by Ronald Friedman

"Paul, congratulations. I bet you thought you'd never retire."

"How long do you have to go?"

"I'm not ready to retire. How old are you?"

"Seventy-two. Today."

"Hey, happy birthday and double those congratulations. It's about time. You deserve it."

"I've been giving some thought to what I deserve. I don't think this is it."

"Of course it is. You earned it."

"I thought maybe something else. Some other feeling."

"You must feel good, maybe some relief that all this is over."

"I don't know what I expected, but something. "

"People say nice things about you. I've never heard any complaints."

"That's because no one knows who I am. The company has nearly three hundred people working just in this building."

"You know how people talk. Not about you, though. I saw you cutting the cake. Your section buy that for you?"

"I don't know, but I don't think so. Someone put it on my desk, but no one said anything. Tell me your name again."

"You know my name."

"I just wasn't sure. Who are you, really? "

"Paul, is anyone here with you?"


"Do you have a family? Are you married?"

"My family is scattered around the country. My wife died last year."

"Do you live alone?"


"I asked if you lived alone. In your home."

"Oh. It's just me."

"Are you okay? You sound like you're not quite with me in this conversation."

"Yeah, I think I'm doing all right."

"Look, this is a big day for you. That can be stressful. I'd like you to do something for me. Lift both your arms over your head straight up into the air. And smile. Big grin."

"Okay? What's this about?"

"I'll tell you in a second. Just do one more thing. Stick out your tongue and move it as far as you can to the right and then as far as you can to the left."

"Did I pass?"

"Yes. That was just a quick test to see if you had a stroke."

"Geez. C'mon."

"Well, you're behaving a little oddly. Are you talking to someone?"

"Just to you."

"To me? Look around. Do you see another person? There's no one else here. I'm not here. How are you going to get home?"

"Walk, I guess. It's not far.

" Paul, do you own a gun?"

"A hand gun? Yes."

"Just the one?"


"Do you have a rifle or shot gun?"

"No. Just the one gun."

"What kind is it?"

"A Browning nine millimeter."

"Where is it?"

"Why are you asking about the gun?"

"Because you might be depressed and it would be risky to be around a gun. Where do you keep it?"

"At home I keep it locked in a small gun safe in my bedroom closet."

"Is that where the gun is right now?"

"No. It's in my locker here at work."

"Is it loaded?"

"You know it is. Two shots still in the clip. Nothing in the chamber though."

"Thank you for telling me. How about if you and I go to your locker and you let me take the gun?"

"Are you going to call the police?"

"Paul, who do you think you're talking to?"

"I don't know."

"I'm you. You're talking to yourself. First, I want the gun. If I can have the gun I won't need to call the police. But I can't let you go home alone without having a doctor examine you first."

"I don't think I should give you the gun. You might use it to shoot someone."

"I just want to make sure nobody gets hurt."

"No. You might shoot me."

"You think I'm the one who is dangerous?"

"You are."

"Why did you leave two cartridges in the clip?"

"One for each of us."

"Let's go get the gun now."

BIO: Ronald Friedman is a retired psychologist living in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is the author of two books and over 50 nonfiction articles published in magazines and newspapers, but has been writing fiction for only the past three years. His short stories include "The New Suit" published by Huff Post 50 and "Night Orderly" published by Bartleby Snopes. "Night Orderly" won first prize in the magazine's 2013 "all dialogue" story contest. He credits his mother for his success as a writer. She worked as an assassin for the CIA, and later for the Detroit Mob, so she travelled a lot for work. She supplemented her income by working as a copy editor for the Detroit Free Press. Mom passed away at work about a year ago. Sophie the Dog put two in her head while they were sitting in a stolen '87 Buick Riviera near Detroit City Airport. Nobody's fault. It was just a misunderstanding. When Friedman went to identify the body, he made three pledges to his mother. He said, "I'll never write another comma splice, I will always show, not tell, and all my stories will arc higher than the Arch in St. Louis."