Nothing lasts forever, but for her, life seemed to be an eternal loop. 

Ruth shivered, pulling her wrap closer around her tired shoulders. She had made herself move out onto the rickety wooden porch to watch the sunrise, but was quickly regretting it. The beauty found in the sky could often soothe her loneliness, if just for the brief periods of time that it lasted. 

But it was Pennsylvania, where you could experience every season throughout the course of a single day. 

Ruth had seen a long life, and she knew well what she liked and disliked by now. And her joints certainly did not approve of Winter. 

She moaned as she stood from the old rocking chair Jacob had built for her when he was still alive. Ruth could almost see his smiling face in the coral pink clouds, teasing her for moving so slowly. 

“Yeah, well I’d like to see you come down here and try!” The lady hollered at the sky, smiling. She knew he only teased because he loved her. His face changed shape and became a cardinal.

Ruth threw the last of the birdseed from the small bag by the door over the edge of the railing, and watched with delight as several of her friends accepted instantly. How wonderful was it to have friends like hers? They were always grateful for the simplest gifts. They spiralled down from their homes just to see her. 

Though, Ruth supposed the food certainly didn’t hurt. 

A memory tingled at her consciousness, a gem just out of her reach. Someone saying her name. 

“Ruth, what an imagination you have.” Her mother finished hanging the clothes out to dry. “Those birds are just birds. They aren’t your friends.” 

“Shhhh,” The child had whispered back. “They don’t like your yelling, Mum. Thomas is shy.” Ruth was referring to the blue jay that she had befriended that morning. 

She understood from a young age that everything had a story to tell. 

But Ruth’s mum would just shake her head. Certainly such fantasies couldn’t be healthy. She hoped desperately that her child would grow up sooner than later. 

“Good morning, friends.” Ruth called over the railing. “Stay safe.” 

Going back inside was always a sad occurrence for the lady. There was no more life in that house, which seemed like a graveyard of memories compared to the hustle and bustle of the outdoors. It hadn’t changed in years. Everyone else had moved on without her. Ruth’s children had forgotten about her years ago. They were off living their own lives with their new families. The love of her life was out in the sky, not waiting for her at the dining room table. The only human soul Ruth spoke to anymore was the nice neighbour two houses down who would stop in occasionally. 

But the birds stopped by more often. They were much more fun to talk to. 

The house itself could be summed up in one word: Old. Nothing is eternal, and that certainly applied to the house. The wood was beginning to rot. Ruth had made friends with the mice who would come to collect the crumbs after she had finished eating her toast every morning. The curtains were always drawn shut, making everything dark and gloomy. But she didn’t dare touch them. The air smelled of dust and sadness. 

Dead memories were hidden under every item that perched on the shelves, coupled with a forgotten story. A painting that her son, Thomas, had made when he was in kindergarten sat here. She remembered his smiling face as he presented her with the piece of art. And there, Emily’s pottery that she had given Ruth as a Mother’s day gift. They both stared down at her from their places on the shelf Jacob had made himself. The things that once brought her joy now inspired only longing. The desire to be needed again. 

Ruth sat at her place at the dust coated table, always next to her husband; He sat at the head. His spot was still preserved, everything as it was the day he left. A pen sat next to a note book. A newspaper was folded neatly over a dust covered plate. 

“Good morning, dear.” Jacob looked up from the newspaper with a smile. Sunlight streamed in through the open curtains, exposing the silver tinsel that was beginning to show in his hair. “How are the birds today?” He always asked that. Her love understood her.

Ruth smiled, scooting her chair closer to his. “They are well.” She glanced at the newspaper in his hands, but only for a second. Those stories rarely interested her. “Do you have anything planned for today?” 

Emily had just moved out. Everything seemed quieter without her. They had more alone time than they had had in ages.

He thought for a moment. “I was wondering if you would like to---”

But Ruth was suddenly snapped back into reality by a sharp cracking sound coming from the attic. Her heart ached to hear what her love had to say, but her memories were like dreams anymore. Once you wake up, it’s difficult to return to the same one again. 

There was a loud crash overhead. She was silent for a long time, straining her old ears to pick up any other movements. What could make such a noise? A shelf being knocked over? By what? 

By whom?

“Oh, bother.” Ruth stood from the table. She glanced at the empty chair, wishing Jacob was here. “I suppose I should at least see what it is?” The lady questioned the air that should be her husband. Sadly, there was no response. 

After a time of waiting, Ruth still heard no more movement. 

She approached the attic stairs with a bravery that could only be explained by the loneliness. She had no one left to care for. No one was left alive that needed her. 

Was there a footstep? Rapid breathing? Ruth felt a shiver run through her. Was someone watching her? 

The stairs creaked at her weight, threatening to give. Her legs ached from the sudden exercise. But she reached the top floor without incident. 

Light streamed in through a hole in the ceiling, revealing the ancient clutter piled all around. Dust moats danced around in the breeze. A tree branch was protruding from the gap in the wood. 

The lady let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. Her imagination had gotten the better of her for the millionth time in her long life. 

Ruth moved closer to survey the damage. Perhaps the limb had fallen during one of the storms and the roof had just now decided that it could bear the weight no longer? Or maybe the tree was getting old as well, like everything else around her. 

She touched the branch, wondering how much pain the poor tree was feeling. Or perhaps it had gotten used to losing limbs and managed to numb itself from the pain. 

Ruth had to admit she rather liked the new sky light. It brought life to the dark room. 

The branch had fallen on a desk piled high with note books and pages of writing. Novels were stacked neatly on top of each other. Everything was covered in dust. What were these from? 

Being careful to not knock anything off the table, she pushed the branch to the side. After much struggling and wincing at the thorns that caught her ring finger, the branch slid the rest of the way through the roof and thudded on the floor next to the desk. Thankfully, the old boards held. 

Ruth scooted the chair out from under the wooden desk. It scraped across the floor, making a scratchy sound and leaving marks in the dust. She sat down, not caring about the grime on the seat. Tuckered out, she turned her attention to the papers. 

The words were definitely her handwriting. She recognized her sloppy letters and poor spelling. Glancing at the date, Ruth realized that she had written these years ago. 

There were stories for her school newspaper, stories for her siblings.

“Ruth! Is the story done yet?” 

The teenager chuckled. “Not quite, John. I just started it yesterday! I have to finish an essay for Language Arts!” 

The kindergartner pouted. “Awwww! But I want to hear it now!” 

Ruth knelt down beside him on her bedroom floor. “You can make up your own stories while you wait, and then you can tell them to me.” 

Her little brother brightened up at that. “Okay!

She dusted off the front cover of a red notebook with hearts doodled all over it. Opening it, there were stories and poems she had written for Jacob sharing pages with diary entries and dreams. 

“Ruth, this is wonderful!” Her boyfriend exclaimed. He held up a copy of the love poem she had spent all of the previous night writing. “Thank you.” 

She blushed. “You flatter me. It’s not that good.” She tossed a stick in the small fire they had built. 

He looked really handsome in the orange light. “I think it is beautiful. But not as gorgeous as the girl who wrote it.” He leaned in to kiss her.

Finding yet another notebook, there were more stories still. Bedtime tales she had written for Thomas and Emily. 

“Mommy!” The little boy climbed up onto his parents’ bed and sat down in front of Ruth. “I can’t sleep.” 

“Shhhhh.” Jacob covered his head with a pillow to try to block out the sound. It was the middle of the night.

Ruth sat up. “It’s still quite time, dear. How can I help?”

“I had a bad dream.” Thomas seemed scared. 

“Aw, it’s okay.” His mother wrapped her arms around him. She was needed. Running her fingers through his messy hair, she asked, “What was it about?” 

Her child was upset. “I w-was trying to wake you u-up, but y-y-you wouldn’t o-open your eyes.” He started to cry. That tugged at her heart like nothing else. 

“No no, shhhh. It’s okay, Thomas. I’m here. It was nothing more than a bad dream.” They sat there for several minutes. When he started to settle down, she tried another approach. “Would you like me to read you a story?”

Though his eyes were still teary, he nodded. 

There were more and more. Fantasy, realistic fiction, narratives, romance, poems. When was the last time Ruth had actually sat down to write? She didn’t remember putting pen to paper for ages. 

She opened another notebook. Reading the first couple paragraphs, she remembered it was a fantasy story about a girl and a dragon. It had action and suspense and valuable themes built in along the way. Ruth was surprised to find how well she could actually write. The story took up half the notebook. 

But then, it just stopped.

“No, that’s not how it ends.” The lady reread the last sentence. It hadn’t even reached the climax yet. “That’s not how it ends.”

A memory tugged at her consciousness. A faint idea. A gem. The climax and conclusion. 

Suddenly feeling invigorated, Ruth sprang from the chair. She hobbled down the stairs as fast as she could, not wanting to forget this dream. 

There was a pen sitting by Jacob’s place at the table. Ruth picked it up and waddled back to her desk in the attic. 

By the light of the hole in the roof, she wrote. She wrote from the viewpoint of the teenaged girl, and she was in the story. Ruth was Kara, and Kara was young. She was needed to save the kingdom from a plague. 

Maybe someone else could use her words. Maybe someone else needed to escape from the tiresome loop of life for even just the briefest period of time. Even if no one else needed her.

Ruth poured her soul and her longing out onto those pages. She put her spirit in every word. For even though she hadn’t written a sentence in centuries, she was and always had been a writer. 

() () ()

Mrs. Clarsy knocked at the door, wondering where Mrs. Torner was. She was normally out on the porch talking to the birds at this hour. What an eccentric woman. Lonely, too.

“Mrs. Torner!” She called out. “Are you okay?” 

No answer. 

“I’m coming in!” She turned the doorknob. It was open, as always. No surprise there. Mrs. Torner was too trusting. 

What was surprising, however, was the house.  

The curtains were pulled back, allowing mid afternoon sunlight to shine in on the dining room. Mrs. Torner never pulled the curtains back. She said that they weren’t open when her husband left and that preserving them the way they are will make it easier for him to stay with her. 

What a strange lady. 

Another thing that concerned Mrs. Clarsy was the dining room table. Every time she came over, the spot at the head of the table looked the same. There was supposed to be a pen, a note pad, a newspaper and a plate. 

But the items were gone. The table had even been dusted off. 

“Mrs. Torner?” The young lady called again, concern leaking into her voice. She roamed the house, checking for her in every room, even the attic and the basement. She was terrified to see a hole in the ceiling, but there was still no sign of her neighbour. 

Finally she stopped at the bedroom. Opening the door, Mrs. Clarsy stopped. 

“No.” Her voice was barely audible.

Mrs. Torner was laying on the bed, lifeless.  She never slept this late and she wasn’t wearing a nightgown. She was pale.

The young lady rushed to her side and felt her forehead, checked her wrist for a pulse. “No, no, no.” 

Her neighbour was dead. 

Mrs. Clarsy cried. She knew that it was Mrs. Torner’s time, and that she had seen a long life. But the young lady still cried. 

Then she noticed something. Resting on the older lady’s chest, there was a notebook and that pen that normally sat at the head of the table. 

With tears still in her eyes, Mrs. Clarsy picked up the notebook. It was just a simple spiral bound notebook. 

A piece of paper fell out of the journal. Holding it in the light, the young lady read:

“Though no one needs me anymore, perhaps someone can make use of my words. For even when my body fades, even when the last kind neighbour forgets about me, even when my children are gone, my words can live on. And with them, my spirit. 


On the other side of the paper, there were only six words: 

“Feed the birds for me, please.”

June 18, 2020 19:26

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Gabi Cranga
03:56 Jun 28, 2020

This story is beautifully endearing and extremely relatable. How many elderly people find themselves alone and holding onto memories that are fleeting. This really touched my heart. It is so well written, I couldn't stop reading. The ending is superb and leaves the reader feeling hopeful and inspired. Please keep writing! I love this story and all the truth that it holds : )


X Adelante
10:34 Jun 28, 2020

I'm glad you enjoyed it! It's a wonderful feeling when someone else can connect to a story that you wrote. Thank you so much for the kind words.


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Jenessa L
02:36 Jun 26, 2020

L. J., I’m in tears. Not only was it beautifully written, but it was poignant. You captured the loneliness of aging, and wove in nostalgia, sorrow, even hope. It was realistic with a light touch of fantasy brought to life through Ruth’s imagination. She came alive, only to be torn away from the reader in a moment that was both heartbreaking and a relief. I have nothing to offer by way of criticism. I hope to learn to write like this, myself, one day. You made me feel your story. Thanks for sharing.


X Adelante
12:53 Jun 26, 2020

Jenessa, I think you just made my day! I certainly wasn't expecting to receive such high praise on a first submission. I'm really glad you enjoyed it. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and kind words, Jenessa. I wish you the best of luck in your writing journey and beyond.


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