Stories 3
Spring 2011




 

  

                                               One Final Spring Day

                                                                 by  james g. piatt

 

It was one of those halcyon summer days, beautiful and unusually balmy with not even a hint of a breeze. Normally April was dreary, with a blustery wind blowing away the morning fog coming in from the ocean. Today seemed like the beaconing of the end of the wind and the gloom of fog, but there was also another peculiar feeling in the air. Something else was in the atmosphere today, something inexplicable.

 

An Australian Shepherd was stretched out in the shade under a Sycamore tree, her pink tongue hanging out the side of her mouth. A Calico tomcat was under a willowy Birch tree in the moist green ivy. He always seemed to know how to get comfortable.

 

Boots and Fuss were purchased at the same time so the two animals could become buddies. Gary figured it was the first time a cat and dog of his got along going all the way back to Old Beau Blue and Highway Teeger and that was back in 1997. Highway Teeger had been found abandoned on the side of the road next to the high school. The old man’s next dog Nabby Blue and Highway Teeger detested each other. The old cat loved to come up next to the white picket fence where Nabby was barking and spinning in circles. After getting the dog to come near to him, he would reach in through the slats and give her a swat on the nose. She would then slowly ramble away feel completely satisfied. The old man swore though that Nabby missed the mischievous old cat when he died.

 

The old man gave his wife a peck on the check after their breakfasts, and talk about the sorry state of the world, and walked out the mudroom door to the brick patio. He squinted at the blistering sun and looked at the temperature gauge, it read 85 degrees, a nice warm spring day.

 

“Dear, don’t you go doing too much today, just sit and relax!” His wife admonished him, she was always watching over him, always had.

 

“Yes dear, don’t worry, I’ll just set up in the orchard, drink my beer and talk to Boots and Fuss.”

 

He adjusted his baseball cap, and glanced over at his dog sleeping under the Sycamore tree. She looked up a bit and lazily wagged her stump of a tail.

 

“You’re a lazy cuss of a dog do you know that?”

 

Boots wagged her stump again, added some butt movement this time, and raised her head a few millimeters then let it plop down. The old man shook his head and walked slowly around the side of the house, with the help of his mahogany cane. His wife had bought the cane for him after he fell a month ago. It was his third fall in nine months, and was the deciding factor. He looked up at the orchard area and slowly started stepping up the old faded red cement steps. It seemed to the old man that they kept getting steeper. When he reached his destination, he sat down on one of the old plastic chairs and took a deep breath. He adjusted the green and white-stripped umbrella, and set his bottle of beer on the top of wood that was nailed to a tree stump. He smiled at the beauty and abundance of colorful wild flowers that had emerged in the flowerbeds in February. It had taken him four hours to accomplish the planting task this year. Five years ago, it only took him about an hour but he was a young eighty-nine years old then.

 

In a short time, Boots ambled up the stairs,  wagging her fluffy stump of a tail. She lay down beside him under the umbrella.

 

“Well girl, about time you finally came to see me!”

 

Boots wagged her stump again, and looked at the old man with her light blue eyes. The old man scratched the soft fur around her ears. He looked at his beautiful roses on the other side of the strand of blue, pink, and purple bachelors buttons. He loved spring when the world was green and fresh. As he sipped his beer, he gazed at the hazy green mountains cradled by huge Cumulus clouds in the distance. In a few minutes, he heard a meow and saw Fuss come prancing up the steps. She rubbed against the old man’s pants and then lay next to Boots and partially on the old man’s foot.

 

The sun beamed down and warmed the earth and the old man. The weather people called the normal days in April through June, June gloom but today it was June cheer, or to be more precise April cheer. It was a very special Halcyon day, and it made the old man happy. He looked up to the sky again and saw a pair of red tailed hawks soaring high above him. He loved to hear the shrill screech of the hawks. He leaned back and closed his eyes, his thoughts traveled to times past.

 

The old man and his wife had lived in the old white two-story farmhouse since 1978 and it was now 2028. Fifty years of seasons, and all had been wonderful in their unique way. His wife liked the wind but didn’t care for the heat. He loved the heat but didn’t like the wind, so much for opposites not attracting!

 

He thought back, when he and his wife finally moved to the downstairs bedroom, that was when they were in their mid eighties and the steep stairs to the upstairs bedroom got to be a burden. His wife had the bottom bedroom completely redone. She also had the bathroom shower area changed a tub with a shower. She had the floor retiled, and the basin counter done in a beautiful white and light ecru colored marble. He smiled as he recounted with Boots and Fuss the countless happy years with his wife and children at the farm. They were good years.

 

As he was dozing off for the second time, he heard his wife. “Dear, lunch is ready.”

 

“Okay honey, I should be able to walk there in about an hour or so.” He laughed.

 

He finished his last sip of beer and patted his dog and cat on their heads. He got unsteadily to his feet. He hesitated slightly as he felt the strange feeling in the air again. He started down the steps, felt light headed, teetered, dropped his cane, and fell forward. His leg hit the side of the cement step, and he felt a sharp stab of pain shooting up his right arm and leg. Boots and Fuss came over to him. Boots licked his face in a nervous manner.

 

“Boots,” he whispered; “Go get Sandy, girl.”

 

The dog jumped up and went to the back window by the kitchen. She started barking and running back and forth between the old man and the kitchen window.

 

“What are you doing Boots, where is Jim?”

 

Boots continued to bark running back and forth frantically from the bottom of the steps to the kitchen window. Sandy came out the back garage door and saw Jim on the bottom of the steps. She yelled and walked as fast as she could over to him.

 

“Oh dear God honey, what happened?”

 

“I think I might have broken something honey.” He smiled attempting to be brave.

 

“Oh dear God, your leg is off to one side, oh dear.”

 

“I think you probably need to call 911. I probably need to get to the hospital. Don’t worry though honey, its probably just a broken leg, could have been worse you know.”

 

Later on that night, Jim was still asleep after an operation on his leg. He had broken it in three places. It was the first bone he had ever broken in his whole life. His wife was at his side. She had been there ever since he got out of surgery. She glanced up and smiled when he woke up.

 

“Doctor Hunter said the operation was successful dear. Boots and Fuss wanted to come to see you, especially Boots. I told Boots you would give her a call later,”

 

Jim nodded, looked at the thin cast, and smiled. “Damn, I didn’t need a broken leg!”

 

“Well, you are just going to have to take it easy and thank your lucky stars it wasn’t a hip.”

 

“At my age, I can’t afford to take it easy! I need all the minutes I can get.” He laughed.

 

Sandy looked at him with her beautiful brown eyes, shook her head filed with gray curls, and looked at the ceiling. She left after another hour of talking. She took a taxi home and noted something strange in the air when she walked up to the front door.

 

Sandy never liked it when Jim was not by her side at night, she never felt safe. Except for a year when he was in the armed services back in the late 50’s, they had slept together for almost seventy-four years. She leaned back on two big soft pillows in the bed and tried to read her new novel. It must have been her ten thousandth one in her lifetime. Boots and Fuss were lying down in a big fluffy bed on the floor beside her.

 

“How did we ever get inside animals? All our dogs and cats have been outside ones. Are you really an Australian?” She laughed as she looked at the beautiful dog. Fuss meowed as he looked up from her bed and she patted his head too.

 

The phone rang.

 

“Honey, I forgot to talk to Boots.”

 

“Oh for goodness sake, you and Boots are a pair. Okay, here she is.” She put the phone down by Boots. She looked at the phone with one ear cocked to the side and barked.

 

“I forgot to thank you Boots, you are a magnificent dog you know.”

 

Boots started wagging her stump and barked.

 

“Well, I think she got the message honey, she is wagging her tail. How are you feeling now?”

 

“Heck, I am so full of pain killers. I couldn’t feel a truck if it ran over me. I wish I was home. I don’t like to be away from you, you know.”

 

“Yes, I know dear, I don’t like you being away from me either, my feet are cold. Will you be home tomorrow?”

 

“Yes, even if I have to sneak out of here and highjack a car, with a driver of course!” He laughed. “I should be out of here in the late morning, I’ll be home for lunch.”

 

“Good, you rest tonight and I’ll see you soon. I Love you!”

 

“I Love you too, honey, bye.”

 

After another hour of reading, the phone rang again. Sandy sighed, put her book down again, and picked up the phone.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Mom, I just got your message on my answering machine. I have been gone all day and just got home, is dad alright?”

 

“Yes dear, he is still in the hospital, the operation was successful. He said the doctor would let him come home tomorrow. It’s a wonder what they can do for broken bones in this day and age.”

 

“Well, I hope he didn’t get one of those new synthetic bone splices, they aren’t the best thing to put in one’s body you know. They should have put that new alternative kelp splint.”

 

“Oh honey at our ages, it doesn’t really make too much difference does it?”

 

“It sure does, he may not be able to walk as well with the plastic one.”

 

“Well, maybe that is good, he can just rest then.”

 

“Oh mom, you know he hates that.”

 

“Well, it’s a done deal now. How is that grandson doing? I haven’t talked to him for about a week.”

 

“Oh he is wonderful, he was just put in charge of the new environmental division at work. Huge raise, big title, fancy new luxury car and tons of more responsibility. The company is also giving him two week’s paid vacation in Hawaii in June. They were going to call you and see if you and dad wanted to go too. Maybe we better not tell dad now.”

 

“Yes, he might want to go, walker and all.” Sandy laughed. “Are you going?”

 

“Yes, Jack is going to take a couple weeks off from his practice. We will meet them there the second week. Gee, I wish you and dad could come too.”

 

“Well honey at 92 and 94, I am not sure we could have made it anyway you know.”

 

“Oh pooh, you two are as healthy as most 85 year olds.”

 

“Well, maybe we can all get together in a few months, after you get back, dad should be well enough then to barbeque some chicken, he hasn’t done that in ages.”

 

“Okay mom, we will plan on it. By the way have you heard from the wayward brother?”

 

“Yes, he called the other day from New York City, his paintings are selling like hotcakes for $250,000 each. He is in seventh heaven and loves the big apple.”

 

“That’s good, I’m glad he is finally making it. And he is only 60, just a young pup!” She laughed. “It was good to see him at Christmas, he looks good and is contented. I am really happy for him.”

 

“Yes, it took him a long, long time for him to find himself.”

 

“Mom, you sound kind of melancholy, are you okay?”

 

“I don’t know honey, I guess so, it is just your dad getting hurt. At our ages, anything like this is kind of critical. I guess I am just tired from all the anxiety. I am very tired now dear. I think I’ll let you go now, love you.”

 

“Love you too mom, call me tomorrow, bye.”

 

Ann didn’t like the feeling she had in her stomach. She reached over to her husband. “Jack, I am worried about mom. I didn’t like the sound of her voice. Dad seems to be okay though, the operation was a success.”

 

“I’m glad about that, do you think we ought to go see your mom?”

 

“Why don’t I just fly into the airport at Santa Barbara tomorrow. I know you have a critical meeting then. I’ll call you if anything is wrong, then you can fly up.”

 

“Okay, let me call right now and get you a first flight in the morning.”

 

Jim woke up around 3:30 AM. He was in a state of panic. He sat up in his bed and felt a mist pass across his face, he pushed the button by his bed on and off as fast as he could. In a second, a nurse came flying through the door.

 

“What’s wrong Jim? Are you alright?”

 

“I need a phone, I have to call home.” He stated in a panic.

 

“Now settle down Jim, why do you need to make a call?”

 

“My wife . . . something is wrong.”

 

The nurse dialed the number, but there was no answer. She hurriedly left the room to call the doctor. There was a strange feeling in the air again. Jim shook his head and looked out the window at the ominous darkness. He felt the mist pass by him again, but this time he did not panic, the mist was warm, and he knew.

 

Sandy lay in bed staring vacantly at the ceiling. Boots lay next to her on the bed howling and nuzzling her to no avail. Fuss was licking her face.

 

In about an hour, Jim heard an ambulance screech up to the emergency exit, he saw the paramedics push a cart into the ICU.

 

He rang the nurse’s bell again. She came into the room slowly this time. An apprehensive look was apparent in her eyes. She shook her head and tears ran down her cheek. Jim’s doctor came through the door his face was contorted into a grimace.

 

“Jim, I have some bad news, Sandy just died of a heart attack, but she never knew any pain, it was instantaneous. I am so sorry, is there anything I can do?”

 

Jim stared at the doctor with wet eyes and waved him and the nurse away even though they insisted on staying. He shook his head and looked out the window, tears flowed down his cheeks, and then he felt the warm mist pass by him again.

 

“Darn it honey, I was supposed to go first! If you aren’t around, I don’t want to be here anymore either. With that statement, Jim clutched at his chest and then stared blankly at the ceiling. In a few minutes he was dead, there was a smile on his face.

 

At 5:40 AM, a nurse came into his room to give him some pain pills. She looked at the old man smiling and staring at the ceiling with expressionless eyes. She pushed the panic button and the doctor ran into the room. He felt for a pulse but didn’t find one. He closed Jim’s eyes, shook his head, and sighed.

 

The day was a warm halcyon day in April, a healing day when two best friends, mates, and lovers finished their last day together on earth. Sandy and Jim’s caskets rested on the grass, a pair of red tailed hawks swooped down next to them screeching their mating call. They then soared high up into the sky and disappeared.

           

                             “Let's find a place where hawks soar and

                             Butterflies glide in glittering droves.

                             Let's go together to the ocean shore and

                             Feel the hot sand between our toes.

                             Let's dream and wish for precious times

                             To sit and hold each other's hands.

                             Let's walk among tall pine trees and stop

                             A short time near soft grasslands.

                             Let’s sit amid a tall Pine grove and

                             Watch squirrels flit from tree to tree.

                             Let's share our love in a wooded cove

                                    And spend precious time just you and me.”

                                   

                                      (Poem first published in Caper Journal)

                       

 

                                                    

 

 Bio:James earned his BS and MA from California State Polytechni University, and a doctorate from Brigham Young University. He is a retired professor. Literary House Review, Orchard Press Mysteries, The Long Story Short,
Pens on Fire, Black Petals, Word Catalyst Magazine, Caper Journal, Everyday Weirdness Magazine, Cynic Magazine, Clockwise Cat, Suspense Magazine, and Medulla Fiction have published his short stories. He has had eight non-fiction pieces published in professional journals.


 

 

 

 

 

 

My First Fling

  by Diane Kimbrell

The year was 1961. There were no Internet dating sites at the time; there was no Internet. Nobody owned a computer. But there were blind dates. In spite of the marvels of technology, and the passing of time, I’m convinced that the heart’s yearning for and the anticipation of a romantic, enchanted evening has always been with us and will always remain. The movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s was released that same year and the song from the show, "Moon River" became a big hit.
 
I was a senior in high school and the weekend I had longed for and dreamed about was off to the worst possible start. My blind date for Spring Fling, an annual event at Davidson College, was an hour and a half late. A senior in high school like myself, he was driving from Greenville, to look over the campus. Davidson, a private southern college in North Carolina enjoyed a prestigious reputation. America’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson attended the institution.
 
My best friend Wanda and her boyfriend Belvin strolled arm and arm up the aisle of the theatre to the lobby. Following at a respectable distance, I allowed just enough of the other members of the audience to step in front of me so that I wouldn’t loose sight of them. I preferred to stay in my seat at intermission but Belvin insisted that I come along. Out in the lobby, while Belvin and Wanda cooed and whispered to each other, I stood near them but remained aloof, picking imaginary lint off my black pleated skirt. Black is known to be a slenderizing color. I could feel the couples around us staring at me—wondering why, I supposed, I was there alone. Belvin caught my eye and winked several times to acknowledge my presence, but my best friend Wanda ignored me. She began to ignore me when my blind date did not show up on time. Finally, Belvin said, "Don’t worry Niki, he’ll be here soon. Friday night’s a date night. Traffic’s always heavy. Remember," he grinned, "Greenville’s about a hundred mile drive." I forced a confident smile in his direction but when I said nothing, he turned back to Wanda. I could think of nothing to say. Anger and disappointment had rendered me speechless. Virgil Grimble or maybe his last name was Gamble was the cousin of one of Belvins’s fraternity brothers. Belvin had never met him. Because Wanda’s mother wouldn’t let her attend Spring Fling alone, Wanda made Belvin arrange a blind date for me. I assumed it would be with one of the brothers from the fraternity he pledged, but Belvin claimed a cousin of a brother was the best he could do. When I hesitated to accept the invitation, Wanda reminded me that most of the girls at our school would give an arm or a leg to go to Davidson for a weekend and attend fraternity parties—not to mention a live concert featuring "The Drifters."
 
"Mama won’t let me go if you don’t go," Wanda pouted. I knew by the sound of her voice that Wanda would never speak to me again if I didn’t agree to attend. She also said, "I know Mama wants you to spy on me and make sure I sleep at the dorm with you and the rest of the girls. But you better never breathe a word about what I do once we get there. Understand?" I nodded. I knew Wanda was right that I was being sent to keep an eye on her. And I felt guilty knowing that I would probably have to lie to her mother.
 
My stomach started growling and as I coughed loudly to muffle the sound, the dull ache that threatened my temples earlier that afternoon became a thudding reality. Mama was right. She was always right. I should’ve eaten before I left home. Othermama, my maternal grandmother, made my favorite dish—chicken and dumplings, but I was too excited to even taste it. My mouth watered and I wished I could go home. Call this whole thing off. To heck with dieting. I could be curled up on the couch with a bag of potato chips, a peanut butter and banana sandwich, and a Dr. Pepper watching "Wagon Train" on television instead of…
 
The houselights blinked and I followed Belvin and Wanda back inside. I sank down in my seat grateful for the darkness of the theatre. During intermission I had the opportunity to observe the rest of the audience. All the male students seemed so handsome. Some of them wore powder blue blazers with the Davidson College emblem and smelled of English Leather. Their out-of-town dates, girls from Salem College, Vassar, and Sweetbrier with their perfect bouffant hairdos (I should never have allowed my aunt to give me that home permanent—she obviously misunderstood the directions) appeared elegant in their Villager dresses and polished to a shine Bass weejuns. No one here is wearing clothes ordered from the Jewel Tea Catalogue, I observed bitterly. Although it helped to sit down, my physical discomfort had increased. There was now very little feeling left in my feet. The high-heeled shoes I borrowed were too long so toilet paper had to be stuffed in the toes to keep them from falling off when I walked. I must’ve stuffed too much. But as the curtain lifted on Act III, my spirits did too, somewhat.
 
The Davidson College presentation of The Matchmaker was brilliant. I was dazzled by it. The only other "real" theatrical production I’d ever seen was Tom Sawyer presented by the Masketeers, a traveling theatrical group that performed at our school every year. Suddenly, I wanted to cry. Of course, crying was out of the question. It didn’t matter that I was twenty miles away from home sitting in a theatre next to a vacant seat that might never be filled. It didn’t matter that things were turning out wrong. What seemed to matter was Belvin Coggins. Belvin was Wanda’s latest catch. He hardly knew me. My tears would surely embarrass him in front of his friends. Wanda would be furious, consider me ungrateful and babyish. We would never be friends again.
 
Toward the end of the third act, I began to feel sick, feverish. My eyes strayed again to the empty seat and once more, for the one-millionth time, I tried to envision the blind date that was supposedly on his way. Intellectually I assured myself he would be nice looking and that we would like each other. I knew how to dance and make polite conversation. If he wasn’t good looking, so what, he might have a winning personality. We would become close friends. I reached into my pocketbook for the pack of chewing gum Othermama had given me, and recalled her last minute instructions.
     "Just hold this in your mouth," she said, "don’t chew it. Well bred young women do not chew gum." I waited patiently until everyone laughed at something Dolly Levi said then shoved two sticks in my mouth as fast as I could hoping no one was watching—especially Belvin. I didn’t want him to think I was the least bit concerned about my breath. It was none of his business that I’d never been kissed. Like the models in Seventeen Magazine, I wanted to appear calm, cool, indifferent. The thought also crossed my mind that the blind date might be extremely handsome, bright, rich and witty and if so, he might not like me. He might even be ashamed to be seen with me. Or worse yet, the blind date might be someone I would be ashamed to be seen with.
 
My palms began to perspire as I thought of excuses to leave. I couldn’t just get up and sneak out like I wanted to do. A sudden attack of the flu was a possibility. But how would I get home? I’d have to call Mama and ask her to send someone to pick me up. But who? Our neighbors went to bed early. It was getting late. That left only one possibility, Daddy. Mama would agree to get him to the phone but I’d have to ask him—beg him to come. He’d be drunk, of course. He was always drunk on Fridays but he would come. I could see it. The battered blue ’56 Chevy weaving up to the Davidson College campus—the driver slouched over the wheel with a beer can in his hand. Everyone would see him. His glasses dangling cockeyed over his nose. No way. Forget it. I’d walk home first. It shouldn’t take long to walk twenty miles especially if I took off these shoes and went barefoot.
 
It was now the fourth act. I felt tired, numb. In the middle of the act there was a rustle at the back of the theatre. Belvin looked over his shoulder then nodded. The blind date had arrived. The pounding of my heart drowned out the dialogue on stage. In the semi-darkness, long skinny arms protruding from the sleeves of a black shiny jacket groped their way across the row of seats. I watched in horror as the scarecrow form with its thick padded shoulders inched forward. At last the tall young man eased himself into the seat and I turned cautiously, remembering not to chew my gum, to greet him. He looked familiar. Even though the horn-rimmed glasses enlarged his eyes to inhuman proportions, I knew that face and placed it immediately. Alfred E. Newman. Mad Magazine! I’d seen those thick, rubbery lips stretched into that wide idiotic grin at least a thousand times and when I turned, I looked into it once again. In a mild state of shock, I sat up straight and for the first time that evening focused on the play. Dolly Levi shoved Barnaby Tucker towards the footlights to address the audience.
"…The test of an adventure," Barnaby announced in his squeaky, high pitched voice, "is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, ‘Oh, now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home…’"
 
From the corner of my eye, I glanced at Alfred. He’s got a great personality I assured myself. God in Heaven, anybody with a face like that has to be fantastic.
 
 
Bio:Actress and writer Diane Kimbrell has lived in NYC for many years, but was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her literary credits include The Raleigh Review, The Battered Suitcase, the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Dew on the Kudzu, Subtletea, Muscadine Lines, the SFWP Journal, River Walk Journal, and Plum Biscuit.