Fred lived in San Nico and was always late.
The street-side tree trunks seemed to be connected into one bulk of leaves that hung low over the neighborhoods near Rick Centers' house in Medford, the frequent site of bridge games and Fred's current destination.
The hills between San Nico and Medford were colored like wheat fields, even though it was only expanses of summer dry grass. Sometimes these mountains were green and flowered, but they always seemed dried golden whenever Fred crossed them and dropped into the bowl of Medford - where Rick Centers lived and held casual bridge games.
It was Seven, people were off work. The animals in the nearby marshes had cleared. There would be an earthquake, later.
Now, Medford was calm and Fred reached the part of town where his friend Rick Centers lived. Because of the suburban canopy, the brown wood sidings of Rick Centers' house had always seemed darker than any other house Fred had ever been to.
Darker. Not in the foreboding sense, but as if the house had settled and its color had condensed years before Rick had bought it.
Fred had always felt the house was dark and sturdy and he had always loved going over to play bridge. He and Rick typically partnered up, they had been playing together since high school. Fred remembered leaving his mother and her wild friends to party on Friday nights, as he went to partake in local bridge tournaments with Rick at the local recreational center. Rick and Fred had gone to Reno and Canada because of their bridge playing.
When the pair had first started, Fred could determine what table they would be switching to from across the tournament floor by the tiny letters on the large board on the far wall. Now, he had a hard time numbering the houses leading up to Rick's. As if by luck, Fred found himself standing outside Rick's hard wood door.
The sturdy house's heavy door was in the middle of its front. Directly inside, there was an alley of furniture. To the right, an olive drab couch. In front of the couch was a soft, thick carpet that lay on the hard wood floor at the base of the large television that remained on the floor across from the sofa and provided a subtle static ambience to the one big-room in the smaller-than-average house. This alley opened to the wooden table where Rick would host games of bridge, where the others sat waiting on the left and right sides. Above the table was a classic billiard-hall light fixture with green glass that made the room perfect. Behind the table was a bookcase. The bookcase was situated on the back gray-green wall of Rick Centers' front room and on it were several books, novelty pipes, and pictures of friends and family. The bridge players would often smoke and look at Rick's trinkets as they sat and dummied, or while they waited for the fourth to return from a bathroom break. To the immediate left of the bookcase was a doorway that exposed Rick's bathroom and the hallway that led to Rick's bedroom. On the wall left to the bookcase and doorway, in the back of the front room, was another doorway that led into the kitchen. The kitchen led outside to Rick Centers' personally-crafted, backyard Tiki Bar.
Rick took pride in his backyard, not only for the work that had gone into it, but the amount of quality memories the site had created. Fred stood in Rick's front door looking behind him, admiring Rick's front garden.
"Maybe I'll just stay here." Fred said while he turned and walked into the house.
"Hey, everyone" he said to the guests waiting under the classic billiard-hall light fixture.
Fred followed Rick through the alley and sat with his back to the front door. Rick took his seat opposite Fred and dealt the first hand.
Fred was playing dummy, admiring the bookcase, and Rick was going for a slam when the quake started. The background noise the TV had been supplying shorted out, the wooden table shook and spilled the played tricks on the floor, and a loud breaking sound came from the direction of the sturdy house's back hallway that led into Rick's bedroom.
Fred woke up, knocked and dazed over in his chair, and looked at the blank wall opposite him.
Fred and West rushed to lift the bookcase off of Rick as East ran to call an ambulance.
East had explained the situation to the woman on the other end of the telephone and so the ambulance came quickly as Fred, West, and East started cleaning up Rick Centers' house. The ambulance carried Rick away and the other three sat in Rick's smaller-than-average, sturdy house in silence. They would have time to talk at the weekly Bridge club, later.
Eventually, the three left. Fred crossed back over the golden ridge and somehow ended up standing on his fifth floor apartment's balcony in San Nico, holding the back of his head with two hands, and looking out across the bay to where a bridge should have been.
Around the world, an African child woke up on the floor of a mud hut. He stood and looked at the weaved-grass mat on the floor and left for school. He walked for a long time. It was a straight shot from his home to the school where he had learned to love Jesus and write his name. Not even mountains accompanied his walk. When he arrived, he looked inside, saw the pieces of a shattered blackboard on the ground next to some school supplies and some funny shaped coins he would never live long enough to find out were bullet shells. The boy walked home, cranked his hand-powered record player, and listened to some Highlife albums someone had brought back from the West Coast.