Choose Life

by Robert Bradley

She’s blonde and pale, just the kind of person you’d like to see naked on a ledge somewhere. Her skin bleared against the red brick of the building, her palms pressed against them, looking more puzzled than afraid or sad.

He sips his beer and wonders if she’s the one for him.

“You look like an angel,” he says to her. He imagines the things he would do to her if that were true.

“Holy, holy, holy,” she says, brushing ashes off her sleeve.

He leans towards her.

“Nothing’s forbidden down here,” he says.

“I don’t need that,” she says.

“What are you made of?” he says.

“Buy me a drink and I’ll show you what I’m made of,” she says. “Get me some smokes, too.”

He stands, drains his mug; imagines her naked above him, singing in a gravelly voice.

He parks himself on a wobbly barstool next to her and orders two drinks.

As he reaches into his pocket for cash she says, “That’s right. You pay,” she grabs him by the throat and his eyes widen. He likes the intimacy of this moment, the palm of her hand pressed to his throat, her fingertips tensing into the flesh of his neck, everything exaggerated, pulsing, the world shrunk down to the size of a beach ball with just enough stale air left to starve his brain of the oxygen it needs to make rational decisions, get up and leave.

“Halleluiah,” someone on the juke box sings.

“There’s no more room in heaven,” she says and stubs her cigarette in a tin, gets up and pushes past him. “Make way.”

“Right,” he calls after her, “heaven’s for dead people, anyway. I choose life. Bartender…”

Robert Bradley is holed up in an apartment in Manhattan. He has a plate of chicken and rice in his refrigerator along with a jar of spaghetti sauce, some butter, broccoli and four beers. He’s going to sit down and write a screenplay any minute now. You can almost see it.



The first version of “Choose Life”existed between “he” and “I” for the point of view. You went with “he.” Why?

    I thought it sounded better, less clumsy. But now I don’t know. Thanks for reviving for your pleasure the writer’s agony, that of linear decision making and second guessing. A torturous process, as you’re well aware.
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