Short Story: Arbitrary

“It’s all so very arbitrary,” Curtis said. “I mean why three bases and a home plate? Why not four bases? Five?”

“Of course it’s arbitrary. Someone just thought up the game,” Roger replied.

“Three strikes and you’re out. Why three? And four balls. Why call balls, balls?” Curtis said as he pointed to the field below them.

“Because testicles sound weird,” Roger said. His laugh died when Curtis continued to rant.

“Some idiot daydreamed this game’s rules and we all just take them as if they’re perfect,” Curtis said.

“Keep your voice down,” Roger said, motioning his hands to calm Curtis. “We’re here to get you out of the house to relax. Lean back, chill.” He waved over a concession employee. “Two beers please.” He handed Curtis a drink, then paid the bill.

“Thank you,” Curtis said after a time. He sipped the beer and watched the game below. “Foul balls. Who the hell came up with that?” Curtis asked, his voice bursting out with energy.

“What’s with you anyway?” Roger asked.

“This is all made up, Roger. Don’t you see?” Curtis said.

“I see quite a bit,” Roger retorted. “I see you’re angry.” Roger shook his head. “It was a mistake to invite you.”

“I’m sorry…” Curtis’ voice trailed off.

“But?”

“Everything’s just made up. We humans just make our own rules,” Curtis said. He let out a rather large, exasperated sigh.

“That’s how humanity orders society, laws, and our understanding of the universe. If we didn’t make our own rules we’d have no rules at all.” Roger took a moment and regarded his friend. Curtis fidgeted and glanced around the ball park. Roger doubted his friend was actually there beside him: his mind was somewhere else. “Are you OK?”

“I’m fine,” Curtis replied without looking at Roger. “How the hell can someone just fall out of love?” Curtis’ lips quivered.

“What?”

“How can someone just arbitrarily fell out of love with someone else?”

“Who are you talking about?”

“She just came out and said she doesn’t love me anymore,” Curtis said.

“Christine?”

“Of course Christine,” Curtis said, anger in his tone. “I mean. One moment we’re fine, the next we’re done. Just like that. Arbitrary. It makes me wonder about all those years with her, what did she really think?”

“Jesus, Curtis. I didn’t know you guys were having trouble,” Roger said. He reached out his hand to touch his friend’s shoulder: sweaty.

“We were fine,” Curtis snapped. “Did she really fall in love me or just make a choice to fall in love with me?”

“I’m sure you guys will be able to work things out,” Roger said. “Unless people talk things out and discuss the problems no one really knows what someone else is thinking. You guys will talk it out and-”

“Talk? She just acted, no talking,” Curtis said. He licked his lips.

“Lloyd’s coming to bat,” Roger said, watching Curtis. “He’s having a good year now.” Roger so wanted to get Curtis to think of something else.

“Hmm,” Curtis said, absently. He looked around at all the couples, sitting together in the crowd. “How can I make her happy?” The question was more a murmur to himself.

“I think…” Roger started, pausing to consider his next words. “You might want to give her some space.”

“What?” Curtis said, rounding to look at Roger. “Space?” He stood up. “That’s not how I got her to love me the first time: by giving her space. We were together all the time.”

“Curtis, please sit down,” Roger said.

“I know what I have to do. I will make her choose to love me again,” Curtis said.

Roger looked around with discomfort, people nearest them were no longer watching the ballgame. Curtis’ eyes held a distant, unfocused look. Roger touched Curtis on the arm and his friend tensed up immediately and jerked his arm away. “Why don’t you stay at my place tonight. Get some rest and-”

“I’ve got to go,” Curtis said. “I’ve got to go. I will… I’ve got to go.”

“The game isn’t over. How about I buy you ano-”

“I’ve got to go,” Curtis repeated. “I know what I must do.”

Curtis shook, vibrated. Roger saw his friend becoming more franetic. His eyes blazed with a foreign intensity. Roger felt a growing unease with his friend’s behaviour. He dared not press, but dared not stay silent either. “What are you planning?” Roger asked.

“It’ll be alright. Everything will be fine,” Curtis said. “Enjoy the game.” Curtis raced up the stairs, and disappeared into the stadium concourse. Roger felt sick to his stomach.

For moments Roger sat there, stunned, and oblivious to the play on the field and the cheering of the crowd. His mind focused on his friend, his weird behaviour. Roger reached for his phone, and after a few seconds of hesitation he dialled 911.

Photo by chris collins from FreeImages

4 thoughts on “Short Story: Arbitrary

  1. Alice Schmidt

    This stimulates a lot of thought, even apprehension and concern. What motivated this writing? The conclusion…a friend being a friend, a friend indeed!
    AHIS

    Liked by 1 person

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