Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)
TITLE: The visit with Mr. Hughes
By Tiffanie Chezum
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“What do you want?” an elderly man’s voice called from the darkened house.
“Mr. Hughes?” Lindsey called. “I’m with…”
“Well, come in if you got to.”
The young lady entered the house. The pungent smell of old cigars permeated the dank air; the muted light accentuated the melancholy aura of the home. “Hi.”
“You’re too young to be one of those wretched nurses,” the man grumbled.
The voice came from her left, Lindsey turned and tried to focus on its source. A silhouette moved against the drawn window shade glowing amber in the evening sun. “Is that you?” She stepped into the living room.
Mr. Hughes perched on the edge of his couch, every wrinkle of his age-wearied face accentuated by the dim lamp balanced on his cluttered end table. “Why are you here?”
“My name’s Lindsey, with the Senior Friends Services.” She moved closer.
“My doctor sent me home to die many years ago. The nurses give me my shots and make sure I’m comfortable.” He gestured toward Lindsey. “What can a little girl like you do for me?”
The young lady sat on a chair. “We help seniors find enjoyment in life.” She bit the tip of her thumbnail. “We can go to the library, or the mall, or a movie. Whatever you want.”
“Why? I didn’t ask for you.” The elder man leaned back into the shadows. “Just go back and collect your pay. I don’t need you.”
“I don’t get paid, I volunteer. Working for these organizations can help me get into the nursing program in college.” Her lip began to quiver. “If I go home now they may not accept me.” Her brown eyes locked onto the man’s blank stare. “You have a beautiful yard, we can just sit on the porch and talk if you like.”
“You sound just like my daughter,” Mr. Hughes scoffed. “Always wanting to do something.”
“Your daughter?” Lindsey queried. “Where is she?”
“I’m so sorry,” she gasped. “How? When?”
The man peered over the rim of his spectacles. “You are very inquisitive.”
Lindsey remained silent.
“After her mother died...” He hesitated, adjusting his glasses. “Megan hung around with the wrong crowd. She refused to listen to me; after a while she just didn’t come home.” His speech cracked and faded.
“Did you try to find her?”
“Why? She would’ve come to me...” He spoke in a restrained voice, “She’s dead, I’ve accepted it.”
“You have such gorgeous flowers.” Lindsey lifted the window shade. “Why don’t you want to go out and enjoy them?”
“I’m dying, I have nothing to live for.” He tugged the shade from her grasp.
“Then why have them?” she pursued.
“They were Ellie’s favorite.” Sorrow enveloped his expression.
“Ellie?” Lindsey asked.
“My wife.” He clasped his hands. “The gardeners keep them the way she liked. It’s my gift to her.”
“You must really miss them.”
Mr. Hughes nodded; no sound came from his opened mouth.
Lindsey stood and paced the floor. “Mr. Hughes, there’s something you need to know,” she blurted.
The elderly man’s brow furrowed.
Lindsey retrieved a locket from inside her blouse and pulled it over her head. “Here.” Her eyes began to dampen as she held out the charm.
His shaking hands caressed the pendant. “This looks like Megan’s.” He opened the amulet; the familiar picture of him holding his young daughter brought a rush of emotion. “W-w-where did you get this?”
“Megan gave it to me, she says it reminds her of better times.” A tear escaped from her welling eyes. “She didn’t die, she ran away when she found out she was pregnant…with me.”
“That’s not possible.” Mr. Hughes began to tremble.
“She thought you’d kick her out if…”
“I never would’ve,” he sobbed. “She’s my precious…”
“She just wants to see you again.” Lindsey sat on the couch beside the elderly man.
“Why?” he sobbed. “After all these years.”
“She needs you.” She put her hand on his shoulder. “Mr. Hughes? Grandpa?”
“What would I say?” He removed his eyeglasses.
“How ‘bout, ‘I’ve missed you.’ I’ll be there if you want.” Lindsey’s tears flowed.
“I never dreamed I would see her again.” He patted his eyes with a handkerchief. “Can you take me to her?”
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