Pretzel Fish (A Story)

He stole a moment, just as he had for the evening. His empty apartment waited for him, just as he’d left it. It was just a space, a placeholder for moments not yet realized. He laughed, thinking about how he had wrestled the emptiness there and made it a force to be reckoned with. Space needs to be filled, and hearts need proximity and warmth to flourish.

It was exactly midnight when he stopped and exited the vehicle. The thermometer on his car read eighteen degrees. He didn’t feel the chill. Behind him, a moon that experts would describe as waning gibbous shone brightly above him with a wistful corona.

The fountain in front of him streamed up, illuminated underneath by shining beacons of light. The water jets found their way upward, fighting the battle with penetrating cold. Beneath, the encroaching ice formed and eddied. The surface of the artificial pond reflected the brilliant and ephemeral radiance of the lights as they created dancing shadows. He resisted taking a picture, knowing that the moment was impossible to grasp.

Instead, he recited his gratitude list as he stood on the pavement near the pond. If you were close enough, you might hear his voice whisper. Even if you didn’t hear the words, you would recognize the tenor of sincere hope and prayer for more moments.

He felt a kinship with that fountain, one left to fight the cold and ice.

He turned and looked up at the moon, a lifeless rock hovering countless miles above him.

He stole this moment.

He drove back to his apartment. It was no longer empty, not just because he filled it upon his arrival. But because he was filled in a way that’s impossible to explain to people who don’t experience it. The moon and the fountain danced in his head as he waited for the stolen moment to fade.

“Pretzel fish,” he whispered. And he laughed, his voice echoing in the empty apartment. It was not a hollow echo. The moon and the fountain’s light now existed there.

Tomorrow? It’s already here.

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