Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Once in a Blue Moon (01/06/11)
TITLE: Too Young
By Jody Day
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The cold was not good for my violin. I pulled up to the sign behind his pickup to find Barnes perched on a lawn chair underneath the faded giant cup of coffee with welcoming, painted steam still floating above. He was every day of 90.
“Mr. Barnes? I’m Chip Jenkins, the violinist you hired. I’m ready, let’s get you out of this cold,” I said, my voice shaking in the cold.
“I hope you are practiced up. She’ll be here any minute,” he said, his dentures chattering.
“Here? You don’t mean I’m to play out here in the snow?” I asked, trying not to sound disrespectful.
“Why, yes, of course. We made a date for tonight 60 years ago. I thought we’d be sitting in the Cricket, but as you can see it’s gone,” he said.
As I said, a starving musician doesn’t turn down a job. I was running seriously low on fuel so I didn’t dare leave the engine running. I was counting on the pay for this gig to buy gas.
“Well, let’s sit in my car until she gets here,” I said. I was sitting in my car with an old man I didn’t know, snow blowing hard against the windows, fingers freezing.
“So, someone is coming, I can play the song and then leave, right?” I guess that might have sounded a little irritated, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“I can still remember feeding coins into the juke box, playing Nat King Cole’s ‘Too Young’ over and over. Her parents wouldn’t let her marry me. I don’t blame them because she was only 14 and I was 19. The Cricket Café was our meeting place. Boy, she sure loved fries, ketchup and Tabasco sauce. You never forget your first love, it only happens once.
But this night she cried. I was heading off for the army the next day. She said, “I had a dream last night, Ben, that we got married in 2011. If I don’t ever see you again, meet me here this same night in 2011. I’ll be here, I promise.”
I wrote her dozens of times, but I’m guessing her parents kept the letters from her. When I came home after the war she had married off to Phoenix. I heard she was widowed a few years back. I married too, and settled in Dallas, but I’ve been widowed these thirty years. I’m here to meet my Helen, I know she’ll be here,” he said. I don’t know if his eyes watered from the cold or emotion, but they were shining to beat the stars.
As I was beginning to worry that she might not come, a van with the Pecos County Retirement Home logo passed us and parked in front of my car.
“There she be!” he shouted and got out of the car and beat me to the van.
“Mr. Barnes?” the orderly asked. “Well, I don’t believe it, she was telling the truth! I’m not letting her out of the van, though, it’s too cold.”
“Please, just open the door for a minute. I have a song for her,” he said
“Just for a minute,” the orderly said and slid back the van door.
Mr. Barnes put his hand over his heart and took a sharp breath when he saw her. She had tears streaming down her soft, wrinkled face. She was completely bundled up, you could only see her twinkling eyes.
I played “Too Young” while the two old lovers gazed into each other’s eyes. When I finished Mr. Barnes got into the van and they drove away. The gas light started blinking on the way home and I realized that I hadn’t been paid. But that’s ok, I’m playing at the wedding next week and Mr. Barnes promised to pay me double.
It’s still snowing but I’m still warm all over from standing in the snow under the Cricket Café sign, playing “Too Young” for the young at heart.
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