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The Father And The Wife
Thank's to Fiction Factory here on HP for doing an excellent job of editing this piece.
The father paced as he always did when he was nervous. The old pine floors creaked with each step revealing the packed earth beneath them. His face was leathery and full of deep lines. His worn hands clasped behind his back, his stride was hunched over as if struggling to remain standing. The jacket and trousers he wore were as tired and beaten as he was.
His mind was occupied with thoughts of the evening, soon the children will arrive from places he had never been and would never see. They would unfurl the story of their lives before him as he watched. Sadness and despair grew strong on his face as the sun retreated behind the mountains.
The wife looked at her husband and said “It is always this way with you. Always you are sad when you have cause for happiness.”.
Stunning to behold the wife was the picture of joy and contentment. Her eyes were clear and blue, they spoke of patience and wisdom. Covering her clean clothing was an apron bearing evidence of the meal she was preparing.
She brushed her long hair away from her face and said: “Surely you must be excited? It has been so long since we have seen them. Think how nice it will be to visit with them and learn what has happened with their lives. Really you must stop looking so miserable. Why not go for a walk, that always seems to help you see differently.” the wife said.
“It is not important to me how long it has been, it is doubtful they have anything of interest to say. Our old son will tell us how rich he is and taunt us with his success and money. Ask him how many people he destroyed to get to where he is. It is of no concern to him. Always the money. Only the money. And our young son? Will he share with us his stories of jails and prison? Subject us to his sordid tales of drugs and women? He makes me ill. Always needing help. Never standing on his own. And our daughter? Full of a hope and faith that truth will prevail. Oblivious to reality. Believing she is saving the world with her silly slogans and empty causes. Blah! I refuse to be excited. Times like this I wish we never had them.”
The wife looked at him and refused to be angry. With a look like a mother gives to her misbehaving child she said “Can you try? Please try.”
The sound of the door shutting told the wife he had gone. It was late autumn and in the air was the scent of seasons changing. Although beautiful this time of year always filled her with as sense of melancholy, a sadness difficult to understand. Wiping her hands on her apron, she watched him walking slowly off into the distance. At that moment he looked so small and vulnerable. So frail and tiny. Her lips turned upward into a smile that spoke of the timeless love between two people that have shared their lives together.
The father walked in short measured strides across the meadow towards the low building in the distance. To call it a workshop in the proper sense would be to not pay it justice. From the outside it appeared to be a crooked barn built low to the grown. The inside was a maze of machinery and tools that had stopped working long ago. There were bits of leather and yards of old fabric strewn haphazardly across the floor. In the far corner at the end of the carpet of debris was a small crooked desk. It was very dark inside. This was how he wanted it. Long ago he had boarded up all of the windows except for one. There was a small octagonal window above the door which was the only source of light. From it would shine a narrow prism beam of light, causing the dust to dance in its wake. It was hard for him to think of the work he had done here. Sitting at his desk in the corner of his dark workshop the father would relive all the failures and disappointments in his life. As the images of his past flashed before his mind he would feel them as if they had happened only yesterday. He would open his soul to the pain and grief, the anger and despair of events long since passed. Feeling comfort in this prison of regret, the days of his life would pass with great speed. These thoughts would nourish him. He would delight in them in ways he did not understand. Often he would think of the children and agonize over how poorly he had performed as a father. He would torment himself wishing for a second chance. If only he could have one more chance. Knowing the truth now made his suffering all the more painful. It could have been different. It should have been different. At times he would find notes of the memories that haunted him scrawled on scraps of paper. He would gather them into a bundle and carry them into the mountains. After climbing to the peaks he would pause and feel the cold wind on his face. Dropping to his knees in the thin air The Father would empty the bundle onto the bright snow. He would watch as the wind would swirl away his memories. Higher and higher the wind would take them. And through his tears he would watch until they had all been carried away. Gathering himself up he would turn down the mountain, hoping that this time he would be free. If only he could be free.
The wife had finished setting the table when she heard her husband approaching. She had just pulled the food out of the oven when the door opened and he walked in. When she turned to look at him her face lost its color. The smile she always wore was gone. You could see her soul darken. She was stooped at the waist and her face bore a thousand wrinkles. Her clothes had become worn and dirty. Sitting at the table they both looked into each others eyes. They were both weeping as their hands reached out to one another. Falling from their eyes each tear became one. They ran together as if they were the tears of a thousand lovers. Their souls were crying. Outside, echoing off the mountains you could hear their sorrow. And they waited.
The children arrived and sat at the table. Agitated the old son said
“What are we waiting for damn it! My plane leaves in two hours.” He said.
“Chill out man. You need to relax dude. There’s food, beer what more do you want. Show some respect.” said the young son.
“Enough from you two already. If you would ever come visit I can teach you to relax. If you were vegan I am certain you would not be behaving as children. We didn’t come all this way to fight. Just relax” said the daughter.
In the middle of the table was a large manila envelope with their names written in large block letters. The three of them stopped arguing and sat silently waiting. There was total silence except for the sound of the old typing on his blackberry. The young son downed a beer in one gulp while the daughter adopted a lotus like position and began to breathe deeply. The door opened and a man they did not know walked through. He introduced himself as their parents attorney and apologized for being late. After brief introductions he reached over, picked up the letter and began to unseal it. Slowly he removed a worn single sheet of lined paper from inside. He looked at them and began to read:
To our children:
“Even though your souls have been torn open leaving an empty wound. Even though your lives will never be quite the same. We ask you to rejoice in life. Fill the void in your hearts with a celebration of our lives. Forbid sadness and despair from entering your hearts. We were taught that our souls will live on for as long as our memory is alive. So think of us often. Think of us often and when you do we will be with you. If you feel as though we are near that is because our thoughts are of you. Burn our memory in your minds and teach it to your children. And they likewise must teach their children so we will live on for generations to come. Take comfort knowing that we will be waiting for the day when we can be together again. God willing it will be a very long wait,but when the time comes we will embrace you as you embrace us. Know in your hearts and in your minds that we have loved each of you with a love so strong that it is beyond description. Waiting patiently for you all.”
Signed The Father and the Wife