Thursday, August 31, 2023

Habitat, a Short Story blog post #617

Image Courtesy of Flaticon:

Hope you enjoyed my “Tricky” story. Just proves things don’t always turn out the way you intended them to.

Today, we’ll try another short story. A one-parter, this time.






I often wondered if I hadn’t hit old age when I turned thirty. I can see similarities with my late father’s life as he approached sixty. Comfortable in his own skin. Insular in some ways… many ways, actually. Mildly irritated at change, no matter how trivial.

“Hick,” Clark Baer was always saying, “you gotta act your age. You’re in the prime of life, man. Don’t throw it away hiding behind four walls.”

Now that takes some explaining. First, my name is Jonathan Fielders, but I’m not handy with tools and gadgets, and I was always saying something like “what’s the doohickey I need for this job?” So Clark dubbed me Doohickey, and that morphed into Hickey, and then he took the lazy way and simply called me Hick.

That out of the way, who’s Clark Baer? He’s the guy who moved into the apartment next to mine three years ago and overnight became my best friend. Four years younger than I am, Clark was a good-looking, gregarious, jock type always on the go. He had loads of friends, both male and female, but somehow, we bonded when I rang his doorbell and asked to borrow some doohickey I needed at the moment.

From that time on, this raven-haired, sloe-eyed woman chaser used me to decompress. At the end of a frantic, social engagement-packed weekend, he’d knock on my door, breeze in, grab a beer or a soda, shuck his shoes, and plop down to recount his week. A homebody by choice, I enjoyed our intimate talks. And they did become intimate. He wasn’t a screw-and-tell sort of a guy, but I heard enough of his exploits to know he was regarded as a cocksman among the distaff set.

After letting off enough steam, he’d pick up his shoes and head across the stairwell to his place and retire, usually leaving me chuckling at some of the predicaments he got himself into.

Don’t want you to get the impression I was anti-social, far from it. I liked people. But I was a free-lance journalist who usually worked from my home doing research by phone or by internet, and then writing my articles. So I got tired of talking to strangers. Sometimes it was easier to settle down with a book in the evenings than to get dressed and go out.

There was no lady in my life at the moment, but, once again, don’t get me wrong. I liked women and have had my share. But in all honesty, I guess my sex drive was substandard. When the time came in a relationship where intimacy was expected, I’d find myself looking at sex as “paying my dues.” Don’t know another guy my age with that attitude. Even so, I was totally comfortable in the space I’d created for myself. In my environment… my habitat.

When Caroline Carlo moved into the apartment complex a couple of stairwells down from us, it was no surprise to see her walking past my place on Clark’s arm. He usually moved fast. One Sunday afternoon, they returned from somewhere and saw me sitting on my patio reading James Lee Burke’s Creole Belle. They stopped, and I met Caroline.

After that, she caught me on the patio a couple of times and waved or said hello. Pretty woman, but awfully blonde. Nonetheless, she was pleasant, and before you know it, I was sitting in her dining area having coffee and a very good cherry tart. After that, of course, I had to respond with tea and blueberry muffins… although mine came from Kroger’s, not my own oven. But mostly, I saw Caroline going here, there, and yon with Clark.

Things had a way of moving at their own momentum, and somehow, I ended up inviting her to the Little Theater. Pleasant evening. Good play; good company. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered if Clark was aware I’d stolen Caroline for the night. Then I mused over his reaction to that fact.

And I got one. Negative. He failed to pop in that evening to recount his weekend. First time that happened in a long time.

My habitat seemed threatened, but the following weekend, Clark seemed to be over it and recounted his date with a new brunette of his acquaintance. Apparently, quite an athletic one… at least in the sack. So when Caroline called the next day to say a friend had given her tickets to Oppenheimer, I agreed to go.

I enjoyed the three-hour movie, although it deviated from the way my father had described the period. But I wasn’t around at the birth of the atomic bomb, so who knows? Mostly, the movie brought home to me the fluidity of facts, how they—or the interpretation of them—changes with time. I had no doubt that dropping those two bombs on two Japanese cities saved lives in the long run, but today, you could get into a heated argument over that opinion..

After the movie, my world turned more cataclysmic than that super bomb. When I took Caroline back to her apartment, Clark ran into us in the parking lot, and although his words were civil, I saw sparks in his eyes. At the door, I took the expected goodnight kiss, but allowed Caroline to talk me inside. Tea turned into a cocktail, which turned into a session in her bed. She was just as lovely—and as blonde—sans clothing as she was fully dressed. And, she proved to be a sexual athlete, turning me every which way but loose. Stimulating and enjoyable… but enough was enough. When I finally stumbled around getting dressed, the clock read three a.m. Thank goodness I didn’t have a deadline tomorrow, or I’d have been in trouble.

Caroline kissed me as I left and murmured, “I do like older men.”

That puzzled the hell out of me because I couldn’t be more than three or four years older than she was. I shrugged it off and walked to my stairwell, key in hand. Clark stood in his doorway with a look on his face I could only call disappointed. He closed the door without acknowledging my greeting.

That night changed my habitat forever. Caroline surprised me by moving out of the apartment complex a couple of weeks later. New job in Dallas, was her hurried explanation. Boom! She was gone.

Clark avoided me totally. He changed his habits so that we seldom ran across one another. I made deliberate efforts to be on the patio when he left for work—which was a fixed pattern—but he rushed down the sidewalk without even responding to my cheerful good mornings. As I watched him get into his car in the parking lot one day, I noticed his trim body and graceful movements, and belatedly understood Caroline’s murmured comment that she liked older men. Older than Clark. She was hung up on my best friend and neighbor, but he wasn’t moving fast enough for her. So she used me to prompt him along. Backfired. Big time. For both of us.

By the time Clark’s lease on his apartment expired, we were exchanging insincere “good mornings” and good evenings,” but that was all. Then I saw him moving items out of the apartment. I had no opportunity to question him about his intentions before some of his buddies showed up in a Pensky truck, and my fears were confirmed. The laughter and frivolity of the group working to load my friend’s furniture into the van nearly broke me. After a couple of hours the nature of the activity changed, cluing me that they were about finished loading his things. I was struggling to deal with my loss when the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, Clark stood there looking handsome, although there was a hurt look lurking behind his eyes.

“Wanted to say goodbye,” he said. “And thought you might like to have this.”

He handed over a Bavarian stein with Viking markings and a pewter cap I’d drunk many a beer from over the years, and was gone. I watched from the patio as he rejoined his friends as they closed up the van, bundled into their cars, and drove off in a procession.

I dropped into a chair, the stein clutched in my arms as it struck me how much my comfortable environment, my habitat was changed. Destroyed, was likely a better words. Destroyed by a bedroom romp that hadn’t meant that much to me. Certainly not as much as the friendship it cost.


What do you know, another story about actions and intentions gone wrong. I must be in a “frame of mind.”

 What do you think? Was Hick too insular by restricting his close friends to just one? What would have happened if Caroline hadn’t entered his and Clark’s life? Was a broach of their friendship simply destined to happen, and she was merely the catalyst? Or could have the friendship become closer. On both their parts, or just on Hick’s? Just like life: all those unanswered questions.

 Hope you enjoyed the story.

Stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.



New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time. 

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