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Card Challenge: Day 23

Card Day 23: A man sits on a park bench at night, reading the newspaper. The sky above him is filled with, not stars, but letters.

Davis never went anywhere without his book. It was practically an additional appendage, always within arm’s reach. It was a relatively nondescript book, bound in worn brown leather and without distinguishing marks. It resembled someone’s beloved journal with its weathered spine and soft-edged pages.

Davis gazed out the bus window as it drifted along the city streets. His mind, however, was a million miles away. Elise had left the apartment mad this morning, and for the moment his thoughts were occupied with figuring out what he had done wrong.

His morning had been by the book. He woke up and hit the snooze twice before stumbling to the shower. Then he had toweled off and started breakfast. Two slices of toast, and a scrambled egg—though he had to admit he was not really feeling the scrambled egg, but he had to stick to the plan. Elise had been rushing around the apartment because her alarm had gone off late.

She had glared at him sitting and eating his breakfast in peace while she rushed from room to room in search of her shoes, then her phone, then her earrings, then her coat. In a huff, she was out the door with a sharp, “bye,” without even taking time for—

Oh. Davis suddenly understood the importance of the scrambled egg and extra piece of toast which he had scarfed down. She had missed out on breakfast, while he sat there feasting l and watching her frenzy. Of course, he knew it was not his fault, and she would say the same thing later, but it was just one more annoyance on an already off-kilter day. The problem identified, he reached and pulled out the battered notebook.

The vanilla sheet already had some of his scratch marks on it. The top of the page read, Tuesday, May 6, followed by his morning itinerary. He read over the list once more, noting the item squished in between “Breakfast: 2 toast, scrambled eggs,” and “Walking shoes; umbrella.” He was unsure how he had missed “Share,” tucked in there before, but he reminded himself to read more carefully.

Shaking his head, he pulled out a pen and wrote in the book. ‘Elise is mad at me,’ and then closed it without a word.

He rode along on the bus, still turning the problem over in his mind A sudden shudder and groan from the bus made him pause. There was an elongated sigh from the engine up front, followed by some sharp yells and curses from the driver.

The overhead speaker crackled to life. “Folks, I’m sorry. Looks like we have some mechanical issues this morning. I’m going to radio into the station, and I’ll update you once I know something.”

The passengers around him sighed and mumbled, casting frustrated glances out the rainy windows and then back to their watches. Davis did the same, and then realized the importance of his walking shoes and umbrella. Decided, he made his way down the aisle and into the damp streets.

It was only a few blocks, he told himself as he cut down a side alley, and the exercise would be good for him. Cheerily walking along, he paused to pull out the journal. ‘Call her,’ had appeared below his messy handwriting. Without another thought, he secured the journal back in his bag, and pulled out his phone.

Her voice was terse on the phone, suggesting her day had not gotten better. “Hello?”

“Hey, Elli.”

It softened just a bit, but kept an edge. “Oh, hey.”

“Listen, I realize I was pretty insensitive this morning. I knew you were running late, and I didn’t do anything to even help out.”

She sighed and the anger drained from her voice. “No, you were fine. I was just annoyed and started out on the wrong side of the bed. You didn’t do anything.”

Davis chuckled good-naturedly. “Yeah, but I should be there to make your day better, not worse.”

Her response was lost to him as someone suddenly rushed from behind him, ripping at his messenger bag. Davis jolted alert, panic coursing through him, as the canvas bag slipped from his shoulder and into the stranger’s hands. Then the man was off, racing through the alley and towards the busy street. Davis took chase, yelling after him as his phone danced forgotten in his hand. He could just see the man disappearing down another side alley, and so he pursued. But upon arriving, there were no additional signs. Lost, confused, and alone, Davis suddenly became aware of the tiny voice echoing from his phone.

“Davey, are you okay? What’s happening?”

He was breathless. “He stole my bag, El, he took it.”

“Oh my God! Are you alright?”

“He took my journal. What am I going to do?”

He was distantly aware that she was still talking to him, but it sounded like it came from an impossible distance. Davis felt his world crumbling, robbed of the one thing that had kept him on track all these years. Why hadn’t it warned him? Shouldn’t it have given him some signs? Or some way to prevent this tragedy? Numbly, he disconnected the call.

His day faded into a blur of police reports and office chitchat, but Davis felt adrift. He floated through the hours of the day, arriving home about 45 minutes later than he generally did. Elise was waiting.

“Thank God you’re okay! I’m so sorry, babe.” He smiled pleasantly at the remarks, but the numbness persisted.

“I’m fine,” he mumbled, falling onto the couch. What should he watched on television? He had no idea.

“Listen, I know you were really upset about losing your journal, so—“ she pulled a hastily wrapped package from behind her back. “I got you this.”

Davis opened the gift, seeing unfamiliar brown leather and crisply white pages staring up at him. He did his best to smile and appear gracious, but her eyes said she saw the grief.

“I know that journal was important to you and all, especially having it to many years. I can’t replace it, but I thought—“

He cut her off with a genuine smile, carefully concealing the loss he still felt. “It’s great. Thank you. That was really thoughtful.”

She brightened at his words and sincerity, springing from the couch. “Well, I also made you a pretty huge dinner to make up for all the rottenness of today. You can break in the new journal while I finish it up,” she said, disappearing into the small kitchen.

Davis, weary, decided to oblige.

My journal was stolen.’ He stared down at the words, crisp ink on white pages and sighed, before turning his attention to the kitchen where all manner of sounds and smells were emanating. He supposed he would find a way to live without his journal, though it seemed a daunting task. It was like starting life at square one, and that seemed to be a tall order this late in life. Hopeless, he looked back at the new journal, missing the familiar warmth and companionship of the old. But the white page caught his eye, marred by a handwriting not his own.


Creative Commons License
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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