18. July 2023 · Comments Off on A LONELY WIDOWER · Categories: Short Stories

Martin Devries shook his head as he drove. Mimi is never coming back, he told himself for the hundredth time. This time, he thought he might actually believe it. Their wonderful marriage of ten years had become like a dream since her death, six months ago.

I may as well throw myself off a bridge, he remembered thinking as he approached the covered bridge near his home in Watkins, Utah. She’s never coming back, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

He stopped in the middle of the bridge, stepped out of the car and leaned over the rail. “Is it deep enough?” he wondered aloud. Then he shrugged. “Well, if it isn’t, I’ll just break my neck, and it’ll still be over.”

He climbed onto the rail and balanced there for a moment, glancing in both directions to be sure no one would interrupt him.

Glancing at the late afternoon, overcast sky, a memory came of a similar day, twelve years ago, when he’d invited the lovely Mimi Phillips on a picnic to Overton Falls Park. He’d known her for two years already, and his folks had encouraged him to ask her to marry him, but he’d been hesitant, thinking she might turn him down – and then what?

As the skies had opened, soaking them both as they’d sat on their blanket on the hillside, he’d pulled the ring box from his pocket and fallen to one knee, despite the rain.

“Mimi, you’re the sweetest, most wonderful woman I’ve ever met,” he’d said. “I don’t think I can live without you. Will you be Mrs. D-D-Devries – I-I mean, m-my wife?” he ‘d stammered.

Although she’d started packing up the picnic basket and was turned away from him, he could see her stiffen, her shoulders and head lowering. She’s going to say no, he’d told himself, his own head lowering in sorrow.

After a long moment she’d turned, and he saw her face lighting up with that smile he adored. “Yes! Of course!” she’d exclaimed. “I love you so much, Martin!”

It was then that Martin had known, without a doubt, that this was the woman he would love unconditionally for all the rest of his life.

But now she was gone.

He stepped off the railing and landed, much quicker than he expected, on a soft cushion of grass. As he lay there on his back, stunned not to be drowning, above him he saw drifting clouds in a sunny sky where a moment ago it had been overcast and nearly dusk.

“What the hell…?” he exclaimed aloud.

He sat up and looked around. He thought he was seeing a park beside a small lake. But how could that be? Why am I not in the water, or in a hospital? Looking around, the buildings he could see appeared to be made of some kind of gold material that shone in the sun. And the sun itself was bright and high in the sky, whereas it had been nearing evening just a moment before.

People strolled around him on paths, but they seemed different somehow than those he knew. “Different, how?” he wondered. “Alien, I guess,” he murmured. Then, realizing he was speaking aloud, even if in a low voice, he looked around to see if anyone had heard. No one he could see seemed interested.

“But I just appeared out of nowhere!” he said aloud. If someone had just materialized from nothing in front of me, he thought, I would certainly have wondered. But these folks just kept on walking by, or sitting on or getting up from benches, seeming to ignore this, as he thought, strange event.

Am I really here? he asked himself. He stood slowly, waiting while a minor wave of dizziness moved over him. Then he noticed an attractive woman sitting on a bench nearby. She reminded him a little of his Mimi, and she looked sad, he thought. He decided to speak to her.

He walked over and sat down beside her. “Do you need help?” he asked, hoping his smile was innocent enough not to scare her.

She cocked her head as if she didn’t understand what he said, but then, “No, I’m fine. Why are you here?”

“Why am I here?” he repeated. “I really don’t know. I was on a bridge, and then I was here. What about you?”

“I don’t know why I’m here, either. My car skidded off the road, but then I was here, sitting on that bench. And then you came.”

“Do you think we’re dead, and that this is Heaven?” he wondered.

She shrugged. “I never thought Heaven might be a park in some odd-looking city.”

“Me, neither. I’m Martin, by the way. What’s your name?”

“Lillian. Lillian Fetherston.”

“Maybe this isn’t Heaven, but an alien planet,” he said. “It really doesn’t look much like Earth.”

“Earth?” she repeated. “You mean Erido, don’t you? What’s Earth?”

“What?” he exclaimed. “What’s Erido?”

She tilted her head and seemed to look at him out of hooded eyes now. “It’s where I’m from,” she said. “What’s Earth?”

“It’s where I’m from,” Martin said.

“Could we be from different worlds?” Lillian wondered.

Martin’s eyes blinked involuntarily, and he thought, She’s kidding, right?

What does he mean? Lillian asked herself at the same time.

Both sat silently, each pondering what the other had said. Then Martin thought, Hmm, slightly strange people, someone from something called Erido, gold buildings, different weather   . . . Maybe this is Heaven! We should both be dead, right? She was in a car crash, and I jumped into the river. I wonder why she might be dead.

“Before the crash,” he asked slowly, “on Erido, what were you thinking?”

A frown appeared in her lovely forehead, and her eyes opened wide. “I was thinking that I might be better off dead,” she said. “I’d lost everyone I loved, and there was really nothing left for me.”

Martin nodded in thought. “So, you could have died in that car crash, right? No injuries you can feel? Everything seems normal in your body?”

Now she drew her brows lower and glared at him. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“I jumped from a bridge and should have drowned, or broken my neck,” he told her. “And I had recently lost my wife to cancer. So I felt I had nothing to live for.

“And now, here we are.”

Lillian blinked rapidly, looked around her at the park, the nearby gold buildings, the com-fortable-seeming people all around, and then back at Martin.

“Yes, here we are,” she said. “But where is here?”

“I think we’re in Heaven, or whatever wonderful place people go to on Erido.”

“Heaven,” she said. He nodded.

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