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by Jef Coburn

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Chapter Seven: The Toss of a Coin


Brad was a little surprised the next day when I offered to treat him to a free lunch. A man of his experience should know there’s no such thing. Maybe he did know something was up. I wouldn’t have put it past him.

“I should have a salad,” he said, perusing the menu.

“But you won’t.”

“I will not,” he confirmed.

“Can I ask you a question, Brad?”

“Is it about my cholesterol?”

“Not even remotely.”

“Ask away.”

“How do I know which road is the right path and which road is the primrose path?”

“So that’s how it is? We’re gonna spend our lunch hour discussing the works of Robert Frost?”

“Too vague?”

“Only if you want me to be, you know, helpful or something.” The waitress arrived and took our orders. Then Brad jumped back in. “What kind of roads are we talking about here? Projects? Jobs?” He leaned in a bit and got quieter. “Relationships?”

“Okay, clearly not too vague, then.”

“Well, after our discussion about your... woman of color, the math was pretty easy. Is there somebody else?”

“Yeah, and I should probably be a little vague there, too.”

“Okay. Shoot.”

“There’s Jade, and there’s... Let’s call her Jane.”

“Jade and Jane?”

“You’re right. Let’s call her—”


“Okay, good, we’ll call her Linda. I look at Linda, and part of me can really see us together for the long haul.”

“But then part of you feels the same way about Jade.”

“Exactly. One of these two, Jade or Linda, could be the one, and if one of them is the one, the other one is... peril. How do I know if I’m avoiding a detour or taking one?”

Brad waited a moment. It wasn’t like he didn’t have an answer ready for me. It was like he wanted me to be ready for the answer. “Got a quarter?” he asked with a grin.

“Are you suggesting I leave a choice like this to the toss of a coin?”

“Kind of. Trust me. Do you have one?”

I dug into my pocket and pulled out a quarter. He reached over and took it from me.

“It’s not always easy to tell,” he said. Sometimes it’s difficult even when you know which path is peril. Sometimes the decision has to do with what you’re prepared to do about it. The night I realized I might be capable of cheating on Renee, I had to ask myself that. I turned to a friend, as you’re doing now, and he taught me a trick. Now I’m going to teach it to you.

“The guy pulled out a quarter and said, ‘Brad, you already know. I’m gonna throw this quarter into the air. Before it hits the floor, tell me what you’re gonna do.’ By the time the coin landed, I knew I was changing jobs.”

I nodded.

He held the quarter up. “Are you ready?”

Again, I nodded.

“Here it comes. Which path will it be? Go!”

The quarter went up. The quarter came down. I knew.

I made the call that night. I asked her if I could come over to her place. I knew that was forward, but I had waited long enough. It was time to be assertive. On the way over, I thought about the past and about the future. I thought about how even the right choice wasn’t always easy. I thought about how unfair it was that I would have to hurt someone who had been hurt already. I thought about how close I had come to losing my way.

I knocked on the door, and as soon as it opened, I said, “I should have told you this sooner, but I’m not just attracted to you. I’m crazy about you. After thinking so much about our being together, I don’t want to go the rest of my life wondering ‘What if?’ I’m not okay with not knowing.”

Jade smiled. I kissed her right there in the open doorway. She took my hand, welcoming me into her home and into her life.

Copyright © 2021 by Jef Coburn

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