Wednesday, November 09, 2011

No. 29: All He Wanted

Note: I wrote the story years ago, around 1998 I believe and actually submitted it to be published. I always felt this was one of the better stories I wrote from that era. The two times I submitted the story, it was rejected. But here it is. Interesting fact, this story has more cursing in it than any of my other stories. More on that later.

I hated, loathed, and detested this job. I saw the ad in the classified section of the newspaper and it seemed like a dream job. Care for an elderly man and earn $200 a day. That’s $25 an hour for eight hours. I immediately applied and got the job caring for a cranky curmudgeon by the name of Oliver Gifford. He had fired his last three nurses and I was to be his next victim.

It was all simple stuff like cleaning house and getting groceries. Oliver was able to get around and take a bath or shower and could cook, although he would rather watch me do it and mock me. We were able to tolerate each other and that’s probably why he kept me the longest. However, I was getting fed up with his verbal abuse.

“You make the Goddamn shittiest tuna noodle casserole I ever tasted,” Oliver growled.

“Okay, fine, next time you can cook it your damn self and cut out the middleman,” I responded.

“I don’t know why I don’t fire your ass!”

“Do it! Then I can get a better job that doesn’t pay nearly as well. Now eat your casserole old man while I go vacuum your room.”

I walked into his bedroom and began vacuuming. I was nearly finished when Oliver came back here and witnessed me accidentally knock over an old umbrella stand. “Goddamn it! Are you a fucking retard?”

“It’s just an umbrella stand. I’ll just stand it back up,” I turned off the vacuum and bent down to pick up the umbrella stand. “What the hell is an umbrella stand doing in a bedroom?”

“You’ll probably just fuck that up, too you Goddamned idiot!” Oliver smacked my arm away and set it up himself. “Big screw up…”

I threw down the hose to the vacuum. “That’s it! I’m sick of this! You have been yelling and cursing and demeaning me for the last three months. I figured sooner or later you’d show a nice side of yourself but no. We still bicker, we still fight. You yell and insult me and I use all my willpower to not put rat poison in your coffee!”

“Listen, you little sonuvabitch…” Oliver began.

“No, you listen! I’m sick of this! If you want better casserole or a vacuumed room, do it yourself or hire someone else but I’m gone,” I pushed by Oliver and headed down the hallway. “I don’t know what happened to turn you into a bitter old man but get over it and stop taking it out on everybody else!” I left the house, slamming the door and leaving Oliver alone.

Two days later, I went back to Oliver’s house to see how he was doing and to return his house key. The front door was unlocked so I walked in and noticed everything was exactly as I had left it. I hurried through the hallway to the bedroom. I slowly entered the bedroom and saw Oliver sitting at the desk. The room was only illuminated by two small lamps mounted to the wall. Oliver didn’t even notice me coming in. I peered over his shoulder and noticed he was looking at a photo album which was open to a headshot of a black-and-white photo of a beautiful sparkly-eyed girl who looked about in her early twenties.

“She’s very beautiful isn’t she?” asked Oliver.

His voice made me jump but I still answered quickly. “Very. Who is she?”

“My wife...back in 1942. She was 21. I had to leave her to do my time in World War II but when I came back in 1945 we immediately got married and wanted to start a family. In 1950 I had to leave again for Korea but in three years I was back and we were more in love than ever.”

“I didn’t know you were married. Why aren’t there any pictures of your wife hanging up?” I asked.

“Because her pretty face, sparkling eyes and glowing smile are just constant reminders of our undying love for each other and how I lost her.”

“What happened?” I asked, kneeling down beside him and looking at the pictures.

“My wife was always healthy. She would run at least a mile everyday, rain or shine. I would make fun of her for it but I respected it. Every morning she would get up and run. Well, about four years ago, she went out running and everything was fine until a 1994 Chevy Cavalier hopped the curb. In an instant it was over because of a goddamned drunk son-of-a-bitch!” I could see the tears forming in Oliver’s eyes but he tried hard not to let it show. “The police called and I rushed to the hospital but, of course, it was too late. I overheard the doctors talking and they said from the type of injury and the way the car hit, it was a slow and extremely painful death.”

Tears rolled down Oliver’s cheeks and I stood up. “I’m...I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Nobody does except me and the kids...” Oliver closed the photo album, rubbed his eyes and turned toward me. “Why don’t you take the rest of the day off? I can handle everything around here today.”

“Are you sure?” not bringing attention to the fact that I quit a couple days ago.

“Yeah, go. Have a good day.”

I reluctantly left but at the doorway, I stopped and turned around. “I’ll see you tomorrow…”

“Good-bye,” he hollered back.

The next day when I arrived at Oliver’s house, I saw a police car and ambulance in front of the house. I ran up to the house but was stopped by a police officer. “Hold it there, son. Who are you?”

“I’m Oliver Gifford’s personal assistant,” I answered. “Is everything all right?” I asked even though I already knew the answer.

“I’m sorry but Mr. Gifford passed away in his sleep last night. A neighbor called it in.”

“In his sleep? So he died peacefully?”

“He was holding a picture of him and his wife, too,” the officer informed.

“Thank you,” I said and started walking away from the house. That was it. He just wanted to be with his wife and after four years of waiting he finally got what he wanted...and all he wanted.