This is a short story I recently penned during writing class. The assignment was to write a story of at least three paragraphs in length from a single picture. I was thrilled with the outcome since I've not attempted much fictional writing.
Waiting for Dad
The spring of 1963 was warmer and rainier than years past. I was eleven, care-free and young. The only cloud in my sky was the far-off Vietnam War – where my Dad was fighting and it frightened me. April dawned, and with a gust, rain poured from the skies, unhindered. Each day after school I passed through the town square where the lush and fragrant Kolb Gardens were located.
It was there that I first noticed the man. He was in a hurry - briefcase in hand, umbrella in the other, scampering his way down the cobbled walk, hopping from foot to foot to avoid puddles of rain. He seemed sad. His face drawn, heavy with lines, brow creased dark eyes.
I was standing in the middle of the walk, hands stretched skyward, completely oblivious to the world around me; drinking in the beauty of the day, the rain, the sun now peeking from behind the once thick clouds. “Sorry kid,” the man muttered my way, as he inadvertently brushed against my outstretched hand. That was our ‘introduction’.
Every afternoon at five o’clock, the man marched home, rain or shine. And I was always in the square, feather in hand as he passed by. I was always happy. Fond memories washed over my mind. Memories of my Dad and me together, before the war. That seemed an age ago.
In May with hordes of blooming Tulips surrounding me, I spotted the man. He sat alone on a weathered bench, looking beaten down and depressed. Approaching him, I slowly, tentatively sat down next to him.
“Hi there,” I began shyly, unsure of exactly what to say.
“Hello,” he replied. “I’m Bill, and who are you?”
“Harry. Do you enjoy the gardens?”
“How often do you come here?” I asked.
“Nearly every day, after work, if it’s not raining,” he said with a chuckle.
Our conversation drifted from one topic to another. I learned that Bill’s wife, June, had recently passed away, and I told him about Dad.
Bill turned to me and asked, “Why do you always have that feather in your hand?”
I smiled. “My Dad gave it to me the day he went to war. It was from a nest he’d found as a boy. This feather reminds me of my Dad, that’s why I carry it.”
As spring blazed into summer, our friendship grew. Bill became like a dad to me. We worked in Bill’s garden, planting a variety of flowers – each of us encouraging the other. And I waited for Dad.
September came, and I returned to school. Bill and I still talked. We worked in his garden in the evenings or on Saturdays when I didn’t have chores or errands to run for Mom. I learned a lot of important life lessons that summer. Things that helped to fortify me and brought me into manhood.
A letter came. My Dad was Missing in Action. Bill did his best to comfort me, but what if my Dad was dead?
The trees began to change into a glorious array of gold’s, reds and purples, yet I was filled with uncertainty and apprehension.
“How’re you doing?” Bill emphasized his care with a firm grasp on my arm. “There’s still no news, but I’m hopeful!” I added with a grin.
With the first snows of winter, my Dad came home – haggard, hungry and with a full beard, but sound in body and so glad to see me, to embrace me! And I showed him Bill’s garden. Dad shook hands with Bill, tears brimming in his eyes.
“I am so grateful for all that you’ve done for Harry.” Bill smiled. “Your son showed me how to love again, he helped me heal. That’s a gift you gave me.”
We walked home hand in hand, and I knew I was done waiting for Dad.
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