It all started when Agee was walking home from school, as he passed an apartment building close to the corner. Waiting for the light to change, Agee glanced up and noticed a piece of paper drifting down from an open window. It was snow white and he snatched it as it swirled around him. There was a message written on it: “I’m tired. Good-bye. 4B.”
Agee was thinking: Why would someone bother to write a note and not even sign it? And to top it off, why would they toss it out the window? Then he heard the gunshot coming from the same open window.
Although he was relatively young at eight years old, Agee could put two and two together. He figured there had to be some sort of connection between the note and the gunshot. The police would probably want what he was now clutching in his hand for evidence. So, he calmly walked across the street to the doorman who had been inside the lobby during all this and hadn’t a clue.
“Where’d you get this?” the doorman asked.
“Someone in your building wrote it and it floated down to me,” said Agee.
Within six minutes the paramedics had arrived and had gained access to Edie’s apartment, which was 4B. Luckily the person living in 4C was home and had heard the shot and the subsequent thud of someone falling against the wall and onto the floor. Luckier still, Edie didn’t know how to fire a pistol properly and had aimed far enough away from her head to only graze it.
When the emergency room doctor asked Edie why she tried to kill herself, she smiled as if embarrassed and told her: “I was having a bad day, that’s all.”
The next day Agee heard about it when the doorman motioned him over for a chat on his way home from school. “Kid, you saved her life.”
“What do you mean?”
“When the cops came to talk to her in the ER, she said it was an accident. But the note she wrote proves there was intent to do bodily harm. So instead of letting her go, the doctors sent her to the psych ward at Our Lady of Angels for observation.”
Feeling somewhat responsible, Agee asked Susan (his mother, who wasn’t the type to pry into anyone’s business) if he could visit Edie, which meant that she had to call the hospital, explain the situation, and accompany him.
Once they got to the psych ward, Susan stayed in the waiting room while her son was escorted down the hall to the visiting room. Edie was sitting on a couch, looking intently at a replica of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Very used to engaging adults in conversation, after being pointed in the right direction, Agee went up to Edie and introduced himself.
“Hi. I’m the guy who found your note.”
“I found your note. Actually, it floated out your window right to me.”
Edie was thirty-six years old, brown-eyed with auburn hair that was cut short with a layered look. She was five-foot-three and worked for a theatre group as a marketing director. Normally she wore oval shaped glasses with black rims. But at the minute she wasn’t wearing them. They were in the pocket of her hospital gown because she was farsighted and didn’t particularly want to remember any details of the hospital.
“Yeah, well, thanks for nothing.”
“Pardon?” Agee was a very literal-minded person and he had no idea why this woman would thank him for doing nothing.
“The note. I wasn’t being honest…you should have just ignored it.” Almost instantly Edie caught herself, despite the situation. She held out her hand. “I’m sorry. My name’s Edie. What’s yours?”
“Agee, like the playwright?”
“So I’m told.”
Edie couldn’t help laughing. “What a grown-up way of putting it.”
“The fact that you know that you’re named after a famous writer.”
“Lots of people are named after someone or something. How about you?”
“I’m not one of those people.”
Actually Edie was one of those people. Her mother was nineteen years old when she gave birth without the benefit of knowing, for sure, who the father was. She choose the name for her daughter because, out of the blue, she was thinking of names that rhymed with Stevie Nicks, the singer. If her daughter wouldn’t have the benefit of knowing her dad, at least she’d know that her name was linked with someone whose history was traceable. Unfortunately, Edie hated Fleetwood Mac and that got in the way of appreciating Stevie Nicks. Anyway, she had her own definite taste in music and it didn’t include any bands or solo acts from the 70’s.
Being the sensitive sort, Agee tried to steer the conversation away from first names. “So, how long have you lived in your apartment building?”
“Not long, actually, only a few weeks. I used to live across town. I had a place close to my boyfriend, but he and I weren’t getting along and I needed a change.”
“You got tired of each other?”
“Yeah, that’s what you wrote on your note.”
Edie took a deep breath. She had to make a quick decision. Why was this kid asking her such a direct question? What business of his was it? Did she want to expend the emotional energy it would take to explain? On the other hand, he was just a kid. A precocious one, but still, a kid. Should she go ahead and take a chance on the offhand that maybe this young boy, by engaging her in conversation, would draw out what was buried inside her? Or should she leave it up to the professionals?
Ultimately, she decided that it was just as easy to speak to Agee as to any credentialed adult about her personal business.
20 Short Ones: 20 Short Stories Description:
Human relationships can be intriguing, heartbreaking, funny, frustrating and soulful -among other things. Sometimes all at once!
20 Short Ones is a collection of fun, fresh, faith-filled stories. Each story offers a snapshot experience and an opportunity to emotionally relate to the age-old mystery of how friendships (romantic or otherwise) happen.
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