Note from Brian:
“The Final Lesson” is the Patron-Only story for May 2018! Like last month’s story, this one represents another of the oldest stories that will appear in Walking With Ghosts. It’s really quite different from my more recent stories, but I’m also fond of it for a variety of reasons.
Also, here’s something I don’t mention in the story notes: the version you’re reading today has approximately 50% fewer words than the original version published in 2001. The story itself is almost exactly the same, but I’ve learned over the years that more isn’t always better when it comes to stories. In fact, less is often more. (To put it another way, the original version was WAY overwritten and dragged because I didn’t trust the reader enough to follow from A to B to C. In fact, reading it again tonight, I think I can probably cut some more… eventually.)
As always, please feel free to email me at email@example.com if you’d rather share your thoughts about this story privately. Thank you again for all of your support! — BJF
“The Final Lesson”
by Brian James Freeman
Ronald Hammerstein could feel someone watching him as he mowed the lawn in front of his home. The sun was slipping behind the mountains to the west, but just a few more passes and he would be done. Good timing, too, because the bagger on the push mower was nearly full.
The sensation of being watched was unnerving, though. The scrawny little man wiped the sweat from his forehead as he searched the tree-lined street for who might have eyes on him. Normally this was a quiet neighborhood, a nice place to live. The homes were well cared for and he often heard the laughter of children playing in the nearby park, especially in the summer. He wasn’t very social, but he liked his neighbors. They were good people.
Maybe that was why he hadn’t bolted to start a new life somewhere else, even though the urge had been strong, especially in the months after his wife’s death. Some days he still felt like jumping in his car and leaving everything behind, but he couldn’t make himself do it. Deep down he knew the loneliness wouldn’t be any better somewhere else.