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Fiction

“Hellooo, Mr. Wil-son!!,” boomed Betsey as she entered her apartment complex in downtown West Hartford. Wells Place Apartments was an upscale residential complex populated mostly by young professionals and families. It was highly sought after with its indoor and outdoor pools, basketball and tennis, fitness center and small, 20 person theater. Its Georgian style architecture with tall sash windows was a draw for the well-educated and successful thirty-something crowd of West Hartford. Mr. Wilson was the exception.

At 84 years young, Mr. Wilson was at the social hub of Wells Place. He would situate himself in his favorite Queen Ann’s chair in the lobby to greet the kids as they arrived home from school. 

“Hello all you awesome kids!”, he would say.

“Hello Mr. Wilson!”

“And how was your time at school today, best ever?”, he would ask. Then, because he had taught them and rehearsed their answer, “Best EVER!”, they would echo back at him.

“That’s what I like to hear!”. And as each child passed him, he would keep his hand held high for his notorious “high-five” with each of them. 

On the first Wednesday of every month, at 7p.m. sharp, families would gather in a recreation room next to the fitness center where Mr. Wilson would be happily waiting to tell them his “story of the month”. He was articulate and generously inventive. He managed to replace the everyday world with a flickering theater of his own imagination and would often dazzle his audience with an amazingly accurate Irish or Scottish accent. He took them on fantastical adventures and into war scenes, holding them in thrall when he paused for just an extra second to let the words sink in, or speed up his dialogue when the action peaked. He never missed a single week and the kids loved it so much they begged their teachers not to assign homework on ‘story night’.

Mr. Wilson loved Wells Place. He was fascinated as a boy by the order and symmetry of the original building with its understated elegance that provided a timeless, almost quaint feel. He had grown up in town and then returned after attending college to become a history teacher at a local prep school. He had witnessed the renovations in the 60’s and 70’s, thankful that the period features remained. Structural work aside, several of his acquaintances made some beautiful layout enhancements involving furniture flow, lighting and even swapping the use of rooms. Though he always felt emotional about these renovations, he did find it miraculous in another sense watching the progress, day by day.  

The final renovation was in 1978 when Mr.Wilson was forty-four. Prior to that it had been called simply, Town Place. He had just married Miss Maisy Town who, on the second Saturday in June, her eyes twinkling mirthfully, had become Mrs. Maisy T. Wilson. He and Maisy never had children of their own though he had his students and they always had the children who lived in the building that he loved so dearly. But heartbreakingly, in 1995, just seventeen years after their marriage, Maisy was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died later that year. Mr. Wilson was devastated. 

He had met her on a warm summer evening sitting on the front patio at Town Place. She was looking through a coffee table book on the history of the building which lured him in, but when she looked up at him to say hello, he became captivated by her strawberry blond hair, turquoise eyes and shy smile. Mr. Wilson never looked back. He retired three years later and dedicated his time to Wells Place. In the last twenty-four years, Mr. Wilson served on its Board of Trustees, showed up for story night, welcomed families, arranged cook outs and other events to ensure that Wells Place would always remain as friendly and supportive of the community as it had been when Maisy was alive. He arranged for the groundskeeping crew to plant 4, 400 daisies on the grounds in Maisy’s honor; one hundred for every year since he said, “I do”. 

It was June of 2022. “Maisy’s daisies” were blooming, so densely massed and so tall, they seemed like early fallen snow. It was only when the wind swept them into billows that their green stems were discernible. Mr. Wilson somberly walked the grounds as he remembered Maisy’s beauty. As he neared the large back patio next to the playground scattered with children, he was awakened by their laughter and voices. “Hi Mr. Wilson!”, some of them called. “Hey, Mr. Wilson, watch me!”. He turned and walked the short way to the playground. 

“Hey, Bo! Hi Scout”, he greeted the four year old twins. “You two better be careful, you may swing up so high you might kick the moon!” The twins giggled and Scout yelled to him in her slightly coarse little voice, “Oh Mr. Wilson, you’re the silliest man! We can’t reach the moon!.” But Bo wanted to make sure. “Can we, Mom? Can we reach the moon?”, he asked. 

“Well, answered Whitney, “Mr. Wilson’s a pretty smart man. Maybe you can!”. Whitney and Jeff English had just moved to Wells Place in April. 

“Hi Mr. Wilson!” she greeted him as she pushed the twins with one hand and gently rubbed her pregnant belly with the other. “I see you’re enjoying the gardens today. So many beautiful daisies!”.

“They certainly are”, he answered as he thought of his dear Maisy. He was certain Whitney was not familiar with the story behind the thousands of daisies at Wells Place. “Beautiful, indeed. I see you’ve another one on the way, when are you due?”, he asked.

“Well, my due date is not until the beginning of November, but I expect she may come a little early, maybe late October. She’s awfully busy in there, already!” Whitney laughed.

“That’s a beautiful time of year. Just the time in the fall when it starts to get a bit brisk. You can all snuggle up by a cozy fire and read Mother Goose!”

“Sounds like a great idea, Mr. Wilson.”

“Well, you have a wonderful afternoon, Whitney.” he said. 

“You, as well. Bo, Scout, Mr. Wilson is leaving. What do you say?”

“Good bye, Mr. Wilson”, they sang in unison. Then Scout added, “We love you!”

Whitney giggled shyly. “She really does”, she added. She loves your stories and watching you greet ‘the big kids’, as she likes to call them.”

“Oh. Well, thank you Scout”, he called over to her, smiling. 

He tipped his tweed cap toward Whitney and walked towards the back entrance. It felt good to smile, he thought. God Bless that little girl.

The summer passed and Mr. Wilson continued his monthly stories until the beginning of September when he had tripped and fallen, breaking his tibia. It wasn’t a bad break, just a fracture, but bad enough to land him in a wheelchair and unfortunately, he missed the September story night. 

The kids missed seeing Mr. Wilson, but he was out of his wheelchair and walking with a cane in just two weeks. “I’ll tell you what”, he told the children one afternoon as he greeted them in the lobby. “We’ll have two story nights in October!” They jumped excitedly up and down. Some of them twirled each other in circles, others raising both arms high above their heads. “Yay” they chimed with a definitive, “YES!”, coming from the 10 and 11 year olds. 

As promised, Mr. Wilson planned the usual second Wednesday of the month, October 11, for story night, and an additional story night for October 26, Maisy’s birthday. I’ll bring cake for the kids, he thought to himself. It’ll be a wonderful Birthday, Maisy. Mr. Wilson looked down at his desk calendar and smiled. Then he brought his fingers to his mouth, kissed them, and gently touched the square on his calendar for October 26. “Happy early Birthday, my love”, he whispered.

October 11th’s story night was about a six year old boy who had lost his parents in a car accident, but refused to believe he was an orphan. He told people that he arrived here from Mars. “Dennis”, had his own language, renamed people and pets to reflect their martian names, and stayed in a big cardboard box all day wearing a weight belt because, he said, martians have no gravity to keep them on Earth. He wore sunglasses and used several bottles of sunblock each day because there is no sun on Mars., He could smell colors and ate only Lucky Charms. Dennis went on a mission to find the specific spot on the earth where his fellow aliens would come to earth to rescue him. Mr. Wilson described some of Dennis' tall-tale adventures on Mars. Dennis believed he had to be from Mars because on Earth, he thought that grown ups leave you. Eventually, Dennis was adopted and learned that his adoptive father loved him and would never, ever, ever leave him. He also learned that he is not a martian, but a little boy looking for love, which he finally found. The children clapped and cheered, thanking Mr. Wilson as they left the room, excitedly reminding him that they will be back for story night in two weeks. 

But two weeks later, Mr. Wilson was in the hospital and story night was canceled. On Monday evening, October 23rd, Mr. Wilson wasn’t feeling well. He was at home thinking about a story to prepare when he had a sudden drop in blood pressure that caused him to lose consciousness. Thankfully, he had been on the phone with a friend who called for an ambulance. But on October 26th, Mr. Wilson was still in the hospital recovering. Suffering overwhelming distress, he refused his supper that night. He looked at the clock in his room. It was 6:55. He was thinking about the children. No story and no Birthday cake to celebrate Maisy today. There was a knock at the door. Mr. Wilson wasn’t expecting any visitors, nor did he really want any. But the nurse popped her head in and said, “Mr. Wilson, there’s someone here who would like to say hello.”

Without waiting for an answer, she wheeled in a woman holding a newborn baby. It was Whitney English. “Hi Mr. Wilson. I heard you were here at St. Francis.”, said Whitney.

“Oh, yes, I’m afraid so.”

“There’s someone I’d like you to meet.” The nurse wheeled Whitney up to Mr. Wilson’s bedside. She lifted the baby slightly to face Mr. Wilson. “Mr. Wilson, meet “Maisy”. The baby opened her eyes, and making little suckling noises, seemed to look straight at him. 

“Oh my goodness, look at you”, said Mr.Wilson with a beaming smile and a glimmer in his eyes. “Hi Maisy. Can I hold her?”, he asked Whitney.

“Absolutely”, she answered as she gently placed Maisy in Mr. Wilson’s waiting arms.

“She’s beautiful.”, he said. “Thank you for visiting me. When was she born?”

“Just about five hours ago”, answered Whitney. “2:05 pm today”. 

Mr. Wilson didn’t look up from the baby. “Today is my Maisy’s birthday, too”, he said quietly. She would be 83 today.”

“I’m sorry.” offered Whitney.

“But this is the best birthday present ever. How did you know?”, he asked.

“I didn’t”, answered Whitney. “My husband called and told me you were in the hospital and then he said to me, 'you’ll never believe this, Whit. His wife’s name was Maisy and she was born on October 26th.' It’s an amazing coincidence. Jeff and I just settled on the name last night!”

“And you didn’t know about my wife?”

“Had no idea. My husband was talking to his mom on the phone and she told him about it. She said she used to work with you. Alice English?”

“Well, I’ll be damned. I sure did. Ha. Small world.” He looked down at Maisy. “She's perfect. Thank you again.”

“You’re welcome Mr. Wilson. I’ll let you get some rest now. I could probably use some myself. Oh, and don’t worry about the kids at Wells Place. They’re all in the rec room with their parents making you Get Well cards.”

Mr. Wilson smiled. “Oohh, well now, it’s a great day, after all, isn’t it Whitney?”

“It is Mr. Wilson. Take good care. Good night.”

Mr. Wilson’s heart did not improve. He continued to have cardiac arrhythmia, suffered a stroke and died in early November. Wells place had a memorial service that lasted an hour and a half in which 21 adults and 16 children spoke.


Whitney and Maisy were home and doing well. 

“Hey”, Whitney’s husband said. “Did you know who Mr. Wilson’s wife was?”

“What do you mean, Jeff? Yeah. Maisy Wilson.”

“No, I mean, do you know about her affiliation with this building?”

“No, what?”

Well, it used to be called Town Place because it was built by an architect named Ithiel Town, in 1929. Turns out, Maisy’s maiden name was 'Town', and he was her father.”

“No kidding. So Mr. Wilson’s father-in-law built the original building.”

“Yup. But that’s not the weird part.”

“Okay…”

“The weird part is that Mr.Wilson didn’t even live here.”

“What are you talking about? Of course he did. He was always around.”

“Nope. Whitney, he was a private school History teacher. This place was way above his means.”

“Wait a minute. Where did he live?”

“You know that tiny house two blocks away behind the old high school?”

The cute, little light green one?”

“That’s the one.”

“That’s where he lived?”

“Yup”.

“Wow.”

“Turns out he grew up in that little house and was always fascinated with Georgian architecture. He fell in love with the building, met Maisy here and ended up marrying her. Never even had a lease here."

“That’s adorable. Well, maybe he didn't live here, but he sure had a great “lease'' on the people here. That just might be the sweetest lease I’ve ever heard of.”

“Yeah, he made this place what it is, you know?”

“He really did. I’m gonna miss him.”

“Me, too.” said Jeff.

Maisy, from her bassinet, gave a big stretch and soft coo.



The End



















May 29, 2022 21:40

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