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Contemporary Bedtime Western

“Are you coming to bed?”


The voice startled Jay, and instinctively he placed his phone in his pocket before answering. “I’ll be there in a second, what are you doing up?” Jay’s question was more of a defense mechanism than a quest for knowledge. He was less concerned as to why Pam was up than that she was up.


“Do you have a minute?” She asked, sitting down before Jay had a chance to answer. “I’ve been thinking.”


In the decade Jay had been married—I’ve been thinking—was second to only—we have to talk—in his list of things he didn’t want to hear, but experience had taught him there was only one correct answer.


“Sure, what’s on your mind?”


“Do you remember our wedding day?” Pam asked, “And Pastor Richard?”


“Of course. It was the happiest day of my life,” Jay answered. His response was both true and ironic. Pam didn’t come from money and Jay barely had a nickel to his name so the two young lovers had been married on a beach just before sunset. The guests sat in folding chairs they brought themselves and the altar was nothing more than two tiki torches stuck in the sand at the end of a makeshift aisle. Unable to afford a minister, Jay and Pam had been married by a friend everyone called Pastor Richard. His name was Richard, to be sure, but he was not a pastor, not a trained one at least. He was, however, the type of person who saw truths in life that most people didn’t and there was no one else either Pam or Jay would have wanted to perform the task of joining them in holy matrimony than the unkempt but wise man. Yes, Jay remembered the day and the man, but the memory was no longer a pleasant one.


“I’ve been thinking a lot about what he said,” Pam continued, “He told us that why was not the question, it was the answer.”


A smile came over Jay’s face. He remembered vividly the advice Pastor Richard had given them before they took their vows. He had squatted down in front of the couple and placed two dots in the sand a foot from each other. There had been no rehearsal or even discussion of the ceremony so both Pam and Jay were surprised with the sight of their friend as he used the only canvass available to him.


“This dot is you,” he said, pointing at the dot on the right and then at Jay. “And this one is you,” he said, doing the same with the second dot and Pam. “The paths of your lives have brought you together, here today, right now,” he said as he drew diagonal lines from each dot to a midpoint between the two. “You were on separate paths but no longer, now you walk life’s path as one,” and with that, he drew a single line towards the young couple and stood back up straight. “If you want to find the true reward of the oneness you seek today, you’ll remember that ‘Y’ is the answer, not the question.” 


Jay remembered how struck he had been by the simple lesson Pastor Richard had taught that day. Life was a path and he had committed to share his path with Pam the same way she had promised to share hers with him.


“Pastor Richard had a unique ability to see the truth and to share it,” Jay said, smiling at Pam for the first time in what seemed like years, “What made you think of that?”


“Honestly I was thinking more about the warning. Do you remember?”


“I do,” Jay responded, instantly aware of where the conversation was headed, “He warned us about being halfway in.”


“It was more than that though,” Pam reminded, “He told us to beware of the paths to the side. I don’t think we listened to him that day. I pictured what our life would be and this reality just doesn’t match that picture.”


Jay instantly knew Pam was right, Pastor Richard had not stopped when he had drawn the ‘Y’ in the sand. He had squatted back down and started drawing lines off the unified path. “This is you choosing your friends over Pam,” he said to Jay as he drew a line out to the right. “And this is you, Pam, siding with your parents rather than with your husband,” he said, as he drew a line to the left. “Hobbies, work, and even children can be fatal distractions if you let them,” he said as he drew multiple lines to the left and right. “Before you know it ‘Y’ is no longer an answer because it’s no longer a ‘Y’. 


Jay who had been looking at the floor, imagining the sandy beach where he had promised to love Pam for the rest of his life, looked up in time to see a single tear fall from his wife’s eye.


“Is it too late?” Pam asked as she stood up and turned toward the bedroom. “Don’t be long, I don’t sleep well without you next to me.”


“No,” Jay said, with a certainty, even he didn’t understand.


“No?” Pam asked, turning back towards her husband.


“No, it’s not too late. I’ll be there in a minute.”


Pam smiled and turned back towards the bedroom as Jay pulled his phone out of his pocket.


The text was still there waiting to be sent. Want to get a drink after work tomorrow? Jay had allowed pleasant conversation to become flirting and he had finally asked for her number. He knew the moment he did that he had crossed a line but trial and circumstance had worn him down. Now, where a lack of focus had dwelled only a few seconds earlier, Jay found clarity. It only took a few seconds to delete the unsent text. “Y is the answer,” Jay said softly to himself as he also deleted the contact from his phone and headed where he belonged, to his bed, next to his wife.


July 17, 2022 21:59

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12 comments

Avery Mossop
00:44 Jul 26, 2022

What a lovely story. How did you come up with the ‘y is the answer’ idea? It’s a cool aspect of the story, as well a just being very good advice!

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Thom With An H
01:25 Jul 26, 2022

Don’t laugh. I dreamt it the night before I wrote the story. I had been trying to figure out a concept and when I woke up I knew it. Thanks for your kind words.

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Mustang Patty
22:42 Jul 23, 2022

Hi, Thom, I wasn't surprised to find the story charming and wonderful - after all, YOU wrote it. As always, I love your turn of phrase, and the way you make your characters relatable and real. Thank you for sharing, PS: There will be a Christmas Anthology this year - stories due by September 1st

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Thom With An H
23:12 Jul 23, 2022

Thanks so much Patty. I’m in for Christmas. I can’t wait.

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Riel Rosehill
19:37 Jul 18, 2022

Hey Thom! Nice to see another story from you. I love the sound of "Y Is The Answer" and that lesson from Pastor Richard! I thought that was a really creative idea, with the drawing in the sand, too. I believe love and dedication in love is a decision we make every day (for better or worse), and your story beautifully fits this idea. They can make it work, if they want to. If the "why" is worth it all. :)

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Thom With An H
21:59 Jul 18, 2022

Riel, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I’ve felt creatively dry for a while. I start stories but don’t finish them. It’s nice to be back in the game and even nicer to get back in touch with my old friends. Thanks for being part of my comeback. 😀

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Michał Przywara
23:41 Jul 17, 2022

Very clever imagery with the sand. Everyday life (and perhaps especially so life with someone) can be full of stress. Reflecting and remembering the common ground things started on helped this couple turn things around before they went too far askew. A hopeful ending for this marriage-trouble story, and a neat use of the prompt. The wife wants to talk: not awful, not great :)

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Thom With An H
22:02 Jul 18, 2022

As always I love your insight. Thanks for taking the time to make my day.

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Calvin Kirby
20:42 Jul 23, 2022

Beautiful story, Thom!!! It made me t hink back over my almost 60 years of marriage of a few times I almost strayed from the "Y." You have such a wonderful gift of telling a story that touches the heart and mind. Thanks friend.

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L. E. Scott
15:50 Jul 23, 2022

This is sweet. I love it.

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Cindy Strube
22:39 Jul 17, 2022

Beautifully expressed, and a lovely ending! Marriage is not 50/50; it’s 100% on each side.

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Thom With An H
22:01 Jul 18, 2022

Truer words were never spoken. 😀

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