What I’m Writing This Week
Jared Clark is a teacher, a man of his word. He promised a student he would drop off a gift she handed him for her long-distance boyfriend while Jared attended an out-of-town conference in New York City. It cost him.
Our Last Downhill Run
Jared Clark high-fived his buddy Larry. “It’s over!”
The two men huddled in a corner of the hotel lobby as conference participants streamed out of the ballroom.
“Yup. Continuing ed credits done, and on the school district’s dime.” Larry stuffed his course notes into his briefcase. “And now, a night out in New York before we fly home.”
Jared fumbled in his own briefcase.
Larry said, “A guy in my discussion group told me about a cool jazz club. Only a few blocks from here. We can walk it easy.”
“It’s called Reedy’s. All kinds of musicians jam there. This guy swears he saw Sonny Rollins sit in on one set last week.”
“Yeah. Steaks and burgers.”
“I’m in.” Jared cocked his head. “But I have to meet you there later.”
“The conference is over.” Larry brushed his hands together. “We’re free.”
“I have to drop something off. It’s about 20 minutes from here.”
Larry grinned. “Jared, get real. You can’t afford a New York hooker.”
Jared grew red in the face. “No, no. Seriously.”
“Spill,” Larry said.
“Okay. One of my students asked me to drop off a gift for some guy she met while skiing last winter break.” He pulled a small package out of his briefcase.
“You can’t be serious. Winter break was three months ago. We’re a thousand miles away from our school.”
Jared shrugged. “I said I would try.”
“They couldn’t mail it?”
“Personal touch…I guess.”
Larry lifted his chin. “Who asked you to do this?”
“Yeah, she can be persistent.”
Jared repeated, “I said I’d try.”
“Does the guy know you’re coming?”
“Nope. I don’t have a number. Just an address.”
“You’re crazy, you know that, right?”
“Yeah. But I don’t want to let her down.”
Larry shrugged on his jacket. “I don’t want to go to Reedy’s alone. Come on, let’s hail a cab.”
“You don’t have to do this, Larry.”
“No worries. Let’s double-team this guy, then go party.”
They hustled out of the hotel lobby and grabbed a cab.
“Friday night, mister. Traffic will be bad.”
An hour later, the cab pulled up in front of a modest home on a quiet street. Larry pointed to the meter. “I said I’d ride with you, but the fare is on you.”
Jared nodded. He told the cab driver to wait. “I’ll only be a minute.”
A young man in jeans and a black hoodie answered the bell.
“Hi. I’m a teacher. My name is Jared. I’m looking for Wayne.”
The young man stared at Jared.
“Ashley Peters is a student of mine. She asked me to drop off a package for Wayne while I was in New York.”
Jared held out the package.
The young man didn’t move. “I’m Wayne.”
“Oh good. Then this is for you, and I’ll be on my way.”
Wayne did not extend his hand. “She broke up with me.”
“She broke up with me, man. Yesterday. I got a text. She’s seeing another guy.”
Jared stood frozen, hand holding the package out.
The cab driver honked the horn.
You got played.
“I gotta go,” Jared said. “Do you want this?”
Wayne shook his head again. “No way. You got played…we both got played.”
He closed the door.
The horn honked again.
Jared climbed back in the cab. “Back to the hotel, please.”
“How did it go?” Larry asked.
Jared held out the package. “He didn’t want it. She broke up with him.”
“No way. You got played.”
“No shit. That’s what he just said.”
Larry grabbed the package, tore the tissue wrapping off to reveal a book. Magic on the Lifts. Inside, the inscription: I’ll never forget our last downhill run.
Larry laughed. “Okay, you tried. Let’s go party.”
Back at the hotel, Jared paid the driver.
“You need to send Ashley a delivery bill for the cab.”
“Right? Come on. The club is my treat!”
“Now you’re talking!”
Jared crumbled the tissue wrapping into a tight ball and tossed it in a trash can on the sidewalk.
“Should I return the book?” Jared asked. Larry shrugged.
Jared said, “I tried.” He flipped the book sideways under a passing crosstown bus.