“Have you ever had your life flash before your eyes?” The almost inaudible words squeaked out of David’s clenched jaw as he stared into the abyss before him. 

Tom closed his eyes and slowly drew in a deep breath, carefully contemplating the situation. “David, I promise you it’s safe. If you would just…”

“Just what?” David sobbed as he turned to his dearest friend. “If I just take the next step, which could result in a few broken bones or at worst… well, I haven’t even written my will yet. You know Sharon keeps bugging me about that, especially after our daughter was born. Why didn’t I listen to her? What’s going to happen to my family if the worst happens?”

Tom gently grasped his friend’s shoulder, “David, I promise you that we’ll do that as soon as we’re done here. This is only the first, of what I think will be…” he paused to take in another deep breath as he squeezed Tom’s shoulder, “many steps in this process.” 

David cast off Tom’s hand and jerked around to face him. “Many steps? Why do you hate me? What’s your end goal here?” Tom tried to interrupt, but David’s menacing stare kept him on standby. “You want me out of the way… so you can steal her from me?  That makes no sense!”

“Cause my wife would object?”

“No doubt!”  He turned back, slowly creeping to the edge. “But there’s no other explanation, is there?”

With his hands covering his face in utter disbelief, “Oh sweet, merciful Jesus… take me now.”  Pausing yet again and remembering his promise to Sharon, Tom eased alongside David. “Tom, I’ve known you for what, going on 15 years now? I was the best man at your wedding for Pete’s sake!” He caught his tone raising and eased back down, “Look, It’s not that far down.”

“Maybe for you… but I’m much taller”

“How much taller do you think you are?”

“That’s what short people ask,” casting a condescending stare at his friend, “and you’re better than that.”

Knowing that David was only two inches taller, Tom decided to let it go. He needed to figure out what the problem was before they ran out of daylight. “Would you feel better if I got a safety harness and hooked it to a that tree?”

“That termite infested monstrosity?”

David walked over to the tree, examining it a bit closer. It was a magnificent white oak, standing at least 75 feet tall. Its branches spreading out and casting a thick shadow on the earth below. He plucked a leaf from a lower branch, admiring the healthy foliage “David, in all my years of being an arborist, I don’t think I’ve seen a finer specimen of a Quercus Alba.”

“Your fancy words hold no sway over me!  I demand a parachute, packed by the finest of aerial acrobats!” 

David grumbled under his breath, “Sure Sharon, anything to help… of course I won’t lay a hand on him…” He rubbed his temples, “Ok, what’s really going on here?  There is no logical reason that you should be having this much of a problem. We discussed this on the drive over and you didn’t seem to have an issue.”

“But then we got here… and now I can truly see that this is the crevice that opens to the very belly of Hell.” He spit into it, hoping to hit the Devil in the eye. “No one would find the body, it’s why you brought me out here.”

“Now hold on a doggone minute!” He clenched his fist as he stomped back over to David. “I said we could do this in your backyard, but you were the one that didn’t want anyone watching!”

“I think you tricked me into that with your fancy wordsmithing, Mr. Quercus Alba.”

“I swear, if my wife didn’t have me watching my cholesterol, you’d be driving me to a heart attack right about now!”

“It’s not my fault you can’t control your temper.”

David looked around, as if beseeching nature to be his witness to the atrocities before him, “Lord, do you hear him?  This man is going to drive me to do some unholy things?”

“I don’t think our pastor would appreciate you…”  David saw the red in Tom’s eyes and decided he’d better not finish that sentence. “Can I propose a compromise?”

“Is it that you’ll stop complaining and do what you’ve promised to do?” His cold gaze waiting for David to continue on with whatever nonsense he had cobbled together.

“Of course not. Now if you’ll consider the plight of the butterfly.” David pulled out a piece of paper and a pen from his pocket in order to provide clearer understanding for David via illustrations.

As David began to draw, Tom slowly reached over and grabbed the pen and paper. He gently placed them on the ground beside him and turned back to David. 

David watched in silence, trying to sort out his motives. Tom’s sudden calm demeanor turned the situation into an enigma.

Tom began to speak, but suddenly his eyes grew wide and he pointed behind David and exclaimed, “What the hell is that?”

David bolted around to confront the danger, only to suddenly feel the coarse hand of fate pushing him from behind. “Is this how it all will end?” He pondered. Time slowed as he felt the ground disappear beneath his feet, “Ava Maria” began to echo in his ears, and he pondered what the next life would truly be like. 

Tom watched over the course of the next second as his friend descended the two feet to safely land on the ground below. “See, that wasn’t so bad. Now we just have a few more steps to help you overcome your fear of heights.” He watched as David slowly turned around, shaking. “When y’all get to Hawaii for your anniversary, you’re going to jump off those cliffs with the best of them.”


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