I wrote this over twenty years ago while in college and just unearthed it after many years
| An old red flannel shirt lay draped over the back of the chair, forgotten. One of the sleeves had a hole at the elbow, the result of some forgotten man's years of sitting at his desk, head in hands, elbows resting on the faded green blotter, crying. The chair too looked like it had seen better days. There was a long split down the center of the seat. Moldy stuffing peeked out from the hole.
The desk was antique mahogany, its luster not quite so lustrous after years of neglect. There were nicks in the once-beautiful finish, battle-scars from years of use. One of its legs didn't quite touch the floor – a few yellow sheets of typing paper say wedged between it and the floor, keeping the desk level and steady.
Four items occupied the top of the desk. First and least noticeable was the blotter. It had once been a not-very-attractive shade of green, with notes and phone numbers scribbled hastily on it by one too busy with other matters to care about penmanship. Now it was nearly gray, having sat, forgotten, before the east-facing window for long, unproductive years. The semi-important notes that had once been so carelessly scrawled on its face were now all but ghosts, having given in to the sun's fury years before.
Resting slightly askew on the blotter, a careworn Remington typewriter rusted. Once in perfect working order, the Remington had seen many years of work, producing for its master some of the finest lines of prose ever written. Moisture had seeped into the room over the past many years, brown patches of rust seemed now to crawl over its surface in the fading autumn light. The “r” and the “j” had fallen off their striking arms, as forgotten at the bottom of the machine as the man who had once made the typewriter sing.
Also on the desk, to the right of the Remington and the blotter, was a large ceramic ashtray. Scarred and pitted from heavy use, the inscription “TO THE BEST DADDY IN THE WORLD” could barely be made out. Three unfiltered cigarettes, half-smoked, crushed and forgotten, lay at the bottom. The ashtray had once shown as brightly as the desk in the morning light. But like the desk, its finish too had faded with time, until now it resembled a dull black rock, not special in any way.
The last item on the desk had withstood the sun's casualty and time's ravages the best. Though also faded, the photograph in its sterling silver frame was still recognizable. The frame itself was in face worse off than the typewriter and blotter combined. Time and oxygen had turned its finish black, layers and layers of black that cloaked its inner beauty.
The picture showed a man in his early thirties, smiling and happy. The man was not attractive, not ugly. He was just a man, no more remarkable than any walking the streets of America at any given moment. It was the eyes that made the face. Fiercely proud and blue – intelligent eyes. They were the eyes of a man content with his life, a man who could ask for no more from himself or the world. This same picture had graced the back of millions of books ages ago, so far removed that they too were not now even memories fir most of those who'd read them.
The room was forgotten, along with everything it contained. It's door had been locked long ago by the man in the photograph, the red flannel shirt draped over the back of the chair, never to be worn again.
One personal tragedy, that was all it took to seal that room for thirty years. One second, a ripple in the surface of time, the end of an era. The first thing the man had done after being informed of the death of his wife and children was to enter that room, smoke three cigarettes, get up, and lock the door. At that moment, standing there with his hand on the doorknob, silent tears running down his unlined cheeks, he had known that he would never write another word, would never sit down in that chair, smoke a few cigarettes and make characters come to life.
A key rattled in the lock. The mechanism was rusted from disuse, grating and shrieking as the key rotated the tumblers. A turn of the knob, a gentle push, and the door creaked open for the first time in three decades. Artificial light from the hall fixture streamed into the room, touching the rooms forgotten inhabitants.
The man stood in the doorway for long moments, taking it all in with his eyes, unchanged from those that stared continually outward from the photo on the desk. He stepped forward slowly, his can thumping along the hardwood floor as he entered. Nothing was different. The man looked around at the place he'd spent the best years of his life, and nothing had changed.
He sat slowly in the chair, one hand to his protesting back. He reached down and touched the soft sleeve of the red flannel shirt. A moment later he opened the center desk drawer. There, where he had left them, a nearly empty pack of unfiltered cigarettes. Shaking one out, he fumbled for the box of matches beside the pack. The match lit on the first strike, blooming to life in a hiss of sulfur.
The man had not had a cigarette in thirty years. The first drag nearly choked him and his head felt light almost immediately. The man smiled as he shook out the match and tossed it in the ashtray.
A sheaf of paper rested in the same drawer as the cigarettes, yellow with age. He reached for a sheet with arthritic hands that shook with age and emotion and inserted it into the old typewriter. Rolling the paper through to the middle of the page, the man leaned forward so that he could see they keys in the dim light.
He typed three words slowly, then sat back and smiled sadly. His eyes scanned what he had written. It was right. Those three words were all he needed to say now. There was neither time nor reason to say more.
Would they understand? He didn't think so. Whomever read these words would not need to understand. It was enough that he had written them. It was enough for the man to know that someone would read them.
The man stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray his son had made for him in the second grade. He looked around the room, taking in every detail. Then he looked at what he'd written again and smiled.
“There's no 'R's,'” he whispered, then closed his eyes and drifted off to peace.
The paper ruffled slightly in the draft from the open door. Three words: No mo e tea s.