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Apr 30, 2020

General

                        Fireflies

                             by

                   John Meiners, Jr.

    

      

   Just outside her cabin, Carolyn, one of the Graduates of ‘64, stares up at the stars admiring how bright they are apart from the city lights. Ten years ago she and her fellow classmates were in cap and gown excited about what was to come. Now a ceremony honoring those who have died is about to begin. She looks again at the stars and sighs, “I’d better go. I miss you.” She turns and starts down a dimly lit trail.

  Sara enters the cabin and peers out the window.

  Michael comes in unseen, recognizes her, and in his best pirate voice says, “Excuse me, Matey. Might this be the 10 year reunion for the Pirates?” 

  Sara turns quickly, replies, “Aye Matey. That it is.”

She runs to him and flings her arms around him, “Michael”

  His apprehension with seeing her floats up like the smoke from a campfire and dissipates, a welcome change from some of their previous hello’s and good byes.  

  “How long have you been here? Sara asks.

  “Two days now. Where is everyone?” 

  “At the lake, having a memorial ceremony honoring our classmates who died.” 

  “You didn’t want to go?”

  “I don’t need to be reminded.” Sara notices he carries something. “What’s that?” 

  Michael hands her an eight track of ‘Cherish’ by the Association. 

  “Cherish, it’s our song,” she says surprised.

  “I want you to have it.”

   Sara, excited takes it. “I thought they were all burned in effigy.”

  “Not that one. I couldn’t.”

  They share a moment, remembering so many different times they listened to it together.    

  “I’ll hold on to this.” Sara points to a campfire out the window. “Just in case you have a change of heart. I can’t wait to show Carolyn.”

  “She’s still around?”

  “Still alive and kicking. Friends to the end.” Sara holds up the eight track. “I wish we had something to play it on.”

  “Sorry, don’t have my Mustang anymore.”

  “I loved that car.”

  “We had a lot of fun in that car.

  “Yeah, even when we weren’t going anywhere. Well, you were trying TO GO somewhere.”

  Michael laughs, remembering the drive inn movies, and how he would tell her what good movies were showing but not actually give a damn about what was on. He looks at her, understands why.   

“Yeah, guilty as charged... You look good.”   

  “You too. I still think about you.”

  “Never stopped thinking about you.” Whether he wanted to or not, not a day passed without thinking of Sara, although the fond memories were often replaced with those of pain and anger. She’d married again just seven months after their divorce.

“I heard you got married. Did you love him?”

  Sara, with a semi apologetic tone, “Thought I did.”

  “Didn’t take you long to find him.”

  “Michael, I was young and...”

  He interrupts with a dash of sarcasm and a slight hint of levity. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder, Not I have to find someone to marry.”

  “Always the smart ass, aren’t you? Well, if it makes you feel better, our marriage lasted twice as long.”

  “So I got the longevity award?”

  “Michael, at the airport after you boarded, they took a GI’s casket off the plane. It scared me to death.”

In the distance the faint sounds of chimes are heard, and Sara looks toward the sound, distracted.

  Michael’s tone moves from sarcastic to soothing, “You don’t have to be scared anymore.”

  She smiles. “No, I don’t... I guess I wasn’t good at being alone... I felt you were still here when we separated, but not after you left for Vietnam.

  “Don’t know that I was good at being alone either.”

  “You think?... I know YOU most certainly were not good at being alone... You found Lisa... Who else?... Christy and a few more, but who’s counting?”

  “And I’d break it off with them and go back with you every damn time, and we’d try to work it out.”

  “We kept trying, didn’t we?”

  ”We didn’t give up. You have to give us that.”

  “’E’ for effort.”

  Michael laughs, “Some of my friends gave me an ‘F’ for FOOL.”

  Sara smiles, “Yeah, me too. I wish we had it to do over... a little late now.”  

  Michael remains hopeful, “Never say die... You remember the picnics out here?”

  “Never forget, or the poison ivy and heaping calamine lotion on my legs.”

  “The best was the sleep over on our senior trip that last week of March. The girls on one side, the boys on the other with the chaperones and teachers keeping tabs on our movements, from the middle.”

  “But not to be deterred, before darkness fell, we devised our plan.”

  “And with a magic touch, we’d blink our flashlights imitating the fireflies.”

  “Then we’d meet at the lake. We’d look up at the stars, and I’d fall asleep in your arms.”

  “I thought how I’d never let you go.”

  “But you did... I did. We let each other go.”

  “Maybe we should have stayed asleep.”

  “Then, we would have missed the sun rise.”

  “Yeah, but I wouldn’t have woken up in the morning without you lying beside me... After I dreamed you were there.”

  “Oh, Michael. We may still have our time.”... Sara holds a flashlight in her hand, holds it out and says, “See, I’m ready.” She moves toward the door. Suddenly the door is open.  “I love you... remember.” In an instant, Sara is gone.  

  Michael goes to the doorway, stares out. 

  Sara’s friend, Carolyn, returns from the memorial ceremony through the other door. “Glad that’s over”...  Carolyn sees Michael. “Oh, you missed the chimes in memory of our classmates...” 

  Michael turns. 

  “Michael?”  

  “Carolyn? Did you see Sara?”

  “Sara, Mike?... She’s gone.”

  “She wouldn’t leave. She told me she loved me.”...

  “Oh, Michael... She always did.”

  “She’s got to be out there.”

  Michael decides he’ll find her and heads for the door.

  Carolyn’s words quickly stop him. “She died, Mike.”

  Michael stops stunned, “Sara was just here. I gave her an old eight track”... 

  “She’s gone... Michael, listen... I was in the hospital with her at the last. She wanted with all her heart to make it to this reunion. She hoped you’d be coming home, and wanted to see you so badly... I left word with your family. Didn’t they tell you?”

  “My family?... I haven’t seen them.”

  “Who picked you up from the airport?”

  Michael appears distant, bewildered. Carolyn becomes frightened.

  “Mike... Mike?”

  “I was just... here. Am I?”

  “Mike, sit down.”

  “What’s the date?”

  Carolyn starts to run for help, afraid Michael is in shock, but stops, afraid to leave him alone. She decides, best to answer. “June 2.”

  “I’m due to be released July 12.”... Suddenly Michael smiles serenely. 

  Carolyn stares, concerned. She goes to him taking hold of his hand. “Your hand is like ice. Are you all right? You’re so cold?”

  Michael mutters to himself, “Now we will have our time.” To Carolyn, “Do you have a flashlight?”

  “Oh, Michael she won’t see the fireflies.”

  “Please.”

  Reluctantly Carolyn hands him a flashlight.                                             

  Michael takes the flashlight and hugs her. “Thanks... Remember me.” He runs out the door, and Carolyn slowly follows and watches as he suddenly disappears. She stands in the doorway staring out. 

  Suddenly over the loudspeaker, “May I have your attention? I have just received this news. With great sadness I must inform you, another classmate, Michael Livingston, was killed in Vietnam two days ago. He died a hero, fighting for our country. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.”   

  The chimes are heard, and Carolyn smiles. She suddenly notices an empty eight track tape box in her purse and takes it out.   

  “Cherish by The Association. You said if Michael was here, you’d find a way.”      

  Carolyn steps out of the doorway and stares into the night...

  “Sure a lot of fireflies.” She smiles and with a deep breath she lifts her gaze to heaven and the stars.”


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3 comments

Jeanne Adkins
13:22 Sep 08, 2020

Beautiful story! Thanks for sharing this.

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Rebecca Lloyd
11:09 May 22, 2020

That was beautiful, John!!

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Edith Maldonado
03:20 May 09, 2020

Wow! The ending was very unexpected! Great Read!!!

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