Short Story: Chasm



James Brennen drummed his fingers on the padded leather steering wheel of his BMW, not certain what to do next. The cold gray cement of the parking garage mimicked the dreary, rainy morning outside. The weather and the location were still warmer than his mood.

If he was honest with himself, the problem began many years before when he was in college. Peter “Peets” Canella was a fraternity brother and his best friend during their college years at Cornell. With his family cross-country in Oregon, Peets’ parents invited him to join them on short holidays. James’ visits to the huge Italian family felt like those to his own large Irish family, filled with food, music, and love.

Never having considered himself particularity naïve, James later realized he chose to ignore the signs of what Peets’ father appeared to be involved in. Vittorio Canella owned a shipping fleet out of the New Jersey docks, legitimate as far as James knew, but he didn’t want to know.

Upon graduation, James entered Harvard law school and Peets went to work for his father. As college friends would do, they lost touch as the years passed. Offered a job with a prestigious law firm when he passed the bar exam, James remained in Boston where he married and raised two children until he was appointed to the Federal bench in New York City.

He dropped his head against the soft leather headrest, closing his eyes. He’d run into Peets three years ago quite by accident, and they renewed their friendship. Both led busy lives, moving in different social circles but shared dinner at each other’s homes or at restaurants when they could.

When members of the joint FBI-ATF task force on organized crime arrived at his house the night before, James was not surprised. Peets steered their conversation more than once toward his business dealings and each time, James side-stepped the conversation turning to another topic. He feared Peets would hint at the protection a federal judge could provide. He did not want to deal with that question then, and he didn’t want to now but there was no walking away. The agents informed him Peter Canella was involved in smuggling of stolen goods and possibly weapons to drug dealers in South America. They wanted his help in bringing Peets and his organization to justice.

Staring at two gray pillars directly in front of him, James wrestled with what the agents asked of him. The pillars reminded him of a stunning piece of artwork by Michal Karcz his artist son recently showed him. The stark black-and-white artwork showed two steep cliffs separated by a narrow chasm. Two men stood on ledges carved into each cliff facing each other, ropes dangling from the ledges, remnants of a bridge or possible climbing ropes. He couldn’t decide what the relationships or the fate of those men were when he first saw the photo, but now he understood.

He and Peets found common ground for a friendship, but they were from opposing worlds, separated by the side of the law they chose. The task force visit assured there was no bridge back to the people he and Peets once were. Peets hinted for a protection arrangement, but now he needed to allow his friend to ask directly. Exiting the car, he grabbed his briefcase, and as he walked toward his office, he made a call.

“Good Morning, Peets, Jan’s out of town visiting the grandkids, so how about going to the lake with me this weekend?”


This story was written for the Moderated Selected Writing Exercise (#writingprompt) on the Writer’s Discussion Group community on Google+. The prompt for this exercise is the Photoshop photo art titled Years  by Michal Karcz. His art can be found here….


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