Only A Few Days More--Contest Entry For BillyBuc
I almost didn't recognize the house when I parked across from it. The last time I'd laid eyes on it was over 40 years ago. Over half a lifetime for many of us, and more than that for some.
Whoever the present owners are--of no importance now--they've made the old place look very respectable. But the memories of its past are alive to some of us still, and as ever vivid in our mind’s eye.
I was born and reared deep in southern Georgia. A land of piney woods and palmettos, swamps and rattlesnakes, but also of enchanting women. Something in the hot climate seemed to make everything vital and urgent, fast growing and fertile.
This seemed to pertain to the women as well. One such belle in particular caught my eye with her charms, led me to do things I would not ordinarily imagine, made me a slave to her charms as such women often do. I called her Sweet Magnolia.
Her real name was Magnolia Baker, Maggie for short. More beautiful than her floral namesake and twice as intoxicating as the scent from the famous southern bloom. Her hair was as dark as ebony and shinier still.
Eyes the color of sapphires she had when happy, but dark as coals when not. I was trapped when I first looked into them, caught as easily as a hare in a wire loop snare. I didn’t know it of course, had no idea of just how lost I really was at the time.
I’d no desire to see the house any closer, was sure the memories still remained inside, and I'd no need of refreshing them. I travel around the country these days, driving to various small town festivals and fairs, setting up my small tent and hawking my wares, so to speak.
I started to skip the small town of Clear Springs simply because of the part it played in my past. But I could not ignore my memories so easily at last.
Maggie and I were married soon after we graduated from the local high school. I was already drafted into the army by that time, soon headed off to Vietnam shortly after our honeymoon ended. On my first furlough home Maggie informed me--her sapphire eyes shining with joy--of expecting our first child in a few months time. I too was thrilled and full of hope for our future.
What little time we spent together after our marriage was in the old house I now gazed towards. Back then it had belonged to Maggie’s grandmother, her only living kin. Neglected for decades, it was unpainted and had never been any color but shades of aged heart cypress. Tints of silver and gray, faded by the sun, seemed to suit the mood of the place then. And for me now, if the truth be told.
When I returned to duty and the war, I began counting the days until I could see my new family, dreaming of them at night, dreams of holding a raven haired, sapphire eyed child in my arms. This was especially so after I became a POW. My squad was ambushed one ill-fated day towards the end of my tour of duty in Nam, too early for my dreams to be fulfilled.
Only a few days more and I would have been on the way home, only a few days more and I would have seen my family again, only a few days more. How many times have I uttered these words to myself in my lifetime, and how many more times will I do the same?
Prisoner Of Love?
Long after the war was over I remained a prisoner, was shuttled from here to there so as to keep me hidden from view of those who might tell the outside world. For what purpose I know not why, but perhaps it doesn’t matter now, nor did it ever.
Some things require no answers, nor are they satisfactory when given. I finally escaped after 12 years of being a captive in the steamy jungles and squalid villages of the isolated countryside. But even as I relished my new found freedom I also dreaded the future, feared what I didn’t know.
I later found out I’d been mistaken for a slain member of my squad and declared legally dead for these many years. Maggie had remarried and had 3 more children while I was gone, and certainly grandchildren by now. She was apparently happy, and surely over our brief commitment long ago.
I could not blame her, could certainly not muster any feelings of betrayal or dishonor toward her. So I pleaded for my name to be kept secret, begged for a new identity with which to re-enter the world of man again. I had no other relatives or friends I wished to dismay or excite with my rebirth into the world. I was already dead to their lives.
A Place To Not Call Home
I rented a garage from an old couple in Texas as sort of a base for my travels, and as a place to keep my stock and few belongings. No, not exactly a home of course, but still a place I can linger for a bit while my wanderlust is satisfied. Never long though, the memories will not allow it.
I've decided to skip the Clear Springs Festival after all, instead opting to head west. The mountains and rivers of another place with a much cooler climate beckoned me now, as they have on other such occasions when the memories were much too strong. I will view these beautiful vistas in hopes they will erase those sad memories still in my mind. But they never do.
Just before I pulled away from the house a little girl came out to check the mail. Yes, she was indeed young enough to be my granddaughter, and with black hair shimmering and sapphire eyes shining, she smiled and waved as I drove away toward the mountains once more.
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