THE LONG ROAD

Recovery, by Rich Paschall

Bill was to report to County Hospital at 10 AM so he had to hustle through his morning routine, if you could call it that.  He slept until the sun woke him up, so he barely had an hour to wash his face, shave, get dressed, make coffee and leave the house.  In his usual haphazard fashion, Bill accomplished his tasks on time.

From the kitchen window he spied clouds that might roll in from the west, but nothing could erase the shine from this day. A goal had been met and Bill would have the honor of walking the winner across the finish line.  But despite his bright attitude, Bill grabbed for the large golf umbrella on the way out the door.  No, Bill did not play golf.  He just never knew when there might be a need for such a large umbrella.

Clouds rolling in

Everyone seemed to know Bill when he arrived at the hospital.  He had been making regular visits there for months, and chatting up the nurses and interns along the way.  Now he only had time to smile and wave as he made his way to the fifth floor.

In room 502 a nurse was assisting the patient in getting ready to leave the rehabilitation floor to head home.  Slowly he dressed, needing some help from others as he went.  When he was all set, the nurse helped him to stand, and after a minute on his feet, to sit in the wheelchair.  His personal items were stuffed into two plastic bags marked “Patient Belongings” and a small plastic tub, which was used a few times for washing up, was filled with a small half used tube of toothpaste, a cheap toothbrush, a small unopened shampoo bottle, a half bottle of mouthwash and some hand lotion.

The patient, a retired Industrial Planner from the Midwest, had arrived rather unceremoniously  three months earlier.  Paramedics brought him in after collecting him from the floor of his screened in patio.  A neighbor had spotted him and another neighbor arrived with his first name.  A medical investigator actually discovered his last name by visiting the home where he was found and looking on the mailbox.

Now the entire staff on the fifth floor of County Hospital knew Harold.  Although he said very little due to his condition, nurses and therapists liked to stop in to have a little chat.  For the first month, Harold could say nothing in return.  As time progressed, he began to react more to the comments with a nod, a smile, or even a word or two.

He had spent the first week at County down stairs in ICU.  For the second week he did little but lay in bed in 502.  Sometimes someone would turn on the television, but it was doubtful Harold was aware of it most of the time.  After that, the plan was put in motion.  It was not the plan of the supreme Planner, but one on which the rest of his life depended.

It took many helpers to carry out the plan for Harold.  A physical therapist was brought in to get Harold back into motion.  He worked his arms and legs and soon began to prompt the patient on which action to make.  When he was quite ready, the therapist would take him to the activity room where Harold would sit and roll a large ball across the room to the therapist who would roll it back.  After that there was standing and walking.  By the third month, Harold moved to the stairs.  It was a narrow set of three with railings on both sides to grab.  He went up to the top, then down the other side.

As movement improved, Harold was taken to a room set up like a kitchen.  There he would practice opening jars and bottles and sometimes even cans.  It was a struggle.  In the third month he would prepare his own lunch.  It was soft foods which he sometimes could not eat.

From week three a therapist came to teach swallowing.  Weeks of exercises lead to attempt at swallowing thick liquids.  Water and coffee were no good unless thickener was added.  Harold looked at the therapist with a bit of disdain every time she poured thickener into a good cup of coffee.  In truth, he could barely swallow the liquids when his time at County was up.

Another therapist worked on speech.  Harold found it strange that someone must teach him how to shape his mouth and exercise his throat for sounds in order to say words again.  It was not perfect after three months, but at least he could speak and be understood.

Bill arrived in 502 with all of the enthusiasm of a relative welcoming someone back from the dead.  His smile was even larger than the patient’s, who still was working on his facial muscles and reactions.

The long road home

“Ready to break out of here?” Bill said with a laugh.

Harold nodded slowly.  He actually was not sure he was ready, but he was certainly glad to be going home.

“OK then, I guess we will just roll you out of here, since they will not allow you to race through the halls,” Bill blurted out, amused with himself.

A member of the hospital staff rolled the patient to the front door and Bill pulled his car right up to the front.  They both had to help Harold get into the car, as his range of motion was limited.

The hospital worker handed into Harold a cane, the kind with four feet on the bottom.  “I guess you will be needing this for a while.”  With that, the two retirees drove away.

Leaving the hospital was not the end of the journey for Harold.  It only took him part way down the long road.

This short story originally appeared on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com).

 

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Why the old man feeds pigeons

It is  Fête de la Fédération in France, or more commonly know as Bastille Day here. It is much like our Fourth of July. It reminded me of one of my favorite short stories from a few years ago.

Metro

It was a grey and gloomy Paris morning where occasional rain drops did not seem to chase the patrons off the sidewalks and into the many cafés that were sprinkled liberally around the area.  This particularly grimy part of town was liberally spray painted with “street art.”  Teams of youths and an occasional solo artist spent many evenings decorating the buildings, fences and a few trucks with their personal designs.  When we arrived at the nearby train station the afternoon before, we noticed the last few miles before the station contained a nonstop view of this French city artistry.  Back home we would call this graffiti, nothing more.

We approached a corner cafe with no thought of sitting outside.  My travel companions did not want to “take our breakfast in the streets.”  I would have preferred to be outside where I could watch Paris stroll by, but was left with the view from whatever window we could sit near.  My friends never actually took breakfast.  It did not fit their normal routine and they were not about to change for Paris or Strasbourg or any town in between.  One ordered Coke while the other attempted to order “jus d’orange” in his best sounding fake French accent.

“Café américain and croissant,” I ordered without any attempt to sound French.  I figured the waiter knew we were Americans before we sat down.  They always seem to know.  He smiled and wandered off to fix our drinks.  My tired friends stared off aimlessly as if sugared drinks would be required to bring them back to life.  I studied the room as we waited for our order.  Two men were standing at the counter enjoying espresso and talking loudly, as if that was the thing to do at 8 hours 30 minutes on the morning clock.  Paris life does not begin too early, unless you are a baker.

As our drinks were being set down in front of us, I spied a grey little man in a tattered grey coat walking slowly past the window to my left.  He was elderly, I presumed by his grey hair and grey stubble.  His open coat revealed a grey or dirty white shirt and several keys which hung on long strings from around his neck.  He carried a baguette in one hand while using the other hand to pull a cart with a small case attached to it.  I imagined the dirty, beat-up looking case carried his most valued possessions, whatever they may be.  Before too long, he disappeared from view.  My friends had not noticed him at all.

Our bill had come to fifteen euros.  Even at a good exchange rate, this would seem a high price to pay back home.  As it was a Paris cafe, I figured we were paying for the view of dirty streets and the indifferent service of our handsome waiter.  I really did not mind, however.  I was just glad to be anywhere we could take the pace of life as we pleased.  In that regard, we could blend in well for a week.

We left the cafe and were on our way to begin the tour of famous Paris landmarks, monuments and churches.  There is an ample supply of all three in the French capital.  A few days in the city of lights would not be enough to see them all, but one always hopes to return to Paris.  It will not matter how many times you go, there is always the belief deep down that you will return.

We moved up to the corner and waited to cross the boulevard lined with trash from the day before.  Although the city cleaned the streets often, it did not seem to matter as the locals tossed their trash anywhere along their path.  Perhaps they expected trash to be collected by city workers every day.  It is not for lack of trash receptacles that they throw garbage to the ground, as containers are everywhere.  I guess those must be for the tourists.

Down the center of the street was a parkway with a paved center and grassy areas along the sides.  We took the pathway which was lined with park benches.  As we moved toward the sign that said “Metropolitain” at the far end of the parkway, I noticed the little grey man just a short distance ahead of us.  He was standing in front of one of the benches and had the baguette firmly in hand.  As he tore a piece of the bread and put it in his mouth, pigeons flocked to him as if he was their leader and they were his faithful followers.  As a reward for coming to his side, he tore off a chunk of the baguette, then ripped it into small pieces and tossed them all around him.  At this site even more pigeons came to visit and soon the old man stood in a sea of birds, alternately eating some of the baguette and tossing some.  His subjects cooed their approval in a tone that I always found annoying.

As we wandered past the grey patch of ground where the old man stood, many of the birds took flight in order to clear the way before us.  We could not be slowed down on our trip to the stairway that would lead us into the ground and to one of the many subway trains of Paris.  I thought it was a shame all the birds were leaving the old-timer so I turned around to take a look after we had walked on by.  Since the old man had more baguette in hand, the black and white and grey pigeons all returned to continue the feast.  This would be the most attention the man would receive that day.  As a matter of fact, it was the most attention the man received most days.  As long as he returned each morning baguette in hand, his somewhat loyal avian subjects would appear to greet him.  This would bring him his daily moment of joy.

THE PROMISE OF LOVE

Here is the last of the 4 stories of what may be a South American love story. This time we switch back to Jon’s side of the story. Click on “View original post” at the bottom to go over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story. If you missed the previous stories scroll down the page to “I LOVE YOU” or see the links at the bottom of this story.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

The Reality, by Rich Paschall

When George made his visit to South America to meet the handsome young man,  Jon noticed their large age difference. He decided it did not matter if George would help him.  After all, this could be a way out of his situation in the poor suburb of the large South American city. So late each night he would steal the WiFi signal from a neighbor in the apartment next door and talk with George. This way he kept him close to his heart.

South American city

Jon was tired of being poor. He was sad he could not buy nice clothes and jewelry.  He was unhappy with his dismal living conditions. He was heartbroken he could not help his mother with her expenses.  He just wanted to get out.

Since his time in an acrobatic troupe did not result in much money, Jon took one job…

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A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL

The South American “love story” continues. Be sure to click “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story. If you missed the first two stories, just scroll down the page for them, or hit the links at the bottom of this story.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

The Deal, by Rich Paschall 

After meeting the younger Jon on a language learning website, and seeing him for just four days in person in South America, George was surprised that Jon acted as if they were boyfriends.  In fact, Jon asked George several times if he had a boyfriend in America.

“No,” George always said and Jon would smile.

“You should have no other boyfriend,” Jon would say.  “We are boyfriends.”

This was astounding to George.  Jon lived in South America and George, now in his 50’s, live in a Midwestern USA city.  George was all of 30 years older and felt they could not have much in common.  But Jon kept reminding  George of his visit the previous December and what great fun they had.  This should prove their love!

A South American city

Feeling rather awkward about the whole thing, George thought that perhaps he should break…

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A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE

This is the other viewpoint of last week’s short story, I LOVE YOU, which may or may not have been the case. Find out today about this “love.” Click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story. If you missed the previous story, just scroll down the page a little to find it.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

A Romantic Player, by Rich Paschall


Let’s face it, Jon was a bit of a player.  In fact, he felt he had to be.  How else was a poor boy to get by in the world?  He had tried to make it in other ways.  Now he had to expand his possibilities in any way he could.  He was looking for a way up and out and the present circumstance did not provide it.

By the time Jon had reached his late teens, he decided he must move out of the small South American town where poverty was the only way of life.  He dreamed of the big city and when he got his chance to join an acrobatic troupe based in one of the largest cities, he was off.  High in the tropical mountains was a city of millions of people and Jon would join the many and hope…

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I AM HOME – By Rich Paschall

This is a short story with a bit of a twist. I like it when stories move in unexpected ways, and that was certainly the case for George here. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

A piece of home alone fiction by Rich Paschall


The alarm went off at 6 am as usual.  Instead of hitting the snooze bar, George turned off the alarm and got up.  It was Wednesday, trash collection day in the small Florida town.  He no longer had Ethel to push him out of bed so he had to muster the resolve to get up and take care of the chores.  Jack, the faithful terrier, got up as well and was running around George’s feet as he tried to go through his morning routine.  Terriers do not lack morning energy.

96-Rockers-NK

After he got dressed and made his way to the kitchen, he started the coffee.  Ethel used to take care of this while George took care of the hyper active dog, but his wife of 40 years was gone now.  George had to make his own coffee.  George had to do all the…

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THE GARDEN BY THE FENCE

It is the end of garden season. Time has also passed for Mr. Jardin in this short story. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to jump over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

The Last Plant, by Rich Paschall


Every spring and summer for many years, decades in fact, Mr. Jardin had spent weekday evenings and all day Saturday or Sunday tending to his yard and garden.  With such a large area to manage, Mr. Jardin found the work to be a full-time job, in addition to his full-time job.

The yard was bigger than most in the area and there was a long garden down one side with a vast variety of plants.  Along the other side ran a sidewalk, but Mr. Jardin found just enough room between the walk and the neighbor’s fence for a row of lilies of the valley.  The flowers did not last long, but the large green leaves were there all season.

Beyond the back fence near to the alley was a cement slab where Mr. Jardin often parked his car.  Along a fence on the side…

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DID YOU SEE THE PICTURE? – RICH PASCHALL

Will all of these characters take pride in the event described here? What is the reaction of one of them when a certain picture gets posted to social media? To read this Pride Month short story, click View original post at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall

When Eddie went into the army, Marge and her husband Edgar decided to leave the Midwest and head for Arizona.  As each year had past, Edgar found the winters increasingly difficult and the summers impossible.  When the spring and fall brought allergies on and the summer humidity brought breathing difficulty, the decision was easy.  It was time to go south.

Marge received a transfer to a Mesa, Arizona store and Edgar was sure he would find work if only he could breathe easier.  They took their daughter with them, although she had reached 21 years of age.  She did not know what she wanted to do in life and a change of location seemed like a good idea.

Eddie had worked for two years after high school and then decided the army would be his best start in life.  After the army, he would use…

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WHO ARE YOU? FAMILY TO STRANGER, OVERNIGHT

Although 45 will not sign the LGBT “Pride” month proclamation like his predecessors had done, it is nonetheless pride month for many. In that spirit we will look back at some of our past LGBT stories.

Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

A family of strangers story by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Russell was home from the university, perhaps for the last time.  He finally graduated after four and a half years and a double major from the School of Business.  He lived at school each year and came home for the summers.  Now his plan was to get a job, save a little money and move out.  His college roommate would soon become his roommate again, if they could arrange it.

Russell’s parents, now in their 50’s, never seemed to change.  To Russell they always looked the same and acted the same.  Russell’s father was a hard-working, quiet guy whom everyone liked. His mother was also hard-working and dependable.  They seemed to naturally know which household chores to perform without ever talking about it.  Russell sometimes thought they held secret meetings to plan out the details of their lives, Russell’s included.

After…

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A Change of View

A short family story

The extra bedroom had been turned into a den or office of some sort.  It was supposed to be a place to work or study, but actually it was just a place for Rob to hide out from the family.  In there he could read or daydream or actually make use of the computer he was determined to learn more about.  This determination did not go much farther than turning it on, looking at the home page and checking his email.  Rob did not get much email.  His friends knew he rarely read them anyway.  Rob did not have to use the computer much at work, and used it less at home.

Books, creative commons license

Over time the den had become cluttered with books and magazines.  That was Rob’s doing.  “These are the things to be read,” he thought.  The internet contained sound bites and headlines and celebrity pictures and Rob was convinced it held little value for him.  You might say Rob was a bit of a throwback to a previous generation.  The passing years had confused him and upset the neat world order in the family of Rob.  So, he needed his refuge to occasionally escape his modern family.

He had a conservative wife with conservative looks and conservative taste.  Despite her ever youthful appearance, she was likely better suited to  the era of black and white television than the present day.  She did not seem the daring young girl Rob married over three decades earlier.  There were also two teenage children, a boy and a girl.  Rob recalled how he used to call them his “little prince and princess.”  Rob’s neatly appointed wife thought he carried on with the “prince and princess” thing too long.  Becky continued to be “daddy’s little girl” and certainly acted like a princess, but Josh had transformed into someone else.  Until now, Rob had no idea how the world of Josh had changed.

This particular Thursday evening Rob sat alone in the den waiting.  He had come home to do something he had never done before and now he was waiting.  He looked up at the clock and it revealed the hour was closing in on 7 pm.  His teenagers had not arrived home and his ever patient wife was just starting to make dinner.  They were all going to keep him waiting.  On most days he would not sit in a room with just a low watt energy-saving bulb burning and do nothing but wait, but that was his mission now.  He was unsure what he would say when the waiting ended, his mind was actually rather blank and his face was free from expression of any kind.  He looked rather like an old soldier who just had a mortar shell go off nearby.  He waited in stunned silence.

Earlier in the day Rob was talking to one of the other dads at work.  The other dad was much younger and that may have been the reason he was more in tune with the teenagers and the internet.  “Do you ever watch You Tube videos? ” the younger dad had asked.  “No,” Rob replied, “I am not sure if I have ever seen one.”  “Here is one you will want to see.  Search this title.”  He handed Rob a piece of paper.  “It is important.  Do it today.  Here too is the ‘username’ of the one who posted it just in case you have any trouble finding it.”  The younger dad would answer no questions and would not say anymore on the subject.  Rob had put the folded up piece of paper in his pocket and did not take it out until he reached the den.  Once there, he went immediately to his desk, turned on the computer and sat silently.

As he waited for the computer to start up he read the few words on the paper over and over.  Could this possibly be some sort of joke?  Would they all laugh about it tomorrow in the company break room?  Would this just be a few minutes of needed entertainment?  When the computer was on, Rob searched for the title.  At first he was confused and a bit nervous.  There were so many videos with similar titles he was unsure what to pick.  Then he noticed the user name and started scrolling through the titles looking for the right one.

When he located the name that matched the one written out for him, he clicked on it quickly, before he could change his mind.  He watched the whole thing and when it was over, a single tear rolled down his cheek.  There was just one before his tears and his mouth dried up and his palms began to sweat.  In his 50+ years he had never felt like this before, ever.  When the clock stuck seven, the computer was still on and Rob was still silent.

Soon after the seven o’clock bells tolled for Josh, he opened the front door and came strolling in.  When he passed the door of the den Rob yelled, “Josh, get in here.”  Josh had never in his life heard such a sound come from his father.  As a matter of fact, Rob had never heard such a sound before either.  Whatever was the cause of this greeting, Josh knew it could not be good.  He stuck his head through the doorway and said, “Yes, sir” in a timid little voice left over from his “little prince” days.  In his 17 years, 3 months and 2 days, Josh was never this nervous, even when he broke Mrs. Applebaum’s car mirror playing baseball in the street.

Broadcast Yourself

Broadcast Yourself

“Come over here,” Rob commanded.  Josh walked over and stopped across the desk from dear old dad, who just lookd old at the moment.  “No, over here,” Rob said, pointing to the floor next to where he sat.  Josh came around the desk as Rob made ready with his new knowledge of You Tube.  When the little prince was in place, Rob clicked on the video and Josh knew immediately what was on the bill.  His heart and stomach tensed up as if someone was strangling them from inside.

“Dad,” the little prince squeaked.  “Quiet,” Rob growled in returned.  And so for the first time, father and son watched a You Tube Video together, all 8 minutes and 22 seconds of it.  When it was over and an uncomfortable few seconds had passed, Rob said, “Go,” in a soft voice that gave away hurt and betrayal.  Josh rushed from the den, ran to his room and slammed the door.  Rob emerged from the den to find his pretty wife rushing to the scene.

“What’s up with you two?” she said.  “Did the prince do something wrong?”  Rob gave his response a moment of thought and said, “Why didn’t we have kids sooner in life?”  “YOU did not want to,” she laughed.  “You said we should be financially sound before we started a family.”  She was right, of course.  That is exactly what he said.  He said it many times throughout the first dozen years of their marriage.

“I think teenagers were not as difficult years ago.  There just seems to be so much more to deal with now.”  The pretty little wife with the perfect hair and the perfect smile looked puzzled, but Rob said no more about it that night or for many nights to come.  He had no idea how to tell her that the little prince had come out as gay to the entire world by way of a You Tube video, but was unable to find a way to tell his parents.