A deep freeze was on it’s way. The chatter on the radio said it would last for weeks. Shepherd was comforted by the news. He was convinced the creature was human and no human would dare come out in such weather let alone survey it.
“We will be safe, Pal,” Shepherd said. “Do you want to learn how to play chess?”
The cold was beyond what he imagined. The outside looked like another planet not capable of sustaining earthly life. Nothing moved, only the wind. And the wind brought more cold and loneliness.
Shepherd sat and thought. He was at last content. He recalled the bustle of life, that faster-the-better attitude that dominated him at one time. There was always the challenge to stay ahead, to be first, and ahead of it all. He was the first to be a vice president in his firm before the age of thirty. That was not enough. The thrill of the accomplishment lasted ten minutes.
“For some reason I lost the edge,” Shepherd thought. “I don’t know why. Maybe it is as simple as it isn’t who I am or I ran out of gas. What ever it was, that person no longer exists. And the sadness and brutal reality is that where I was no one really remembers or cares what I did. Some one will say, ‘Who did this last year. Well it had to be somebody… whatever.’”
“I wonder about Zoey. I hope she is doing well. It was going nowhere. We really had nothing. A marriage would have been more like a merger. Her and Benhurst would make a good conglomeration. Funny, they really are funny. How would Zoey react to this cold? She would be worried what it might do to her skin. Benhurst would have hung himself long ago… Not enough action for him. I suppose a grizzly chasing him through the woods might start the adrenaline flowing.”
“Pal,” Shepherd said. “You should meet my friends. You would… well you’d have no opinion of them. There’s really nothing there to form an opinion over. They’re pretty empty. You’d sniff them and five minutes later forgot what you sniffed.”
“Make no mistake about it, Pal. I was one of them. I was in the thick, but I checked out. You want to know the truth, the bold truth? I could no longer keep up. I had to get away, Pal. If I didn’t I eventually would have been swallowed up. I’d turned out a failure. I reached my plateau early. I got out at a good time. I still have my money. I guess that was always me. I could see things coming before anyone. I saw my end coming before anyone else. They all think I left when on top. The truth is I was looking at the rollercoaster ride down. In two years everybody will be broke and looking for work.”
“Pal, I have instincts. Even here I have them. We are a lot alike in that way. I know what you are thinking and you know what I’m thinking. That’s why I won’t teach you how to play chess.”