The Expense of the Moment

By Mark Joseph Kiewlak

They were walking in the woods, the young girl and the older woman. They emerged from the trees and saw before them a lake, the noonday sun glistening upon its surface. The young girl Dorothy had felt elated all during their journey, particularly now, standing amongst such beauty, inhaling the crisp November air into her small lungs.

"The forest is deep and wonderful," the girl said. "But this is better."

"Why better?" the older woman Kate asked.

"It's cleaner somehow," the girl said. "It's like a reward for our journey. A climax. A grand finale."

"That's exactly what it is," the older woman said.

"You chose this path," the girl said, "knowing it would have this effect."

"Of course," the woman said. "But I didn't choose it. You did."

"Because we all create our own reality?"


"The lake is beautiful," the girl said.


"But why is it beautiful?" the girl said.

"An interesting question," the woman said. "Let's sit down and talk about it."

They sat on a flat gray rock, back to back, and absorbed the tranquility of their surroundings. No one else was present. The serenity of the moment was inviolable.

"There is no exterior beauty," the woman Kate said. "The beauty is inside of you."

"So this lake, all of what I've seen today is a reflection of how I feel."


"And my surroundings comply?" the girl said.

Kate was particularly impressed with the girl's vocabulary. She was learning quickly the ways of the world.

"The Earth rotates with you above it," the woman said, "and sets you down upon and within that exact environment which you choose."

"That's fanciful," the girl said.

"It is," the woman said, "but it's essentially accurate. We need metaphors and colorful comparisons to understand the process."

"The beauty is within me," the girl said.

"The world reflects back your own soul," the woman said.

They were silent for a time. There were rocks nearby — sparkling jewel-encrusted shapes -- and Dorothy became fixated upon the idea of throwing a rock into the lake, as far out as she could hurl it with her tiny muscles. She knew this was wrong but it took courage to say it aloud.

"What if I threw a rock into the lake?" she said at last.

"You tell me," Kate said.

"It would drown."

"What else?"

"It would create ripples. A disturbance."

"So it would be wrong?"

"I don't know," Dorothy said. "I only know that it would be wrong for me right here right now."

"But you were tempted?"


"So it's a triumph," the older woman said.

"Because I didn't do it."

The older woman nodded. "And what would be better?" she said.

Dorothy thought for a moment. "Not having thought of it at all," she said.

"That's right," Kate said. "But I'm still proud of you."

The girl smiled. "It's almost time to go," she said.

"That's right," Kate said. "We never stand still in the moment."

There were birds overhead but they made no sound. "I feel like I'm in the moment now," the girl said. "Nothing is bothering me. Nothing is on my mind."


"You really are a good teacher."

"Thank you, Dorothy."

"So should we go?"

"We have to keep moving," the older woman said.

Dorothy got up from the rock and inhaled the cold and the sunlight as
one. "And besides," she said, "we've learned all there is to learn here."

Kate smiled and they turned away from the lake. Dorothy took her hand and the leaves fell before them.

"What's next?" the girl said.

"That's up to you," Kate said. "That's always up to you."