In Sickness & In Health

by Solomon Tate

 

My wife has been sick. Its nothing too serious, just a sinus cold accompanied by a very sore throat and a nagging dry cough, but it has been lingering for almost a week. I have done my best to nurse her back to health, but the other night, while I slept, the microbes of death and destruction that had been breeding in her system made their way to my side of the bed and like squatters took up residence in my system. I woke up sick. Together we lay in bed with dripping eyes and running noses, coughing and sneezing, while we try to figure out who’s going to make us soup as my kids roam around the house providing no useful service to us at all.

“I don’t have the energy to get up and get anything.” she says. “In a few days we could starve to death.”

“Unlikely.” I remind her. “We can always order in.”

“Who’s going to go to the door?” she asks. I had no answer for her. I only knew that it wasn’t going to be me.

I asked one of my daughters who has been going out all weekend to bring us something back. “Can you bring me a milk shake or something?” I asked. “My throat is killing me.”

“No.” she said. “I don’t know when I’ll be home and I don’t want to carry it around.”

“It doesn’t weigh very much.” I said. “You can just pick it up on your way home.”

“Its out of the way.” she informed me. “I have some Pepsi in the fridge you can have. But only take one can.”

“I told you.” my wife said. “We’re going to die in here.” I suppose it was a possibility, but I was not prepared to surrender. I headed out into the rain and returned with soup, bread, tea, and honey.

“I think I pulled a muscle in my chest from all  the coughing.”, I said. “This is brutal.”

“You’ll start to feel better soon.”, she said.

“You think so?”

“No” she said, “but one of us has to take care of us and I’m pretty sure it won’t be me. I’m sick.”

“In case you haven’t noticed” I said, “I’m pretty sick too.”

“I know.” she said. “But you’ve already gone out in the rain and everything, and there’s no point in both of us getting worse.” Her logic, as always, was irrefutable. There was no sense in both of us getting worse. I just wasn’t sure why it always had to be me.

By the next day, I had developed a fever to add to the assortment of symptoms already plaguing me, and my head felt like it was in a vice, slowly being tightened bit by bit. It was almost impossible to get out of bed. “Well” I told her, “I’m definitely worse.” She just smiled and headed off to the kitchen, returning with a cup of tea and honey.

“Here” she said, “this should make your throat feel a bit better.”

“Thanks.”, I told her. “Its good to know that you’ll take care of me.”

“Of course.”, she said. “I need you better by tomorrow. The garbage has to go out.”

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The Rescue

by Solomon Tate

 

The kids were asking how their mother and I met. It wasn’t the first time and I couldn’t understand why it was so important that they hear it again. But it was. “Go ahead and tell them.” my wife said. “Just make something up. It will be fun.” And with that I shared the story of how I met their mother.

It was spring I think, and it was raining. It was the kind of April rain that went on for days and left you scratching your head in the garage wondering just how big of a boat you were going to have to build. I had just returned from Alberta, working on a case involving a missing mime. Despite the lack of assistance from numerous witnesses who just wouldn’t talk, I managed to locate the artist who had inadvertently trapped himself in some kind of box. Upon my return, a friend of mine asked if I would assist in locating a friend of his sister’s who had disappeared while vacationing in The Bahamas. It seemed that she had walked out of her hotel room to spend the day swimming with dolphins, and no one had seen or heard from her in three days. As a favor to my friend, I headed down to Nassau to try to find the missing woman.

It was hot as hell in Nassau. I checked out the hotel first, and after showing her picture around, one of the desk clerks remembered seeing her leave the hotel around nine in the morning dressed in beachwear, just as he was beginning his shift. She was alone. She had neither received or made any phone calls from her room. I headed over to the dolphin enclosure, where a few of the staff recognized her from the photo, but none of them could be certain what time she arrived or departed the attraction.  A local kid selling shells on the beach claimed that he had seen her head into the water with a few of the dolphins a little after nine o’clock, but couldn’t remember her coming back. I checked in with the local police to find that their investigation into the disappearance had yielded no significant leads. As far as they were concerned, the young woman had simply drowned while swimming with dolphins. Their plan was to wait until the body washed up onto the beach which they almost always did. I had done some reading on the flight down about dolphins and I knew that they would never have let her drown. That night I returned to the dolphin enclosure. I knew that they were intelligent beings, and I was sure that they knew something. The truth was, I needed their help.

I sat on the pier armed with a bucket of mackerel, hoping to entice them to talk. I can’t be sure if it was the smell of the fish or the light from my lantern, but before long I was face to face with an entire pod of whistling, clicking and squeaking dolphins. One in particular who bore a striking resemblance to Henry Limpitt, He was quite vocal and seemed to be trying to get my attention. I fed him some of the mackerel and asked what he knew of the missing woman. Now, I know this will be hard to believe, hell, I still have a hard time understanding how it happened, but the dolphin answered me. The sounds he made somehow became recognizable words to me, as if he were speaking English. His name was Jasper, and he knew where the missing woman was. He told me that some renegade killer whales had taken her and had made her their queen. They had been harboring her in a underwater cave nearby. Using the fish as a bargaining chip, he agreed to bring her to me, despite the obvious danger the dolphins would face. It took about an hour, but the dolphins returned, carrying the woman with them. Sadly, Jasper had lost his life in the battle to set the whale queen free. I brought the woman ashore, and she hugged me so tight, I thought I felt a rib or two crack. I wrapped my jacket around her and we headed toward the police station. She said she was hungry, so we stopped for something to eat. She devoured everything in sight, but I couldn’t help notice how incredibly beautiful she was. She had these incredibly dark eyes that seemed to sparkle in the light of the candle burning on the table, and a smile that lit up the rest of the room. Hell, I wanted her right there and then. But I was on a case.

The police didn’t seem to believe the tale we told, but they agreed to close the case nonetheless and allow us to leave the island. On the flight home I asked her to go out with me. She seemed a little reluctant at first, but she agreed. “Just so we’re clear” she said, “there will be no sex on the first date.”

“Well” I replied, “then I guess there will have to be a second date.” And as luck would have it, we were both true to our word. There was no sex on the first date, but we successfully went out on a second date. “That’s the best version yet.” my wife said.

“Its bullshit.” my son informed his wife. “He just makes this shit up as he goes along.”

“But its one hell of a story.” my daughter’s boyfriend said.

“The story changes every time.” one of my daughters said.

“Who is Henry Limpitt?” another daughter asked.

Despite what the kids thought, my wife and I have been together ever since, through calm and stormy seas, although sometimes its just like that first date all over again.

Reunion

by Fielding Goodfellow

It was a long time ago, but it has lingered with me forever. In a rather juvenile attempt to find ourselves, we wound up finding each other. The three of us. We were inseparable that summer, feeding each other’s minds and souls and saving each other from the impending madness that was attempting to engulf us. We never thought about it, really, but we instinctively knew exactly what each of us needed. We needed each other. A lifetime has passed since the three of us were together, but when I walked into that hotel lobby, it was as if it had all happened yesterday.

I had no idea what to expect, and there was some trepidation in even attending the pseudo reunion that had been in the works for months. We lived in three different countries and had little contact with each other over the years. We could have all changed over the forty years of separation, but as soon as Jess and I saw each other, we were exactly where we were in 1974, when she stood at my cabin in the great Canadian north, with Marcie at her side, and asked if I had a cigarette.  We had lived our lives, raised our families been through hell and back several times, but we hadn’t really changed. We were still the same hippie misfits, talking about writing, and music, and listening to Yessongs in its entirety.

They seemed happy, having found wonderful partners in the two kind and generous men who loved them dearly. I was happy for them. We all wandered around my city, laughing, eating, talking, and remembering that summer so long ago. Interestingly enough, Jess had said that she had spent over thirty years trying to locate me, and I, well, I had never stopped trying to find her either. I wish they could have stayed longer. I wished we could have returned to the north, hung out at the waterfall, and the fish hatchery. I wish we could have trekked over to the General Store in Ullswater. But perhaps it’s only the sentimentality that seems to have emerged in full force during the dessert course of my life. They say that you can’t go back, but it appears that we never really left the summer camp that we met at all those years ago. Nothing has really changed. Oh, we are certainly older and I hope much wiser, but our souls continue to soar above the mundane and the meaningless.

I don’t believe that our meeting was purely by chance. I never did. We needed each other then, and I’m sure that we still need each other now. I hope that we will keep in touch, I mean, as weird as it seems, I was closer to these women than I was to anyone else from my past. And as hard as it sometimes is for me to say, I love them both, and I’m certain I always will.

The Brothers Glick

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

The funeral of Miriam Glick was a somber event, with almost everyone I remembered from the old neighborhood shocked and saddened by her sudden departure from our lives.I sat in the back row wondering where the past forty years had gone with mixed emotions, considering that I had spent the better part of my youth banging the recently deceased on a regular basis.We were both much younger then. It was a secret that we both swore to take to our graves. Miriam belonged to the same neighborhood Gossip Gang, which masqueraded as a suburban Mah Jong group, as my mother. Every Monday she would arrive at my house with the other gang members for rumor mongering and tile play. Our illicit affair was never talked about, but she would smile and ask me to come over and help her move some boxes in the basement the following day. I knew what she meant, but not a word of it was ever mentioned. It had been forty years since I last helped move those boxes, ever since that summer morning when her husband was found dead floating in Lake Wilcox. As I sat there listening to her life being summarized with the traditional, bland greeting card sentiments, I wandered back to those years I spent between the thighs of Miriam Glick.

The Glicks were one of the last families to move into the development and Jason and Jordan Glick  joined our group of merry misfits and desperadoes. We became friends, but I spent more time in their house when neither one of them was home than I did when they were around. We would spend our days hanging out at Rockford Park, smoking cigarettes and drinking the Canadian Club that they nicked from their father’s liquor cabinet. We spent half the day smoking and drinking, and the other half throwing up. I don’t know if it was the cigarettes or the whiskey, or both, but we usually wound up getting pretty sick. Jordan was the more serious of the two and he was always worried about one thing or another. He was a nervous wreck, pacing back and forth, picking at his skin, and chewing on his fingernails as if they were barbecued ribs. If anybody needed a bit of pharmacological intervention, it was Jordan Glick. Jason, on the other hand, didn’t seem to give a shit about anything. He was in it for the fun of it, and he was always up for anything. Jordan constantly warned his brother not to take the booze from Ivan Glick’s stash, but Jason just didn’t care. Eventually, Ivan caught them and Jason took the heat and the beating, but it had very little impact on him. “The old man is just a drunken asshole.” He said. “I’ll get even one day.” And so, when they found the body of Ivan Glick floating face done near the shore of Lake Wilcox, the merry misfits were pretty sure that Jason had killed him. Well, most likely he probably arranged for someone else to kill him. We figured it would have been the Black Star Riders whose clubhouse stood on the edge of our little neighborhood. I suppose that’s just another one of the many secrets that will be taken to the grave, although I’m pretty sure that Jordan knew exactly what had happened. Jordan went on to Law School, and became one of the top criminal lawyers in the country, which was quite fortuitous as he spent most of his career trying to keep his brother out of prison. Jason didn’t fare as well in adulthood, squandering away his share of Ivan’s life insurance proceeds, falling victim to addiction, and dabbling in the sale of stolen property and drugs.

Following the rites and rituals of the funeral and internment, I really didn’t have anything to say to either of them other than the customary Hallmark condolences. I suppose it could have been the pangs of guilt that seemed to consumed me, so I returned to the old neighborhood. Standing on the sidewalk in front of the Glick’s house I could still hear Ivan Glick shouting. I was sure everyone on the street could hear it too. The neighborhood had changed a lot over the years, but the route from my old house to Miriam’s bedroom was carved deep in the fabric of space and time. During those years of make believe, it was the map to a buried treasure that I would spend a lifetime looking for. I suppose in some strange way she meant more to me than I ever wanted to admit.

 

ELEANOR

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

I would like to believe that this actually happened although my friend, Solomon Tate believes that its just another one of my peyote induced hallucinations. I’m not sure Tate is right, I mean, this story involves neither flying lizards or dinosaurs. Nevertheless, there was an old man with a long, white beard sitting on a bench in Riverdale Park feeding girl guide cookies to the scurry of squirrels that had congregated at his feet. He had a scar that ran the length of his right forearm to his hand which seemed to make throwing the cookies somewhat difficult. I stopped to watch them when a small, gray squirrel ran out of the cemetery, climbed up on the bench and perched on his left shoulder. It sat there for a moment, and rubbed its face up against the old man’s ear. The old man didn’t seem surprised at all, and he presented the small, gray squirrel with a cookie. While this was certainly  the strangest thing I had seen all day, it seemed that this was quite common place for him and the squirrel.

“That’s one hell of a trick.”, I said.

“Its not a trick.”, he replied.

“Well, its not everyday a squirrel will jump up on your shoulder and sit there.”, I stated. “How do you manage to get him to do that? ”

“You wouldn’t believe it.”, he said.

“You’d be amazed at what I believe.”, I replied. The old man took a long, hard look at me, and began his story.

He had been married for fifty seven years when his wife, Eleanor passed away three years ago. She had cancer, but it was discovered too late. She died within weeks of the diagnosis. It was a wonderful love affair that lasted right up until she passed. Every morning, for fifty seven years, Eleanor would come up behind him, lean over his left shoulder and kiss him on the ear, as she playfully snatched a piece of food off of his plate.. Every morning for fifty seven  years he pretended not to notice. Just before she passed, she told him that she would always be there with him, and that she would never leave him alone. She was sick and delirious when she died, and he never really understood exactly what she was trying to tell him.

When she died, she was interred in the Toronto Necropolis, as she had requested. Every Saturday the old man would visit the cemetery and leave a few girl guide cookies on Eleanor’s grave. “They were always her favorites.”, he said. After the visits, as he sat across the street on a bench in Riverdale Park, he noticed that squirrels would race to her site and run off with the cookies. After a while, the squirrels seemed to understand that the old man was an integral part of their food delivery system, and they began to follow him around the cemetery and the park. The old man set up shop in the park in an attempt to keep the squirrels off of Eleanor’s grave, and away from the cookies he left for her.

“She was quite fond of them, actually.”, he informed me.

One Saturday, some weather related issue had kept the Necropolis closed, so the old man, with nothing much else to do, sat in the park and fed the squirrels the girl guide cookies he had brought for his wife. Across the street, he could see a small, gray squirrel race out of the cemetery and head towards him. He thought nothing of it. It was just another squirrel looking for the cookies he had always left for Eleanor, he thought, until it jumped up on the bench and crawled up to his left shoulder. It sat there for a moment, and then leaned over to his ear and attempting to kiss his ear, tried to sneak a cookie out of his hand. “Eleanor?”, he asked. There was no answer, but the small, gray squirrel brushed its face against his ear again. The old man gave the squirrel a cookie, which it ate perched on his left shoulder. He said that he had given his wife a gold locket on their fiftieth anniversary and there, on the chest of this small gray squirrel was a patch of white fur in the shape of a heart.  He was certain that this squirrel was in fact his wife and that she had made good on her promise not to leave him alone and, as crazy as it sounded, I was beginning to think that he was right.

That was three years ago, and since then, he came to the park every Saturday to spend time with her. He began calling the small, gray squirrel Eleanor, and he had started talking to her. He was certain that she understood. The fact of the matter was, he did not feel alone. They would often sit there for hours, long after the supply of cookies and the other squirrels had gone. While he never actually heard her speak, he believed that she was able to communicate with him, just as they did when she was alive. I left the old man with the long, white beard on the park bench, talking with Eleanor who was still perched on his shoulder. I had been back to Riverdale Park many times, and on Saturdays, he could always be found on that bench with a scurry of squirrels at his feet, and the small, gray squirrel with a heart shaped patch of white fur on its chest sitting on his left shoulder. He seemed happy, and I suppose that’s what was really important.

I returned to the park just over a month ago, and there was no sign of the old man with the long, white beard anywhere. There was no scurry of squirrels congregating in front of the bench which was deserted, except for a small, gray squirrel with a heart shaped patch of white fur on its chest looking over the left shoulder of a larger squirrel with a scar down its right front leg leading to its paw, nuzzling on its left ear.