’s good.”

“But still, can’t you—”

“No.”

“But you said it’s good?”

“Yes. And that’s not the problem. The type of readers we have will get upset reading an article like that.”

Aaron took a drink, a long one. Maybe this idea that not all readers would enjoy what he had written, was new to him. And I didn’t know how accustomed he was to strong drink, but while he drank his face was placid. I would have rather seen him grimace.

He spoke from the side of his mouth. “Maybe that would be good for them.”

“That’s a thing people don’t usually want.”

He set his drink next to the article and looked at it, just the top page. I watched his lips to see if he was reading and he wasn’t. Then he looked at me. “Well, I think it would be good for me, if this article, which you say is good, is included in the paper.”

If my logic was a sword, he had just pushed me onto it. But it wouldn’t matter, I couldn’t put it in. The Paper was linked to the college and the college was greater than him since it would outlive him. And how can you beat a thing that outlives you?

“All it needs,” he picked up the article, “is a good photo to go with it, to set the tone.”

Yeah that would help, but I said nothing, waiting for him to set it down. When he did my phone rang.

“Excuse me one second.”

I went into the kitchen, where my phone was on the counter. Shirley was calling me. I took it outside.

“Shirley, what’s new? Do you have that article for me?”

She was a senior, but she would still be taking classes next year. Supposedly she had written an article about the women’s tennis team, yesterday.

“I need an extension.”

“Shirley, it’s a sports article. You can’t have an extension. They have a short half-life and if it’s not in the next issue, by the time it is in one the team will have played again and if people read it thinking it’s current, it will confuse them. I need it—yesterday.”

“I know, I know, but I’m almost done. I just need till tomorrow morning. I can have it for you first thing.”

The deadline for the next issue was tonight, 11pm. She knew this. I made sure all of the staff knew this.

“How close is it to being done?”

“Ummm, I’m not in front of my computer.”

She hadn’t started.

“Could you take a guess for me?”

“Are you asking me to guess? Or do you want me to take a guess?”

“Neither.” She wanted to play semantics to stop the conversation. “Call me when you have something.”

“Thank you—”

She was going to say “Luther,” but I hung up.

Aaron was looking out the front door. He turned around when I came in. I saw that he was holding his drink, but my phone rang again.

“One second.”

It was Remy, a photographer. I answered it in the kitchen.

“Remy, any news is good news. What do you have for me?”

“I just sent you an email, attached is everything you wanted. And the pics are named with numbers that reflect my ranking, for which ones I like the best. I can meet you and go over them if you want.”

He was the best staff member. I couldn’t remember what I had sent him to take pictures of, but pictures were hard to misinterpret.

“No, I won’t bother you. Thanks, Remy.”

“Sure thing. Hey, anytime you want, let’s meet up and play some ping-pong.”

“Yeah, definitely. Once a get free minute.”

“Yeah, that’s all I’ll need to beat you.”

I heard the front door close, and poked my head around and looked for Aaron but he wasn’t there.

“Well,” said Remy. “I won’t keep you.”

“Yeah, I’ll talk to you later. And I’ll definitely let you know about the ping-pong.”

“All right. Later then.”

“Yeah. Later.”

The article wasn’t on the coffee table. I put a knee on the couch and leaned my arms against the backrest to look out the front windows. I think I expected to see Aaron, but he wasn’t there. My phone rang again, but with a different sound, meaning a text.

We need to talk.

It was from Allison, my girlfriend.

I wrote back: in person?

Yes.

I tossed my phone. It hit the couch and bounced flipping in the air and then landed on a seat cushion facedown. Looking at the back of it, it looked like someone else’s phone. I seriously considered that it was, then made chamomile tea because it has a way of calming you down. And I added ice to it and sat on my couch in the middle to drink it and that’s when I realized the coffee table was empty, that Aaron’s article was gone, but so was his glass. It made me laugh.

I didn’t want to go over to Allison’s. As far as I knew she was going to break up with me and, thinking that, for me, already made us as good as broken up. But I guess she wanted to do it in person. That is, do it to me, in person. I guess you have to respect that sort of class. Maybe it meant she had something rehearsed.

The chamomile was strong because I had steeped two packets and I’m not sure if there’s a warning on the box about operating machinery after drinking it, but standing up and feeling a bit wobbly, I thought there should have been.

I rinsed my mug in the sink and left it there and went back to the coach and grabbed my phone, it was still upside down, and left out the back.

Allison lived the farthest from campus of any student I knew. She and her roommates got a good deal on their place, and they all had cars. To get there I took the highway, and while feeling kind of hungry, drove past the entire gamut of fast-food establishments, and then off the highway, went through the maze of crisscrossing residential streets, a madness of four-way stops. Right, left, right, another right, a left. And finally her driveway.

I parked along the curb and went up to the front door and thumbed the door bell and turned around looking for something to lean against and waited.

Her roommate answered the door.

“Oh. Hi, Luther. I knew it had to be you. We hardly have any visitors out here.”

I went in.

The Paper, the most recent issue, was on the armrest of their lazy boy chair.

“What do you think of it?” I asked.

“Oh, this.” Veronica picked it up and held it at her chest. “I loved it.” She was being facetious, something she was cute at doing. Or maybe it was her boxer shorts that she was wearing that had me thinking she was cuter than usual.

“No class today?” I asked.

“One. Later,” she said walking away from me, towards the kitchen. “I think Allison’s in her room.”

Allison’s room was down the hall, a dark hallway, and at the end her door was cracked open. I knocked with a knuckle, and opened it. She was at her desk with her back to me. I went in and sat on her bed because I was tired.

She stopped typing. “What do you think of this?”

I stood up and read the screen, a paper she was writing, standing next to her. My mind wasn’t really on syntax and grammar rules. “Are you happy with it?” I asked.

“That isn’t the point,” she said.

I sat down again on her bed.

Allison was a science major, but in her senior seminar course, along with all other senior seminar courses, they made you write a lengthy paper called a “Life View” paper. They ranged anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five pages, different professors had different requirements. But as a science student, her only papers beforehand were lab reports, stuff fit for a tombstone.

“Do you think my professor will like it?”

“Who’s that?”

“Biggles.”

“I don’t know him. Or her.” I thought I should be open-minded.

“Him.”

I laid my back down and rested it on her bed with my waist at the edge and my feet on the floor. Then I thought I should probably sit up.

“The truth about the “Life View” paper,” I said, “is that it’s an effort thing. If you follow the rules you’re fine.”

I had taken my senior seminar course the previous semester.

“Yeah, but I need an A.”

“When have you not gotten an A?” I looked at her.

“This is different.”

There was a gap of understanding between us, I didn’t know what she wanted.

I pointed at her computer. “How long is it now?”

She flicked her finger down the mouse wheel. “Seventeen.”

“What’s the requirement?”

“Fifteen.”

That’s how some students chose which senior seminar they took. They figured out which professors assigned the shortest papers. I don’t think Allison did it that way though.

“Then I think it’s time to print it.”

“No it’s not due for a week.”

I laughed, or I would have, but I think I was too tired. Maybe I yawned.

She got up, closing the lid on her laptop, then jumped on me and straddled me and knocked me back to a laying position.

“I need to break up with you,” she said.

I thought she was kidding. My hand went under her shirt.

“I’m serious,” she said getting louder as she spoke.

“Okay, we’re broken up.” I slid my hand out.

She got up and put her hands on her hips. “Why aren’t you mad?”

I lifted my head to look at her, but it felt heavy and I let it fall back.

“I’m just not.”

“Well, you should be. You should be furious. You should be livid. You should be crushed. Why aren’t you? Are you even awake?”

“I can hear you.”

“Then answer me.”

I sat up on my elbows.

“I’m not.”

“I know you’re not. But why aren’t you? Why are you a shell of a person?”

I couldn’t sit up on my elbows any more, and I fell back.

“Is there even anyone inside of you?” she said.

I considered the question.

“Luther, I wasn’t going to break up with you, but now I am.” She pointed to her chest. “Even I think you’re boring. And aren’t humanity majors supposed to be spontaneous? Luther, you’re dull!”

We had been together for six months, which meant, if she wanted, she had a lot of experiences she could draw ammunition from to hurt me now.

“Get off my bed!”

“I don’t think I can.”

I was serious. I felt completely tired.

“If you don’t leave right now I’ll get my roommates.”

“No, what I’m saying is, that I don’t think I have the energy to get up.”

“That’s another one of your problems, Luther. You could never get it up.”

She had a way of saying my name to made it sound like “loser.” And now she was making foundless accusations. I tried to get up.

“Here.” She pulled my arm and yanked my shoulders upright. Then nodded with her arms crossed. “The door’s over there.”

I nodded too because it made sense, the door was over there.

When I stood up, she backed away, as if thinking I might try something.

“I’m sorry I didn’t cause a scene,” I said. She turned her head.

The door got closer as I walked towards it. Then I closed it, standing in the hall. Usually you would feel pain for your loss, or relief for your freedom, but I felt tired.

Veronica was cheerfully sitting in the lazy boy with her feet on the seat, tucked in beside her while she read The Paper over her knee. I felt my keys in my pocket and opened the front door. Veronica looked up, surprised to see me. She had actually been reading.

“See you around campus,” I said and left closing the door.

In my bedroom I collapsed on my bed and slid my phone out of my pocket and turned it off completely and lifted my covers up to stick my legs under and then rolled away from my window, too tired to get up and unhook the blanket I used as a curtain, and pulled one end of my pillow over my head and made a horseshoe-shaped sandwich to cover my ears, and closed my eyes.

Sometime later when I got up I had the idea that I needed to locate the missing glass which I suspected Aaron had pilfered. I only had two of that kind, my preferred drinking glasses, and I wanted it back. I called him as I boiled noodles on the stove for macaroni and cheese, a delayed dinner. It was almost 11pm.

“Hey,” he said, “I’m working on the story right now. I’m adding more sympathy to it.”

“That’s great. Can I have my glass back?”

“Your what?”

With a wooden spatula I stirred the macaroni and they swooned in the water like a whirlpool had control of them.

“The glass you were drinking out of this afternoon at my place. I know you took it.”

“You mean yesterday?”

I had to stop and think, and look at the date on my phone.

“No, today.”

“Oh, then I don’t know what you’re talking about. Hey, listen to this.” He was about to read some of his writing.

“Can it wait? I’m in the middle of something.”

“Yeah, if you’ve got something else going on. I was just going to ask you about a diction problem. I have an unintentional rhyme and I’m not sure if it sticks out too much.”

“They usually do.”

“Yeah, but I can’t hear it anymore. Not even when I read it out loud.”

“Yeah, well, I can look at it tomorrow. And also, I want my glass back.”

There was a pause. I think he was reading.

“Aaron?”

“Yeah?”

“I would like my glass back.”

“You want your mirror back?”

That was a logophile joke as the old word for mirror was glass, as in looking glass. I suddenly realized that words were important because they had meaning, even if that meaning was only to limit confusion.

“Leave your article alone,” I said. “In fact, don’t change anything. I’ve changed my mind about it.”

“Really? But no, I’ve already changed it and I didn’t save the original. I overwrote it.”

“See if you can edit undo it.”

“It’s completely different.”

“Do you still have the printed version?”

“. . . yeah.”

The timer went off for my macaroni and I moved the pot to a cold burner and turned off the one with bright orange coils. “Retype it.”

“Is there anyone on staff who does that?”

“No, we don’t have anyone like that.”

“Crummy paper,” said Aaron. He paused. “I don’t mean it like that.”

“I know. My drinking glass, remember to bring it tomorrow when you come over with your article. I want to read it again. And afterwards, we’ll celebrate.”

“But the deadline’s in two minutes and I want to get it out.”

“You’ll have to wait. We’ll both have to wait.”

I ate my dinner with a scotch, neat, poured into my one remaining drinking glass. I drank it neat because it was something I seldom did and I wanted its unadulterated taste on my tongue, and I thought the burning down my throat would titillate me. For dessert, I had another.

Aaron came over the next day, a Friday, and I read his article, the unsympathetic, original version, and it was good, perhaps even better. I went into the kitchen and opened a bottom cupboard.

“Did you bring it?” I asked.

“Bring what?”

He came into the kitchen, holding the glass. It needed to be rinsed out and he let me do it while he went back for something in his backpack, a ten year old bottle of Macallan.

“How did you come by that?” I asked.

“I never divulge my sources.”

He poured and we touched glasses standing on either side of the counter with his article between us. We drank for enjoyment. His work being done, and mine just starting. A backlash was likely to happen from his article, if it was going to be perceived how most unsympathetic writing is usually perceived, personally. Then, if a whining word was sent to the faculty, or if it started from the faculty, it didn’t matter because anyone had the president’s email, the higher-ups would probably suspend The Paper indefinitely. Right then, The Paper meant more to me than it ever had. Because I needed it to.

“Another?” said Aaron.

I slid my glass to him. “Don’t steal that one.”

“I won’t.”

He poured and gave it back.

“Why did you steal it?” I asked.

“Why not?”

I did a lot of drinking that week, but don’t think I have a problem. It was an unusual week.

The Paper went out the following Wednesday across the many spots we lay them around campus hoping someone would pick them up, with Aaron’s article on the front. The email I was waiting for came to my inbox the day after. It was from Hesse, the professor who oversaw The Paper, and who had not, for a very long time, asked me to run anything by him. He wanted to meet with me that afternoon. I agreed.

The Shire was a dimly lit pub near campus. If you go, go to drink, not to eat. But then if you do drink you’ll become hungry, and that’s when you should go across the street to Zappers. They have the finger food that’s cooked with grease. But Hesse chose The Shire and I arrived before him, and told the hostess I was expecting him, Hesse was a regular, and waited with a pint wondering if it would be the first of many.

He came over with a half consumed pint, maybe he had been at the bar and I missed him, and he set it down near the chair across from me and donned off his vintage caddy hat that he was known for around campus, and sat down.

“How are you, Luther?”

“Better,” I said holding up my pint, the same kind as his. He smiled.

Without drinking I set it down. I wanted a conversation.

Hesse was a tiny man, but his eyes were very vibrant and they made you think he was bigger than he was.

“Some emails were sent to me,” he said.

“Students or faculty?”

“Students.”

I thought that was worse. As opposed to the faculty, there were fewer ways the higher-ups could leverage them into silence.

“And you can probably guess what they were about.”

I nodded.

“As overseer of The Paper, I got to tell you Luther, I was a little hurt that you didn’t run that story by me. You of all people should have known better. You’ve run The Paper for what, two years? And you’ve done exactly what you were supposed to do. A model editor-in-chief.”

I nodded, as we both understood that it wasn’t easy to get students to do what you wanted.

“I’ve even gotten flattering remarks over the past two years from professors about The Paper. I tell them not to thank me, but to thank you.”

I had never been thanked. And I don’t want to be cynical, but now that I look back on it, he could have made that up.

“They can’t stop The Paper,” I said.

“You and I both know they can, and are thinking about it.”

“What about the first amendment? Doesn’t that mean anything?”

“This is a private university. They’ll say attendance is like a contract that you agree to comply with their wishes. You can’t take on a university single-handedly.”

“How many students sent you emails?”

“If the width of this table represents the student population. It starts there.” He pointed at one end. “And ends there.” He pointed at the wall. “And pretend the wall doesn’t exist.”

“You and I both know,” I said using a vile and coercive statement, one that he had used against me, “that only a few students read The Paper.”

“This one spread. Probably because of that title.”

The title was, under my suggestion, “You’re Responsible For Your Own Fate.” It was followed by an opening paragraph which talked about the nickname of the region, Tornado Alley, and what that meant, and how residents lived there under a well-known risk. Feeling sorry for them was, in a way, no different than feeling sorry for someone who had gorged themselves into a heart attack. The risks were known.

“How come,” I said, “no one feels sorry for people who drinks themselves out of college? Or druggies who end up homeless? Or a gambler who loses everything, house and savings included? How come no one comes to their rescue? But when it’s Mother Nature behind fate, aid flocks to those people. And the news cameras follow and they get all of the sympathy and it’s not fair. Something had to be done, you know. A person in need—is a person in need.”

Hesse put his hand up. The waiter came over.

“Two more of these.”

He pointed at the glasses. For the first time I noticed they were empty.

The waiter came back and switched the empties for the fulls.

“You’re not going to drink yourself out of college, are you? You only have less than a month left.”

“No.” I smiled.

He went on to tell me some good advice: to worry about myself. At the time it seemed trivial. Then I told him that was the meaning of the title, that and to not be ignorant. He told me I was being ignorant right then. And I told him that was true, but in that instance, not destructive. He told me to elaborate. What he really wanted me to do was exhaust my anger. And I did. I told him everything that I thought was backwards with the world. Then he put his hand up and had the waiter bring over menus. We ordered dinner.

We ate and talked about casual things. Some of which were humorous, like technology, because of his profound inability to understand it, despite his PhD. Eventually he said, “The future of technology is good, but the future is bad.”

I felt better for having eaten something, and my mind felt clearer after we talked about things I knew better than him.

Then he pushed his plate to the side. “It comes down to this, and this comes down from the president. He met with the provost and the dean today in one of those internet chats, and what came of it is that they want me to tell you—”

The waiter interrupted, coming over for Hesse’s plate. I gave mine as well. Hesse leaned forward.

“You can keep The Paper open, if you let go of that writer, and issue a sort of apology retraction. Otherwise The Paper will be suspended immediately, for the remainder of the semester, at least.”

I asked for his advice. Not that I was going to take it but that it had suddenly occurred to me that he had slow-played his knowledge, because he cared about me, and I wanted to see if I still had a friend.

“Worry about yourself,” he said. “Cut the writer loose, write an apology that’s technically an apology, but really isn’t, and graduate. And stick your nose up without dirtying it. And then stick it up higher when the president hands you your diploma.”

He was on my side. Any professor that would meet me at a pub was on my side.

That evening I thought over his advice sitting on my couch where Aaron had sat when I told him I couldn’t print his article.

The risks were clear. Fire Aaron or cripple The Paper. I wanted to do neither. I wanted things to go on as they were. Then I cried. Right then I somehow understood how people felt living in Tornado Alley.

I was going to call Aaron but he called me. I told him to come over.

I had to do it in person. Do it to him in person.

He came over around nine o’clock. It was Friday, one of the wilder ones as most people would stay in for the next one with finals approaching. He said he was on his way to a party. A small following of people who liked his latest work had pooled their money together and gotten a keg. First keg stand was reserved for him.

“I haven’t done one of those since I was also a freshman,” I said.

I don’t know why, but I told him my girlfriend had just broken up with me. Okay, I do know why I did it. I wanted sympathy.

He was sitting on the couch and he said, “Who needs one when you can have a lot?” I admired his spirit and I made a note on my phone to keep in touch with him after I graduated.

“Always working?” he asked, seeing me type on my phone.

I turned the ringer off and set it down. “Yeah.”

“So what’s news?” said Aaron. That was my phrase. You said it like the word was “new,” but ten syllables long, and then quickly added the “s” at the end.

“How much do you like The Paper?” I asked.

“Originally, not much. But now a lot. I never really gave it the credit it deserved. I’ve realized it has a lot more influence than I thought. Or do you mean reading it? Because I don’t really do that, other than my own stuff. I should though. Maybe I’ll start. Do you think that would be good for me? What did you do?”

He knew I had been a writer for my first two years.

“I would only read a few of the other articles. But now I regret that.”

“Yeah, you don’t want any regrets. I’ve been trying to cut down on mine. That’s a decision I don’t regret.”

A zealous wit is usually sloppy, and funny only to itself. But he was enjoying himself with an innocence that was childlike.

“Don’t you?” I said concentrating in my mind on the words I was about to say, seeing each syllable of each word, then speaking them out loud, like I was reading someone else’s words, trying to distance myself from them, “want more than The Paper?”

“Like what?”

“Well, the downside of journalism is that it only goes so far. As far as truth. It’s something you’ll always be bound by. Your talking point can never come from something that isn’t a recent event. But there is another way you can write, where truth meets freedom. People call it fiction.”

“There’s no fiction section in The Paper, though.”

I knew what he was thinking: what was the point of writing if no one read it?

The Paper is not the only paper.”

“But no one around here reads anything I could publish in, besides The Paper.”

“Is that why you write, to have it read?”

“It makes it fun.”

“First, there are two things wrong with that. Either you’ll get used to that praise kick, or you’ll write something people don’t like.”

I let that linger, hoping it would form the idea in his head that I wanted.

“Keg stand,” he said adamantly, as if saying it strongly enough would force the opinion of the people waiting for him onto everyone, and stood up.

“Wait,” I said, “there’s more.”

I waited for him to sit down but he didn’t.

“I have to let you go. You can’t write for The Paper anymore. They made—”

“If telling me the reason will make you feel better, then I’m not listening.” He said it very calmly.

It was over. I sat in my chair and allowed him to see himself out. He turned around at the door. “Why couldn’t you have waited to tell me till after the party?”

“You’re responsible for your own fate.”

With the door open I could see that it was dark outside as cars drove by in the street with their lights on. There were people in those cars, with their own lives. People I’d probably never meet. Then Aaron joined them.

 ___

Bart Bultman lives in West Michigan and is a recent graduate of Hope College.


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