In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “What a Twist!.”
It had been a long day, part of an even longer week in the life of the old man as he sat down at the end of the bar. His shirt is wrinkled and tattled a bit at the edges. The suit a little thread bare in places, obvious signs that work wasn’t going as well as he had hoped. Changing careers at a time when he thought he would just be sitting on the porch swing, holding his wife’s hand, gossiping about how the “new neightbor” was planting the wrong flowers for this area. It was a simple dream, but the world was anything but simple.
Cutbacks, layoffs, and the downturn of yet another part of the Stock Market meant he was going to have to learn something new. A lifetime spent molding young minds at a vocational school, preparing teenagers to head out and work with their hands. Hard hours, followed by a tired drive home, but knowing that it was worth it as they pulled into the driveway of the small home they had just bought for their growing family. Now he’s cold-calling offices asking if they have any need for equipment warranties. Maybe 1 in every twenty phone conversations ending with an invitation to show up, maybe meet with the owner for ten minutes.
Thinking back, the old man could remember taking ten minutes just to chew the fat with someone about sports, the weather, the cute young thing out in the reception area. Now if he didn’t spit out everything he could in the first minute, he had lost them. Most barely looking up from the cellphone’s screen long enough to even notice if someone was actually in the room and not just a disconnected voice in the distance. The world had changed so much in the 50 years since he had graduated high school, started working for his father’s garage, and finally for the local school district when the business shifted.
After pulling out the 5 dollars he had carried in his wallet for this one luxury he now allowed himself. An overpriced, watery beer pulled from the tap. Praying the Barkeep cared enough to wipe the head from the beer and offer a full 12 ounces and not two inches of foamy top. People watching like he had for the past few months, maybe telling a joke to some other lone soul stopping in before heading home; it was a small thing to ask this hour each week.
How was he going to tell his wife he just didn’t have enough money to pay the bills this week? Amazon, Staples, even people driving themselves to warehouse clubs to buy what once was wheeled in on a dolly by a smiling young man, he also doing his best to make his growing dreams a reality. Looking down at his feet he realized that at some point in the day the lace he had patched up jut this morning had again frayed beyond repair.
“Your bus is going to be outside in a few. Might want to finish that off.” Again that barkeep knowing the look, trying to not ask, just hoping that someone would leave before the younger crowd shuffled in. Grabbing his case and jacket, the door only steps away he lowers himself back down. Oh just tell her you missed the bus, were working on something that might change their lives for the better. It’s only 30 minutes util the next bus.
Stepping downward onto his street, making sure to have not left behind the phone the company is going to want back next week if we has another repeat of this; our old man trudges off to face his wife. That face still as beautiful as when he met her shortly after returning from Korea. The love who had given him three healthy kids, watched two of kid grandchildren after school to help out, the same woman whose face now haunts him knowing she’ll love him no matter if they have to give up their house.
The lights are out, guess she had to take the kids home herself. Nothing new about that, his daughter worked hard, her husband in the army. Hopefully his love had left something in the fridge for him to nibble on until her return. Them never having eaten alone in many years. Visions of that same bride wearing her apron, cooking the first dinner they ever had in this kitchen. Those thoughts pushing aside the misty eyes, or maybe the cause of them.
On the table was an envelop. The trembling in his hands praying that this wasn’t some note saying she could take anymore, left for her cousin’s house out on the Cape. But it seemed too thick for that. Oh God, divorce papers? They hadn’t had a fight since last spring about him spending too much on the coat her bought her. A gift that she didn’t realize actually cam from the thrift store, but was so well cared for he couldn’t pass it up. She looked spectacular in it!
Easing the edges of the envelop back, revealing the letterhead of the bank that had held the mortgage, then the second mortgage. Setting the pages down, expecting that not only did she leave but he might need to be out by the end of the weekend, fear shaking his entire body. Grabbing his glasses to get a better glimpse at how he had failed, falling into his armchair, time to learn his fate.
It was pages of legal words, some he knew, others he was going to have to so that the lawyer thought he understood. But at the end, signed by the president of the bank himself was a handwritten note saying he was glad to have been of service and if there was anything he could do in the future, it would be his pleasure. The house had been paid in full, his wife had written the final check herself.
Edging around the corner, that brunette who kept him safe all these years, just like all those years ago across the globe. Tears in her eyes, She showed him a statement. Current balance $5,000, dated yesterday. How? When? She just turned and said she took the money he gave her years ago and put it in the bank. She didn’t touch it, just let it sit there. Never knowing that 30 years later it would be so much. She had hoped for maybe a trip to Niagara, maybe Florida when he finally put his shoes away and retired. She just hoped that it would be something fun for them.
Falling at the feet of his loving bride, his arms wrapped around her waist, giving into the joy and wonder that she continued to offer. Knowing he didn’t deserve her, but grateful she had chosen him. She gently lifts his face towards hers. “Let me take care of you like you have taken care of me all these years. It’s not a lot of money, it’s not going to change everything.”
Her words a seriously understated collection, she had changed everything. The gifts she gave him just continued to amaze him.
He walked her out onto the porch, sat her down on that same swing and looked her right in the eyes and asked her to marry him all over again.