The Last Page


The rocking chair sits still and empty.  I lean against the doorframe and promise myself I’ll give it a fresh coat of paint one of these days.  I make this promise every evening, just as darkness descends over another day.

When the first star appears, that’s my cue to go back inside. As summer wears on it takes longer and longer for that star to appear. I let the screen door slam behind me and I listen for the two usual taps against the jamb. The rocker remains alone and the paint will peel for at least another promise.

The house is quiet save the snores of Moose. The old black lab sleeps on his side in the middle of the living room floor and chases rabbits in his dreams.  I turn on one lamp and leave the rest of the house dark.  It’s just me tonight, just like always. Aside from polite hellos and thank you’s I haven’t spoken with another human being in as many months as I have fingers and toes.

Cicadas buzz through closed windows, their calls so constant it’s as if their mates never answer. I pick up my book and notice there are only a few pages before the story is over. I mark the last page with a bookmark so I know when to stop.  The final pages are always where the characters either solve their problems or are dealt a final blow. Life seldom comes together in such a predictable manner, so I plan on leaving the fictional Miss Hatty Jenson dangling without an answer.

What was it my mother once said?  I tap my chin and think back to my eight-year-old self.  The little boy across the street had just kicked me in the shins and spit in my hair before he dashed away laughing. I limped home with tears in my eyes and bloodstains on my socks.  As I bawled in my mother’s arms, I kept asking her if he would be punished for what he’d done.  It only seemed fair that he should pay for being so mean.  Between her gentle cooing she whispered,  “Fate decides what will be and what will not somewhere between always and never.” Her answer seemed like a crock back then and life has proven to me more than once that the answer is never. The little boy is a bitter man and the little girl still cries.

Miss Jenson has just found out her betrothed is only marrying her for her money and she is heartbroken.  There are worse things, but judging from how little of her story remains she will never have to experience them.  I pause as Moose rolls on his back.  He’s a faithful old friend who has filled the void, but not all holes can be filled.  The house is still empty and the rocker remains unpainted.  This isn’t how I imagined things to go.  I don’t need a prince or even a happy ending . . . just a little certainty would be nice.

Never. When did fate get so vindictive?

My bright red bookmark is one page away.  This is where I read slower and more carefully so as not to overstep my boundary.  Miss Jenson now realizes her best friend’s infatuation with her fiancé as the cause for false rumors. She immediately recognizes the folly in doubting his love and sets off to catch him before he departs for far away shores . . . but, I will never know how it ends and Miss Jenson will forever be on the cusp of her conclusion.  I close the book and place it on my bookshelf next to all the rest.  Hundreds of books clutter rows of shelves, each with a bookmark holding the last page.

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c.b.w. 2011

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Note: This story was inspired by a previous post, Wonder Lines.  Inspiration really does arrive in the most unexpected places, even somewhere as strange as a random set of self-generated questions.

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c.b. 2012