Too late contest entry for show don't tell.
|I’ll come running
“You just call out my name, And, you know wherever I am, I'll come running to see you again, Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call…” His voice fading away Mac sang quietly as he gathered the items needed for his time in the park. “Your favorite song babe,” he said out loud… “When you’re down and troubled and need a helping hand…” he sang and swayed as if putting on a concert for her. Suddenly he froze, blitzed by golden moments at the pond pelting his consciousness. His eyes spilling over with tears he groaned aaaaahhhhhhAAAAAAAHHHHHHHGGGGGG, I don’t know if I can go through with this… “
A news program provided background noise, to which he paid little attention, a recurring feature of his life lately. He returned to his task. “Today’s the day” Mac startled himself hearing his own voice. Retreating into his thoughts…. he had planned today for weeks. He knew deep down it was time, yet every time he went for the basket, something else came up that needed doing. Small things like taking out the garbage, writing checks for bills gave way too much larger projects like painting the hallway that leads to their bedroom. Cheryl had reminded Mac—not nagged as Mac wanted to argue--constantly what she wanted done for a while, but he could never quite make the time. Time. That subtle draining of moment after moment after moment, that gradual slipping away of life chasing shallow and insignificant things. “Time. I never seemed to have the time did I?” He slumped with guilt onto a bar stool.
Staring catatonically at the zip-loc bags he had out for the food, he allowed his mind to drift through memories of their relationship. Cheryl had been the yin to his yang, the last piece of the puzzle of his life completing him in ways he had never even imagined he needed. She had totally accepted him, something new and unfamiliar to him, but securing and comfortable. She was the one who thought of organizing his closet so that he could reach in and know what colors he was putting together to get dressed for work. She subtly placed labels that only he could see on certain things to let him know what the colors were. She would describe the colors of ducks, the leaves, and the fiery redbirds that frequented the pond. She was, in some ways, his savior, he mused. His colorblindness was a termite in his soul. When he told Cheryl, she listened and gently said: “so…you need me…” That was the moment he knew he would ask her to marry him. A tsunami of emotion doubled him over. Choking back more tears and moving like a sloth Mac stood up and made sandwiches, filled zip-loc bags with pickles and chips, topping off the basket with some homemade chocolate chip cookies baked the night before and the blanket they always used for picnicking.
Remembering hearing of temperatures in the 70’s with 100% sun, Mac threw on jeans and the flannel shirt Cheryl told him made him look sexy. He lifted the loaded picnic basket off the table, grabbed his guitar just in case, climbed in his truck and finessed his way through 4 traffic lights to the park. He pointed his truck into a spot, got out and shuffled his way to their favorite spot beneath a big oak tree just a few yards from the edge of the pond. The picnic basket grew heavier. Cheryl had officially named this their spot. They both worked stressful jobs, and when they got away, this was their refuge. It was lush, quiet, and overlooked the lily pond and a large meadow, the home of several small animals. Setting the basket down, he surveyed the park. “She loved this place.” Spreading the blanket, Mac sat down and just slowly breathed in the moment. His thoughts scattered like fireworks and once again overcome by emotion he sobbed.
His mind sauntered back to the songs they sang together. Smiling, he remembered teasing Cheryl about her taste in music, slowly converting her to the older folk vocal genre he liked. Taking out his guitar he strummed the chords to their song and closing his eyes began singing, “if the sky above you grows dark and full of clouds…” His singing drowned out the approach of a group of boys who had watched. “Mister, you play pretty good,” one redheaded boy remarked, startling Mac stopping his strumming. “Thanks,” he said looking up at an ominously looking group of teen boys who had surrounded him. “Gang” roared through his mind at first glance, and hair on his neck rose, but he couldn’t tell what colors they wore. Curse colorblindness! “I’m learning to play guitar, just started so I’m not real good yet,” the boy added. Then Mac’s anger flared at the boldness of these guys, just walking into his sacred space, his moment, his memory. Standing, and in a restrained voice, Mac came to the point, “Guys, if you don’t care I’d like my space here. Not trying to be rude or anything but I’m just not in the mood for social engagement. Now’s not a good time.” “Yeah, we saw you when you sat down.” Mac instantly felt hot again as he sensed what he thought was a mocking tone referring to his crying earlier. Desperate to be alone, Mac fought tears and thoughts to find what he wanted to say without sounding angry, not wanting to ruin this time or the memories that he needed now. Suddenly he realized that Cheryl would invite them to sit and chat, being totally vulnerable. “Join me?”
The boys, all about 12-15 years old made themselves at home on the blanket. Fumbling, Mac distributed the food and between bites, all the boys chimed in the chorus of everything guitar, dreams of fame and fortune playing in a band and the girls it would attract. They moved to dreams of lavish houses, travel and other larger than life visions. Mac listened intently, nodding his head, smiling and felt himself slowly relax. This felt very familiar, remembering conversations like this with Cheryl. Mac’s eyes glistened and with a big breath opened his heart for the first time in a long time to this group of young strangers. “This was our favorite spot. This was where I brought her on our first date, where I first knew I loved her, where I proposed and she said yes, and where we literally spent weeks’ worth of time here over the past three years doing the same thing we’ve been doing right now.” “Where is she?” Mac, looking at these young kids who wouldn’t understand his distress answered, “She was diagnosed with cancer soon after we married and died four months ago. Her name was Cheryl.” Motionless, each boy silently stared at Mac. “My grampa died with cancer,” one boy empathized, breaking the silence. “My aunt died giving birth to my cousin and my uncle’s new wife is in a wheelchair because a drunk hit her.“ another quietly revealed. Mac sighed in the shared pain, “I came here today to spread her ashes in the pond. I’ve been here several times before but haven’t been able to let her go. I haven’t been able to make myself get up and actually do it. I wanted to honor her with our favorite picnic lunch, and just soak up this time. Mac heaved, “I…just…. haven’t…..been able…to let her go.” Mac hung his head.
The emotion slowly ebbing he finally looked up and asked “would you guys help me do this? I think it would mean a lot to Cheryl. She would have loved today--meeting you guys, hearing your dreams and telling on one another.” The boys looked at each other and nodded “yeah, we’ll help you. What do you want us to do?” “You don’t really have to do anything, just be here, just stand with me.”
The small party stood up, Mac picked up the urn and they all walked toward the pond, their arms around each other in this new bond of grief. The boys listened as Mac softly sang the chorus: “You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I'll come running to see you again, winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call, and I'll be there.” “Cheryl,” Mac whispered, “you answered my call. You were there for me when I needed someone. You completed me. You will always be with me and I will always love you and no one can ever take your place.” Removing the lid, Mac sifted the ashes into the edge of the water.