Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Line

The daily events of our lives can be plotted on the various points of a line that stretches from the mundane to the exciting. Most of us have a variety of peaks and valleys on our life’s line: it is the evidence of the highs and lows we have experienced.

A few people live not so much along this line as they do at one edge or the other, and it’s these people we most discount or admire.

Professional athletes, movie stars, celebrated artists—these people seem to operate in a constant state of excitement, and this is, in part, the reason we admire those we mere mortals consider famous.

But what of the others—those whose lives seem never to move beyond the ordinary—who are they, and how do we acknowledge their existence?

Some of them are the bums who wallow in the doorways of our town shops: in turn, we ignore them and shoo them away. Others are the nameless and faceless people in line at the welfare office (or similar locales) who cause us to wonder what shortcomings of their own doing have caused them to seek out the help provided by our tax dollars.

Many are just like you and me: people whose lives move at an even pace from day-to-day and whose existence (or lack thereof) goes unnoticed but by those to whom they are closest.

It is this last group of people—dare I call them us—around whom this story revolves. But it is not merely about people like us: it’s about what happens when the lives of people like us cross, and the point of temporary excitement created by their intersection.


Edward “Eddie” Packet came from a long line of barely successful farmers, and like those in his family who preceded him, his farm was in a constant state of fluctuation between failure and revival. It should be noted that his failures were not due to his inabilities as a farmer as much as they were to the inability of nature to cooperate at the same time the maturation of one of his crops was imminent. (That, and the fact that more and more the family farmer couldn’t keep pace with the corporate one.)

Miss Abigail Louise Dettonridge was nowhere near as fancy looking as her name sounded, but her boyfriend never seemed to notice: in his eyes, Abigail was an angel, and she was a good deal fancier than any name he’d ever heard.

He was a simple young man, and this quality protected him from a good many things: one of which was wondering what any young lady—even one like Miss Abigail—might see in a young man who had no skills, no family, and no clear future.

It was a warm summer day in late June, and Miss Abigail stood at the top of a ridge looking out on a valley. She was full from the picnic she had just shared with her beau, and in the background she could hear the familiar tink-clunk, tink-clunk, tink-clunk of cans as one-by-one each was struck and fell to the ground.

Abigail turned away from the valley and looked back at her boyfriend. She had lately wondered whether or not she was in love with him. She was not sure either way, and at times, this scared her.

While Miss Abigail busily mused over the state of her heart, Eddie Packet walked the length of his fields anticipating the damage a soon to arrive heat wave might cause to his almost-ripened fruit.

The boyfriend had tired of his sport, and he turned his attention to Abigail, catching her in mid-thought about her love for him. He was, of course, unaware of the nature of the look on her face—another of the blessings of his being simple.

Suddenly, Abigail returned from her reverie. She met her boyfriend’s eyes, and as a means to avert any questions (not that the boyfriend had any), she looked down at the rifle in his hands and asked,

“May I have a go before we leave?”

The boyfriend nodded in reply.

Abigail steadied herself, but she found that the sun’s location in the sky blinded her. She turned, lowered her eyes and her aim, and before her boyfriend could stop her, she had fired off three quick shots from the .22.

Below the ridge on which Abigail and her boyfriend stood, three bullets sailed to their final resting places: in the trunk of a tree in the valley below. In their trajectories had been nothing but the beating heart of Eddie Packet.

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