A very short story written as an assignment for Story Cartel at The Write Practice.
The assignment was to write with a specific person or audience in mind. I wrote this and shared it with my good friend of over 40 years!
TWO OLD FRIENDS
I am blessed, in my old age, to have one long-time friend with whom I enjoy daily encounters of lengthy dialogue on topics deep and wide-ranging.
We walk and talk with our heads in the clouds… set apart from the hum-drum world around us. Among the topiary and ornamental plants of our local arboretum, we hobble on our canes, our backs bent so our robes drag the ground. Today we ponder the prospect of future lives and the synchronicity between past, present and future.
I say to my friend, “Confucius, shall we divine the future? Tell me what you see when I cast these yarrow sticks here, on the pristine gravel path.” I toss a handful of sticks before us on the path.
The sticks scatter to form a complex web of geometric shapes.
Confucius’ eyebrows rise in sharp points of surprise. He peruses the pattern of sticks for some minutes while I watch in anticipation of divine enlightenment to harmonize our aging souls with cosmic forces.
“Why Lao Tzu!” he exclaims. “I am astonished to see us in some amazing strange place. There are great huge machines whizzing past us on a wide hard path, and buildings of many windows rising high into the sky!”
Surprised, I query him, “But what can that be, Confucius? Where are we two, in that place?”
He studies the sticks, searching for us from different angles, twisting his neck so he can see around his long beard. Finally, he speaks.
“Why Lao Tzu, there we are! Just the two of us, sitting on a bench in the middle of a park surrounded by conifers and evergreens. There is a pond with ducks and geese and swans’ swimming… very like where we are right now, here in China.” We shake our heads in wonder and continue to ponder the marvels of the universe.
On a bench in Loring Park, in the midst of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, my friend and I study an astrological chart while discussing beliefs in reincarnation.
” But Herbert,” I say, “what if we don’t only reincarnate, but also perhaps live several lives at one time?”
He looks at me in surprise. “Do you mean, like in some other world out there in the cosmos?”
“Yes! Maybe right now we are together in a parallel world, where we are a pair of famous old philosophers!” I laugh at the ridiculous idea.
“Sure! We could be Confucius and Lao Tzu in ancient China around the fifth century BC!”
“Hey that’s cool!” I slap him on the back. “Let’s go pick up an ‘I Ching’ divination set at the Art Institute and see what it shows us.”