Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Reader (04/15/10)
TITLE: Blind Hope
By Marita Thelander
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She moved on to the others but glanced over her shoulder several times to observe Joseph. His wounded left arm in a splint, wrapped in clean white dressing, lay motionless beside him. Joseph almost lost his arm, but the efficient physician on duty that day saved the crushed limb. The left leg? Well, that had a different outcome.
Joseph heard Peggy pass by. He listened while she made her way down the row of metal-framed beds. He was aware of her presence when she paused at his feet. He could smell her. Soap-clean mixed with hospital-sterile. He imagined her to be a plain girl.
Lay perfectly still, Joseph thought to himself. He didn’t know why he wanted her to think he was asleep. His mundane existence had become a burden, an inconvenience. He didn’t want to bother anyone.
Lord almighty that hurts. Joseph grimaced involuntarily. He shifted his right foot towards the left side under the blankets in search of the offending pain. Nope. Nothing there. Just painful emptiness. Phantom pain. The ghost that haunts me in the night.
Peggy stood up straight when she saw Joseph cringe. With practiced stealth she moved towards him.
“You’re sneaky, nurse, but nothing gets by me.” Joseph whispered.
“Well, big boy, your bogus sleep trick wasn’t so great either.” Peggy reached up and touched his cheek with the back of her hand, “Hmm, a bit of a fever. When were you going to tell someone you were in pain?”
“When am I not in pain?” Joseph regretted his sharp tongue immediately.
“Touché,” Peggy dabbed his face with a cool cloth. She eyed a bundle of letters on his bed stand. “Looks like you need to get caught up on your mail.”
If Joseph could roll his eyes he would have. “Umm, in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m sort of unable to read anything at the moment…or ever.”
“I’ll tell you what,” Peggy wrapped her fingers around his injured hand. She noticed it was icy cold. “Let me get you something for pain, unwrap this arm for a peek, then I’ll read your mail to you. Sound good?”
She released his motionless hand and turned to leave before he could argue. A few minutes later, Peggy pulled a chair next to Joseph and cut the twine off the stack of envelopes.
“Mrs. Joseph Morgan,” Peggy eyed him for a response. “Your wife?”
“Well, there are several letters from her and one from… Louise Kindle.”
No response. Peggy chose to start with the letters from Mother. She enjoyed reading about Joseph’s hometown happenings, his family and neighbors. He left a home, a loving environment. Peggy simply left an existence. Born on the wrong side of the tracks, she joined the military in hopes of becoming somebody. She pushed the thoughts of a lonely, loveless, life aside and continued to read.
Spring has officially arrived here. Father mowed the lawn yesterday. His heart about stopped when he noticed the McKinney’s blue star banner was replaced with a gold one. I sat with Mildred all night. I write this letter in blind hope that you are well. Every night I kneel and pray that God would end this horrific war and bring our sons, husbands, and brothers home.
We are all well here. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, Son.
Joseph squirmed, but not from physical discomfort. What was it Mother said about blind hope? If only she knew.
Morning light streamed through the windows. One letter remained. Peggy unfolded the single page of stationary. Her heart sank when she quietly scanned the simple words:
I thought I was strong enough to wait for you, but I’m not. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.
Joseph cleared his throat. “When I left, her last name was Carson, not Kindle. You don’t need to read it out loud. She wouldn’t want me now anyway.”
I would. Peggy’s heart cried out in compassion. She stared at the words of love and concern from his mother. “Your family sounds lovely. You’re a lucky man.”
“Blessed,” Joseph whispered. “Mother would say blessed.”
“You are blessed.” Peggy closed her teary eyes and mentally stuffed the ugly thoughts of childhood deep. Oh to be blessed.
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