Ben Turlok was standing on the edge of the Maple Vine Bridge just outside of the small town of Graveston. He clutched the latest rejection letter he had received in response to the manuscript he had sent out. Ben had spent the past three years fine tuning and composing it. He was finally pleased with it and viewed it as his ultimate life’s work.
He had all his friends and family read it and all reviews were positive. He was so sure someone would be interested in publishing it. He was as sure of that as he had ever been of anything, and for a man like Ben to put that much faith in something speaks volumes in and of itself. He was not a man who often gave into thoughts of fantasy and whimsy, but his devotion to his book was different. He saw it as a part of his soul.
He was able to stomach the first few rejections, but his faith never wavered. It strengthened in fact. He had quit his job at the mill in anticipation of his success. With every rejection he received he was that much more certain the next one would be an acceptance.
He looked down to the letter crumpled in his shaking fist. Tears were streaming down his cheek. He looked down to the river raging below. He could see the white foam on top of the water between his feet.
“I’m ready, God! I’m tired and I’m ready to fall. Just let me fall.” He cried out. There was no traffic along the old road. The sky was patchy above with large puffs of white clouds slowly floating along across the bright sun. Ben’s legs began to shake beneath him. His tears began to rain down feverishly and his thoughts ran back to his wife Audrey and his children, Tracey and Ben Jr. His heart began to ache. He loved them all so much, but he just didn’t have the strength to face any more disappointment. His life insurance would see them through the storm. He reasoned he was far more valuable dead than alive. With a large breath in, he steadied his legs and was ready to leap.
“Hi!” A sweet voice came from behind. Ben caught himself and nearly fell over the wrong way which would have been a disaster. If he fell and just injured himself, the doctor’s bills would surely bankrupt the family. He spun his head around with a fiery glare. He saw a pretty young woman standing not too far from him. She was dressed in a charcoal gray business suit. Her strawberry blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail. She stared up at Ben with a bright, innocent smile. “Now, what are you doing up there, silly?” She asked brightly.
“None of your business. Now I’d thank you to just move on and not tell anyone you saw me. For your own good.”
“I know you. I mean, I don’t know know you, but I’ve seen you around town. Don’t I look familiar?” She asked.
“I’m sorry, but no. I’ve been going through some things lately. Don’t take it personally.”
“That’s okay.” She said as she reached into her pocket and produced a small business card. She held it out to him. He bent down and took it slowly. He looked down and read it. He couldn’t help but notice the unique use of flowers and butterflies decorating the borders of the card. Between two small flowered vines, was the only type on the card.
‘Samantha Sugar- attorney at law’.
“A lawyer huh? Shouldn’t you be gearing up to sue someone after I jump?”
“I’m not that kind of lawyer. I usually handle estate planning.”
“Well, I’m afraid I’ve no use for you. Now, I guess you’ll be on your way.”
“Not until you get down from there.” Ben looked down at her and she looked back up at him with just as sweet a smile as ever but now there was a hint of aggressive stubbornness lurking behind her eyes.
“I’m Ben Turlock, by the way. Nice to meet you, Samantha.”
“Likewise, and please, just call me Sam. So, are you coming down or not?”
“Look, the only way I’m getting down from here is by jumping, so you might as well just be on your way. I just want to kill myself.” Ben’s brain kind of buzzed. He never said it out loud before. He hadn’t heard those words come from his mouth. Samantha looked up at Ben with a broken expression. It was almost as if she looked heartbroken. Ben looked back at her with curiosity. He had never seen the girl before but the news of him killing himself seemed to hurt her so much more than it should have.
“Why?” Samantha asked with an uneven voice.
“I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Certainly anything bad enough to kill yourself over should be worth talking about as well.”
Ben looked down to the river and then back to Samantha. He let out an audible breath and pivoted to Samantha. He bent down and handed his letter to her. She took it and read through it.
“Is this it?”
“Is that it? That’s the seventh one I’ve gotten in the last two months.”
“You’re a writer.”
“Not by trade. I just wrote something. I thought it was good, but I guess it just goes to show you what I know.”
“You can’t throw away everything because of this. What about your wife? Your children?”
“They’re better off. My life insurance will pay them more than my old job would have, if I still had it. I gave my soul to this thing and it’s nothing. My whole life is nothing! I’m done! I am just done!”
“What about your faith?”
“Faith in what?”
“Yes. I know you believe.”
“Maybe once. I don’t know anymore. Things have just been getting worse. Where has he been?”
“Where have you been?” Samantha returned. Ben looked at her.
“So, that’s how it works? As long as I do what he wants, I get what I want?”
“Well, it’s not quite as black and white as that, but…”
“Look, I’m sorry, but you won’t be convincing anyone about anything today, Sam. Good bye.” Ben closed his eyes, turned away from Samantha and just leapt up over the rail. His eyes were shut tight as he fell over. He could feel the air as he dropped into nothing. He had run the moment over in his head again and again, but it was no preparation for the real sensation. It was as if he were weightless, almost floating through the air. He would have almost sworn he felt happy.
He suddenly felt a tight jerking behind him and his descent came to an abrupt halt. He opened his eyes and saw he was still above the river, but off the bridge, dangling. His shirt was pulled up against his neck. He looked up and saw Samantha leaning over the bridge with her arm outstretched downward. Her fist holding tightly to the back of his shirt, and a few small hairs on the back of his neck. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Samantha was such a small looking woman with thin, narrow arms yet she was holding Ben’s entire weight with little to no strain, or at least so it seemed.
“I know you feel abandoned and alone. We all feel that way sometimes, but think about the people you’re leaving behind. Things have gotten tough for you. I’m sorry for that, but you’re stronger than you think. If you check out now, you can’t change your mind tomorrow. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is simply holding on. Holding on during the tough times and having faith that what you want, will come.” Sam said. She pulled Ben back up to the bridge. As soon as she let go of his shirt, he fell to the ground flat on his ass. He looked up at Samantha, who was still smiling.
“It’s just gotten so bad for me. For everyone! This whole town has just been getting worse and worse. I just don’t know what to do anymore.” Ben said as tears began to pool under his eyes. Samantha placed her delicate hand on his shoulder and he looked up at her.
“I know. It’s been a tough time for Graveston and I’m sorry for that, but we’re all just doing the best we can. We can’t lose hope now. I think things are going to get better real soon.”
“You do?” Ben asked.
“I absolutely do. Do you agree with me?” Ben looked down. He had the appearance of a child lost in the middle of a department store. He looked back up at Sam and nodded. “Now, are you going to be trying that again?” Ben stared up at her blankly and slowly shook his head. “Good. Now, get home to your family and don’t tell them about this. I think we can both agree they’d be better off not knowing, wouldn’t you?”
Ben slowly began to nod his head to her. She gave him a little wink and spun around and began to walk down the road back towards town. He got up and watched as she strutted down the lonely road. It looked as if she were listening to some kind of music in her own head as she sauntered away.
He looked back over the bridge down to the river below. A quick thought to try jumping again danced across his head, but he dismissed it. He did feel happiness during his previous attempt, but he also had felt fear. A disturbing sense that he would miss something important. He looked down at the crumpled up rejection letter laying upon the ground. He bent down to pick it up but stopped himself. He could still make out the printing through the creases and folds. A cold breeze shot out and caught the letter, sending it flying up into the air. It flew up high over his head and swirled in the invisible force. Ben made no attempt to catch it, but instead allowed it to slowly float down to the river. He watched as it landed on the water. It was swept under and disappeared under the foam of the current. He slowly turned away and walked back to his pick-up truck which was parked a few yards back.
He was beginning to feel better about what had happened and was hoping to come upon Samantha on the road back to Graveston, so he could thank her properly or at least offer her a ride into town. He kept an eye out along the side of the road as he drove.
He soon found himself driving past the Red Moon Inn which was the first sign of entering Graveston. He stopped and looked back. He hadn’t seen sign of her as he drove and there was no way she could have gotten back ahead of him if she had been walking. He looked back again but nothing. He shrugged his shoulders and decided that she must have had her car parked out of sight for some reason. He figured he’d just keep an eye out for her around town. The odds were good that they would cross paths again before too long in a town the size of Graveston.