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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Blue (10/08/09)

TITLE: Just a Friend
By Marita Thelander



Frank stared at the monitor that flashed information he couldn’t decipher. He mostly wanted to avoid the gaunt, pale face of his lifelong friend. His work-worn hands were stuffed into the pockets of his crisp go-to-town Levis.

The nurse busied herself with routine tasks while Frank’s mouth worked on the corner of his shaggy mustache, a nervous habit he developed since he gave up his Copenhagen.

“Are you his brother?” the middle-aged woman maneuvered around her immobile patient.

“Naw, just a friend,” Frank cleared his throat before continuing the conversation. “I promised his wife I’d come sit a spell so she can get some rest.”

“That’s nice.” She squirted hand sanitizer into her palm.

“Ed’s a good guy,” Frank nodded towards the bed. “He’s gonna be alright, isn’t he?”

“I’m really not allowed to disclose information if you aren’t family.”

Frank could feel the sting of tears and looked away. “Well, I suppose I can wait until his wife gets back.”

The nurse hesitated to leave.

Frank swiped at the lone tear before it trickled into facial hair. “It’s just that I know him better than his woman does. We’ve been friends through three marriages each.” Frank chuckled at that fact. “Can’t neither of us stay married.”

“How long have you been friends?” a motherly smile warmed her weary countenance.

“Since first grade, Ma’am.” The mention of this fact caused Frank to stand a bit taller. “We go way back.”

“I can tell you this; he seems to be a fighter. His cardiologist said it’s a miracle he’s alive. He has a ways to go, but right now everything looks better than anticipated.”

Frank’s lip quivered, “Thank you, Ma’am.”

Finally alone, Frank scooted a chair close to have a chat with his buddy.

“Hey, Ed, you realize you done gone and messed up our huntin’ season again? It got me thinkin’ ‘bout the time you said you checked the RV out and we nearly froze to death. No water, no propane, battery barely charged to run the lights. What was it that night, 29 degrees? I thought we were gonna have to share body heat to survive,” Frank snorted. “We wasted our first day huntin’ ‘cause we had to break camp and head to town to fix everything.”

Frank continued to reminisce out loud. “Remember when I had my appendix out in first grade? That’s the only time I’ve been in the hospital, knock on wood. When I came home, you’d come over after school and sit on my bed and play checkers with me.

“Do you remember that time in high school I hurt you somethin’ awful during football practice? You were on the opposite team for scrimmage and were gunnin’ for me. You wanted to sack me bad. I barely got the ball off to the receiver when you nailed me. I pulled my knee up just as you connected with me and got you square in the privates.” Frank rubbed his beard. “Your Mama wasn’t too happy with me, somethin’ about wantin’ grandkids someday.

“We both got jobs after high school at the mill. Remember all the brawls we’d get in at the bar? You were a mean drunk, Ed. I’d have to pull you outta there before you got in serious trouble. Work and drinking seemed to be all we did those days. No wonder our wives left us.

“We had some good times, Ed, but we had some screw ups too. You got a good woman now. Patsy’s changed since she got religion. Remember all the terror we caused in Sunday School? Don’t know why we did that, I liked Sunday School.” Fred’s tone softened, “Do you remember the time ‘ol Sister Ethel prayed the sinner’s prayer with us? What were we…about nine or ten? Patsy’s no saint like Sister Ethel, but I see somethin’ different. You’ve changed some, too. Did you say that prayer again?”

After a long quiet spell, Frank picked up the one-sided conversation. Things weren’t any different when Ed was conscious. Frank had always been the talker…the leader, and Ed the quiet follower.

“Why’d we quit church? Did I lead you astray? I know you’ve been to church with Patsy. You like the new preacher? He was here last night, he seems alright. I told him stories about us. He called me a true blue friend.

“I suppose I’ll follow you this time,” Frank fought tears. “When you get outta here, I’ll go to church with you. Okay?”

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This article has been read 639 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 10/15/09
It's so rare to read about men and their close friendships. This is so funny and tender. Good job! I love true blue friendships. There is nothing like them!
Charla Diehl 10/19/09
I truly enjoyed Frank's walk down memory lane with Ed--tender moments exposed gave me warm and fuzzies for these guys. Great job.
Betty Castleberry10/21/09
You captured the closeness of these two friends very well. I enjoyed reading this knowing it was a true story. Thanks for sharing.
Ruth Brown10/21/09
A real portrait of friendship.
Well done.
Kimberly Russell10/21/09
Mari- you had me teary BEFORE I even read this (from your explanation). This was a really terrific story, well told, and kept me hooked in. My condolences on the gentleman from your church.
Joshua Janoski10/26/09
This peice has it all. It has a great character. It is funny and heart wrenching at the same time. I'll admit that I laughed at the part about him getting nailed in the privates, and the ending lines killed me. Then I read the other comments that say this is a true story, and it made it that much more impactful.

Thanks for sharing, Mari. This was great.