Stop

It was a beautiful fall evening in the small Midwestern city, and the wind blew just enough to rustle the browning leaves against each other in the trees, making the song that only they could make. Their numbers continued to lose strength incessantly, adding to the strength of the scurrying leaves in the streets. Soon the trees would be empty of their song-makers, and those that remained on the ground would continue in their journeys to nonexistence. But all of that had yet to come, and for the moment, the sacred and pacifying melody played on from above.

Suddenly a pile of the dried-out sun catchers was disturbed by the feet of a man whose mind was elsewhere. He’d walked through several piles of leaves on his journey down the sidewalk, and he hadn’t paid any more attention this time than any of the others. In addition to adding to the speed of the leaves, he’d unknowingly disturbed various other oft-unnoticed pieces of scenery on his brisk walk down the street. A squirrel with rounding cheeks had been in the process of preparing for the hard winter ahead when the man interrupted his routine by walking too closely. The squirrel scurried up the tree as the man made his pass, but took extra care not to lose his most recent find, a large walnut that he’d apparently missed in his previous extensive forages through this same area. As the man grew more distant the squirrel returned to his tedious task.

The man, a middle-aged, middle-class, medium-built, preoccupied man of some European descent, continued his jaunt into the night. Steve, the man’s name was Steve, stood at five feet, nine inches tall, when he wasn’t hunched over. He often hunched over as he walked, sort of leaning into his walk as though there was a steady gale against which he had to lean in order to get anywhere. Steve was a man with a busy mind, always deep in thought even when there wasn’t much about which to think. In spite of all of his deep thought, though, he was rarely able to come to any sort of conclusion. When he did stumble upon a conclusion of some kind, he would immediately begin questioning the validity of the conclusion. This questioning often led him into even deeper thought, usually not necessarily related to the conclusion in question. His thoughts were quite incoherent and lacking in direction, much like this seemingly pointless walk through town.

Steve passed through an outer section of the business district of town, hardly taking notice of the few passersby on what was usually a much busier street. On the corner stood a small coffee shop with tables and chairs set up for the patrons whose habits included killing themselves by way of inhaling fumes released by burning tobacco and various chemicals. Quite possibly, though it didn’t happen often, a person could make use of those chairs simply to enjoy the evening air and lousy midwestern weather. Most often, though, those who sat outside did so for the former reason.

In passing these tables and chairs, Steve suddenly became conscious of his unfruitful mental labor and decided to stop.

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