The Runaway

Contributor: Chris Sharp

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He had an unusual first name, “Stave,” which was at first explained was given as a gift by his parents to make him feel more unique. Later he learned “Stave” was a compromise between his father who preferred “Dave” and his mother who wanted to name him “Steve.”
Stave stood outside his apartment door that day, locked out again. Sometimes he thought that if his name were either “Dave” or “Steve” he would have been saved from so many absurd situations in addition to being locked out. He also recognized that a man named “Stave” was somewhat like a clown named “Bozo,” which guaranteed many kinds of funny encounters. But since Stave was an only child, he kept his name going strong to honor his parents.
While he stood at his locked door, waiting for something better to happen, his neighbor Scott whose life was always as normal as his name asked:
“Did you lose your keys again, Stave?”
“They sneaked away from me, when I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Oh no.”
“I guess it just won’t let up,” said Stave, spitting on a clump of grass.
He had finally started to think of his keychain by the pronoun “she” because of the personal way the keys ran away and hid from him. He confirmed he would never marry anytime soon, if even a lifeless thing like a keychain couldn’t resist abandoning him in a time of need.
One thing was in his favor that day. Like most of his fellow workers that he knew, Stave had to keep taking days off and stay under a 40-hour work week to keep his corporate owner from giving him medical benefits. On this latest day of loss, he had the whole day to retrieve the keychain at the two neighboring places where he had just wandered.
“I used the toilet here this morning, so my keychain might have bailed out on your bathroom floor,” he told the outlet store manager from the place he had checked out for earphone sales.
The manager shook her head even before she poked through the drawers at the point-of-sale. She shook her head harder when nothing turned up.
The other place Stave had been was a Mexican restaurant where he stopped for a breakfast as a reward for another day he had had taken off.
“It’s a sneaky keychain,” he told the young Latino man at the counter. “I lose her a lot, and she hides in the cleverest places. It’s like she wants nothing to do with me, like I’m too ugly for her or I’m too dumb for her.”
When the young Latino man repeated “keys” he went to three far-away places to look. “No,” said Stave when he came back. The young man – who acted reluctant to say a word – shook his head.
Stave went back to his apartment and pressed his hand hard against a back window, and suddenly it slid open. When he jumped inside, he felt at least a little progress was made. The first thing he found was a duplicate car key that he had kept under his silverware.
He kicked everything around on the floor for a few minutes, and the keychain turned up. It had been laying low between a cardboard box of old newspapers and another non-descript box.
“You,” said Stave, looking at the keychain with all the life he had left. “You feel important don’t you because you made me think about you all day long. But I’m sorry. You see I’m sorry I didn’t look to see if you were with me this morning when I just closed the door and just locked out everything in the world to me.”
A few months later he went through the same episode all over again.
“Oh no,” said Scott, the neighbor who continued to look as all right as his name. “Don’t tell me the keys are lost again, Stave.”
“What are you going to do, Stave?”
“Look for her again.”

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Chris Sharp has several stories in the archives of Weirdyear, Yesteryear Fiction, Daily Love and Linguistic Erosion, with his short stories accumulating the most Internet hits listed under Google as “Short Stories by Chris Sharp.” His book “Dangerous Learning” is distributed by Barnes and Noble.
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