Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: TRIP (10/18/18)
TITLE: The Veteran
By LeslieJean Anderson
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“Hello, Gentlemen. I’m a doctor, and I’m looking for a John McGinn who sometimes frequents this area.”
The men, all bearded and bundled in blankets, stared at him silently. “We ain’t no snitches, mister,” one of them finally grumbled.
“I know,” said the doctor. “He’s not accused of anything. A kindly relative is looking for him.”
One of them finally said quietly, “I’m John McGinn, but I have no kindly relatives.”
The doctor turned to look at a bundled man in his 70s with a salt-and-pepper beard and deep brown eyes fixed in a steady, sober gaze.
“Mr. McGinn,” said the doctor. “Could I speak to you over a cup of coffee?”
There was a silence, but finally John stood up with difficulty and followed the doctor to the waiting cab.
When they were seated in the restaurant, the doctor handed John a menu as the waitress served them coffee.
“It was really a dinner invitation, John – sorry I couldn’t invite your buddies too.”
John grunted and excused himself to wash his hands and face.
When he got back, they ordered, and the doctor got right to the point. “John, I’m Dr. Hall. Someone hired a detective to locate you and then called me to approach you with some information. It’s all good.”
John grunted again. “Since when do detectives call doctors to make contact?”
“The person who hired the detective is a family friend. My wife was her roommate in college.”
John put his coffee down. “Who is this person, and what do they want?”
“She’s a 70-year-old lady who says she invited you to visit her in Washington DC many years ago. Does that ring a bell?”
John leaned back in the booth. His sluggish brain reached through the fog of his past life… back… back… back fifty years.
He was twenty-one. She was seventeen – beautiful, feisty and rich. Their families had been neighbors in Detroit. At her mother’s invitation he’d visited her in DC, and they’d walked all around the capital city, falling for each other with every step. But he was a devout Catholic, and her atheist father had vowed his daughter would never convert to Catholicism. He took her overseas and John never saw her again.
John blinked sadly at the memory. “I wonder if she’s a Catholic now,” he said to himself.
“What’s that?” said Dr. Hall.
“It must be Caroline Adams. What does she want?”
“She has come into a small fortune and wants to make sure you are spending your sunset years in comfort and good health.”
The waitress appeared with a meatloaf dinner, and John sat back, closing his eyes for a moment.
“Are you ok?” asked Dr. Hall.
“Just saying a silent grace,” John said. “Homeless men aren’t all brutes. Tell me more.”
“She still lives in DC with her children and grandchildren. She’s a widow now, with money and time on her hands. Very active in her church and veteran’s causes. Apparently, she never forgot that you’d served your country in Vietnam and been wounded.”
“I don’t know. Does it matter?” asked the doctor.
“No, not really. Not anymore. Lots of children, you say?”
“Five sons and fifteen grandchildren,” said Dr. Hall.
John grunted again and smiled for the first time. “I’m glad. Very glad,” he said.
The doctor leaned forward. “John, she knows you are homeless now, and she wants to correct that. There are some fine veteran’s homes right here in Detroit where you’d get good care for the remainder of your life. She wants to create a trust for you, but she needs your permission. You don’t ever have to see her, if you don’t want to.”
John finished his meatloaf and sat back, stroking his beard, thinking.
Fifty years ago, he’d wanted to marry her and give her the big family she’d wanted. When he’d returned from Vietnam with an injury making that impossible, it had been easier to accept her loss to someone who could give her what he couldn’t.
Now she had her children. Plus, she was a Christian. And he had run out of options. Maybe this was all in God’s long-term plan.
John finally looked up and said, “Yes. Tell her she has my permission. And after I get settled, I’d like to return her long-ago hospitality.”
750 words This is a work of fiction.
Scripture: Isaiah 55:8-9. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways... As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways..."
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