Writing CONTEST #159: Peanuts
Write a story about someone who is unexpectedly wise.
CD Novak 10/04/19
“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Well, is that so? The question is - how long before the dawn? Under what conditions? If three a.m. means before dawn, then this is probably right. If we’re talking about 6:30 then no.
Janée had been gone for three years now. Not so old, not so young at 68 years. But she was in good health and her heart event caught us all off guard. After four days on life support I had had enough. She had been pretty clear that she never wanted to “live” like this. So I had them shut everything down. Except for her monitor. They left that on.
I sat at her bedside for nearly two hours, watching her chest rise and fall from her shallow breathing, her hands clammy and chill from her poor circulation, her weak heart working hard but barely sustaining her. Infrequent blips on the monitor grew further and further apart.
There was no telltale moment that I could see. But a young doctor had joined me in vigil for her last few moments, may ten minutes or so. Someone to officially record the time of death. Shut off the monitor for the final time. I realized I heard no more beeps.
I sat with her for half hour after she died, still cupping her tiny hand in mine, feeling her heat slip away, proving she wasn’t coming back. I cried a little, not hard. As I said goodbye my heart ached at my loss. But I rejoiced her new adventure, for I knew she had started one. There was always a new adventure in her, waiting for its time.
Three days before our anniversary.
Janée and I had been a couple for nearly 50 years. Yep. High school sweethearts at the age of 16, married at nineteen, still together all those years later. She was incredible in ways I don’t understand all that well. Except to tell you this – she was an old soul, infinitely more wise than I am. She taught me so much. Much more than I learned.
Now I sit and recall her lessons, always delivered with a gentle touch, a smile and a big heart. As I relive them, I try to learn now what I didn’t learn then.
Forgive me if I sound a little maudlin. The anniversary of her death, the anniversary of our life together, both are in the next few days. It’s a hard time for me. Full of mixed emotions that I don’t control. By choice. Let ‘em come.
It’s 5:30, early for most folks, but not for me. I’m an early riser and have been for some time now. My coffee’s hot and warms my belly as I look out from my porch. An overnight rain left the morning wet and I’m reluctant to take Charlie for a walk. He’s a good dog and I love going out with him. But maybe today we wait for the sun that the weather guy anticipated.
I glance up and the sky is truly black. Dark clouds blot out even the moon this early morning. But as I watch, a faint gray cast starts to emerge, a sign that the clouds are giving up in this neck of the woods, moving down the road to wash another part of the world.
Maybe the weatherman got one right today.
I watch the clouds skip eastward, stars pricking the western sky. I love the stars. Their light is billions of years old, but still here. Still telling a story, even if I have to concoct one myself. Sometimes I do, sometimes not.
Today I create a tale. I focus on the brightest start in the bunch. It twinkles as I look, as if acknowledging me in return – Hello John, hope you have a great day. Just looking at this star I feel a contentedness I haven’t felt since Janée died.
My coffee has cooled so I go to the kitchen to get more, heat it back up. The mug feels good in my hands and I cup it tightly, letting it warm my fingers.
As if drawn, I head back to my front porch. The sky grows lighter, stars blinking out one by one. I find the brightest one and watch it closely, unable to look away, though I have no reason to do this. I’m compelled.
This little blazer winks at me again then seems to brighten. Really? Can a star glow more brightly as the sun rises and darkness retreats? Yes. I watch this happen, right there. In this moment.
I smile at the star and sip my coffee. A flush feeling grows and now seems to reach my heart, my essence. Something special is going on, but I can’t define it. Don’t care. It’s good, I’m good. Best since my wife died.
Rapt, I can’t draw my eyes from the star. It winks and blinks as if telegraphing a message to me. Can I decipher it?
I don’t know why but watching that star makes me smile. It’s like Janée is teaching me another lesson that I’m too slow to learn. Again.
My newspaper catches my eye, laying haphazardly in the grass. I step down from my porch to fetch it. Time to go inside and read about the world.
I snag the Journal and take one last look at the distant fire. It still seems too bright for the morning, still battling the rising sun. As I watch it suddenly blooms with light, popping to 10, twenty times its original size.
The star is exploding, going nova. Maybe even supernova! I’m awestruck. The brilliance of this little pinprick of light now seems to fill a quarter of my morning sky. It’s as if it were fighting the sun for control of the earth.
I watched for I don’t know how long. The light bomb finally faded in the bluing sky. A white ghost-like vestige of the explosion I had just witnessed refusing to give way to the morning sun.
As I watched a thought in my brain blasted, mirroring the bursting star. Static filled my ears, white noise blurring my reality. Then I heard it.
Was my name really blowing in the solar wind, carried from unknown distances back to me on a celestial shaft of light?
“John.” I heard it again. No mistake. So I set my ears, eyes closed, blotting out everything else.
“It’s Okay John. I’m happy here. Waiting for you. No hurry. When you’re ready. I just wanted you to know. Go be happy until it’s time to come home. I love you.”
No way. Could it really be? Janée. Nothing else made sense.
I smiled. Took another sip of coffee, cold again. It had to be her. Wise old soul indeed. A billion years ago, before the before, she had sent me this message. How could she know? No matter, she had, and she was here.
I went in the house and sat in my favorite chair, newspaper folded in my lap. Charlie wandered in and sat at my feet. I’m coming Janée. Not today. Maybe not even too soon. Less than a billion years I think. But I’m coming.