As the waves make towards the pebbl'd shore Terrence Dunn Macro-Fiction

map As the waves make towards the pebbl’d shore

by Terrence Dunn

Published in Issue No. 239 ~ April, 2017

A cold Sunday in November. Snowflakes drop from the gray sky and swirl about. There is a long red brick building by the side of a country road. The interior is almost like a hospital, with nurses and medical equipment in the hallways, but not quite that institutional. It is a rehabilitation facility. The smells of illness and old age have been swept aside by a citrus fragrance. The staff is engaged and friendly. There are framed photographs on the wall, of Tuscany.

In one room is a tall, slender man. Age has made him a little gaunt. His hair is gray, but not completely. He sits in a chair, holding a newspaper with shaking hands. Every time I look at him, there is a flood of memories: playing on the beach, shooting baskets in the driveway, seeing his face in the audience when I graduated from college. Wondering each step of the way, even now that I am grown with my own children, if I have met his expectations, made him proud, even though he has never once suggested that is a requirement or that I have fallen short if it is.

 

-Hi! Do you remember me?

-Of course. Which one are you?

-Declan.

-My oldest.

-Yes.

-Where is Sean?

-He was here yesterday.

-Yes.

-Do you remember?

-Hmmm.

-No?

-Maybe. I’m not sure. Yes. He’s more enthusiastic.

-Who? Sean?

-Yes.

-More enthusiastic than who?

-Than the oldest.

-Me?

-Yes.

-Declan?

-Yes, you’re Declan. Sean is the enthusiastic one.

-Am I not enthusiastic?

-You don’t seem like you want to be here.

-Of course, I want to be here.

-Sean always seems like he wants to be here. But you’re busy.

-I’m never too busy to see you.

-You’re both good boys. Very proud of you. I used to worry about you.

-About us?

-You more.

-Why me more? Sean has had ups and downs, just like me.

-He could always talk about it. You never wanted to talk about it.

-Talk about what?

-What was bothering you?

-What was bothering me?

-I don’t know. You wouldn’t talk about it.

-Then how did you know something was bothering me?

-Hmmm. We went to the track once.

-Who?

-You and me.

-Yes. Yes, the Meadowlands. Harness racing.

-Yes. You had just started working in the City. Sean was very impressed that you were a lawyer in a law firm.

-He wasn’t with us, right?

-No. Just us. You had seven beers and drove home.

-You counted?

-I was worried. That something was bothering you.

-I quit drinking.

-I am so proud of you for that.

-Proud? Because I stopped doing something self-destructive and stupid?

-Proud because you did something hard. It was hard, wasn’t it?

-Yes.

-So, that’s it. Proud.

-I am enthusiastic about being here.

-You’re not, and I didn’t mean you had to be. You are not like Sean. You should not be alike.

-Ok. I guess.

-Do you ever feel like you’re underwater, trying to swim up?

-Yes.

-Do you know what I mean?

-Yes. All the time.

-Sean is the opposite. He feels like he’s falling.

-I would hate that.

-Me too. Hmm.

-What?

-I’m cold.

-Oh, here, have a blanket. Do you like it here in the sunroom? It’s nice. Do you want to go back to your room?

-People always say I am very laid back.

-Me too.

-We don’t show emotion. Enthusiasm is an emotional thing. But we don’t show it. That doesn’t mean we don’t have it, though. Don’t you think? We have feelings. Is it enough to have them? Or do you always have to show them?

-I wish I knew the answer to that.

 

A Sunday in December

 

-We met when she was 19. We dated for ten days, and then I went to Korea. I didn’t see her for over a year. Did I ever tell you about the present I left her?

-No. Let me adjust your oxygen tube; it’s falling off your ears. And let me move your wheelchair forward so I can hear you better. Are you not going to eat any of this dinner?

-I’m not hungry. I used to have a good appetite. What were we talking about?

-Mom. When you met. The present you gave her?

-Oh! I arranged to have a friend bring her a small Persian kitten from the local pet store. A tiny little thing, you could hold it in the palm of your hand. It was so sweet. She sent me a picture in Korea. I got it months later.

-I bet she loved that.

-I hated that place.

-Korea.

-Yes. I don’t like this place, either. I want to go home.

-You will. Keep doing your rehab, so you get stronger, and then you’ll be home. Everything will be back to normal.

-Normal? I don’t know if things will ever be normal again. Can you stay until I’m asleep? What were we talking about?

-A white Persian kitten.

-Ha! The entire way across the Pacific I thought about what her expression must have been when she saw it. Mmmmmmm.

-What’s that, Dad?

-Me.

-What about you?

-I’ve been a lucky man.

-Do you still feel that way? Even now?

-I’m falling asleep.

-Oh! Let me help get you in bed. I can tuck you in like you used to do for me.

-You never liked that.

-Liked what?

-Being tucked in. You said that was for little kids.

-Did Sean like it?

-Yes. Always.

-I don’t remember that. Why wouldn’t I like getting tucked in? Who wouldn’t like that? Sorry. Are you sleeping?

-Mmmmm.

-I’ll see you tomorrow.

-Wait.

-Yes?

-Come here.

-Yes, Dad.

-Still. Lucky.

-You? Really. Why?

-You are here.

 

A Sunday in January

 

-Hi, Dad. Hey! Hey, Dad? What’s wrong, what’s happening? Hold on. Here, let me pull the chair over here next to the bed so I can sit next to you. Are you crying? Why are you crying? I’ve never seen you cry.

-I don’t want to stay here. I want to go home. This is so embarrassing. I never cry. I can’t stop.

-I know. I know. If you keep doing the rehab and you get your balance back so you can get around a little, and can get to the bathroom by yourself, then we can take you home. Can you do that? Don’t be embarrassed; it’s just me.

-I don’t trust them.

-Who?

-The people here. They want to keep me here.

-No, they don’t. They want you to get better. That’s their job.

-I don’t want to die here.

-You’re not going to die here. You’re not going to die at all. That’s not even part of the discussion. You’re not in danger of dying. Okay? Do you understand that? We just need to work on the walking a bit more.

-You’re Declan.

-Yes. Yes.

-The lawyer.

-Yep. That’s me.

-You stopped talking to me your junior year in high school.

-I did not.

-You did. You didn’t ignore me; you just didn’t talk. I drove you to school most days, and you would stare out the window, with a ski hat on to try to straighten your hair out. I tried to start conversations, but you would just grunt.

-I don’t remember that. Why would I do that? I was never mad at you.

-I never talked to my father much. He was an uneducated man. Maybe we thought we didn’t have anything to talk about.

-We’re talking now.

-Yes, we are. It’s embarrassing getting old.

-Embarrassing? Why? Everyone gets old.

-You lose control of your body. I peed my pants yesterday. I couldn’t get anyone to help me get to the bathroom. It’s humiliating.

-You should never feel humiliated. You have always carried yourself with great dignity.

-Maybe. But that doesn’t help when you’re wearing a diaper. I feel weak. I used to feel like a strong man. In Korea, we marched for days at a time. I was frightened, but I held it together. Sometimes I thought this could be the last walk I make. There were shooting and explosions! I get that frightened feeling now sometimes like I’m heading to a far-off place. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I don’t want to get there.

-You’re not going anywhere, Dad. Except for home.

 

A Sunday in February

 

-Dad? You awake?

-Sean?

-Declan. Sean was here this morning. We just had lunch.

-Sean.

-Dad?

-Not Sean. Richie. Remember Richie?

-My uncle?

-My brother Richie. He was homeless when he died. I never understood that. He just gave up on life. How could someone do that? Wait, let me look at you. You’re the lawyer.

-Yep.

-Two kids in college.

-Right again.

-Declan.

-Yes.

-Were you mad at me in high school?

-Never. I’ve never been mad at you.

-Hmmmmm.

-What?

-Nothing.

-Is there something on your mind?

-You always say you’re not mad. But no one can never be mad. You should think about what or who you’re mad at.

-But I’m not mad. Really.

-I bet if you think hard enough you’ll think of something.

-You used to say that when I was a kid. I’d ask you a question, and you’d answer by saying, well, what do you think? And I’d say, I don’t know, that’s why I asked you. And you’d say, if you think a little harder, I bet it comes to you.

-Well.

-What? Well, what?

-I can’t think any harder. I am trying to think so hard now, trying to remember things, trying to remember places and faces and what I have done with my life. I hate the forgetting. I hate it. I hate it. And sometimes I wonder about what I did if it was enough. What if I close my eyes and that’s it, I go, and there’s nothing left behind? What if I didn’t make any difference? Where are you going?

-I’m closing the door. Then I’m sitting right here, right next to you. Now listen to me. Are you listening?

-Yes.

-I remember everything. Everything. I remember playing basketball with you in the driveway in Doylestown and you cheating on the score. And I remember you being Santa in the Bronx when Uncle Jimmy was already too drunk to do it. And I remember you walking Jeanne down the aisle, Jeanne who had no dad she could count on, and I remember the way she smiled at you. I remember every single dopey joke you ever told me. I remember asking you what I should do with my life and really wanting to know your answer. I will be your memory. You can let it go; I will always have it. And I will always be here, even if I can’t bring the enthusiasm. And we can sort through the basement of your past together, picking through all the loose items you have stored down there. We have all the time in the world. I have nowhere else to go and nothing else I would rather do.

-But you have a job. You’re the lawyer?

-I am the lawyer. But it can wait. Everything can wait. The world can wait for you.

-You’re Declan.

-I’m Declan. I’m your son.

-What month is it?

-February.

-Is it cold out? All the nurses are saying how cold it is.

-It is. Very.

-You were born in February. On a very cold day. I held you in my arms and walked up and down by the window, and it was snowing out. You fell asleep in my arms. And your mother was so tired but smiling. You looked at me. It was so peaceful. Declan.

-Yes. I’m Declan.

-Do you have to go?

-No. Never.

-I might go to sleep.

-Do do that. Go to sleep. I’ll stay. Do you want me to pull the curtain closed?

-No. Let’s wait. Maybe it will start to snow. We can walk by the window together.

 

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To the Editors: My name is Terrence Dunn. I enclose a short story for your consideration, entitled "As the waves make towards the pebbl'd shore." I am not young, but I am undiscovered. I've been writing for quite a while, although fame and fortune have eluded me. I published short stories early in the 2000's. One story, "A Tornado of Birds," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2002. http://www.nycbigcitylit.com/mar2002/contents/WTCFictionDunn.html I have been writing novels since. One novel, "Out Beyond the Verrazano," was published in 2012. https://www.amazon.com/Out-Beyond-Verrazano-Terrence-Dunn/dp/1105221547 I have turned back to short fiction because of recent events in my life. I wanted to tell this story. I hope you will consider it. Terrence Dunn Tdunn928@gmail.com 917-513-0159
  • Laurie Grossman

    I recently read a comment somewhere concerning the reasons we read literature (or was it the reasons we travel? – ah, memory) -in any event, it stated that we do so, not to experience the exotic, but rather the familiar- that common human experience that instantly reminds us of ourselves or our own lives. This story does that, evoking for me vivid memories of my own father, who, even when his body started to betray him, said (almost every time I saw him) that he was the “luckiest man alive.” Thank you Terry for this beautiful story.