A fork in the road

Ernest felt the heat of the sun through his closed eyes.

The wind blew at the sweat on his brow and whispered the smell that he knew was summer. It was mid-day, the point where shadows give no hint of time and the moment of heat, and sweat, and singing birds seems eternal.

Ernest opened his eyes. The glare of the sidewalk bothered him for a moment as did the smell of fresh asphalt. He felt his skin itch on the back of his neck where it had been burned red. His arms were sore from carrying the worn tackle box and fishing pole. More than anything else his head was persistent to remind him of a constant pressure. A pain that only faded after drinking summer beers chilled next to freshly caught fish.

He wondered if he could have stayed longer on the water. Waited until the sun faded below the horizon. Then maybe this pressure he felt would diminish. Have the weight of the ocean drained out from his head through his ears. The thought made him smile. Cigarettes now seemed appealing, though Ernest declined to take the crumpled carton out of his pocket, the smoke would make the walk home hotter.

He had used the same path home for weeks. From the water’s edge, a clear path led through the sand dunes. Over the countless days, Ernest would pass by the same spot where some shore bird had made a nest. The eggs were pale and speckled with spots. The hatchling skin wrinkled like his hands. Now passing by it was empty.  The path leads out onto the coast line road. Cars could not park and travel only one way. Ernest would walk against the coming traffic in natural defiance.

Now he stood at the end of that road. Here it split in two, both directions leading towards places Ernest was both familiar with and held little interest in. So he would usually cross in the middle and continue down the alley on the other side. But the intersection had been repaved to his surprise in the amount of time that he was out at sea. In front of him, a sign of glaring orange warned him, “Do Not Enter”.

Ernest looked at the sign feeling the pressure rise in his head. It seemed to be ordering him to choose a new direction to take. To decide which path to take at this fork in the road made real only by a sign of restriction.

So Ernest fashioned his own sign. Made permanent as the sun faded in the west. A silver fork embedded deep into the hot asphalt, pointing towards a path that led down past the sand dunes and into the dark green water.

 


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