A story about a chance meeting designed by fate.
| “Crack!” went Carrie’s pencil lead and she smeared the line she had been writing in the blue composition book. Darn! She had been trying all morning to write a poem for the newspaper’s “Yellow Roses” poetry contest. Yellow roses were her all time favorite so why couldn’t she come up with something worth submitting. She remembered her Grandmother’s favorite quote: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Grandma was full of quotes and wishes, like wishing Carrie could make more friends. I can do all those things, Grandma," she whispered softly. "I can do the thing I think I cannot do, like finishing this poem."
Sighing, she began again.
“Yellow roses, I suppose is...”
“Oops!” she exclaimed as she glanced at her watch. Almost late again. She gathered her favorite soft black leather portfolio and stuffed her keys in as she searched under the couch for a missing shoe. She checked the mirror in the front hall as she left. Quickly she pulled a brush through her long blond tresses. Her own emerald green eyes smiled back at her.
“Hold the Lift!“ she called as she ran down the hall and saw the door sliding rapidly closed. She knew most people referred to it as an elevator, but after growing up in Northumberland in England, this was one habit she found hard to break. It appeared almost empty, except for that weird guy upstairs, who now had the door propped open with all that was available to him at the moment, one brown penny loafer.
He appeared to be about her age, somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 or so. He was kind of cute if you thought of him that way, but unfortunately Carrie thought he was...to say the least...just plain strange. He hadn’t lived upstairs very long. Actually, she had only met him twice. But both times he had been carrying so many parcels that he looked like a bag lady, er, bag man. All kinds of bags, and boxes, and books.
But most unusual of all, and what made Carrie the most uncomfortable, was the doll. It wasn’t a Barbie doll, or even a G. I. Joe, but a rather large doll, almost the size of a small child, that looked like something she had seen in re-runs. Who was it? Not scary like Chucky. Something cuter. Yes, she remembered. Howdy Doody, the Cowboy with the red hair and bandana and all the freckles. A Howdy Doody ventriloquist puppet. Carrie didn’t like the doll because it always seemed to look at her with x-ray vision like it could look right through her.
Today was no exception. The man stood in the back of the elevator absolutely loaded down with odd paraphernalia. The doll graced one arm which also carried several K-Mart bags of what appeared to be coloring books. The other arm had a bundle of red helium balloons clenched tight in his fist. Even the crook of his arm cradled what appeared to be school books. And propped against his right leg was a flat piece of cardboard wrapped in white paper and tied with brown grocery twine.
Carrie stood as close to the front of the elevator as possible hoping to avoid having to speak. Maybe he has a lot of kids or something, she thought to herself. She had never noticed a wife or anything when he moved in.
Just at that moment the distinct sound of a phone ringing startled her. A phone in a lift? Then she realized it was Howdy Doody’s cell phone. When he sat the bag on the floor to retrieve the phone, brightly colored Crayola crayons rolled out all over the elevator. Exasperated, he totally surprised Carrie by shoving the doll into her arms. “Hold him for a sec, would you?” he said.
Carrie remained speechless. She held the doll at arm’s length. “He won’t bite,” said the neighbor, grinning. “I promise. Besides, he’s had his shots.”
Slowly she began to relax as he fished out his phone and began to talk.
“Oh, no. Oh, no. I know, but...yes, I know. I‘ll be there in about 40 minutes.” Without a word he folded the phone, and replaced it in his pocket. He leaned down and began to gather crayons, his head bent so Carrie could not see his face.
“Look,” said Carrie. “My name is Carrie. I live just upstairs. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but is something wrong?” As she stooped to help him pick up the errant crayons she could see tears streaming down his face.
He stood and held out his hand. “I’m Mark,” he said. “and I just moved in. I am an art student at Concord. In my spare time I help at the Shriner hospital. I love children and these children at this hospital are often very sick. Today my puppet and I were going to do a birthday party for a seven-year-old girl with leukemia, named Sunny. But this morning she found out she needed more treatment.”
Carrie took a quick breath. “I am so sorry,” she said. “I love children, too. That is why I teach Kindergarten at the local elementary school. Is there anything I can do?”
“It has just been a bad week,” he said. “I made three new friends when I moved here. We meet once a week to go to the hospital and visit the children. We call ourselves ‘The Cowboy Quartet.’ But Jim told me this week that he is moving. Maybe we can call ourselves the ‘Ghastly Trio’,” he said morosely.
“That’s Ghostly Trio!,” said Carrie laughing. “And now you know me. Let me help you carry your stuff to the car. Maybe I could go with you to visit the children sometime.”
“Okay” said Mark. It was the first time Carrie had ever seen him smile.
“Grab my final exam, would you?” he asked, as his arms were already full again. With his foot he pointed to the parcel wrapped in white paper.
“Final exam?” asked Carrie.
“Yeah,” said Mark. “Remember, I told you I was an Art Student. I had to do a painting of a still life.”
“What did you paint?” asked Carrie curiously.
“Nothing spectacular,” said Mark, “although I have been working on it all semester. We were required to give it a title, however. It’s not the most imaginative, I suppose. I couldn’t think of anything creative so I just call it ‘Yellow Roses.’”