by Savannah Leigh
The two old men stood at the corner where Briar Avenue met Second Street. Bickering, they hovered over a phone, the faint glow of a maternity shop’s window display washing over them.
“I’m pretty sure it’s this way,” Bernie said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder. Shops stretched down either side of the street, each more or less identical to those beside it.
Al squinted at his phone, his liver-spotted hand clutching it like a tighter grip would make the directions clearer. “I don’t think that’s what Siri’s saying.”
Bernie sighed, muttering under his breath. He took off his glasses and rubbed them clear with the bottom of his sweater. As he righted them on his face again, he looked up at the sky, gray clouds looming over the tops of the buildings. “Does Siri know it’s gonna start raining soon?”
“That’s not part of the navigation app.” Al swiped at the gray hair peeking out from his cap, still examining the phone screen.
“Al, we’ve been here plenty. Some of the shops are different, sure, but we don’t need Siri to get us there.”
“But Julie’s been worried about me. That’s why she got me this thing, you know that.”
“Well did she teach ya how to use it? Because if Siri doesn’t hurry up, we’re gonna miss Julie’s rehearsal dinner.”
“Calm down, we’ll be fine.”
Bernie looked down Second Street. Darkness was beginning to fall over the sidewalk as the rain clouds advanced. The streetlamps flickered on.
Al took a few steps forward, then stopped again, grumbling at the phone.
“Why don’t we just call Julie and ask for directions.”
“No, no. She’s far too busy,” Al replied.
“She’s helping Julie.”
“Someone!” Bernie shouted. He paused, took a deep breath, and tried again, calmer. “One of your children or grandchildren will answer the phone—I’m sure they’re all there, wondering where you are.”
“Siri says we’re only five minutes away.”
Bernie shoved his palms toward Al, then toward the stretch of sidewalk in front of them, then allowed his arms to fall to his sides with an exasperated sigh. “Al, we’d be five minutes away if we were moving.”
“I know that.” Al tapped at the screen. “Siri, which direction do we go?”
They stared at the screen, awaiting Siri’s response.
Bernie grumbled. “This isn’t getting us anywhere. I’m going this way.” And he turned down Second Street, now nearly the distinct orange of poorly-lit night.
Al turned and grabbed at Bernie’s arm. “You can’t just leave me alone!”
Bernie faced Al again, finally able to look into his old, clouded eyes. “Then come with me.”
Al shuffled to where Bernie stood, then returned his gaze to the phone. “Siri doesn’t think this is right.”
Bernie’s shoulders slumped, and he gritted his teeth together. “Which way does Siri think we should go?”
Al brought the phone to just a few inches away from his face and squinted hard. Finally, he lowered it to his side and frowned. “I don’t know.”
Bernie released his clenched jaw and stared at his friend. He watched panic well up in Al’s eyes, the way it always did when Al started to forget.
Al looked at the buildings around him, forlorn. His breathing picked up, growing more rapid. His arms went limp, and the phone slipped from his fingers and clattered against the pavement.
Bernie scooped up the phone and dusted away the shattered pieces of screen, then slid it into his pocket. He gently placed his hand on Al’s arm.
Al jumped and turned toward Bernie, frightened.
“It’s okay, Al. It’s just me.”
“Where are we?”
“We’re on the way to your granddaughter’s rehearsal dinner.”
“She gave me a phone to help get us there.”
Bernie looped his arm around Al’s, linking them together. “We’re almost there, buddy. Just come with me.”
Al reached his free arm across his chest and clutched Bernie’s hand, and slowly, they walked.
Savannah Leigh was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but has traveled around ever since. She attended the University of Maine at Farmington, where she earned a BFA in creative writing, a BA in pre-veterinary biology, and honors scholar recognition. She currently lives with her 2.5 pound chihuahua Yzma in Le Mans, France, where she works as a lectrice d’anglais.