The words were broken.

No fix seemed possible. No telling who to tell. Who would care?

Reggie couldn’t ask. What would he say? That knives have a point? That cold steel is theft?

The words didn’t work, like a broken clock on its face, hands down. He was numb to the numbers.

The words were broken. Nothing but shards.

Out of reach, his feelings were... Untouchable. They made no sense at all. Could they be dead? They had no smell.

He felt condemned. Left hanging. When would this sentence end? Full stop.

Reggie awoke in darkness in New Year. Where did Jannie wear it? Only yesterday, unused, it remained unfrayed.

How did he know he was awake?

If he could think about thinking… But thinking needed words and Reggie was tapped out. Or untapped. He was thoughtless. The old tabula rasa. The erase was run. Were the winners more than won?

Reggie slipped from the bed. The old floor murmured beneath his feet. Reggie rinsed his face in a cymbal crash of water. Jarring, it felt good to feel. How do you build a world using only images, absent of words? His solutions had dried.

Is it mean to expect meaning? Or simply average? How to respond to questions unanswerable in words?

For a moment, Reggie glimpsed a fleeting thought of the onset of senility. But it slipped his grasp and evaporated before him.

He mumbled, “Words ain’t what they used to be.” He could only agree.

Reggie gazed out the window as dawn slept, resisting the inevitable. He felt on a voyage with no rudder, no compass to guide this glide. Before the wind, the sails didn’t flap.

“If pending words intend to leave. I will find others. Create my own language. Strike out on my own. Let others follow my lead and read the headlines in my furrowed brow.” Reggie’s eyes lit up.

He knew the journey would be solitary. He had no twin with whom to share secret thoughts. No one understood him. Words bounced against walls, but no echoes returned.

And what would be the point of an unshared language? None. Words unbroken, yes. But words unused are useless.

His main complaint, of many, was the common language perpetuated such common ideas. “So many languages! Yet they address only a superficial and dusty veneer.” Reggie shook his finger at the world outside his window. “How can I force you to higher elevations?” His reflection avoided his gaze.

Reggie turned away in disgust. “Even your concepts of ‘spirit’ are but balloons begging the pin.” Reggie pressed index to thumb and raised his hand with a smile. “Please, allow me. It is but a phantom.”

Of course, Reggie knew language is a system of social agreement. “But must we agree to the lowest common denominator? Must language be a race to the gutter?”

Jannie sat in the kitchen finishing her coffee. She stood to rinse her cup when Reggie entered. She murmured and shrank from his touch. Words were unnecessary.

Reggie poured a cup and sat stiffly. His eyes followed her. “What is it called when you can’t think of a word?”

Without pause, “Stupid.”

Reggie smiled at her parry. “No. It’s a syndrome.”

“Stupid-idia.” Again, with no hesitation.

Reggie gave up. “No.”

Jannie dried her hands.

Reggie spoke up. “Remember in Seville, when we saw ‘Sophie’s Choice’?”

Jannie nodded.

“The film was in English with Spanish subtitles. But it didn’t matter until the characters all started speaking in German. At the climax of the film! The Spanish subtitles were useless. Remember how we laughed, speculating over the ending? I think we decided they couldn’t agree on whether to eat French or Italian that night.”

 Jannie left. The room was cold.  

To himself, “A breadless breakfast. Fast and with no break.”

Jannie opened the front door. Reggie went to help her with the luggage. She hesitated and then let him go ahead to the waiting taxi. She got in front and slammed the door without speaking. The cab drove off. The taillights lit Reggie’s face and faded to black as it turned the corner.

Reggie locked the house and went to his car.

He got to the airport and parked near the terminal from which he thought Jannie would fly. Reggie hoped to intercept her before she got through security. He assumed Jannie was already inside.

He found her in line with her boarding pass, waiting to enter the maze of metal detectors and conveyor belts. She saw him and pretended she hadn’t.

Reggie got to her as the official took her ticket to scan and check it against her I.D. Jannie ignored him.

The official spoke. “I’m sorry sir. You need a boarding pass, and you must wait your turn.”

Who was this guy? Couldn’t he see he needed to talk to her? Jannie passed through the turnstile and stepped onto the escalator. Up she went, ascending out of reach.

Reggie ran to buy a ticket. He guessed to where. He made it through security with little delay. He had no luggage.

He spotted Jannie approach the conveyor carrying people to the outer terminals. She glanced behind her as she stepped onto it, saw Reggie and faced forward. She stood by her carry-on as the conveyer carried her away.

Reggie strode against the human current, weaving around exhausted travelers dragging their baggage. An occasional golf cart maneuvered amongst the pedestrians.

Reggie thought he could move faster in the open. He didn’t want to try pushing past people on the narrow conveyor. So many people. Where do they go?

His eyes on Jannie, Reggie collided with a man dragging a large wheeled suitcase. The impact sent Reggie spinning off the man and tumbling to the floor. The man gestured and yelled but kept on going.

Someone offered Reggie a hand getting up. Reggie nodded thanks and resumed his pursuit.

There was a gap between conveyors at the entrance to one of the terminals. Reggie sighted Jannie as she stepped onto the new conveyor. Out of breath and limping, Reggie caught up to her and called to her. She ignored him.

“Jannie! I wanted to tell you something before you go.”

She did not respond.

“Jannie! Please!”


Reggie avoided another collision and maintained his balance.

“I’m sorry.”

“You can say that again…”

“Jannie, I’m sorry.”

She heard him. But there was no turning back to the gap. She reached out to Reggie and their hands touched. Reggie couldn’t keep up. She watched the distance grow between them. He couldn’t read her expression.

The conveyor carried her up to the next gap where he found her waiting.

Reggie approached and she took his hand. They walked together to a bench. He tried to speak but she told him to wait.

He caught his breath and said, “Jannie… Please don’t go.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course. I never wanted this.”

“You didn’t say anything. I thought you didn’t care anymore.”

“Of course I care. I lost the words.”

Jannie softened her look at Reggie. “How did you get in here? Did you buy a ticket?” Reggie nodded. “Where are you going?”

“I don’t even know. I’m lost without you.”

She squeezed Reggie’s hand. “Come with me.” Reggie protested. Jannie interrupted. “Home. Let’s go home. We’ll talk there.”

They kissed and embraced. The hug lasted until the tears subsided. Then they walked hand in hand back the way they came.

January 23, 2020 18:22

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John K Adams
20:36 Jan 30, 2020

It could go either way. He obviously needs to do some work. I prefer to end on an up note, especially in a short piece. Just as easy to end in bleakness, but why?


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Paula Turner
17:12 Jan 30, 2020

I loved the mixed up words concept and how well you executed it. I would be curious what it would look/feel like to not have the piece finish with a not so happy ending?


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22:34 Jan 24, 2020

Too good to want to stop. This is beautiful


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22:34 Jan 24, 2020

Too good to want to stop. This is beautiful


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