He arrived too early. Much too early. He was always a bit overanxious. The worried type. He was alone, of course. Standing alone on one particular spot. He waited halfheartedly. He knew it was too early to begin seriously waiting. He had been afraid that contrary to all schedules and recorded data it might by some inexplicable quirk happen earlier. Earlier than predicted. It might arrive before he was ready. He wanted to have time to prepare himself. Time to wait.
He walked a small circle, careful not to go too far from his chosen spot, peering into space in every possible direction. It would only come in one direction. He knew that. But just that once he made a survey of the distant horizons surrounding him. Empty. Not a shadow of a noise. He stood for time. Nothing, There really was nothing. Silence. He was satisfied. He took a deep breath and sighed.
Might as well sit down. Be comfortable. Not too far away. Take no risks, just relax for a while. Always with a keen eye, his legs ready to jump and run. Like a cat crouched in the grass eying his prey’s empty nest. Waiting. Every tight muscle under the soft fur ready to spring. Waiting.
He sat. Sat forward on the bench. Leaning in the direction. The direction when. It would not be long. When. He was ready. Ready to leap up and run. When. At that moment bang to his feet, grab his coat and attack.
He crouched. Muscles tight. Eyes sharp. His short breath catching in his throat. His heart listening. He waited. Waited through an eternal stillness his chest hard with breath. For as far as his eyes stretched, nothing. The flat earth melted into the sky. The empty sky.
Suddenly pain. His taut muscles seized. His back ached. His entire body in an anxious knot.
How stupid. He over dramatized things. No fear, he assured no one. No need to panic. It would come yet. It wasn’t yet. He had time. It would come, of course, but not yet. He was early. Not yet but soon. Patience. It would come but not yet. Soon. Oh yes, soon but in time.
He shook his legs out, the left one first then the right. He stretched his feet, straightened up and gave his head a quick turn. A quick stretch of the neck. Nothing foolhardy. He never turned completely away. Just a swift circular movement. That felt good. Eyes left. Still nothing.
So many times he had imagined himself here waiting. Waiting patiently but with assurance. So many times. And tomorrow, of course, he’d laugh. Laugh at the way he’d got a cramp because of his anxious wait. Tomorrow sitting somewhere amidst noise and movement he would laugh affectionately. Perhaps even condescendingly. Be honest. He was concerned. He smiled nervously trying to be wisely tolerant to tomorrow’s laugh. But tomorrow was tomorrow, today was today. And it was no longer early.
He moved his coat to the side. Still ready to clutch but not embarrassingly close. He clasped his hands together. His palms were moist. He pushed his knotted fingers forward, cracking his knuckles. His eyes always in the direction. Nothing, of course. There was no reason why it should be on time. It could possibly be late. Very possibly. In fact, he expected it to be.
He stretched out his legs and leaned back, resting his head on the bench, gazing in the direction. He brushed a piece of lint off his shoulder and crossed his arms. It would be a while yet. That was obvious. There was lots of time. Might as well have a cigarette.
Without turning his head he fumbled in his coat pocket and got out the package. Where were his matches? He slowly searched his coat and then his jacket pockets. Hadn’t any. Stupid. That was stupid. Should have known.
There was a book in his pocket, but it was hardly a time to read. He put the cigarette in his mouth then remembered that he had no match. He shoved the cigarette package back in his coat pocket. The coat fell on the ground. It had been near the edge. Ready. He leaned over and picked it up. He folded it neatly beside him, lining out to keep it clean. Suddenly a noise. It coming. It here. He leapt up and fumbled forward. His left foot dead. Asleep. Paining. His coat? Clutched in his right hand. Frantically forward. His hand waving silent mouth open to cry. Push. Run. Cry.
It arrived. As in his endless dreams, his waiting days. Suddenly, noiselessly without before or movement he saw it. Coloured red and orange and pink, covered in purple sequins. Gaudier perhaps than he had imagined, but it.
Too now. Too very now. Too real to be felt. His heart stopped. Mechanically his knees folded into action and his legs jutted forward. Left, right, left, right. Coat swinging. Slow run. Every muscle performing its premeditated function. He moved forward gaping open and dry.
“Not yet,” he whimpered, “not yet.”
Originally published in: Canadian Short Fiction Anthology