Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ZEST (10/01/15)
- TITLE: Nick of Time
By Donna Powers
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So did Nick.
Maybe it’s a cliché that each new widower eventually is inundated by the attention of unmarried ladies, and Pine Woods was no exception. From the quiet Ben Goode to irascible Jose Lopez; to boisterous Archie Logan; they each got their share of casseroles and scarves, and all of them got more attention than any were ready to receive.
But Nick attracted more attention than all of them put together. For one thing, he was always dressed to the nines. While most of the residents shuffled out in their bathrobes to meals, Nick always sported tailored suits, with a peacock blue handkerchief in the left vest pocket. His eyes sparkled with their own fire. His greying moustache seemed to have a personality of its own: when Nick smiled, that moustache came alive with joy.
Nick was an inveterate flirt. He not gave that mustachioed smile to each lady on the unit; he stooped to kiss each wrinkled hand. He worked his magic on them all - until even cranky Selma Daughtry smiled.
I couldn’t help but notice him, because he was also courtly with me, as I gave him his pills every morning.
“Hello, lovely nurse,” he greeted me. “How are you feeling, today?” He made it sound as if he truly cared, and my days somehow seemed lighter.
For a few months, the unit seemed more alive. Each of the ladies tried to get Nick to focus his attention solely on her, but he seemed to enjoy being the head Romeo. Nick’s room was full of cakes, jellies, embroidered cushions and samplers. Appointments to the beauty parlor were increasing. All of the ladies hauled out their loveliest dresses for breakfast, and each of them hung on his words as if he were the smoothest thing since the butter that Gemma Thorkelson had given Nick, for his birthday.
“He is wonderful, isn’t he?” purred Gemma. Her eyes were filled with a sparkle I hadn’t seen since her Harry died, last year. When I agreed, she concluded, “I can’t explain it; he just puts that extra ‘something’ into our lives.”
Jose followed Gemma in the medication line, and he was in his usual mood. “He ain’t nothin’ special,” Jose grunted. “Just preens like an old peacock, as far as I’m concerned.”
Of all the ladies Nick spent time with; none was more transformed than Julie Hansen. Julie had been silent for years; Alzheimer’s’ had stolen her voice and also the joy she’d once found in playing the piano. Toward the end of the summer, she’d lost much of her appetite. Julie seemed lost; her eyes turned so distant, until Nick began sitting next to her during our afternoon piano concerts. He gazed into her empty eyes and kissed her withered hand; no differently than he did with the other ladies. But Julie seemed slowly revived by his charm: eventually, the expression on her face became less distant. She began to eat, and to smile – and the beauty that had seemed buried on her face began to bloom, once again.
Just as autumn slipped away and the snow began to shroud all those neon leaves, Nick’s son decided he wanted him to come and live with him; and our resident Don Juan was soon gone. The sky that day was as grey as the subdued spirit of the unit.
But, one day not long after that, I noticed Ben: stiff and uncomfortable in a new suit, and Archie wearing a bright red bandana in his shirt pocket; sporting it as if it were a lure. The single ladies weren’t biting, yet, but I had no doubt they soon would.
And, that afternoon, I saw Jose wheel over to Julie’s side at the piano concert. His hair was freshly barbered, and I couldn’t help but notice the beginnings of a moustache. He cleared his throat, kissed Julie’s hand, and smiled. She smiled back.
It was going to be an interesting winter.
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