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Weeks later Len had made his way back through his rotation of beautiful cemeteries to stroll in, and found himself excited to visit Alden Paxt’s grave stone once more.  So much so that his walk was really more of a jog.  While he made his way through the immaculately manicured lawn Len thought about how much the Mysterious Mr. Paxt had changed how he walked through graveyards.  Now he read each name and date, even kept a journal dedicated to the ones that seemed intriguing or had great quotes.  Len felt more aware and perceptive and he liked it.

That is, perhaps, why he noticed the book from such a long way off.  Sitting on the aged marble stone sat an old paperback novel so well loved by its previous owner that the pages curled back and nearly touched the spine.  Len looked in every direction but could find no one so as he moved closer tentatively he reached out to grab the book.  His hand trembled slightly fully aware that he was intruding on something deeply personal.  Never before had he dared to bother mementos left by the bereaved, but today not even proper etiquette could stop Len.

The author’s name was undecipherable on the broken spine but the gold foil title My Time could still be made out.  Len not even bothering to walk toward the nearby bench turned to the first page and began reading.

Time is the only thing that makes life worth living, and for me the clock started with a flash of lightening…

Len felt his eyes widen as he reread the first line.  It was the quote.  Slowly the realization that he now held the only clue to who Alden Paxt was in his hand dawned on him.  So fast he nearly tore the page Len flipped to the title page.  There is bold black typeface were the words;  My Time by Moses Darling copyright 1972.

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Some how Len had made it to the bench before he collapsed.  Sitting there head between his knees, heart racing, taking what he hoped were deep calming breaths Len tried to make sense of the book.  He could have seen the headstone and liked the quote same as me was his first thought.  They were both from the same area so it wasn’t too far of a reach.  Maybe it was a famous quote and he had just never heard it before Len thought, but that seemed to be a bit more of a stretch.  Nervously he opened the book again to the last page hoping for a blurb about the author instead he found an oddly placed dedication page.

Now the name Alden Paxt will never be forgotten.

That decided him.  Len didn’t fidget while he read or even take coffee and bathroom breaks he read My Time as if it might dissolve away in the breeze if he stopped.  Hours later he began to feel a slight itchy sensation that told him someone was watching, but he ignored it.  It wasn’t till the light started to fade that he finally looked up.

“So what did you think” the the man leaning on his cane asked.

“I… I loved it.  Um, have you heard of it,” Len said as he turned the cover towards the stranger who made a noncommittal shrug.  “Well you see its a story about a man who lives twice.  Once in reverse where he gets younger rather than older, and then once moving forward.”

“How would that have happened,” the man asked as he sat down on the other end of the bench.

“That part is never really explained actually,” Len said flipping the pages of the book, “but the life he lived.” He sighed audibly looking over at Alden’s stone.  “It was worth living.”

“What’s that now?”

“Sorry I just meant, I know its fiction but the character in this book he really lived his life.  He made mistakes as much as he got it right, but he didn’t let fear stop him.  He just kept going like he knew he would get to do it again, like… I’m not doing it justice,” Len finished rather lamely.

“Like all his ends were actually beginnings,” the man offered while staring into the sunset.

“Exactly!  Odd place for that kind of realization huh?”

“Why would that be son?”

“Well,” Len said motioning to the rows of grave markers, “we are literally surrounded by ends.”

“Oh, yah,” the elderly gentleman said goading Len.  “What about that one there,” the man said pointing, “how is his story over?”

Len followed the man’s outstretched finger.  “Alden Paxt?  Good example he kind of exists as a middle I don’t know his beginning or end just the dates.”

“Ha!” The man’s bark of laughter cut through the evening air.  “Your holding his beginning there son.  The end though is sure to be up for interpretation.”

“How would you know that?”

“I’m the one who left it.”

Len watched as the skin crinkled around the man’s dark deep set eyes and a smile broke out upon his kind face.  “How did you know Alden Paxt?” Without meaning to his question came out more like a demand.

“Don’t be so surprised son, as it turns out life is often stranger than fiction.  I think you should keep that copy… It suits you, and that way neither of our names will be forgotten.”

“But I don’t know your name,” Len said confusion obvious in his voice.

The man slowly stood cane in hand, “I cannot say I ever had a proper one but friends have been know to call me Moses.” And just like that the man started to walk away.  Len stood and would have followed him, but the man’s voice blew back on the building breeze.  “Or Alden.  There was a time when people knew me by that name too.”

Len sat down hard without having meant to staring after the kind man’s silhouette as it melted into the growing shadows.  “Stranger than fiction,” he asked in a whisper, “talk about an understatement.” The book suddenly felt very heavy in Len’s hands like a story that spanned nearly 200 years should.

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Thanks for reading!  I hope you liked it I spent quite a while making Alden’s life come to life, and I’m happy with it but there is always room to grow.

Please leave any comments to help me make my stories better.  Could you see my ending coming, where my attempts attempts at humor silly, or my dialogue stiff? I want to know.  Thanks in advance!

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