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The Old Man and the Rose

Author’s note:  Each year during the Christmas season, tens of thousands of elderly people are left alone.  Please take the time to send a card, make a phone call or stop by and visit with someone who would otherwise be alone during the holidays.  I wrote this short story during the holiday season in 1987, after witnessing a similar scene.

 

A soft breeze made the falling snow swirl against the slightly bent, ancient body.  He brushed a flake off his cheek and spoke tenderly.

“It’s snowin’ again.  They’re callin’ fer another three inches by tomorrow mornin’.  Shore does make things look a lot prettier than they really is.”

The old man drew a handkerchief from his pocket, blew his nose on it and carefully replaced it.  He pulled his coat closer around his neck and watched the snow fall.  It was coming down ever so softly, so smoothly.  The old man spoke again.

“Bought a new jack-knife fer Tommy an’ a new fryin’ pan fer Mary.  Got the little ones each one o’ them cube things you twist up an’ then try an’ git all the colors back on each side.  ‘Member them?  Rubbish cubes I think they calls ‘em.  Little Joey’ll probably have it all figur’d out in a couple secon’s, seein’ as he’s as smart as he is.  Should keep the others pretty busy though.  I told Tommy not to git me nothin’, but I think he an’ Mary is up to somethin’.”

The old man stopped for a moment to look at the snow covered trees, and then he spoke.

“The tree’s real pretty this year.  Got some of the ol’ decorations out an’ put on it.  ‘Member the little stuffed sheep you got that one Thanksgivin’?  I put it right out in front where ever’body can see it.  Tommy thinks it looks real nice an’ so does all the neighbors.

“Ol’ Harley’s dog Rusty finally died last week.  Been sick with some disease of some kind or ‘nother.  Harley went to feed him last Tuesday an’ he had passed in the night.  We buried him in the orchard under the big apple tree that little Joey likes.”

The old man pulled his scarf tighter and watched the snow for a few minutes.  The wind had picked up and was starting to drive the snow into every nook, cranny, crack and hollow it could find.  It was drifting against tree trunks and rocks.  And it drifted against the old man’s legs.

“Snowin’ real good now.  Looks like they was right ’bout them three inches after all.”

He glanced at the sky, full of heavy gray clouds and white swirling snowflakes and then fished a tarnished silver watch out of his pocket and checked the time.

“It’s gitting’ late an’ I best be goin’.  Promised Tommy I’d stop in fer supper tonight with him an’ Mary an’ the kids.”

The old man placed a rose on the snow.  The harsh red petals blazed against the soft white snow on which it lay.  He reached out with a gloved hand and brushed the snow off the gravestone.

“Merry Christmas,” he whispered.

© Copyright 1987 – 2017, L.D. Pierce, Piercehaven LLC/Ahead of the Curve.  All Rights Reserved

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