By Matthew Gruchow
For Three Word Wednesday
The rain had kept much of the evening crowd away from the cafe. David knew that if left alone with the quiet of the cafe and the gentleness of the rain that he would feel the world grow heavy and press in on him and he would be afraid again. He stood up, put the letter he had been writing into his jacket pocket, placed a few dollars next to his coffee cup and stepped outside. The streetlights were just coming on and burned their dingy yellow orbs into the gray weather.
David had left the hotel for the cafe when he had seen the four French policemen enter the lobby and look around. He had pretended to read a letter at the bar until the policemen had paired off and left the lobby. Now, as he walked back to the hotel he thought about how his daughter had read under the shade of that maple tree nearly every day that summer and the straw color of her hair and how it would tangle in the breeze. He would watch her sometimes from the kitchen window and picture her as a grown woman rather than twelve years old. He remembered she should have been in for supper that day, but had dallied over the pages of her book and he could saw her look up and smile at him as he drove down the gravel road towards the house. At least he thought it had been a smile. The drinks had made him slow, and he had squinted to see her better. He waved back and then felt the thud of the wooden fence posts against the car. He had tried to steer away from the tree where his daughter was trying to get to her feet.
When it was over and he thought he knew he could do nothing for her he ran inside the house and took the money and passport from the fire box. He had called the ambulance and the police from the airport. His daughter would be buried by his wife.
He had been a coward. He had hoped the letter would explain things, but he could never get the words right, and doubted he would have the courage to mail it off if he ever finished it. Part of him wanted it to be finished with it all. The whole thing had made him sick and crazy and tired. He wanted peace. He wanted to say how sorry he was and how he wanted to come home. But he also wanted to live.
David paused at the street corner across from his hotel and looked carefully at the cars on either side of the street. A police car was parked near the entrance, but he could see no police. It would be better to move on, he thought. He walked away from the hotel again. At the next corner he looked down to where the rain water was flowing over the grate of a storm drain and pulled out the letter, ripped it, and dropped it into the water. He watched as the pieces were carried along to the drain where they lingered for a moment on the grating and then were gone.