Lucas Weismann

Another Winter Gone – 29

“Marcus-”  The voice was a whisper.  Barely a shade of what it had been.

“I’m here hon.”

“I’m so sorry.”  She paused to catch her breath.  “I wanted to go home for Christmas and I know you’ll be alone.”

Marcus didn’t say anything.  He just closed his eyes and put his chin to his chest, just holding her hand in his.

“I’m so sorry to put all this on you.”  She coughed.

“Shh, it’s okay, just rest.”

“Time enough for that soon enough Sergeant.”

Marcus nodded and stroked the back of her hand gently.  The skin was slack and paper thin.  That wasn’t right.  Every time he closed his eyes, she was the same young girl he’d met when he came home for that furlough during the war.  That had been stolen from him and for the first time in a long time, he was torn between sadness at impending loss and anger at the unfairness of the world.

“Marcus, I meant to outlive you after Jack died.  I never wanted to put you through this pain and expense.”

“Honey, I don’t care about the money.  Never have.  We’ll just get through it the same way we always have, by doing what needs to be done.”

“Well, you’re going to have to do that without me.  I can’t help you here, not anymore.  And don’t try to tell me comforting lies.  I’m going to my rest.”  She caught her breath.  “I have two things I need you to do for me.”

“Course, you do.  What can I do, hon?”

“The first one is hard.”

“Tell me what it is.”

“Please don’t give up.  I know that you made me and Jack your whole life.  After he was stolen from us, you stopped seeing other people than me except when necessary.  You didn’t write for years afterward.  But in all that time, you never stopped doing the work that needed doing, or lending a hand where and when it was needed.  Please don’t stop that on my account.”

“Eva…” he began

“Don’t interrupt me Sergeant, I’m dying so I get to make my last speech.”

“Yes doctor.” He said.

A weak smile appeared on Rose’s face.  “I need to go to my rest, knowing you’re going to go on being you and that you won’t take it too hard.  I know that’s a hard task, so I’m willing to be reasonable.”

“How so?”

“When I die, you can mourn for one year.  But after that, you have to go on being you and writing and telling stories.  And you have to be the Marcus who does what needs doing.”

“What’re you gonna do if I can’t do that?”

“Nothing.  I’ll be dead.  But I just don’t like the idea of losing me being the thing that pulls the legs out from under you.”

“Rose, I-“

“Now, if you choose never to remarry and live as a withered old bachelor that’s alright with me.  It’s a touching tribute.”

The smile on Marcus’s face was a sad one.  “So that’s it?  Keep telling stories and keep helping people?  How long do I have to do it for?”

“As long as it takes.” She said.  “I really am sorry to do this to you.  It was my intention to outlive you so that you wouldn’t be put to the bother of the funeral and going on.”

“No bother.”  He mumbled, though he wished he could be with her at any other time than now.  Eva never talked like this, she must’ve gotten her 2-minute curtain call.

They sat in silence for a long while until, the nurse came in to tell him that visiting hours were over.  Marcus looked up and nodded, patted the back of his wife’s hand and stood up.  He leant over to kiss her forehead, whispered something in her ear and walked out.

If the nurse wondered at what Marcus had said, she didn’t ask.  Marcus respected that.  What he said to her was no one’s business but their own.

Another Winter Gone – 7

Marcus approached the truck and found Amos and Jessica chatting away inside.  He smiled.  Amos wasn’t a bad sort, and his talkative nature would help make the ride go more quickly (for Jessica at least).  Seeing them getting along made Marcus decide to invite Amos to keep the girl company.  He took off his snow shoes, slid them behind the bench seat and got into the driver’s side of the truck.

Then he passed Jessica a small wet lump.

“Your clothes,” he said by way of explanation.

“Oh yeah, thanks!  That’ll probably make things easier after I’m done at the hospital.”

“Amos, you want to drop your Snowmobile over at my place?”

“Yeah, sure Marcus.”  He got out of the truck and went over to it.  “See you later!”  Amos was practically wagging like a golden retriever.  Then he paused.  “Say, why don’t I just take my truck and meet you in town?”

Marcus sighed, but it was no surprise really.  When had he ever invited Amos (or anyone really) to help him or join in anything?  Well, not in the last 50 years, and it doesn’t really count when it’s your own son.  He’d worked with people sure, told them what to do, commanded them and told them what they were going to do, and it had worked.  But when had he last asked, requested, or invited someone to join him.

Hell, even at the Ely steam, he just nodded and moved aside to let someone in.  He’d have to think about that.  After all, there’s no reason to be unkind, when kindness will serve just as well.

“Let’s just meet at your place Amos.  It’s on the way to town and I’m sure we could use your company.”

Amos swelled.  “you got it!  you won’t have to  worry.  I’ll be right behind you.  Okay! Well….” Marcus rolled up the window as the man outside nearing retirement dithered in excitement.

Oh right, that was why.  I mean, there’s not being unkind and then there’s inviting this sort of foolishness.  He grunted slightly in what might have been a laugh.  A few yards down the road, Jessica spoke.

“You don’t really like him, do you?”

“Him?   He’s alright.  He just,”

“Talks a lot.” she finished.

Marcus nodded.  He knew she could see him.

“My dad’s like you.”

“I doubt that.”  he said with a half-smile.

“Never has a word kind or unkind for anyone, but when there’s trouble people bless their lucky stars that he’s around.”

“hmph.”

“He tries to be all stern and stone, like he’s trying to be The Man With No Name.  But underneath it all, he’s a good guy.”

“hmph.”

“Thank you, by the way,” she said.  “It really was stupid of me.”

“Yes.  It was.” he said and did not ask about the wolves.  The truck pulled up to the driveway and just afterward, Amos pulled up.  Apparently being deprived of an audience hadn’t affected him, and he seemed to have been monologuing on the snowmobile.  Jesus the man would talk when no one listened.

“I don’t want to be rude,” Jessica said, “but is there any way we could have him not come with?”

Marcus was surprised for a second.

“what?”

“I just need some time to think and some quiet to do it in.  Oh, is that rude of me?”

“You think I’m gonna argue?”

“Great can you… …oh, you mean I have to tell him.”

“Hey, you’re old enough to get chased by wolves into a ravine, you’re old enough to tell the nice man who helped rescue you that you want him to go away.”

“err…”

“You’ll get no argument from me mind, but he did make it possible for you to get back to the road and I wasn’t exactly sure how I’d get you back to the truck before hypothermia set in.  Again.”

she inhaled through her teeth.  “Okay.”

“Besides, the man works for the city in the permit office, making sure people fill out paperwork properly.  This is probably the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to him.  He is a hero after all.”

“What?  But you…”

“Did what needed to be done.  Same as him.”  Damn my overinflated sense of fairness.  Outside the truck, Amos’s face was starting to go from smiles to concern.”

She opened the door.  “Hi Amos!” she smiled brightly, “Thanks for rescuing me.  I don’t know what I would have done if you two hadn’t come by.”

Amos’s big round face reminded him of the Parsee man in the Just-So story about the Rhinoceros and the currant cake.  “…and he smiled one smile that ran all round his face two times.” In the book of course, it had be an ominous portent, but Amos was smiling a smile as bright as the sun who shone in “more-than-Oriental-splendour.”  Hmm… I should re-read Kipling, Marcus thought as they drove on to the Hospital to find treatment for the girl.


 

Meeting Jessica had been thirty years ago and Marcus still remembered her whenever he read Call of the Wild.  She had grown up and gone off to have kids of her own.  She even visited during the summers for several years, the gap between each a visit longer than the last.  Eventually he’d learned that the wolves chasing her on her snowmobile- that’s right.  She’d been on a  snowmobile not snowshoes- the wolves chasing her on the snowmobile had been a group of local teens who’d fancied themselves tough.

Later Marcus found out that one of the boys had been the one to alert Amos that the girl had fallen off the ridge.  He’d had a crush on her, but didn’t have the status to openly stand against his friends.  When Jessica fell, they’d all scattered and marcus even managed to track them down because of the paint from their rides one or two had left on the trees in their haste to leave.

Jessica and the boy (Thomas, was it?) had been seen together in town for awhile, but eventually it was clear that his bravery had been temporary and she had no desire to be saddled with a man who couldn’t hold his own and stand up for what is right except in extreme circumstances.

It was good, Marcus thought.  That girl had been pretty brave, and had gone on to do good things.  Even working as a Wilderness First Responder for awhile during college.  She saved several people during that time and whenever the writers at the local paper got wind of it they printed an article.

Marcus kept every one in a binder, though he never showed any outward sign he was aware of her work when she visited.

Eventually Jessica went and moved to the city, where she did something laudable with bringing city kids out to the wilderness to show them the stars or something.

Of course, he never thought about it in these terms, but there were a good number of people who wouldn’t be alive today if he hadn’t been there to save the girl.


 

These were the types of stories and rumors that circulated around the Iron Range about Marcus, the last of the old-time trappers.  A guardian of the woods who appeared in town for supplies every few weeks in the guise of a grumpy loner.

These stories were the real reason that the Journalist had sought him out.  It was a good story.  A man who did what needed to be done and didn’t much think about the consequences; a man didn’t ask for a reward, or attention and had mostly gotten what he’d asked for.

Such a shame, thought Janet.  Everyone should get to know the effect they have on people.  She paused outside the door of the house and was about to knock, when she saw the curtains twitch and the door opened to reveal a man of about 75 or 85 who was all smiles and joviality, and whom retirement seemed to have agreed with.

Writing prompt 1 – A Long Hallway

“I don’t think it took this long when I got here” I thought.  The distance from the beige room to the beige hallway that leads to the nurse’s station had gotten interminably long since I woke up.

I’m sure in in retrospect, that the distance was no greater; but hopped up on morphine to help with the pain in my side made it seem so far away.  Each step required a ridiculous effort.

My reward for the effort I expended was a look.  No, better make it a LOOK from the nurse on duty.  She had probably been beautiful once, someone who cared about her charges and really wanted to help make people better.

Now, even through the morphine, it’s clear that too many long nights, with too much paperwork, too many whiny patients and overbearing doctors had ruined what was probably once a kind person with a loving, passionate nature.

She arched her eyes at me, “Yes Mr. Greene?”

“I’m sorry ma’am, could I have some water?”

“You had water a half hour ago, why didn’t you use the call button?”

“I did ma’am.  It’s just that, no one answered.”

“We’re busy” she said, in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  “You’ll get water when we have time.”  She picked up her emery board and resumed filing her already perfect nails.

“You’re right, I will.” I muttered and headed toward the exit.  Each step was harder than the last and lead closer and closer to that sweet cool taste of refreshing…

Hands gripped me and helped me into a wheel chair.  James, an orderly, handed me a cool glass of water and whispered an apology.

As I rode back, I wished that I could have made the escape dramatically, but realized my slow motion hobble wouldn’t rate as heroic anywhere but inside my own head.

James helped me into bed, my temporary protector from the withering stares of petty tyrants and the warm blackness of sleep rose up to embrace me.

 

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