BY NT FRANKLIN
Copyright is held by the author.
“Sebastian, I’m here to help you, but you have to want to change. You’ve made progress but have plateaued. I’m not sure I can help you until you take the next step yourself.”
“Yes, Dr. Kaplan.”
The conversation had been echoing in Sebastian’s head for many months. While he didn’t agree, she had been his therapist for seven years since his parents died on an overseas trip. She was the only person who was nice to him and he could confide in. He needed her contact to stabilize his life, so he was willing to try a bold step whether he wanted to or not.
Sabastian moved to the country and found a sparsely furnished little rental house across from the landlord. It was remote, on a gravel road off a gravel road, and the landlord owned all the surrounding land, so there was really no traffic or visitors.
He got a job at the library, reshelving books. Ok, it was a volunteer position, but he didn’t have to deal with people, or many of them.
A booming knock sounded on the door, followed by “Sebastian!”
Sebastian put his book down and ran over his options. Don’t answer the door, hide in the bedroom, go into the bathroom . . .
“Sebastian, I know you’re in there.” It was Blade Albert. Who names their kid ‘Blade’ or calls himself ‘Blade’ anyway?
“Hey, buddy, it’s Blade.”
Yes, Dr. Kaplan. Yes, Dr. Kaplan. Sebastian repeated. He rose and walked to the door.
Sebastian saw Blade smiling, then lowered his eyes to his feet. “Yes, Mr. Albert?”
“My Dad’s Mr. Albert. I’m Blade.”
“I’m more comfortable with Mr. Albert, if that’s okay,” Sebastian said.
“Well, okay, but Mr. Albert died 15 years ago. I’m Blade. I stopped by to see how things are going. There’s never been a phone in this place, but I could make a call to see if I could expediate a new installation.”
Sebastian stood, toes still inside the house, and looked away from Blade, still avoiding eye contact. “I don’t want or need a phone, but thank you anyway.”
“Just using a cellphone, huh?”
He looked up and saw Blade, still smiling. Averting his eyes, he said, “Um, I don’t have a cellphone. I find them disturbing.”
“Well, suit yourself. Feel free to use my number for an emergency contact. You have it?”
“Yes, Blade, you gave it to me when I moved in. I still have it written on the back of an envelope under a magnet on the refrigerator.”
Blade took a step back. “You okay?
Sebastian wiped the sweat from his palms on his pant legs. Yes, Dr. Kaplan. Yes, Dr. Kaplan. Sebastian raised his eyes and met Blade’s. “Yes, I am fine, thank you. I feel better knowing I can use your number as an emergency contact.”
Blade backed up. “Well, come across the road if you need me.”
Sebastian watched as Blade walked away shaking his head.
In the past nine months Sebastian had yet to initiate a conversation. He was getting better at replying. Rehearsing helped, as did a script he worked up with a flow chart of possible answers. Baby steps, but steps nonetheless.
People here might not understand me, but at least they aren’t ostracizing me. But I moved here nine months ago to address this and nothing’s changed. My inheritance will last, but not for ever. I have to come up with some changes. Things are improving, but I don’t have any confidants. Dr. Kaplan won’t take me back as a patient unless I have a confidant.
This was the fodder Sebastian saved for his cleansing walks, as per Dr. Kaplan’s suggestion, to assess where he was in life and where he wanted to go.
Sebastian was on his daily two-mile morning walk, deep in thought. Same time, same route, same everything. He counted the steps and never varied by more than five percent. Orderly, just the way he liked it.
He wrinkled his nose before he knew what he was doing. “What’s that smell?”
He surprised himself, because he’d never spoken on his walk before. He thought he’d never spoke to himself either, but he’d have to reconsider that.
Looking up from watching where he put his feet, he spotted a body in the short grass just off the gravel road. Legs sticking up. Bloated. The smell was disgusting.
Another half mile, turn around, rewalk the one mile, pass the disgusting smell, and he would be home. Then he would do something about it.
At least he’d been able to cleanse his thoughts on a daily basis. But none of this happened on the way back. That’s ruined my day so far, might as well go and talk to Blade.
Sebastian walked across the gravel road and down the driveway with the mailbox emblazoned “B. Albert.”
Blade was a big cattle rancher in the area and everyone seemed to know and like him, but Sebastian didn’t want to be included with everyone.
“Morning, Sebastian.” The call from the porch startled him and made him look up. There sat Blade Albert, rocking in his chair and smiling like he was holding court.
“How’s my closest neighbour today? I saw you out walking again, stepping right out, aren’t we now?”
Sebastian looked down and said nothing.
“I’ll bet you didn’t know I’ve seen you at the library, almost hiding in the back room. And taking a break on the back-entrance steps.
Sebastian didn’t look up.
I’m not spying on you, I’m on the library board. You could think about joining into the community here. We’re not all bad.”
Blade stood up. “Say, I’ve got a full pot of coffee inside and my cup needs to be warmed up; there’s plenty of chairs on the porch so why don’t you make yourself at home and I’ll be right back out.”
Sebastian stopped walking five feet from the porch. “No thank you, Mr. Albert —”
“You need to hold on right there. Name’s Blade, we’ve been over that before, haven’t we?”
Sebastian took a deep breath, “Yes, Blade, we have.”
“Okay, now we’re good.”
Sebastian took one step closer to the porch before he spoke. “Blade, there seems to be an issue on the Bean Road where I walk. There is a dead body on the side of the road.”
“A dead body, you say?”
“Yes, it’s bloated and smells disgusting. You own the property along the Bean Road, so I came to tell you.”
Blade smiled a crooked smile. “Which side of the road?”
Sebastian straightened up, cocked his head, and looked at Blade.
Blade continued to smile and rock back. “North or south? Gotta be one or the other.”
“Uh, about a half mile down on the north side.”
Blade’s eyes twinkled, and he smiled his crooked smile. “Sebastian, I own the land on the south side of the road, so the body isn’t on my property or even my side of the road. The north side belongs to the town, so maybe you should contact them.”
Sebastian took a step back. “So, you aren’t going to do anything about it?”
“Well, no, doesn’t rightly look like something I should do.”
“You think this is funny, don’t you?”
“Sebastian, now that’s not fair. I’m not laughing, you can see that. Seeing as how I know you don’t have a phone, would you like to use mine?”
“Yes, that would be fine.”
“Well, you’ll have to come up to the porch to get it because I’m not bringing it down to you. Now, I’ll go in, get my cellphone, the number for the town, and two cups of coffee. Does that suit you?”
“Yes, thank you. Black, if you please.” Sebastian dropped his shoulders and obediently walked to the porch. The walk was unsettling, how much worse can this be? Maybe it’s a sign?
Blade returned and handed a cup of coffee to Sebastian. “Black, just the way God made it, and we should drink it. You sit down, and then I’ll give you the phone and the number, deal?”
Sebastian sat down, placed his coffee on the small porch table, and took the phone and paper with a number written on it.
“We’re going to be great friends, Sebastian, just you wait and see.”
Sebastian dialled the phone and spoke into it, “Yes, I’d like to report a dead bloated body about a half mile down Bean Road from Blade Albert’s house.” Sabastian pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at it before returning to the call. “No, I don’t know the gender. Hair color? I don’t know. Listen, someone dumped a dead sheep on the north side of Bean Road.”
After a pause, Sebastian nodded a couple times. “Thank you. Goodbye.”
He handed the phone back to Blade and sipped the coffee. “That’s done. I guess I don’t need to be off in a hurry, this is really good coffee.”
After several sips, Sebastian put the cup on the table. “They’re not going to do anything about the sheep are they, Blade?”
“You knew there was dead sheep on the road, too?”
“Yup. Hobby ranchers do that, not professional ranchers. Happens all too frequently.”
“But why did you let me carry on.”
“Nine months you live across the road and not one visitor and you don’t have a phone. I thought some human contact would be good for you. Got you up here for a cup of coffee, didn’t I?”
Sebastian’s eyes twinkled a bit as he tried not to smile. “Well, it is good coffee.”
Blade smiled and said, “We’re going to be great friends, Sebastian, just you wait and see.”
Sebastian nodded and thought before spoke. “Yes, I can see that happening.”