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The Open Window
Joe Gillis

The man stands in the middle of a black-and-white street.

He has been buffeted and chased by powerful winds that are taking the town apart around him. Cars overturned, buildings destroyed, massive paddle-boats torn from their moorings, frightened people tumbling into shelters.

The man was asleep in a hospital bed when the building around him ascended into the heavens. Then his bed was pushed through the streets of the town, wind and debris silently shrieking all around him.

The bed comes to a stop in front of a house. He hides under the bed, and then the bed is yanked away by the wind.

The man stands in the middle of the street, alone, unprotected, rubbing his neck while the shadows change on the front of the house behind him. The sun isn’t moving, the house is; leaning forward. It is a heartbeat away from falling on the man and crushing him. He does not know what is happening behind him. He will be killed and he will not know how or why. He is standing where he is standing and that’s all the reason nature requires.

The front of the house falls forward, surrounding the man for an instant. Then the wood and beams and plaster are everywhere. But the man is alive and unharmed. He stands in what was a second story window left open. The house fell around him. Miraculously. He looks at the crushed house at his feet in what was an instant ago an empty street.

He realizes what’s happened, what almost happened, and runs away. He runs from the storm that still pursues him, still capable of killing him in numerous ways. He is buffeted by the storm, by rain and wind and boxes and lamp-posts and trees and mud and chickens. He is able to continue this desperate hunt for survival because he was standing at the exact right spot at the exact right moment to spare him from being squashed. He did not chose the place to stand. He did not calculate the odds. He was just there, and the house missed him. That's all the reason fate requires.

The storm gives him no time to contemplate his escape. He does not have time to be thankful. He does not have time for gratitude. He still has to deal with the storm. And he is able to deal with the storm…and save the girl and save his father and save the father of the girl…because he was standing where he was standing. That's how things work.

Gratitude comes later. Much later. After the storm.

Joe Gillis is a writer living in California.

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