The Night We Fell
The worldwide votes have been tallied and I'm very proud to announce that it appears that The Night We Fell has just been awarded the title of most beautiful and moving short story ever written.
I want to thank everyone who made this possible. Chiefly me for actually writing it but also every writer ever born for failing to write a more beautiful and moving one.
From the archives - January 20, 2006:
The children ran with fire in the night, up and down the shore of the lake--tiny, giggling streaks of light. Molly and I sat on our deck in folding chairs, holding hands as we watched them play.
"From here," Molly said in her soft voice. "You almost forget they're children."
And it was magical that she'd said that just then, because I'd been thinking the very same thing.
"They could be angels for all we know." Molly continued. "Or some new, amazing species of bird."
(Well okay, maybe we hadn't been thinking the exact same thing--I'd been thinking something more like Angry Villagers, but close enough for love and stuff.)
Molly rubbed my knuckles with her thumb and I knew she was happy.
"Know what I mean?"
I shrugged. She couldn't see it in the dark but the rustle of my shirt gave it away and I'd done it enough times over the years for her to catch the move. She laughed lightly.
"You know what I mean--you just think it's manly to pretend not to."
I dismissed that statement with a very grumpy snort but met her thumb with the tip of my own so she'd always know I cared.
"Let's join them Molly." I proposed after some time had passed. "I think there's some sparklers in the shed. Let's light those sparklers and run crazy in the night."
Her hand went rigid in mine and I knew I'd said something wrong. A moment later I remembered she had no legs--which was just a truly absurd thing to forget. I mean, for Pete's Sake, in half our wedding pictures you can see the stack of apple crates she'd been placed upon to bring our eyes at least close to level.
Senility's a real fuck in the mind sometimes.
"I'm sorry Molly." I whispered. "I keep forgetting you have no legs."
"I know you do." She replied. "It's one of the reasons I love you."
I sat up abruptly, a wild grin spreading across my craggy face. "We're doing it anyway." And I tottered off to get the sparklers.
It had been years since I'd lifted her but I put that from my mind. I had already fetched the sparklers by then, which was easily thirty steps and back, and at my age you don't ever want to waste perfectly good strides.
We were halfway to the lake when the stroke hit. I dropped as if shot but managed to safely cradle Molly as we fell. I'd have probably minded the pine cones digging into my spine a lot more if I could have actually felt my spine.
"Run for help Molly." I managed to groan. "I think it's the big one now."
A second later I had to laugh at myself, though it came out as more of a whimper.
"God, I'm such an idiot."
She dragged herself over, propped her elbows on my chest and kissed me for a very long time.
"Yes, you are." She replied. "But in the very best way."
And a man can't do better than that. And even if he could--why on earth would he want to?
The children ran with fire in the night--tiny giggling streaks of light. We could see them from where we'd fell. Molly held me as I died.
"How Molly?" I whispered. "How will you make it back the road?"
"Don't worry my dear." She softly replied. "Maybe I'll crawl. Maybe I'll roll."