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The End of the Road


Ken Bushnell

Biff was defeated. The vice president of marketing, Tag Williams had asked a younger, more ambitious, account executive, Janet Phillips, to back up his progress report with her own. She was a success. She tied market trends to past expenditures and future projections using impressive media. Biff's methods just weren't valid anymore and he knew it before he went into the meeting. He guessed Tag knew it too.

He remembered when he was the rising young talent. The best in the industry. How did it happen, he wondered. You're on top and before you know it time has passed and the next generation is waiting to step in.  You watch your idols die and heroes fade and you never find time to add your voice until it's too late. That was part of it. Each generation is replaced by the next. We can only hope we taught them enough to handle the job and some of what we did will be remembered. That's all we can do when it comes time to step aside. It's only part of life.

The defeat echoed through his mind as he drove the back farm roads home, not really caring where he went. Biff decided to pull over and stretch his legs. The silence came rushing in as he shut the car off.  He stepped out and listened. A bird flew over and he could hear the wings flapping as it powered its way through the dry dusty air. A dog barked in the distance. He couldn't remember the last time he had heard this much quiet.

A slight breeze took his gaze to a fence post, fallen down, and the grass it rustled nearby. The breeze traveled up an overgrown driveway to an abandoned house, broken down, it too long since forgotten. His survey returned to the fence and beyond where a rusted-out wheelbarrow sat with weeds growing through the decaying holes. 

What was new is now old, he thought to himself. Its usefulness long since forgotten. The joy of discovery, the youthful zeal of being fresh, now an ancient memory, caught up in drawn boundaries and passions departed.

Biff tried to imagine the life of the wheelbarrow. Someone must have proudly brought it home with the care all new things get. Maybe they anticipated a job clearing a garden or levelling the yard, or maybe it was a contractor who secretly took pride in adding it to his collection of tools that would make him more useful on the job. 

Maybe it had been a day like this, hot dry and dusty, a happy, healthy, vibrant family, working around the house. Biff could see the father now, cuffed jeans and white T-shirt, young by his standards now. Mother was dressed in a flowered housedress. She would step outside every once in a while to check his progress. The kids were running around and dad was trying to get them to help, while mom made dinner. What happened? A house once full of love and pride, now broken down and forgotten.

Whatever caused them to leave was of little consequence now, Biff thought to himself, those reasons too, long since forgotten. Maybe they had to leave because the farm had failed or the land was sold. Whatever happened, the wheelbarrow was left behind. It no longer carried any value.  It served no useful purpose to the people who once lived here.

Biff hadn't stolen anything since he was a kid. He climbed over what was left of the broken down fence. He was able to free the wheelbarrow from its timeless journey into the sod with a final pull, causing encrusted dirt and rust to fall. His fingers went through the bed as he picked it up. He didn't care as more rust and dirt fell when he put into the trunk of his car. He looked around and spotted some flowers still growing by the driveway. It took a while to find a stick strong enough to dig them up. Without a care he put them next to the wheelbarrow in the trunk and then covered the roots with loose dirt he'd dug from the holes. Biff began to whistle as he started the drive home. The events of the meeting didn't enter his mind. Instead he thought of the wheelbarrow and how he planned to turn it into a planter and give it new life. What is old can be new again, or at least it can find new purpose, he thought. 

It wasn't much, but somehow there was something different that had a little hope and maybe a future. And then he started to sing. He couldn't remember how many years it had been since he enjoyed singing like this.

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