Writing Prompt 7.7.8
While you are volunteering for your favourite charity, a man walks up to your table and hands you $1,000,000 in large bills. He walks away, weeping, but never says a word. Tell his story.
Time had slowed so much over the past six months that Early McCallahan had difficulty at times determining what day it was. Tuesday, Friday, Sunday- did it really matter anymore? His beloved Ava was dead either way.
They had married young. Early was 18 and about to head off to Europe in the next few months to fight in the war. Hitler had effectively put an end to Early’s plans of college and providing for his family. He was scared, of course- wasn’t everyone? But that fear fell to the wayside when he laid eyes on 16-year-old Ava Marie Munroe. Tall, blonde hair, striking blue eyes, and a figure whose curves sent his heart on a mad roller coaster ride. He was smitten in an instant, though Ava- and her stern father- took more convincing.
They were married in a small civil ceremony a few months later, just days before Early was about to board the ship that would take him across the Atlantic. There were many tears, and Ava gave him a monogrammed handkerchief to keep on his person while he was away,. That favour kept him safe while he was gone, and a year later he was back in her arms, wounded but alive. He never left her side after that. Four boys and two girls later, they were happy and content with the hand life had dealt them.
Then the lump appeared. It seemed to rise overnight, and concerned, Early accompanied Ava to her doctor, who immediately referred her to a specialist. Cancer. The word alone tore through Early’s soul. The tumors ate away quickly at his bide and within weeks she succumbed to the disease.
Even with their children at his side, Early felt more alone than he had in his entire life. He had a good number of years in Ava’s company, but it seemed all too short. He went through the motions of the funeral, the post-funeral reception, and condolences from family he had not seen in ages until he was so weary he could barely hold his head up. The home he and Ava shared felt foreign to him, as if he no longer belonged. The smell of her perfume lingered on everything, and for the first time since his wife passed away, Early allowed himself to cry.
He stayed in the house, forcing himself to live with the knowledge that he would be alone until he too succumbed to Death and would be with Ava again. He was never a very religious man, but the thought of facing his remaining days alone was too much for his already-frail state and he turned to the church. He found a measure of peace within the old, musty pews of St. Andrew’s and its parishioners, but it was not enough to take away all the pain. Early had received a large insurance payment from the life policy he had on both he and his wife, but he refused to spend the money on himself, instead living off his meager Social Security stipend. It kept food on the table and clothes on his back, and he would ask for nothing more.
Early sank deeper and deeper into a depression, sometimes forgetting to eat, then forgetting simple hygiene. His children had already moved on, engrossed in their own families' workings to worry about their father. The days began running together as he spent his time watching television infomercials into all hours of the night, preferring to sleep on the weathered sofa than the bed he spent so many nights with Ava. She dominated Early's thoughts, the sound of her laughter ringing in his head as he thought back to happier times, before she had gotten ill. The smile on her lips as she watched her children playing on the gloor by her feet, the entire family gathered aroud the Thanksgiving table and saying what they were grateful for, the flush of her skin after they made love. He could imagine the feel of the smooth skin of her face, the press of her lips against his own, and the tears came again. He was tired of being alone. He was tired of always missing her. He was tired of hearing people tell him he'd get over it. It's not something he wanted to get over, for that would mean allowing her memory to slip away.
The television was on and the newsman was at a local park, talking about a group raising money for abused and disadvantage children. Something about the story made Early take pause and listen. He suddenly knew what he had to do. Ava would want him to do it. Early stood slowly and smoothed the wrinkles from his pants, noticing the stains on them but not caring. He smoothed his wispy grey hair the best he could, then threw on a hat. He grabbed his wallet and keys and drove slowly to the bank. The manager was stunned when Early stated he wanted to close out his account, but complied, and thirty minutes later was handing the elderly gentleman a thick envelope. Early held it close. It was his entire life savings, every penny he had pinched, saving it for a rainy day, as he liked to tell Ava. He knew she wanted to travel overseas, but the time was lost for that. As he left the bank, he smiled slightly. He knew she was with him, approving his decision. He could feel her presence. He made his way to the park, feeling the sum on his wrinkled face and loving the sensation. Ava would have been out in the garden on a day like this, coaxing her flowers to grow and tending them as carefully as she had their children.
The park was crowded, but Early didn't mind. He listened to the children laughing and playing, parents chattering as they watched their offspring, even dogs barking. His step became lighter as he walked toward the long table where a pair of young women sat, handing out pamphlets, thanking people for their donations, and smiling and laughing They paused as he walked up to the table, the smiles still present on their faces.
"Hullo, sir," the brunette chirped, "would you like a pamphlet on ways you can help at-risk youths?" Early couldn't say a word, only pulled his hat from his head. The young women looked exactly as Ava had when he saw her for the first time, only with darker hair, and his felt his heart breaking anew. His hand shaking, he reached into his jacket and pulled out the envelope from the bank. He held it out to the woman, who took it, a puzzled look on her face. He patted her hand softly and with fresh tears tracing paths down his cheeks, he turned and walked away.