Go Marvin. You Can Make It

Rushing to a picnic in his honor, Marvin the mouse falls into a deep hole. His sister, brother and friends come to rescue him.

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Marvin, the mouse, scampered as fast as his little legs and feet could carry him. He had to get to the barn where his family and friends waited. A picnic in his honor to celebrate his “coming of age” was about to begin.

Short of breath, he huffed and puffed as he ran across Farmer Jack’s field toward the barn. “Oh, why didn’t I resist the temptation to go to the cornfield this morning?” he whimpered.

At least a foot high, the grass and weeds in the field next to the patch of planted corn made it impossible for him to run any faster. Soon, a short distance past the tree ahead on his left, Farmer Jack’s ranch house and barn appeared.

As he attempted to pick up his pace, with no warning, the weeds and grass parted. Down, down, down Marvin went. After what seemed like an eternity, he landed with a thud at the bottom of a deep hole.

As he lay on his back, colored lights and stars danced before his eyes. It took a minute or two for him to realize what had happened and where he was. Still shaky, he turned over, stood, and looked up. His heart sank.

As tears trickled over his whiskers and down his nose, he looked down and murmured, I’ll never be able to get out of here. It’s too far to the top, Discouraged, he sat contemplating his dilemma.

“#”

Meanwhile, back at the barn, Marvin’s friends began to worry. Marcia, Marvin’s sister, turned to Marvin’s brother, “Melvin, I’m worried. Marvin wouldn’t be late for his own picnic. He’s been looking forward to this celebration for weeks. Where could he be?”

“I’m afraid something has happened to him. Let’s go looking for him.” Marcia announced to the group of Marvin’s friends gathered for the celebration.

“Let’s form a line and walk across the field, calling his name” Marcia added.

Melvin responded, “That’s a great idea, Marcia. Let’s do it.”

Marcia said, “Now, once we’re lined up, when I say GO, we all walk across the field, calling Marvin’s name. Wait a few seconds and listen for a response before you call out again. If you think you hear him, call out STOP.”

The group left the barn and formed a line, standing three feet apart.

When Marcia saw everyone was in line, she called out “GO.” They began to walk across the field, yelling Marvin’s name — five minutes, ten minutes, time ticked on. After walking for almost fifteen minutes, Marcia hollered, “STOP!”

Everyone rushed over to Marcia. Melvin asked, “Why did you stop, Marcia? Did you hear Marvin?”

“I think I heard something. Let’s all be real quiet.”

“#”

Down deep in the hole, Marvin thought he heard someone call his name. He listened, but all he heard was a bird chirping on a branch far up in the tree. No, you just imagined it, Marvin, ‘cause you’re scared, he thought as his whiskers twitched.

He stood and listened; his beady eyes trained on the open space above. Once again, he thought he heard someone call his name. No. There was no mistake this time. Someone did call his name; it might even have been more than one voice. He couldn’t be sure. Hooray. My friends and family must be looking for me. They’ll rescue me. No wait, Marvin, if they find you, how will they get you out?

Dejected again, he sat back down and stared at the dirt floor. He tried his best not to cry.

Up above the group continued their march across the field calling Marvin’s name. This time the group bunched closer together.

He heard them clearer this time. Marvin stood, looked up and hollered as loud as he could, “Hey. It’s me, Marvin. I’m down here in a deep hole by the tree.”

Hearing him, Marcia and the group stopped to listen.

Melvin said, “I think I heard him. Marcia, call out again. Tell him we heard him and to keep calling so we can locate him.”

“Good idea, Melvin.” Marcia began yelling again. “Marvin, we heard you. Keep calling out so we can find you.”

When he heard Marcia, Marvin looked up and began yelling, “I’m here. I’m here, I’m here,” repeatedly until his squeaky little voice was about to give out.

The group followed the sound of Marvin’s voice.

Marcia yelled, “STOP everyone. There’s a deep hole here. Marvin must have fallen in. Be careful. Let’s look over the edge and see if he’s down there.”

As Marvin looked up, he saw his sister Marcia’s face peeking over the edge, then Melvin’s face followed by the rest of the group. Everyone was peering down at Marvin.

He was so happy. He jumped up and down.

Marcia hollered down to him, “Marvin, are you all right?”

“Yes, I’m okay. But how are you going to get me out of here?”

“Don’t you worry, Marvin, we’ll find a way. Thank goodness, it’s still daylight. We’ll think of something.”

Then Marvin heard several of his friends, “Somehow, we’ll find a way to get you out, Marvin. Hang in there, buddy, Don’t you worry.”

Marcia and the group gathered a foot away from the top of the hole.

“Okay everybody, does anyone have any ideas how we can get Marvin out?” Marcia asked.

Deep in thought, no one said a word. Then Michael, a friend of Marvin’s, turned to Marcia, stood and raised his right front foot.

“Marcia, I think I have an idea. I remember seeing some rope all curled up near the barn door. Why don’t some of us go back and get it? It would take more than one of us to carry it. If we can bring it here, we could tie one end around the tree and drop the other end down into the hole. Marvin can crawl up the rope to the top. That would work, wouldn’t it?”

Smiling, Marcia responded, “Yes. It would. Thanks, Michael. Why don’t you and several others go back to the barn and get the rope?”

Proud of himself, Michael grinned. “We’re on our way, Marcia.”

Michael turned, picked four out of the group, and they headed for the barn. When at last they arrived at the barn, Michael looked around.

Mitch said, “Okay. Where is the rope, Michael?”

As he looked around, Michael replied, “Give me a minute. I’m sure it was on the left by the barn door. I hope Farmer Jack didn’t move it.”

“Right place, wrong side, Michael. Here it is on the right. If each one of us lifts one section, all of us together should be able to carry it back to the hole.” Mitch exclaimed.

They all gathered around the pile of wound up rope and attempted to lift it. “Oh man, this is heavy. I don’t think we’re going to be able to carry this to the hole.” Mitch offered.

“Wait here. I’m going back to the hole to get more help.” Michael said as he scampered off to where the others waited. Soon four more arrived to help. They stood around the pile of rope. When Michael gave the command to go, they did their best to lift it.

Huffing and puffing, “It’s no use,” Mitch said. “It’s too heavy.” He sat down with his head resting on his two front feet. Then he looked at Michael. “What do we do now?”

“Hey, I have another idea,” Michael said. “Why don’t we take the loose end of the rope and drag it across the field? The rope will unwind as we pull it. We can keep dragging it until the end of the rope is by the tree. Then we can tie it around the tree. All of us together should be able to do it. What do you say?”

Mitch stood and turned to Michael. “I think that would work. It will take some time to drag the rope across the field, but I think we can do it. No. I know we can. Thanks again, Michael.”

Michael grabbed the free end and headed toward the tree. Staying a foot apart, each one of the other mice grabbed onto the rope and pulled it along behind Michael.

As they progressed across the field, the rope unwound. Marcia and the rest of the group stood watching. When they saw what Michael and the others were trying to do, the rest joined and helped pull the rope.

Marcia stayed behind. She called down to Marvin to encourage him and let him know what they planned to do.

After what seemed like forever, the group reached the tree. All of the rope lay on the ground around the top of the hole. With Michael leading, Mitch and several others looped it around the tree and tied off one end of the rope. They were ready to drop the rest of it down into the hole.

Holding the other end, Michael called out to Marcia, “Marcia, we’re all set to lower the rest of the rope down into the hole. Let Marvin know so he can move out of the way.”

Marcia called down to Marvin, “Marvin, Michael is going to drop one end of the rope down the hole. Be sure to stand aside, so you don’t get hit by the end.”

Marvin looked up and smiled, “I understand, Marcia, thanks.” He flattened his furry body against the side wall out of the way of the falling rope.

Holding the free end, Michael began to lower it. The rope fell as they all helped feed it down into the hole. Soon it stopped. The entire length of the line was now hanging in the hole.

Marvin called up to Marcia, “Is that all there is? The rope isn’t long enough. It’s too far above the bottom. I’ll never be able to reach it.” He sat down hard with his head down.

Marcia called down to him, “Marvin, don’t give up. You can make it if you try. Is there no way you can climb up to the bottom of the rope? Look around. How about digging holes in the sidewall to put your feet in and climb up to it?”

“Okay. I’ll give it a try.” Trying his best to be brave, Marvin sniffled as he responded.

Marcia turned to the group, “He sounds like he’s discouraged. We need to encourage him.”

“Times creepin’ by, Marvin. It’s gonna be dark soon. You gotta try.” Melvin called down to Marvin.

The group gathered close to the edge. “Marvin, we know you can make it if you try. You’re our hero.”

Hearing their encouragement, Marvin smiled. He drew himself up as tall as he could, reached up, and began clawing at the side of the hole. As he kept digging, several roots from the tree appeared and stuck out into the hole. Marvin climbed up on one of them and began digging again, revealing more root limbs. He continued until, almost out of breath and strength, he reached the end of the rope.

Up at the top edge of the hole, Marcia peered down and watched Marvin as he progressed. She passed along his progress to the group who were waiting anxiously behind her.

“Keep going, Marvin. You can make it.” Marcia called to him.

Marvin paused, drew in a deep breath, jumped, and grabbed the end of the rope with his four feet. He held on tight as it began to swing back and forth. His heart pounded, and his tiny body shook.

As Marcia passed along the news to everyone, a cheer rose from the field.

Once the rope stopped swinging, Marvin scrambled up until he reached the top of the hole and freedom. Melvin and Marcia reached out and helped him onto solid ground.

As Marvin hugged his sister and brother, another cheer went up from the group. “You did it, Marvin, you made it.”

“You guys are the greatest,” Marvin responded, grinning from whisker-to-whisker.

Smiling, Mitch said, “Well I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. There is a picnic of grain and Farmer Jack’s leftovers waiting for us back at the barn. I even scrounged up some leftover cake for the celebration. Let’s go.”

“Yea” the group cheered as they all scampered back to the barn.

“#”

The next morning as Farmer Jack walked across his field toward the cornfields, he noticed a rope tied around a tree. The rest of it hung down into a large hole.

“Hmmm,” he exclaimed aloud. “I wonder how that got there. I must remember to come back and fill in that hole. Someone might fall in.”

“END”

Reedsy Prompt provided the inspiration (prompt) for this short story submitted August 30, 2019:

“Write a story using the song titled You Can Make it if You Try as your inspiration.” https://blog.reedsy.com/creativewriting-prompts

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Breathe, Cathy, Breathe

Brad’s dingbat wife Cathy enters many contests hoping to win the prize of her dreams. Their home is soon filled with items she won. Brad comes up with an idea to put an end to her obsession that backfires.

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“Cathy, what are all these cut up magazines, newspapers, and pieces of papers doing strewn all over our living room floor?” her husband, Brad, yelled across the room?

Still wearing khaki work clothes, Brad arrived home after working all day operating a crane at a construction site. Tired, he looked forward to lying down for his usual nap on the couch before dinner.

“Geez Cathy, there isn’t even a clear path to walk to the couch,” he added as he did his best to maneuver in between the piles of paper toward the couch.

Agitated and frustrated weren’t the words he would like to have used to express his annoyance at having to stumble through the cluttered mess on the living room floor.

Sitting on the floor in the middle of the mess papers, Cathy stopped cutting and lay down the scissors she used to create the piles of papers.

Wearing no makeup, her long black hair falling over her face, she looked up at Brad, brushed back the hair from her eyes, and exclaimed, “Hi honey. Guess what? I decided I’m going to enter contests. It’s my new ‘thing’. I’ve been searching through magazines, newspapers, and the internet for contest entry forms.”

Barefoot wearing an oversized white tee shirt that read ‘Save the whales’, she continued, “When I find a contest in a magazine or a newspaper, I cut it out, fill it in, and mail it. If I find one on the internet, I print it and do the same thing.”

Doing his best to hide his exasperation, Brad completed the paper obstacle course to the couch. He plopped his 245 pound body down and leaned back against the back of the couch. Bowed in the middle with a time formed indention the shape of Brad’s body, the sagging threadbare red velour couch had seen better days.

With his arms wrapped across his chest, he looked over at Cathy still sitting on the floor and expelled a sigh. With his head cocked to one side, he glared at her. “Cathy, you’re off on another crazy project again. Do you have any idea what the odds are of you winning one of those contests?”

In his mind he thought, “My dingbat wife is off on another crazy escapade.”

She looked over at him and childlike, responded. “Yes, I’ve read all about it, but I’ve got to give this a try. I’m sure I’m going to win big this time, Brad. I just know I’m going to win the prize I’ve always dreamt I would win. I bought a box of envelopes and stamps to mail in my entries. I talked to the man at the newspaper stand and he agreed to sell me his old magazines and newspapers for a nickel each.”

Brad sighed again. “Well what if all you win is junk you don’t need and will never use like radios or spa coupons, or a trip to Tahiti? In addition, if you’re buying outdated magazines and newspapers, most of the contests will have expired.”

He sucked in more air, let it out and went on, “Do you remember the time you got it in your head to sell old CD’s and DVD’s as coasters. You bought several hundred out-of-date CD’s from Staples. Then you painted multi-colored psychedelic glowing paint swirls on them and tried to sell them on the internet and to your friends as coasters. No one wanted them. You lost money and we still have three boxes of the things sitting in the attic. Should I go on about the other hair brain schemes you’ve come up with? This has got to stop, Cathy. Why don’t you get a job even if it’s volunteering for a charity? That would keep you busy.”

“For heaven’s sake, Brad. Don’t be so negative. I’ve already planned for those contingencies. I can sell the items on the internet and have a garage sale. There are many internet sites where I can list things for sale. I can list my garage sale too. It doesn’t cost much for the envelopes or the stamps. You’ll see.” She grinned as she picked up the scissors and went back to cutting out entry forms.

“I give up.” Brad sighed as he brought his legs up so his six foot four body would fit on the couch. He turned to face the back of the couch; his arms still crossed over his chest.

More exasperated than ever, he muttered, “I can see you’re dead set on doing this. I’m beat. It’s been a long hard day. I’m going to take a nap. Try to be as quiet as possible when you cut out the entry forms or better yet, how about fixing dinner?”

Not long after, the only sound in the room were Brad’s snores and Cathy’s scissors snipping away at an entry form in a magazine.

“#”

Several months later, Brad came home from work and opened the front door. Boxes piled one on top of another containing unknown items greeted him. Once he opened the door far enough to allow him to step inside, he wangled his way through another obstacle course to get to the couch. Each day for the past two weeks, more boxes appeared, but Cathy had not opened or disposed of any of them.

“Cathy.” He yelled as loud as he could.

Cathy rushed in from the kitchen all atwitter. “Brad, honey. I’m so glad you’re home. Isn’t this exciting?” She exclaimed in her high-pitched voice. Giddy with excitement, her thin five foot two body shook.

Brad looked around. He saw nothing but boxes with unknown content. Exasperated not knowing what she was excited about, with a sarcastic tone, he asked her, “Isn’t what exciting? What are you talking about, Cathy? And what is this obstacle course of boxes doing in my living room? I thought you said you were going to sell these on the internet or have a garage sale. When?”

She swept her right arm around the room, her right hand palm up as if she were performing a demonstration of some sort leaving Brad more confused than ever.

As she danced in and out of the stacks of boxes, she said, “Look. These are all things I’ve won so far with the contests I entered. Isn’t it great?”

“You won all this junk?,” Brad asked looking aghast not believing what he just heard.

Still wide-eyed with excitement, Cathy replied, “Well I didn’t exactly win all of it. I had to buy some stuff to get the entry form off the boxes like cereal and other stuff, but we’ll use it. It won’t be a total loss. You’ll see.”

Rolling his eyes, Brad looked up at the ceiling; his hands clasped in a prayer position. He whispered, “Oh Lord. What have I done to deserve this?”

Ignoring Brad, Cathy went on, “And there are more in the garage. Now don’t be mad, honey, right now there isn’t enough room in the garage for your truck. But, this is only temporary. It’s just until I sell everything online or in a garage sale.”

He turned to Cathy, “Are you telling me I can’t even park my truck in the garage? It isn’t bad enough that I can’t even get to the couch anymore. Thank god I can at least get to my bed.” He started walking to the bedroom to take his late afternoon nap.

Cathy’s face turned red. She looked down at the floor, “Uh well, I meant to mention that too. You can get to the bed; you just can’t get in the closet. But don’t worry, honey, I laid all our clothes on the couch. It’s only temporary, just until…”

“Yeah. Yeah. I know,” he said as he interrupted her.

Mimicking her, he continued, “Just until you sell them online or in a garage sale.” He turned toward the bedroom.

Cathy called after him, “Honey, you know I’ve always wanted to win a contest. Have faith.”

He stopped and turned to face her. “Well now that you’ve won, why do you keep entering?”

“Because silly, I haven’t won the prize of my dreams yet.”

Indulging her and out of curiosity, Brad asked, “The prize of your dreams? I didn’t know you had a specific prize goal. What is it?”

Giggling, she responded as she continued whirling around the boxes, “You’ll see when I win it. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

Too tired to argue anymore, he continued into the bedroom, shoved aside several of the boxes, laid down and fell sound asleep.

Cathy danced into the kitchen to finish making dinner.

“#”

At work the next day, Brad’s friend Jack looked at Brad as he dragged himself into the office for his assignment.

“Man Brad, you look like something the cat dragged in. What happened to you? Your old lady still driving you crazy with her new project?”

“Yeah. Every day for the last few weeks, boxes of crap she won in those contests arrive. I can’t even park my truck in the garage or get into my closet or nap on the couch anymore. She has filled the inside of the house with these boxes of junk. But she swears she can sell it all on the internet or in a garage sale. So far, she hasn’t sold one thing. I tell you Jack, I don’t think I can take much more. I love her, but she is such a dingbat. I can’t get through to her. I can’t make her understand the financial and other consequences of her foolishness like the boxes squeezing us out of our house. She has some fantasy about winning ‘the prize of her dreams’, as she put it.”

Deep in thought, Jack stood for a minute, his left arm across his waist, his right elbow resting on his left arm and his hand on his mouth. As he looked up at nothing, he tapped his mouth with his forefinger. Suddenly he lowered his hands to his hips and looked at Brad.

“Hey, Brad. I have an idea. You know that casino across town?”

“Uh, yeah. What about it?” responded Brad.

“They have slot machines. Take Cathy to the casino, give her say oh maybe fifty bucks and tell her she has to play the slot machines. Tell her if she wins anything at the slot machines, she could go on with her schemes; if she loses, she has to stop. You know the odds of her winning on a slot machine are slim to none if you only give her fifty dollars in quarters. What do you say?”

Brad stood staring at Jack as though Jack had suggested he allow Cathy to gamble away his last penny. He looked at Jack as if he wanted to say, “Jack, are you nuts?”

After a few minutes during which he stood riveted to the floor thinking, he turned his head and looked over at Jack. “You know, Jack. That might work. At first I thought you were nuts, but yeah, that idea might work at that. I’ll try it this weekend. Thanks.”

As Brad turned and began to walk toward the door, he stopped and turned around, “Oh no. Wait a minute, Jack. What if she wins even a dollar or less and loses all of the fifty dollars; I’m still stuck with these stupid costly projects.”

Jack stared at Brad while he paused in thought. “Good point. Give her a limit. I mean tell her that at the end of the evening, she has to come home with fifty dollars plus what she won even if it’s only a quarter over the fifty. That’s almost impossible on a slot machine. Today’s Friday. It’s the weekend. Why not take her there either tonight or tomorrow night?”

“Yeah. I like that. To stop all these projects that cost me money and drive me nuts, it would be worth losing fifty dollars. Thanks. I’ll present this idea to Cathy when I get home. I’ll let you know how it turns out on Monday.”

Brad left for home. During the drive home, he dreaded what he knew would confront him when he opened the front door. However, he also felt excited at the possibility that Jack’s idea might work and rid him of these projects and schemes forever.

“#”

When Brad arrived home that evening, he made his way through the maze of boxes to the kitchen where Cathy sat cutting out more contest forms. Since she ran out of room on the living room floor, she moved her project to the kitchen table.

She looked up when she saw him. “Oh hi, honey.” She looked at the clock.

“Oh my gosh. I didn’t realize how late it was. I need to start dinner.”

After dinner while they still sat at the kitchen table, Brad looked across at Cathy.

“Honey, I have a great idea. We’ve been cooped up so long in this house with all of these boxes of stuff, we need to get out. How about we go to the casino tomorrow night and try our hand at the slot machines?”

Her face a total blank, she asked, “What’s a casino and what is a slot machine?”

Brad let out a sigh then went on to explain in simple terms what a casino was and all about slot machines. He only mentioned penny, nickel, and quarter slot machines. He told her the easiest slot machines to win money on were the quarter slot machines.

He finished explaining everything he wanted her to know including his rules that if she lost everything she had to stop with her projects.

The idea excited Cathy, her large brown eyes opened wide. She clapped her hands. “Can we go tonight?”

Brad smiled, happy with himself for having pulled this off… so far. “Sure honey.”

Several hours later, they were on the road to the casino. Brad made a quick stop at an ATM to withdraw fifty dollars, which he would turn into quarters at the casino.

Cathy wasn’t the only one excited. The end to all of Cathy’s projects excited Brad.

“#”

Music blared through the ceiling speakers, melodic noises sounded as the tumblers in the slot machines turned and dropped. The ding, ding, ding whenever someone hit the jackpot followed by the clinking sound of coins dropping into a tray echoed throughout the casino followed by the loud excited utterances of those who won.

The emotional anticipation of people hoping to hit it big and the disappointment of those who lost all they came with charged the atmosphere.

“Boy it sure is noisy in here,” Cathy exclaimed as they entered. “Is it always like this?”

“Yep. These slot machines make a lot of noise. It adds to the excitement,” Brad responded as he walked over to the change window and exchanged his fifty dollars for five rolls of quarters.

He left the window and steered Cathy toward a row of quarter slot machines. She meandered down several aisles until she found the machine she wanted and sat down.

“Okay. What do I do now?”

Brad explained what to do, what would happen when she pulled the handle down and what it took to win. He broke open one of the rolls of quarters and handed them to Cathy. He showed her how to put the quarters in the slots and pull the handle down.

The tumblers began to spin. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. A lemon, a cherry, a cherry, a lemon, and a grape.

“Do I win anything,? Cathy asked her eyes wide.

Secretly happy, Brad responded, “No honey, I’m sorry. Maybe next time.”

This procedure continued until all Cathy had left were five dollars in quarters.

Getting tired of winning one or two times and losing many times, Brad said, “Why don’t you put all of those in the machine this time? You’ll win more money.”

Bored with this whole thing and tired, Cathy said, “Well okay.” She put all twenty quarters into the slot machine and pulled the handle.

The tumblers began to spin. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. A cherry, a cherry, a cherry, a cherry, and another cherry. Bells and sirens went off and lights flashed. People came running.

Brad couldn’t believe what he saw. The lights in the center of the machine kept blinking $50,000.

Cathy started to gulp and gasp for air. “Oh my God. I can’t breathe.”

“Breathe, Cathy, Breathe.” Brad hollered at her.

“Brad. At last, I’ve won the prize of my dreams. Now I can begin a new project.”

Cathy looked around. “Brad, Brad? Where did you go?”

A man standing near Cathy leaned over and said, “Excuse me lady, isn’t that your husband passed out on the floor?”

“END”

Reedsy Prompt provided the inspiration (prompt) for this short story submitted August 23, 2019: “Write a story about someone who wins a contest and the prize of their dreams.” https://blog.reedsy.com/creativewriting-prompts

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Wally, Is that you?

Becca is haunted by the memory of her murdered fiance. She continues to see him everywhere. The ending will surprise you.

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The day started out like a normal Monday workday. Not being a morning person, when my alarm went off at six a.m., I reached over and punched the snooze button. Ten minutes later, I punched it again. At six-twenty, I forced myself to shut off the alarm, got out of bed, and began the mundane ritual of getting ready for work.

Half asleep, barefoot, wearing the lacy pink nightgown Wally loved, I meandered from the bedroom down the hall to the kitchen. I filled a coffee cup with water, added an Earl Grey tea bag and placed the cup in the microwave. While the water heated, I dropped two slices of bread into the toaster.

As I stared at the toaster waiting for the bread to toast, memories of the mornings when Wally stayed overnight drifted through my mind. “How would you like your eggs this morning, my dear?” he would say in a fake English accent. I would answer, “Scrambled, dahling.” Sometimes I’d say, “Sunny side up, like your smile.” We’d laugh.

I loved his smile and his laugh. He had a deep bass voice.

The toast popped up jolting me out of my revere. Tears accumulated in my eyes and threatened to overflow. Once I had composed myself, I carried everything to the kitchen table, and sat down.

As I ate, more memories came flooding back. Wally and I enjoyed many happy hours together. We were so much in love.

We met at the courthouse where I work as a clerk in the Pinellas County Clerk of Courts office in downtown Clearwater, Florida. Wally’s profession as a bail bondsman brought him to our office quite often. I became his favorite clerk.

Then one day he asked me out for dinner. We dated casually at first. Slowly our relationship grew.

One warm moonlit summer night on the outside deck of our favorite restaurant on Clearwater Beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, he proposed. I accepted, and he slipped the most beautiful diamond ring I’d ever seen on my finger. I’ve never been so happy.

On that fateful night six years ago, as we left the restaurant blissfully walking arm-in-arm to Wally’s car in the parking lot, without warning a man with a gun appeared. He ran up to us, aimed his gun at Wally, and pulled the trigger. Wally fell. As the man looked down at my dying fiancé, he said, “Consider yourself served,” turned and fled.

I screamed, dropped down beside Wally and held his head in my lap. He looked up at me, and with his last breath whispered, “I love you Becca.”

Thanks to witnesses who videotaped the killer with their cell phones, the police caught, tried, and convicted him. Five years earlier, he had skipped bail on a burglary charge. Wally located him, served him with an arrest warrant, and took him to jail. He served part of his sentence before the State paroled him. He shot Wally as revenge and is now serving a life sentence in a Florida State prison.

I rose from the table, placed the dishes in the sink and walked back to the bedroom. I looked at the clock. “Seven o’clock, time to get ready and leave for work, Becca. You’ve reminisced about the past enough for today.”

Choosing pink slacks with a matching top, I finished dressing, arranged my long auburn hair and applied a touch of makeup. Ready to head out the door for the short ride to work from my apartment complex on Court Street, I left my apartment and rode the elevator down three floors to the basement garage. As I walked to my car, my heels clip-clopped on the pavement. The sound echoed throughout the garage.

“#”

“Morning, Becca” chirped Sadie in her usual high-pitched voice. Sadie is our perpetually cheerful resident ‘early bird’ who according to her anyway, gets up with the birds.

“Morning Sadie”, I replied in a sleepy voice and made my way to my desk.

I waved to my best friend, Libby. She had just left the break room carrying two steaming cups in her hands. I knew one cup must be my tea.

Libby and I became instant friends the first day she came to work here four years ago. Not long after, we ate lunch together and have continued the ritual almost every workday since. We discuss everything from politics to prior male relationships including all the ‘juicy’ details of course.

Libby stopped at my desk, handed me the cup of tea, and then stepped across the aisle to her desk.

“Thanks, Libby. I needed this.”

She looked straight at me with that all knowing look I had learned to recognize. After four years of friendship, she can read me like a book. “Don’t tell me. You had another flashback this morning about Wally didn’t you? You sound and look depressed.”

“I confess. Yes. I had another flashback while I waited for my toast. I remembered how much fun Wally and I used to have together doing even the littlest things like fixing breakfast.” I stopped, reached up with the back of my hand, and wiped away the tears that began to well up in my eyes being careful not to smear my mascara.

Libby sighed and said, “I’ve been trying to get you to go out dancing with me on the weekend for months. For heaven’s sake Becca, it’s been six years. You’re still wearing his engagement ring. You’ve got to move on, girlfriend.”

“You’re right, but I can’t forget him. Memories of Wally continue to haunt me.”

“That’s why you have to get out. You can’t sit in that apartment when you’re not working and pretend everything is the same because it isn’t. How about this weekend? Let’s go to that new restaurant and lounge that just opened on U.S. 19 below Gulf-to-Bay? I’ve heard the band is terrific. It’s become quite an attraction for singles. C’mon. What do you say? Let’s go.”

“I’ll think about it and get back to you.” Her phone rang ending the conversation.

I didn’t have any desire to go clubbing, but Libby had a point. It’s only Monday. I have plenty of time to think about it.

“#”

Lunchtime came. Libby and I left the office, walked to my car parked in the lot across the street and drove across the Memorial Causeway to one of our favorite beachfront restaurants.

Spring is the perfect time of year in Florida to dine outside. The weather is warm; not hot and humid yet. There is always a light breeze across the Gulf of Mexico from the west.

We chit-chatted all the way to Clearwater Beach wishing we could play hooky and spend the day swimming and lying on the beach getting tanned instead of going back to work. Wishful thinking.

After commandeering our tall wicker-backed chairs at the Tiki bar and lunch counter, we placed our orders and enjoyed our lunches.

After we finished, Libby got up and left to visit the lady’s room. As I finished my tea, I sat and mindlessly gazed out across the clear blue Gulf water. The sun glared from a cloudless blue sky reflecting off the miles of white sand. People from the north escaping the cold occupied lounge chairs and lay on blankets. The laughter of children at play on the beach and in the water filled the air.

Suddenly, a man caught my eye as he emerged from the water and walked across the beach. I almost dropped my plastic cup still half-full of tea.

I couldn’t take my eyes off him. My heart beat so fast I felt as if at any moment it would burst out of my chest.

Approximately six feet three inches tall, tanned, and muscular with a full head of dark brown hair wearing a tight black Speedo bathing suit, he looked exactly like Wally. I wanted to cry out. “Wally, is that you?”

When I saw him, I remembered how much I enjoyed resting my head on his hairy chest and snuggling up with him after we’d made love. I loved the fresh smell of him after a shower or after we’d been swimming. My throat tightened; it was getting difficult to breathe.

As I watched, the man turned and headed in my direction. OMG. He has a hairy chest just like Wally. I froze in my chair. Once again, I wanted to shout, “Wally, is that you?”

I thought, “Wake up, Becca. Your mind is playing tricks on you. It’s impossible. That cannot be Wally,” I breathed deeply and tried to turn away, but couldn’t.

Libby returned and sat back down in the chair beside me. She looked at me, reached over, grabbed my shoulder, and shook me. Loudly, to get my attention, she said, “Hey Becca. What are you staring at? Hello Becca? Are you all right? You’re as white as a sheet.”

As I watched, Wally walked up to the bartender and ordered a beer. He laid his money on the counter, turned and walked down the beach carrying his beer. I couldn’t do anything but sit and watch until he disappeared around the corner of a concession stand.

Libby shook me again. “Hey, Becca. Anybody in there? Earth to Becca.”

It took a few seconds to compose myself. “Huh? Oh. Yeah. I’m okay. Libby, you won’t believe this. You’ll think I’m hallucinating. I just saw Wally.”

Libby sat staring at me, her eyes half-closed. “Becca, Wally’s gone. You may have seen a man who resembles him, but Wally died over six years ago.”

“I guess I just wanted it to be Wally so bad that I imagined it.” I looked at my watch; twelve forty-eight. “Oh my gosh. I just noticed the time. We’ve got to get back to work.”

Sleep that night was fitful. Visions of the man on the beach mixed with memories of Wally haunted my dreams.

“#”

Libby called over to me, “Hey girlfriend, it’s almost lunchtime. Which one of our lunch spots do you want to eat at today? It’s my turn to drive.”

Looking across the aisle, I replied, “I’d like to go back to the Tiki bar and lunch counter.”

With an exasperated look, Libby looked up then down, sighed and exclaimed, “You’re hoping you’ll see that guy you think is Wally again, aren’t you?”

“Yes. I admit it. You’re right. I’m hoping you can see him too so we’ll both know I’m not crazy, that it actually is Wally. Can we please go there?”

“Well okay. I like their food and the bartender is kinda cute so I’ll indulge you.” She said and smiled.

“Oh, thank you, thank you.”

We’d been at the lunch counter for over half an hour, almost time to leave and drive back to work. So far, no sign of Wally. Libby chatted away with the cute bartender while I turned in my chair and kept my eyes peeled on the beach. A group of seagulls were squawking and screeching fighting over a piece of hot dog bun some beach goer dropped on the sand.

A deep bass voice behind me caught my attention. Quickly, I turned around and looked toward the end of the bar. Wally was standing there beer in hand. He turned and began to walk toward a group of people down the beach playing volleyball.

“Libby, Libby. He’s here,” I screeched as I grabbed her by her shoulder, spun her around and pointed in the direction he went.

“Look over there, Libby.” She looked out across the beach.

“What am I looking for?”

“The man I told you I saw yesterday that I’m sure is Wally. I heard his voice. He even sounds like Wally. He just left with a beer and headed in the direction I’m pointing. Don’t you see him over there by the volleyball game? He’s the tall guy in the black Speedo bathing suit. He’s holding a can of beer.”

We both looked as he disappeared into the crowd.

Libby looked at me with a pitied expression and said, “Becca, all I saw was the guy’s back. I can’t tell if he looks like Wally because I never met him. All I’ve seen are pictures. I realize you believe it is Wally, but it can’t be.”

I started to cry. “Libby, am I losing my mind?”

As she placed a comforting arm around my shoulder, she handed me a tissue, “No, Becca, you’re not losing your mind. You have to get out, have some fun, and meet someone to take your mind off Wally. Please promise me you’ll at least consider it.”

After wiping the tears away, I managed a smile and said, “Alright, I promise.”

“We’d better get going now or we’ll be late getting back to work,”

Dejected, I dropped my head as I rose from the chair, I sighed with disappointment as we left the counter. Then an idea struck me.

“Wait a minute, Libby.”

I ran back to the bartender, “Excuse me, but by any chance is the man who just bought a beer and walked across the beach a regular customer?”

He thought for a second or two before he answered, “You mean the tall tan guy who was just here?”

Excited, I could barely contain myself. “Yes, yes. That’s the one. Is he a regular? Do you know his name?”

“No. I’ve only seen him here once or maybe twice. More than likely he’s a snowbird on vacation.”

Disappointed again, I thanked him and ran to catch up with Libby sitting in her car with the motor running waiting for me.

“What was that all about?” Libby asked as she pulled out of the parking lot.

“I asked the bartender if the man was a regular customer and he said he didn’t think so. I was hoping he was a regular, and that the bartender knew his name. No such luck.”

As we drove across the Memorial Causeway heading back to work, Libby said, “Well in a way I’m glad he didn’t know his name because you seem to be latching onto another obsession regarding Wally. This weekend we’re going out; no argument. So get out your best sexy dress because I’m picking you up at eight o’clock Saturday night.”

“You’re right, Libby. I can’t go on like this. I’ll give it a try.”

“Great. I promise you won’t regret it,” Libby grinned.

Later that week, after begging and cajoling on my part, we ate at the Tiki bar and lunch counter two more times, but my Wally never appeared again.

“#”

Sure enough, at eight o’clock sharp that Saturday night, Libby knocked on my door. Even though I hadn’t worn the dress for some time, I managed to pour my five foot five body into a form fitting coral thigh-length dress. To complement the dress, I wore a matching necklace, bracelet, and earrings set with coral stones. I wore my hair up with bangs and a few wisps of hair in front of my ears.

When I opened the door, Libby whistled and exclaimed. “Boy girl, you’d better bring along a baseball bat to beat off the guys.”

“Thanks. You look great yourself. I like your hair down like that. That green dress with matching jewelry and shoes looks good on you.”

I grabbed my handbag from the sofa and followed Libby out the door to the elevator and down to her burgundy SUV.

When we arrived at the lounge, the band was in full swing. The place was filling up fast. We grabbed a table and sat down. I danced several dances, but couldn’t shake the feeling Wally was still alive.

As I sat and sipped my drink while Libby danced, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned, looked up and almost fell off the chair. It was Wally.

“Hello, Becca.”

Once again, I couldn’t breathe. There he was, Wally, smiling down at me.

The color must have drained from my face, because he said. “Oh I’m sorry. Did I startle you?”

Stammering, I replied, “Uh yes. I’m Becca. Wally, is that you?”

He grinned. “I apologize. I should have introduced myself. My name is Webster. I’m Wallace’s, I mean Wally’s twin brother. Didn’t he tell you he had an identical twin?”

My jaw dropped. As soon as I regained my composure, I replied, “Now that you mention it, I believe Wally did mention once or twice that he had a twin brother. Since Wally didn’t talk much about you and you and I have never met, I forgot he had a twin.”

Webster continued, “I couldn’t make it to Wally’s funeral. I was out of the country on business and unable to get back in time. Wally told me all about you. I’m in town on business and hoped I could connect with you. I looked up ‘Becca in Clearwater, Florida’ on the internet with no luck. Wally never mentioned your last name or where you worked. But he did send me pictures of the two of you together so when I saw you tonight, I recognized you immediately.”

He took me to dinner the very next day. We’ve been dating for several months now. Memories of Wally haven’t haunted me since. Webster and I are too busy making memories of our own.

“END”

Reedsy Prompt provided the inspiration (prompt) for this short story submitted August 16, 2019: “Write a story about someone who is haunted by their past.”  https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts

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