This short story isn't really a story at all-it's the backstory for the story. It's sort of a warmup exercise to give me an idea of the story arc and thems that I'm working on. -WTF
Ed always knew how he would die. When he was very young, too young to make letters, he was angry at his parents and he drew a picture of them on a napkin and then angrily crossed them out with thick strokes of black crayon. Looking at what he’d done, he imagined his parents being gone. He imagined the hole that their absence would leave, and he felt a terrible pain and began to cry. He remembered this event for the rest of his life, knowing he would eventually die of a broken heart.
Surely, there were other things that might have ended his story prematurely. Ed thought of himself as a bit of a risk-taker (and who doesn’t?), but in truth, he was fairly cautious in how he lived his live. He didn’t drink much or smoke at all, and he avoided drugs because he was afraid he might like them. He ate too much, and he wasn’t the most attentive driver in the world, but, in looking at him, you wouldn’t see anything that would suggest an abbreviated lifespan.
There were times in Ed’s life when he was rich with love, and he felt it was like walking through an oasis, abundant and full of joy. Sometimes he would walk this path alone, but more often than not, he had a partner to share these times. He was always happiest getting to share these green times with someone, to see the beauty and wonder reflected in their eyes and back off of his own. When his life was full of love, Ed’s road was easy.
For every oasis, though, there was a desert. The road was hard, and it could easily turn two people against each other. Sometimes, one or the other would decide that this road was not one they wanted to walk, and they would turn away. Sometimes it was Ed who would choose to turn away, but most of the time it was not. When in the desert, love had to be nurtured and protected and fought for as though one’s life depended on it, or it would die. Most often, Ed walked the desert by himself.
For some people, the desert wasn’t so bad. They scarcely noticed that love was absent, because they had other things on their mind and moved on. For Ed, the desert was brutal. The desert was no place of self-discovery for him because he knew who he was. The thing that moved him to cross the desert was the very thing that was absent there. Because of this, the trek became harder for him as he grew older. He knew he had to cross the desert, but he had more and more difficulty convincing himself why.
It was great fortune, then, that he met Dawn. There were innumerable things that he loved about Dawn: Her quirky smile, her evil sense of humor, her great capacity for caring while at the same time sharing Ed’s less-than-social tendencies. The list could go until all the world’s ink was spent and the list would still truly capture why he loved her. However, no matter what form the list took, one item would surely be underlined: She would cross the desert with him.
Ed and Dawn made many journeys across the desert together. The crossings weren’t ever easy. Their love was tried and, at times, found wanting. They fought, they cried, they separated, they reconciled. Ed would have been hard-pressed to explain exactly why they made it. There was no magic to it. The desert is where the magic doesn’t work. Dawn just fought harder, and loved harder, than anyone Ed had ever encountered.
Shortly after Ed’s 88th birthday, Dawn passed away. She was incapable of doing anything she didn’t care about, and when she did care, she gave everything she had. Eventually, that took its toll. She had never looked forward to being old anyway. She’d led a marvelous life full of adventures that you never would have imagined someone with her background might have known. At least, you would never have imagined it if you had never met her. Those who had knew better.
So once again, the desert lay in front of Ed. There was nothing but sand and sun as far as his eyes could see. He knew that, eventually, he would find another oasis if he forced himself to make the trek. “Not this time,” he thought to himself. One last night, he put himself to bed in his now-empty house and closed his eyes. It was with great relief that he lay down and let the desert claim him at last.