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Juggling Friends

Jake contemplates the complexities of friendship after a long day of work.

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Snow covered pine trees

Jake closed the door behind the woman as she left, a slight grin still tugged at the corner of his mouth. He leaned the closed sign in the cafe window and stretched his shoulders as he made his way to the back room to collect the sheepskin parka he’d hung on the brooms that morning.

He tugged the heavy coat over his secondhand sweater, searching for his gloves in the dimly lit store room.

He yawned as he pulled on one glove and switched off the light, heading to the front door. Jake fished the shop keys from his coat pocket. As he did, his hand brushed against the leather bean bags he’d left there last night after getting thrown out of Amber’s apartment.

He still didn’t understand what triggered them so much. One minute he’d been laughing and practicing juggling. The next minute, the monogramed vase was falling and shattering into tiny pottery slivers. Jake profusely apologized but it didn’t appease his friend who’d asked him to leave.

Jake shook his head, pursing his cracked lips as he turned off the lights. He locked the door, turning toward the snow-covered road that lead to the ski village where he lived. The snow plows hadn’t made it back up the mountain yet he noticed. The snow was still falling, though not as heavily as it had been this morning.

He walked around to the ski rack beside the cafe and grabbed his cross country skis and poles. Strapping his boots to the skis, Jake continued to wrestle with last night’s juggling catastrophe.

“I broke the vase, but why did they get so upset and throw me out. How is that fair?” he wondered, pushing off with his poles and heading down the shadowed road that ran between tall frosted alpine firs on either side of the road.

The soft swish of his skis on the new snow were barely audible. Once in a while the skis would sink through to the pavement breaking the stillness.

It hadn’t been an easy friendship. What started as mutual admiration and shared gender angst had settled into something akin to sibling affection mixed with rivalry. When Jake decided to teach himself to juggle, Amber had insisted they were going to learn as well. For him, it had just been a way to not feel so much like a klutz.

“I can’t even dance, for crying out loud,” he’d told Amber. Maybe if he could learn some hand eye coordination he might be able to translate that into something akin to a modicum of grace?

As Jake pushed himself along through the snow, struggling to keep an even rhythm, he wished he’d remembered to grab his hat this morning. With darkness coming on, cold reached through his brown curls and numbed his skull. His ears ached.

Digging his poles deeper into the snow, he accelerated down the last curve of the road to where his one room apartment awaited.

This vignette is part of a daily 36-minute freewriting exercise I’m committing to. I used the following prompts:

  • Character: a juggler
  • Action: skiing
  • Setting: a road
  • Phrase: “How is that fair?”