This is the first of two stories written for the theme of "Webs". For me this was an uncharacteristically dark story. In re-reading it now for the first time since it was written in March of 2000 I find myself liking it and thinking of re-writing and expanding it. I may well do that. Let me know what you all think of it. It's a bit hard to follow as it jumps back and forth in time in the short space of 1000 words.
While I was mowing the lawn this afternoon I was thinking about my writing. That is one of the main reasons I like to mow, it gives me lots of time to think. I decided that I need to write some new stories and I'd love to get themes or ideas that the few people that read this journal would like to see a story about. So....if you're reading this and would like to see some new stories leave a comment with a suggestion or two for a theme or if you are too bashful to comment publicly then email me. I promise not to credit the suggestion without asking first.
June 25, 1999
"Hey Buddy, can you spare some change?" Jerry heard. He stopped and turned, looking at the deeply lined face of a man wearing layers of threadbare clothing.
"I'm stuck here in this town man. I just want to raise enough to get home and I won't have to live like this," the man went on in a quavering voice.
Jerry sighed, fishing out a dollar while he thought of all the real suffering he had seen over the years; the hungry kids, the pain of the men and women starving or wounded in senseless wars. This man, he thought to himself, doesn't even know what suffering is about.
None the less, he handed the man the dollar but as he walked away he added over his shoulder, "whatever your problems sir, I'd trade with you right here and now in a heartbeat." Midway down the next block he turned into the office of his doctor.
November 12, 1978
"No mom, it's too late for any of that. Kate's already filed for the divorce and nothing I offered to do seemed to matter to her," Jerry said wiping the tears away and looking around. He was sitting in the living room of his childhood home surrounded by comfortable memories of better times and it made him realize just what had happened.
"I won't say it was all my fault. We both made the decisions that led to it. I wanted to give Kate and the kids the kind of life we both wanted for them. I succeeded but in succeeding I lost them. I gave them a wonderful life but in failing to live it with them, I blew it.
Fighting back more tears, Jerry went on, "No, I'm letting her have everything. That's what I'm here to tell you. She wants me out of their lives so I'm going all the way out. I leave Monday with a missionary group going to Africa."
December 20, 1990
"Do you ever get used to this Mr. Carver?" the young lady standing next to Jerry asked.
He looked at her and then at their surroundings. He saw a young enthusiastic lady like most of the young people he'd worked with over the years except that there was a little something about her that he thought reminded him of himself long ago. They were surrounded by naked or near naked kids running loose, garbage piled everywhere, and squalid, ramshackle housing.
"Well Melissa you can come to accept that such exists in the world but I think that if you ever can just get used to seeing all this pain and suffering in such squalid conditions without feeling the injustice of it then you're no longer suited for this work." Jerry said, watching her look around and realizing she was feeling what he was and always had.
On the way to where they were staying when Melissa asked him how long he'd been doing this work and how he got started, telling him that she'd heard rumors about him from some of the others he decided that for once he'd share his story with someone. She cried with him as he told her about losing his family and about all the unanswered letters to his former wife over the years. He found himself feeling a little better having told somebody the whole story.
June 25, 1999
Instead of an examination room he was shown into the doctor's office and seated in a comfortable armchair. The doctor sat across the desk with his hands steepled together obviously having trouble with what he had to say. Jerry read the message in the doctor's body language before he said a word but sat quietly, waiting.
"Jerry," the doctor began and stopped. Jerry just waited calmly for him to go on. Finally, the doctor sat up straight and said, " There is no easy way to tell you this. The cancer has spread and there is nothing more medical science or I can do other than to ease your pain in the coming days. I would say you've got a month, maybe two. I'm sorry Jerry."
"I understand Doc. Don't feel sorry. I told you my story, you know I almost ended my own life 21 years ago so these two decades have been a bonus. I like to think in some small way, I made a difference."
"You may be angry with me for this but there was only one thing I could think of to do for you. I contacted your ex wife and was able to convince her and your children to meet with you so that you would at least know how they had turned out. I arranged for you to meet them at your son's house on July 4."
Jerry stared speechless glad now he'd never given up hope, realizing that after all these many years a prayer had been answered.
July 4, 1999
Trembling Jerry paid the cabbie and got out, looking at the house in front of him. He squared his shoulders and went up the walk. Kate who smiled, tears in her eyes as she searched his face greeted him at the door. She motioned him into the house and he saw a handsome young man standing next to a beautiful young lady, both smiling nervously.
"Jerry," Kate said quietly, "Meet your children, they turned out wonderfully and I'm sorry you didn't get to meet them until now."
July 29, 1999
The wind blew unseasonably cool on that gray July day. The gray haired lady and a younger lady and a man who were obviously her children stood hugging looking at a headstone and read:
"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn. Good and ill together: our witness would be proud if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our own virtues" (William Shakespeare)