A literary sketch depicting a slice of life in 500 words or less.
Published weekly at 2PM each Tuesday.
To view the works of Stephen P. Byers visit www.booksbybyers.us
On a bright afternoon on one of the few sunny days after Christmas with the temperature above fifty, reaching for sixty in the sunshine, an old man sat alone wrapped in a blanket, silently pondering the lonely forlornness of his life, intermittently wondering what he might do to keep himself occupied. His wife of fifty-eight years had died in the fall, a bitter blow for which he supposed there would never be a cure. He had sold their home, taken a small one bedroom apartment where he cooked his meals, took his prescriptions and read a lot. He derived little pleasure from television, overwhelmed by the barrage of commercials and stupid sitcoms in which he found only disgust at all the sexual innuendoes.
Tony, twelve years old with a fifteen-letter surname the old man couldn’t possibly pronounce, a talkative, precocious, kid as restless as a housefly, hurtled around the corner of the building at his usual reckless pace.
“Hi, Mr. Willis,” he yelled without stopping. The old man smiled, waved and searched for his place in the book on his lap when Tony reappeared with a dark green box that he set on the table.
“Grandpa gave me this for Christmas.”
Instantly, the old man awoke to memories of his childhood. At Tony’s age, so many years ago, his parents had given him an identical box, a game called CARGOES. He stared at the reincarnation of a memory in a tattered box bound with massive amounts of scotch tape. Before his unbelieving eyes lay a map of the world’s continents, oceans, and major seaports; a simple game in which players roll dice moving their “ships” along an intricate maze of sea-lanes, winning points for early arrival and suffering penalties for overdue shipments. Tony and the old man rolled the dice, taking a few turns each.
“Grandpa gave me another present. Want to see it?”
Tony vanished again, leaving the old fellow absorbed in memories of his youth. In an instant, Tony returned carrying a colorful box, six inches on all sides, each decorated with strange characters looking hither and yon with obvious delight. Tony set it on the table, the cover inscription written in a neat hand:
“To Tony, Christmas 2005, from Grandpa with a lifetime guarantee.”
The empty box had a top, but no bottom.
“What is it?”
“I’ll show you. Watch.”
Tony removed the lid, looking skyward as if the wild-eyed creatures had escaped their prison, flown away and he among them, twisting and gyrating, coming to rest staring into Mr. Willis’ eyes.
“You don’t know what it is, do you?” he said, showing a huge smile.
“You’re no fun.”
“Maybe, but tell me what it is.”
“It’s a bottomless box of endless love.”
He darted off, leaving the old man to wonder about the miracle of love. Tony’s Grandpa had worked his magic, and Tony shared his love, leaving the old fellow with a glow in his heart he hadn’t felt since the funeral.
Small deeds done are better than big deeds planned ~ Peter Marshall