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Inspirational Drama

SOUL LEAVES

By Lavinia M. Hughes

    Victor Braley waved a cheery goodbye to his dinner guests, each happily clutching a small 24-karat gold pumpkin filled with the most delicious foil-wrapped Lake Champlain chocolates from Vermont. He turned to his stylish wife, Lucy, and said,

“Well, that was fun, ‘Morticia.’ Their costumes were a riot. I can’t decide which was more fun, the Mr. Peanut costume, the avocado costume, or Tiger King.”

“Yes, it was, ‘Gomez Adams.’ And it only cost us a few thousand dollars for the decorations and the caterer, actually less than last year’s party . . . Unless we count the cost of the pumpkin favors. But I did get a discount from the jeweler. Since I bought two dozen pumpkins, they were only a few hundred dollars each.”

“You are quite the negotiator, my dear, and you look very elegant.” And he kissed her on the forehead.

“I’ve got to go into the office for a while. I have a motion I need to draft, but I left my laptop in the office. The deadline to file with the court is tomorrow. I’ll just grab it and come home.

“Oh, honey, it’s Sunday night. Don’t you want to watch the football game?”

“No, I have to go in. I’ll call you when I get there.”

“What if you don’t catch the last train? I think it’s 10:00 p.m.”

“It shouldn’t take me long. I’ll make sure I get out in time.”

Victor packed his briefcase and headed out at 8:30 p.m. He drove to the train station to take the Green Line from his posh home in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and he was glad to see that there wasn’t much of a wait for a train.

“Hi, Ernie, how’s it going?” he asked the security guard at his office building in downtown Boston.

“Great, Mr. Braley, great. What brings you in on a Sunday night? Aren’t you watchin’ the game? I hear the new quarterback is really somethin’.”

“No time to catch the game tonight. I just need to grab my laptop and a few things to prepare for Monday. I don’t expect to be long.”

“OK, take care.” The guard logged him into his system.

After Victor researched a few issues and packed his laptop into the briefcase, he grabbed his coat and, checking his watch, realized it was later than he thought. It was 9:45 and if he hurried, he could catch the last train. 

He left the building and made haste in his walk to the Park Street train station. The streets were deserted. A strong wind blew off the Atlantic Ocean, making the chill fall air seem colder. It was the kind of cold that went right through to one’s bones, not the refreshing cool that he dreamed about through the hot and humid New England summers.

Breaking the silence, he heard footsteps behind him. He turned around and saw several young men dressed in Halloween costumes. To chill him further both physically and mentally, he noted that their costumes were both Jason costumes complete with goalie masks. Even though he had never actually seen the movie, Friday the 13th, he knew of it. And it wasn’t anything good.

“Hey man, ya got any money?” asked the short one.

“Yeah, what’s an old guy like you doin’ out at this hour? Isn’t it past your bedtime?” chimed in the bodyguard-looking one.

“Look, just take my money and leave me alone. Here” as he pulled out his wallet, his hands shaking, “take this. It’s a $100 bill. Just leave me alone.”

“You can do better than that, old man,” cried the bodyguard one. “Whatcha got in that briefcase?”

And they set upon Victor, showing no mercy, and taking his wallet, as well as his briefcase and watch. They bloodied his nose and punched him in the stomach, and then they left him sprawled out on the sidewalk just steps from the subway entrance at the edge of Boston Common. They ran off laughing.

________________

“Hey, Mister. Hey Mister, wake up.” The little boy started poking Victor gently on his arm. “Mister. Mister. I have a prize for you.”

“Brandon, leave that man alone. Get over here. That’s not polite. I thought I taught you better manners than that,” said his mother, who was visiting the patient in the other bed at Boston City Hospital.

Victor struggled to open his eyes but finally did at Brandon’s urging. The boy’s little face was hovering over him and his tiny hand was patting his arm insistently.

“Wha . . . where am I?”

The mother answered for him. “Sir, I guess you were assaulted last night. My little Brandon here, Mr. Nosey Rosey, was questioning your nurse when she came in to check on you. Apparently, his charm won out over confidentiality and she told him!”

Brandon went to the visitor’s chair in the room and came back to Victor’s bed, handing him a pumpkin and leaves, all cut out of orange, red, and yellow construction paper. The papers were bent and there were a few grease spots on them, but Victor was touched.

“For me? Thank you, Brandon. That was so thoughtful.”

“You’re welcome, Mister. I hope your face stops bein’ puffy and your eye stops bein’ black and blue.”

Victor laughed, even though it hurt, and was happy to see Lucy come in to take him home.

“Oh honey, I got worried when I got the call from the hospital, but they said you were just banged up and would be OK,” she said while she drove them home. 

When they got home, Lucy made him comfortable on the couch, covering him with the $1,200 Amish quilt and a cup of tea and went in another room to call his office to tell him he wouldn’t be in on Monday. While she was on the phone, Victor retrieved the pumpkin and leaves construction paper gift from Brandon and displayed it on the mantel next to the sterling silver pumpkins, Fabergé eggs in autumn colors, and Swarovski crystal candle holders from the best stores in Boston. He smiled at it and laughed to himself about assertive little Brandon, hoping he’d have a better childhood than he did.

“Oh honey, why is that up here?” said his wife, bustling back into the room and removing the incongruous child’s decorations from the mantel.

“Leave it! Put that back! I like it,” shouted a still drugged but sincere Victor.

“All right, if that makes you happy,” she said, as she put the decorations back. Mystified, she shook her head and walked out of the room.

The construction paper decorations brought him back to his own childhood. They were poor, compared to anyone. They lived in Watertown, a working-class town near Wellesley. His dad worked for a local captain of industry, Mr. Forbes, tending the grounds at his Wellesley estate. 

When a first-grade school assignment called for the students to make decorations at home and bring them in for the Autumn Art Competition, there was no money for fancy art supplies. So Victor’s mom went to the thrift store and bought some construction paper in fall colors. Together they crafted a scary face, with Victor displaying a flair for drawing, and attaching pipe cleaners for spider arms. He thought it was pretty nifty until he arrived at school and went to the auditorium to place his decoration with the others. 

Other contributions were a real pumpkin cleverly carved into a recognizable movie-star face, a toy train that held tiny homemade skeletons in its open-top hopper car, and a mechanized hand that came out of an old re-purposed jack-in-the-box. He laid his project down next to the others, unfortunately just as the school bully was putting his project on the table. He looked at little Victor and sneered.

“Is that it? Man, that’s pathetic. Isn’t your dad a janitor or somethin’? Guess old Mr. Forbes is the cheapskate we all thought he was!” And he and his pals shared a laugh as they walked away.  

Victor felt tears coming on but squelched them. The judge of the competition looked over everything on the tables and then decided on the winners. This judge knew Victor’s family and that they were not well off. 

The winner was the real carved pumpkin.

The runner-up was a painting of a pumpkin done in the pop-art Andy Warhol fashion, with four pumpkins in a quadrant of different colors.

The third place was Brandon’s piece made of simple construction paper. The judge awarded the ribbon to him and said to the crowd, “It’s not what you have. It’s what you do with what you have. This artist has done a lot with simple supplies.” Everyone clapped.

Victor still remembered the judge’s kindness. And he vowed to study hard, which eventually earned him a scholarship to college, then another scholarship to law school. 

As he surveyed his mantel with all the costly decorations sparkling in the firelight, the one that meant the most to him was Brandon’s gift.

# END #

October 15, 2020 15:21

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