Fred was a simple man. Whenever he made a promise, he kept it.
Fred stared through a half-cracked window in his room at the nursing home, sloshing tepid tapioca pudding from one side of his mouth to the other. Lost in thought, he barely noticed the attendant clearing his bedside tray.
"Done with dessert, Sir?"
"Yes, Ma'am. I've had about all I can stand. Say, do you have the time?"
"Sure. It's 12:30."
"Thanks. There's a lady comes in here to chat with me sometimes. Any visitors?"
"Not so far. But we'll be sure to let you know if anyone stops by."
"All right, deal. I guess I'll just get back to watching birds on the ledge. Funny how pigeons and doves look so much alike
"Yes it is." She added the last of his dishes to the cart, smiled gently, rolled into the busy corridor, and disappeared.
Hours seemed to pass without company. Or had it only been a few minutes? Fred shook his head and threw up his arms, sick of the questions bandying about in his mind.
I don't like it here. I want to go home
Where is this place anyway? Where's Nancy? And where in the world are Paul and Fred Jr.?
His thoughts sped forward in time, and back again. He saw his father putting wood on the fire before supper
and that time when he skinned his knee and Mom came running out with water and clean rags
His sister was just a baby then
As the sun began to set, Fred waited for dinner. He hadnt been feeling well, and the activity room was closed. Just then, a short, gray-haired woman came in and sat by his bedside. A doctor stood in the hall, taking notes.
"Fred!" she beamed.
"Well, hello! To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"I just came by to see how you were feeling."
"Fine, now that you're here."
"Do you remember who I am?"
"Can't say that I do, but I never forget a face
"So tell me about your day
" She held his hand and listened intently.
He sat up in his chair and looked off into a far corner of the room. His eyes lit up and a broad smile spread across his face.
"I remember summers with Nancy," he said. "Her hair was copper, you know? It glittered in the sun. We would hold hands and walk on the boardwalk, split an ice-cream soda
That was where I popped the question, tooright there at Coney Island, after riding on the Cyclone. Why, she was so excited, she dropped that ice-cream soda and screamed!"
"You still remember that?"
"Oh yes, of course. She was the love of my life. I told her I'd never forget her, no matter what."
"Fifty years we were married
"Are you sure it wasn't sixty years?"
"Sixty years! How old do you think I am, lady?" He laughed.
"Ice cream sodas haven't been the rage for quite some time
"Yes, yes. That's true."
"She loved to dance, that girl. We used to dance the night away, out under the stars in summer."
"What about your kids? Do you remember their names?"
"Kids? We never had any kids."
"Sure you did. What about Paul and Fred, Jr.?"
"Who? Miss, you're not listening. We never had any children."
"I brought some pictures
"Don't show me any pictures! I don't know who you're talking about. That's not me, you're mistaken."
Frustration crept onto Fred's face until he placed both hands on his head and sighed loudly. "I don't have any kids. Just me and Nancy
The woman turned on the TV and they watched reruns of old westerns. Fred loved westerns. He laughed sometimes, but sometimes he just looked sad and empty.
After a few minutes, she kissed him on the forehead and left, walking down the hall with the doctor.
The next morning, Fred stared through the half-cracked window, sloshing applesauce from one side of his mouth to the other.
"Here's your lunch," smiled the attendant.
"Thank you. Just leave it on the tray." His brow furrowed. "Say, do you have the time? There's a lady friend comes in to chat with me sometimes. Any sign of her?"
The short, gray-haired woman signed in at the front desk.
"Go right in, Nancy," said the clerk. "He's expecting you."
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