It was the first time in three years that Sandy and her husband, Danny had been able to schedule their vacations at the same time, so they booked a cottage in the country for the week. It was located on a crystal blue lake far from the busy city.
Once they left the highway and began to travel the backroads, Sandy and Danny were in awe of the beautiful scenery that the countryside had to offer. It was nearing Autumn, and the leaves were beginning to change into an array of yellow, orange, and red among the magnificent oak trees.
They turned off the paved road onto a gravel road that seems to stretch for miles. Dust swirled around their vehicle as Danny cautiously navigated his way around the ruts and potholes. As they crested a hill they were met with a steep decline. Danny coasted with one foot on the brake as the tires slid uncontrollably over the loose gravel. Focused on keeping the car on the road, Danny did not notice a dark figure that was hidden among the shadows of the trees that lined the road.
There was a hard thump on the passenger side of their vehicle and Sandy let out a scream. Danny tried desperately to bring the car to a stop. He slipped the transmission into neutral and finally came to a stop fifty feet further down the road. After checking his mirrors for movement where they heard the thump, Danny opened his door.
“Wait here,” he said to Sandy. “I want to see what we hit.”
Danny made his way back, and as the dust clouds began to settle, he spotted a boot pointing upward from the ditch on the side of the road. He rushed over quickly and saw a man in his forties laying motionless upon the ground. He called back to Sandy and asked her to bring the first aid kit from the trunk.
Danny checked the man’s pulse. It was weak, but he was alive. Sandy soon arrived with the first aid kit. Danny opened it up and removed a tube of smelling salts. He ripped it open and held it beneath the man’s nostrils. The man quickly regained consciousness and tried to sit up, but Danny insisted that he lay still momentarily until he was sure there were no other injuries.
The man said that he felt fine except for severe pain in his right leg. Danny examined it and discovered that the man’s leg was tender to the touch just above the knee.
“I’m Danny and this is my wife, Sandy. Can you tell me your name?”
“Sure, my name is…My name is…I can’t remember my name,” the stranger stated with distress.
“That’s okay,” Danny said. “We can figure that out later. Are you able to stand?”
“I think so,” said the man.
Danny and Sandy helped the stranger to his feet, but as soon as the man tried to put weight on his right leg, he was met with sharp, shooting pain.
“It’s possible that your leg is broken, sir. Maybe we should get you to a hospital. Sandy, can you try to back the car up as much as you can while I help this gentleman out of the ditch?”
The car twisted and struggled as it reversed back up the slippery slope, coming to a halt ten feet from the ditch. By that time, Danny and the man had risen from the shallow pit and made their way to the car. Danny sat the man on the edge of the backseat and offered him some facial wipes to clean the dust off his face, and a cold bottle of water from the cooler. The man gratefully accepted and pulled himself slowly into the backseat with one leg stretched out. Danny shut the door and he and Sandy got back into the car.
Sandy searched the map for the nearest hospital and found one that was twenty minutes away. Danny was relieved when the gravel transitioned into asphalt again. They pulled up in front of St. Teresa Hospital and Sandy ran inside to get a wheelchair for the stranger while Danny helped him from the backseat.
Feeling responsible, Danny and Sandy decided to wait around for the man.
“We can’t very well leave a man with no recollection of who he is or where he is from to fend for himself, can we?” Danny asked his wife.
“No, I suppose not,” she replied.
After the doctor finished examining the man, he went to speak with Danny and Sandy.
“It appears that the gentleman that you brought in does indeed have a clean break in his femur. We have set it in a cast, and it should heal up nicely. However, He also suffered a nasty contusion to his frontal lobe which is likely the cause of his memory loss. It should only be temporary, but someone needs to keep an eye on him for the next few days to make sure he does not have a concussion. When he sleeps, someone will need to wake him up every hour or so.”
Sandy and Danny looked at one another. Danny could read his wife’s thoughts. He knew that their chance of enjoying some time alone was no longer an option. She just nodded and gave Danny a half smile.
When the man was released, Sandy informed him that he would be their guest at the cottage they had rented for the week. The man was overjoyed, but did not want to be a burden, but Danny insisted.
When they arrived at the cottage, it was already nearing sunset, so after getting the man settled inside, Sandy prepared some food while Danny unpacked the car. Danny started a fire in the fireplace they helped move the stranger’s chair closer to it.
“We can’t go all week just calling you sir. What name would you like to be called?” Danny asked.
“I’m not sure,” the man replied. “Why don’t we just keep it simple and call me Bob?”
“Alright, Bob it is,” Sandy responded. “Dinner will be ready shortly.”
It had been an exhausting day for everyone, so after dinner was through, they helped Bob get settled into the spare room, while they retired to the master bedroom for the night. Danny set the alarm on his phone to go off every hour throughout the night so they could awaken Bob.
After the first two shifts of awakening Bob, Danny and Sandy were already beginning to feel the weight of tiredness pressing down hard upon their bodies. By the third hour, Danny slept through the alarm and Sandy tried to wake him, but was unable, so she dragged her tired self out of bed and made her way down the hall to Bob’s room.
Sandy gently nudged Bob’s shoulder. He would not wake up, so she shook him slightly harder. Suddenly, Bob’s hand thrust tightly around Sandy’s wrist. She struggled to pull away, but his grip was strong. She looked at his face, and his eyes were still closed. She called out his name, panicked. Bob’s eyes popped open suddenly and he released his grip immediately once he realized what he had done.
Sandy stepped back and rubbed her reddened wrist before turning and quickly returning to her room. Danny was still sleeping when she arrived, so instead of waking him, she just left him alone and tried to get back to sleep.
Less than an hour later, the alarm went off again and Danny immediately popped up and shut it off. He turned to Sandy and went to shake her to say it was her turn to go check Bob, but after spotting the bruises on her wrist, he decided to leave her be. He would ask her about it later when she woke up.
Danny took the next two shifts as well waking up Bob. When Sandy finally woke up at 7:00 AM, Danny was already up making coffee in the kitchen. As she sat down at the table, Danny placed a steaming mug in front of her. She grasped it with both hands and gazed at her wrist.
“Do you want to tell me about that, Sandy?” Danny asked as he pointed at her bruised wrist.
“It happened when I went to wake up Bob. He grabbed onto me and wouldn’t let go, but the funny thing is, I think he was still sleeping when it happened.”
“That’s odd,” Danny said. “I guess he was in the middle of a nightmare when you caught him off-guard.”
“Yes, I suppose so, but it was scary. I couldn’t pull away.”
The smell of the fresh brew must have alerted Bob’s senses, because he emerged from the bedroom moments later, using the doorframe and one of his crutches as support. Danny rushed over and helped him to the couch in the living room.
“Make yourself comfortable, Bob, and I will bring you a coffee. How do you take it?”
“I wish I knew! I’m not even sure if I like coffee. I just know that it smelled great.”
“Would you like something to eat? Bacon and scrambled eggs?” Sandy asked.
“That sounds wonderful, thank you,” Bob replied.
While Sandy was in the kitchen, Danny sat down with their guest and asked him what happened with him and Sandy during the night, but Bob had no memory of any incident. When Sandy arrived with the food, however, Bob saw the bruising and asked if he was responsible for it.
“Don’t worry about it,” Sandy stated. “You were just having a nightmare and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
After breakfast, Danny offered a clean shirt for Bob to wear, but with the cast, changing his pants was not an option. As Bob removed his shirt, Danny caught Sandy glancing his way. It was not difficult to see how she would be attracted to his solid physique, but realizing she was caught looking, she quickly turned her gaze away.
Bob handed the dirty shirt to Danny, and a piece of paper fell out of the pocket and onto to floor. Danny leaned over to pick it up. On the paper was a man’s name and a phone number. Perhaps this person would have an idea of Bob’s identity.
Bob called the person from Danny’s phone hoping to see if he could recall anything. The phone was answered on the second ring.
“Hello?” the voice on the other end asked.
Bob explained to the man what had happened and that he was trying to regain his memory. The man on the phone said that he had been trying to reach him all day. He told Bob that his real name was Walter and insisted to pick him up and get him the treatment that he needed. Two hours later, a BMW X6 rolled into the driveway. A young man in his early twenties got out and approached the front door. Danny answered and showed the young man inside.
“My name is Robert,” he said. “Thank you so much for taking care of him like you have. I am very grateful.”
Robert tried to hand money to Danny for helping, but Danny refused. He still felt responsible.
“It is a long way back, so I’m afraid we need to head back immediately.”
Bob thanked Danny and Sandy for their hospitality and went with the young man called Robert.
Danny and Sandy spent their last few days at the cottage taking in the sunsets, canoeing, and taking hikes through the woods. On their last day, as they were packing up the car to go back home, Danny received a call.
“Danny? It’s Walter…or Bob if you prefer.” He said with a chuckle.
“Walter! It is wonderful to hear from you. How are you feeling? Have you regained any of your memory yet?”
“I have, in fact. With Robert’s help…He is my son, by the way. Robert worked with me consistently until the wall came down and I could see the light again.”
“That’s great! We are so happy to hear that.”
“What I was calling about, is I would like to return the favor for your hospitality. I was hoping that you would make a stop on your way home and I would meet you there. It isn’t far from where you are now. What do you say?”
“Sure, I suppose we could stop by briefly. We should be leaving here in the next twenty minutes or so. What’s the address?”
Danny wrote down the address and Sandy looked up the directions on the map. It was only ten minutes away.
They drove down a laneway that opened into a vast yard with a gorgeous log cabin on a beautifully manicured lawn. Walter and Robert sat on a swing on the front porch and waved as they exited the car.
“Please, come inside for a moment,” Walter suggested. Using his crutches, he led them through the house to the kitchen in the back. Large windows overlooked a dock and boathouse at the lake’s edge.
“Do you like the view?” Walter asked.
“Are you kidding? This is amazing! You are so lucky to have such a tranquil spot,” Sandy stated.
“I’m afraid you’re mistaken, Sandy. This isn’t my place.”
“Oh, so you are renting it?”
“No, actually, this property belongs to you two,” Walter said with a huge smile upon his face.
“What are you talking about, Walter?” Danny asked.
“I’m telling you, that because of what you did for me, I am giving you this cottage as an expression of my gratitude,” Walter said as he handed them the keys.
Danny and Sandy looked at each other in shock. They could not believe what they were hearing.
“Oh, by the way,” Robert interceded. “In the boathouse, you will find a Sea Ray Sundancer 320 sport boat. That is also registered in your names. It is the least we could do for you.”
“Before you head back to the city, I would like to give you my business card, so if you need anything, or if you just want to get together, you can give me a call.”
Walter handed Danny the card. It read,
Danny showed it to Sandy, and she recalled reading an article about Walter Hannigan, the self-made millionaire that went missing recently. The police believed that he may have been kidnapped, but no ransom demands had been made at that point.
“So, Walter,” Sandy asked. “How did you end up on that gravel road the other day? Were you kidnapped like it said on the news?”
“Not at all, Sandy. I was driving down that same road where you found me, and I lost control. My car swerved off the road and into the trees. I was unconscious for several hours, and when I came to, my head was throbbing and I started making my way along the road, hoping to find help. That would be when we ran into each other…no pun intended.”
“Sandy and I are grateful to have met you, Walter, and we will never be able to thank you enough for this cottage. It is beyond our expectations. You are welcome here anytime.”
After a spin around the lake in their new boat, Sandy and Danny headed back to their busy life in the city, but somehow, the stress they once felt seemed unnecessary now. They just looked forward to the next opportunity to go to their cottage or to spend time with their new friend, Walter, and his family.
Like Oscar Wilde once said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”