Judson Heart, like all of us, has some regrets. Not his job: he writes for a daily newspaper. Maybe his introspection: he eats lunch alone. Definitely his timing: he hasn’t had much luck in the love department. With his ten-year reunion approaching, those regrets intensify as he begins to recall a turbulent final year of high school. But with the help of three elderly, mystical strangers and a surprising assignment to interview a prison inmate, Jud may get the chance to make some changes. All he needs to do is find out what happened to Larry Alan.
JUD crossed the street and peered around the bus kiosk. Ah, all clear. Relieved, he entered the park and rushed across the grassy field, heading directly to his favorite bench beneath a sugar maple. It wasn’t very cold today, just comfortably crisp, not much of a breeze.
“Heads up, man!”
Jud ducked just as a soccer ball sailed past his head, nearly hitting him.
“Whoa! Good reflexes,” the player shouted.
Jud nodded and smiled weakly, but he kept moving, his focus on getting to his bench. The scrimmage resumed once he’d cleared the field. Reaching his favorite spot, Jud sat down, put his book and sandwich on the worn seat beside him, and took a few moments to settle into his surroundings. There were just two men—late teens, early twenties—knocking the soccer ball back and forth between them. To their left, on the other side of the field and on another bench, sat a young mother, fidgeting with tucking a blanket around a baby in a stroller while trying to keep an eye on an older boy as he ran around, using his finger to shoot any person or squirrel or bird he spotted.
Another woman approached the first. She had a young girl at her side, clinging to her hand and apparently trying to become part of her mother’s leg. Jud smiled, noticing the little girl’s hair was the color of the leaves shading him, that warm red-gold that a sugar maple gets in autumn. When the sun hits it just right, it appears to be aflame. The girl peered around her mother at the new woman and occasionally glanced nervously at the loud, rowdy boy when he ventured too close.
“Bang! You’re dead!” the boy shouted at her, causing her to flinch.
“James, stop that,” his mother scolded. “That’s no way to make new friends.”
“Bang! You’re dead!” James said, pointing his finger at his mother before running off. Jud saw the girl release her mother’s hand and step away, turning to watch the boy at play.
He sighed as he removed his reading glasses from his jacket pocket and picked up his book. He had an hour for lunch, but rarely took that long. He just wanted some quiet time in a lovely setting, just him, his book, and his turkey sub. He would simply read until he was done eating. That was usually enough time to wash the noise and stress of the newsroom out of his head.
It’s official. Dawn Kimberly Johnson is an auto-buy for me now.
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