Short Story

A Long Sloping Hill


I pulled off the highway and up the short road of dry dirt leading to the house. Dust kicked up lightly and followed the truck along the road and the hillside until it met the driveway where I pulled in. The sound of the gravel could be heard over the engine with the popping sounds of the smaller grey rocks moving into each other between the larger ones, crunching underneath the tires into the hard dirt below.

Walking up the driveway you could notice the scent of pine and you could smell without even breathing in how clean it made the air. Pine is always at its strongest in the fall, before winter makes the air too crisp and cold for your nose to take it in. The summer heat makes the flowers with the freshly cut grass and the glacier creek along the forest coalesce. In the spring the rain washes it down, freshens it, and keeps it damp and tight to the trees. When you smell it like this, you know then that the coffee shop will be quiet with only the people you know. When you smell it like this, it is all gone for another year and there will be no last day down to the water or on the patio where the sun warms your arms and your legs while you drink cold beer.

The house was built on the north side of a small and long sloping hill. It backed into a large forest that led into an even larger range of tall pines. The trees took up the volume of those mountains and their slopes until it became too high and cold and rocky for them to grow.

One half of the porch opened east into a patch of trees that blocked most of the sound from the few cars that drove along the road that was down on the hill below. To the left and in the middle and for the rest of the porch is where the people would come and visit and sit with their drinks when there were parties and then when there weren't. You could see down the road that had cut a path between the trees, opening up a view to the mountains across the valley and the ocean bay after it.

"What is this?" I asked.

"Wednesday afternoon," he said.

"Wednesday afternoon, what?"

"Just Wednesday afternoon," he said in pause, "It is Wednesday afternoon, isn't it?"

"Your view of a weekday is a skewed one."

"Skewed? There's nothing skewed about this at all. As you can see," he said, touching his finger to his nose, "I'm still perfectly even. Later we'll fix that. You're welcome to come back for that and tell me all about it if you'd like."

"I don't need come back for anything. This is exactly it. This, over here. You have a drink station set up midday on a Wednesday."

"I suppose our Tuesdays went very differently."

"This was Tuesday too?"

"Oh, no. No. Heaven's no. Tuesday was much worse."


"Have you seen Virginia Woolf?"


"Not who. Not her. She's dead. The movie. It was a play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"


"Well, it was like that, but with less Elizabeth Taylor. No Liz at all, in fact. I think she might be dead too."

"She's not."

"Well, I never knew her anyhow."

"Why would you ha—"

"—Want me to fix you one of these? We can straighten your Wednesday right out. Or skew it. Whichever."

"I knew when you called that you were just sitting up here in this big fat house of yours all alone. I knew it. This was a con getting me to come all the way over here only to be your company till those other types show up. I'll have one, because I'm not rude, and then I'm leaving. Don't you ever work? Don't they?"

"Sure. They're all working now, and this has been a hell of a job just keeping up with you. Now you've even got me fixing a drink for you."

"That was your idea."

"Maybe so, but I'm not some bartender, you know."

"I know. You're a drunk with a bar. A lonely drunk with a big lonely bar."

"Now don't get upset, Thomas, and apologize to the bar. You see?" he said, stroking the wooden bar top, "It's not lonely. We're not lonely. We have each other. We'll always have each other, won't we?"

"Oh stop pretending you're a dramatic. And it's Tom, not Toe-mas."

"Of course it is. Now be a doll and go open the patio door and grab that ashtray from the table right over there. The matches should be with it. You said a double, right?"

"Single," I called from outside.

"I don't know what that is," he said to the bar, then shouted through the patio door, "You found the ashtray, right, Tommy-my-boy?"