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Short Story

Our Man Walked Down the Hall (short story)

Our man walked down the hall, quietly musing, going at an appropriate pace. The hall was clearly in some institution, a hospital or psyche ward, one of those places where cleanliness is held higher then godliness; where secrets  show up against the white monochromes.

Our man was bobbing his head slightly as he walked, looking at nothing, yet apparently walking to some internal musical beat. He bobbed a little left, a little right. Nothing drastic, but certainly noticeable. He had the countenance of a young boy walking on a slippery pool deck, so ready to let loose his energy but so aware that momentary excruciating slowness is necessary.

I dislike description, but I suppose the countenance of our man will have bearing on this particular story, or at least I imagine so. Our man, who has a name and hair color and all those inessential details, appeared to be near the end of his life. Aged perhaps eighty years, he was stooped and wizened though clearly in good spirits. He was a man who had seen much of the world, who had an aura of calm grace, who in another time would have been classified as having an aristocratic bearing.

Imagine him is this scene, if you will, as a man who has purchased something, something imaginable in our day and age but unimaginable a short time ago. He is going now, through this cheerless institution in a cheerful spirit, with the hope of finally bearing the fruit of this object he has purchased.

He walks down the hall, still, until he comes to the end of the hall, and here he must choose left or right. He casually turns around, looks inquisitively at the attendant behind him and heads left at the hand signal denoted by the attendant. The attendant slows down subtly, so that our man regains the distance in-between himself and the attendant he enjoyed previously, and then the attendant, too, carries on.

As our man passes an abandoned waiting room whose uncomfortable plastic seats appear to get little use, the attendant invoked clearly but respectively “that the room you are looking for is on the right, 1406.” Our man centered in front of this door, which was either made out of metal or thick paint, and raised his hand in the direction of the door nob and then paused, “Do I need a key, or is it unlocked?” “It is unlocked, we don’t believe locked doors provide a positive atmosphere,” the attendant said, drawing directly behind our man so as to look over his shoulder so that when the door opened the scene would greet his eyes with the same rapidity that it would our man; with the attendants’ head looming over our mans shoulder, and our man having his head turned to address the attendant, their lips were so close to each other that imagery of kissing must be invoked, though this is an entirely meaningless coincidence.

Our man opened the door, and was greeted with the sunlight that was so sorely lacking in the hallways. A large window, floor to ceiling, was directly opposite the door and took up must of the relatively large wall. On the other side of the window was a tree, perhaps a maple or an oak but certainly not a pine, that was in full maturity and currently filtering the sun into the room in a particularly sublime way. In the room, was a bed: double sized, and that was all. The room felt larger then it was. Doing push ups, in the middle of the floor, was a young boy, aged perhaps 11, that age right before puberty where one is still very much a boy but you question for how much longer.

The boy was clearly working hard, but not overly exerting himself. The attendant gave a short whistle and the boy stood up to attention with the air of saluting, though his hands were firmly at his sides.

The attendant walked with efficient steps to the right of the man, the left of the boy, so that the three of them were very much an equilateral triangle, and said, looking only at the man “That since he arrived last week, he has maintained his exercise regime. He has also maintained his strict vegan diet, as you requested. As I am sure you have been informed, his health is flawless and as you can see he is a prime physical specimen.” The man looked thoughtful, asked a few questions to the attendant which were of that minutiae detail which is not necessary in a story, and asked if he could observe the boy. Upon the attendant’s consent, our man walked up to the boy. Putting his eyes only centimeters away from the boys face, he just silently observed the boys face for what must have been a full minute. He then began circling the boyThe boy remained motionless, except for blinking, seeming to be either used to or trained for close examinations such as this.

Our old man pulled away, and walked back so that once again there was an equilateral triangle between himself, the boy, and the attendant, and then while continuing to stare at the boy told the attendant “I was never so thin at that age, but obviously that is not a complaint. He is perfect, everything I hoped for.”

The attendant nodded, looking neither relieved or pleased but rather just professional, and said “Then shall we go back to the directors office, and you can finish signing the papers? We can still arrange the transfer over this afternoon as planned” “Yes, lets. You may lead the way,” said our man, and he followed the attendant out of the room, no longer a bob to his step but now a smile on his face. He turned to shut the door behind him, gave one last look to the boy in the room, who blinked once and slowly, then shut the door.

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