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A TESTIMONIAL


by

Charles Shea LeMone



The Santa Fe Flyer was thirty minutes out of downtown Los Angeles, heading east on a cross-country run. A hazy June twilight painted the landscape black and gray, with flashes of brilliant yet frantic light spilling from the freeways. Streaming by steadily were the loading docks for an endless conglomeration of warehouses and factories.

 

 

Between catching up on the latest news in the New York Times and USA Today, I gazed out my compartment window. I surveyed tin shacks, steel girders of all sizes and descriptions and carcasses of automobiles stacked two stories high. Every square foot was surrounded by razor-edged chain link fence that protected the graveyards of industrial refuse. Everything within sight bled an orange rust color.

 

 

The blood of metal, I suppose, I noticed old, weather-beaten refrigerators and stoves that seemed to be waiting their turn to be recycled into something brand new and desirable so they could get back on the economic fast-track.

 

 

Dreams and recycling. I rolled the two words together many times in my mind, like a mantra for the first leg of my journey.

 

 

For the last ten years I’d pictured this moment often. Retirement. The freedom to travel America with no more overbooked flights, rough take-offs or bumpy landings. No major turbulence over Kansas. No endless delays in terminals which had all begun to look and smell alike. No more meetings with the alumni, no more begging for larger donations, no more budget delays.  No more being the dean of a small liberal arts college ranked as one of the best on the West Coast.

 

 

I closed my eyes on the scenery and imagined the many miles of track that lay ahead. The wide Mojave Desert and the Arizona River were only a few hours away. Ahead lay the Trail of Tears, then on to the Rocky Mountains, across the continental divide into the Great Plains and beyond to the Appalachians I was ready to take it all in, all the way to the Atlantic. Every mile and bump of the track measured with recollections. 

 

 

After getting directions to the dining car from a porter, I had a pleasant meal and a memorable conversation with a couple near my age from West Virginia. A few glasses of wine later, the three of us agreed that train travel allowed the opportunity to meet interesting people from all corners of the globe. We toasted life and talked of travel and about some of the places we’d been and some of places we’d eventually like to see.

 

 

With a good meal under my belt, I felt the cravings for a Havana. But I knew I’d have to settle for a dark filter tipped cheroot. The railroad has rules against cigar smoking, so I bend them with my little cigars rolled like cigarettes.

 

 

In the smoking car, two men were engaged in conversation. Both flashed me good-natured smiles as I sat down opposite them on a bench running the length of the car. After a minute or two, I could make out the gist of their conversation. It seems the younger of the two was on his way to Lynchburg, Virginia to rendezvous with a woman he’d met on the Internet. He was a professorial-looking black man, casually but fashionably dressed. I pegged him to be about forty-years-old. 

 

 

The gentleman he was talking with appeared to be about nineteen years his senior; a salesman of sorts, I sensed. He was undeniably adept at asking questions.

 

“In a chat room, huh?” he asked. “I never tried that. What’s it like?”

 

“It’s mostly a waste of time. But with Cindy it was different. On the Net my name is Wordman, and… the very first thing she wanted to know was whether or not I was a writer. I told her I was and…”

 

“You write?” Doug stroked his double chin. “Ever get anything published?”

 

“One novel,” the black man smiled and glanced in my direction, having noted I’d eased closer to the conversation. “It’s a murder mystery. I finished a sequel but ran into some contractual problems.”

 

 

At that point, the black man introduced himself as Ray. The other gentleman’s name was Doug. Ray told Doug and me that his novel was available on the Internet and in most bookstores under his pen name, Raymond T. Sparks. Then, smiling like a magician ready to stun his audience, he reached into his summer suit jacket and pulled out his paperback novel.

 

“Novels must be hard to write,” Doug said as he looked at the book’s cover work. 

 

“I write short stories, poems, screenplays. Just about anything,” Ray said. “Can’t help it. I have to write!”

 

“Back to the woman you met on the Internet…” I joined the conversation, lighting another cheroot. “Where’s she live?”

 

“Near Charlottesville. That’s another thing about this whole affair, it’s like… we’re talking synchronicity. One thing after another fitting together…”

 

“Like what?” Doug interrupted.

 

“I have a ninety-five-year-old  aunt, a full blooded Cherokee, who gave me some land in Virginia. Cindy offered to let me stay at her house while I check it out.” Ray shrugged as though he’d answered the obvious. “Most importantly, we’ll get to be together at last. We’ve been obsessed with each other for so long. It seems I’ve known her forever. I just know… if we mesh like I feel we will, then… look out.”

 

“You can tell that much from a person’s letters?” Doug asked.

 

 

“Maybe I should let you guys in on a secret,” Ray smiled devilishly. “I have ESPN…” He laughed. “I mean ESP.”

 

“What the hell’s ESP?”

 

“Extra sensory perception,” I answered. 

 

“Exactly how much property did your aunt give you?” Doug asked bluntly.

 

“Twenty-three point six acres,” Ray answered without hesitation. “The problem is it’s landlocked. So the first issue I have to address is…”

 

 

“Easement!” Doug blew smoke toward the ceiling. “Easement is what you need! A sister of mine had a similar problem with more than one hundred acres at stake. Took her five years and I don’t know how many lawyers to finally gain easement. Believe me, it’s never as easy as it sounds.”

 

“That’s what I’ve been told,” Ray admitted. 

 

 

When he spoke again, it was to me. “You see, Cindy fell in love with my writing first. Then she fell in love with me as a man. This was over a two-year period. She used to tell me that she loved the way I think.”

 

“You wrote each other often?” 

 

“Almost every day,” Ray said enthusiastically. “Our letters grew longer and longer. In the process, I got to learn more and more about her. I also learned a lot about myself.”

 

“Writing can be very revealing,” I agreed. “What’s she like?”

 

 

Before Ray could reply, Doug cut him off, “How long does it take to write a book this size?”

 

“That took about year.”

 

“May I see the book?” I asked Doug, who had laid it on the bench next to him.

 

 

While their conversation turned back to the subject of Ray’s landlocked property, I opened the 357-page novel. Ostensibly, I intended to read the first paragraph or two. Seven pages later I was hooked and reluctant to close the book. Ray was no hack. His writing was accessible, colorful and intriguing. When I passed the novel back to him, I promised to pick up a copy as soon as possible.

 

“This is my last one,” Ray said, “but I can lend it to you since we’re traveling on the same train.”

 

“No!” I said. “I’d never dream of taking an author’s last copy.”

 

 

I was anxious to know more about Ray and Cindy, but I didn’t want to press the issue. Besides, Doug knew infinitely more about real estate than literature or interpersonal relationships and he was more than willing to prove it. He’d begun to lecture us, asking and answering his own questions, dominating the conversation on the various terms and conditions to gain and investigate the rights to easement.

 

 

Politely, I offered my farewells and headed for the comforts of my private sleeper, looking forward to a nice long shower. As the train hurled through the night the narrow passageways swayed to the motion and the wheels sounded out their perfect rhythm.

 

 

As I tossed and turned in my bunk, sleepless, the train snaked up a steep incline. The warning blasts from the engine’s horn seemed to come from a great distance. 

 

 

I kept recalling images from the last motion picture I’d seen in a theater, almost a year ago. It was a story about a man mourning the loss of his wife. Drawn to the man is a woman who found one of his notes, to his beloved, in a bottle. The climax has the man sailing off to say one last good-bye to his wife’s drowned spirit. Ironically, the man dies in a storm trying to save another man’s wife. 

 

 

I wondered if that’s what love had come to mean in this day and age. Was this sad testament suggesting that all passions are inevitably extinguished in time? Was that the message, no matter how big the blaze or the roar of the fire’s beginnings, in time, passion was destined to wane or simply die? 

 

 

I’d seen the film with my wife, Lydia. We were both silent on the ride back to our secluded northern California cottage. However, behind the silence I knew she was having her own share of revelations that were probably quite different from mine. 

 

 

Where had all our passions gone? Our dreams, our youthful ambitions?

 

 

Playing bridge with the other professors’ wives and church bingo had once been the highlights on Lydia’s calendar. She took up gardening after medical tests concluded that we were unable to have children.

 

 

When there was not one square inch of planting space available, outside or inside the house, she took up an interest in bird watching and joined an ornithology club. Her search to spot and identify various species gave her a good excuse to travel. Three to four cruises a year and countless bus trips seemed to keep her away with more and more frequency. 

 

 

Soon I realized that all conversations between us had become guarded and laborious. I had no interests in her hobbies and she had no interests in hearing my take on life. She’d heard it all before, too many times.

 

 

Suddenly, as the slow moving train reached the apex of the track and began descending, I found myself wondering if the black man in the smoking car was chasing after an illusion, only to find disappointment or rejection waiting at the end of the line. 

 

 

Yet I had to give it to him. I chuckled, trying to imagine me at forty years of age, willing to risk more than a moment’s time thinking about the possibility, the foolish notion of everlasting romantic love.

 

 

I’d recently read an article about a scientific study that identified regions of the brain which become highly active when subjects looked at photographs of loved ones. The researchers also noticed that other areas of the brain associated with logic and reason became much less active at times when feelings of love were the primary emotion. 

 

 

But the poets knew that eons ago. Love is blind, until it needs the support of reason. 

 

 

I could actually recall being young and in love. So long ago, though. Yet deeply embedded somewhere in the recesses of my subconscious, I still remember how truly grand and poetic it is to love someone who loves you.

 

 

Someone being the key word. 

 

 

Someone. Not something, like a mansion, a yacht, a diamond ring, a successful career or love of God or country. 

 

 

I stopped myself before I slipped into the act of making a list of qualities someone would absolutely have to possess to consider us compatible. Wit and intelligence were high on the list of desirable traits. However, I wouldn’t allow myself to go any further beyond those two. It was a game too ludicrous, too self-deceptive, when I realized that those same two qualities had been what had drawn me to Lydia. Those very qualities were once her God given nature. But with time, she had become quite the worrywart. All of this led me to believe, unconditionally, that all romantic love was a short-lived farce and nothing more. 

 

 

Life, or the lack of it, could always be counted on to intervene.

 

 

Nevertheless, I did make a mental note to engage Raymond T. Sparks in further conversation if the opportunity presented itself. I wanted to learn more about him and Cindy, the woman he was meeting in Virginia.

 

 

Unfortunately, by the time I departed the train in New Mexico to scout around for a few days, I’d given up any hope of talking with Ray again. A number of times our paths had crossed on the train, but there had never been an appropriate occasion to engage him in conversation. 

 

 

One time I found myself sitting beside him in the smoking car. The trend at the time consisted exclusively of each man telling the raunchiest joke he could recall. Although I didn’t participate in the telling of jokes, I did have quite a few good laughs before heading back to my sleeper.

 

 

I spent the next eight months seeing as much of the country as I could cram into each long day. A train one day, a rented car the next. I lost count of how many state lines I’d crossed or how many miles I’d hiked or how many rolls of film I’d taken. But still there were always new locales that someone might mention as a must see, always a new destination and the freedom to come and go as I pleased.

 

 

And never once did I feel homesick for my California roots. 

 

 

Routinely, however, I called Lydia, at least twice a week. Our conversations were always cordial. She didn’t ask me when I was coming home, and I never brought up the subject, either. In time, it seemed as though we had less and less to talk about. Even my closest friends, whom she ran into occasionally, had stopped asking when I would lose my wanderlust and come home where I belonged.

 

 

Nevertheless, there were many moments, while watching a spectacular sunset or seeing the autumn leaves in all their glory from the Blue Ridge Mountains or eating in a candle-lit restaurant, I’d feel a sense of loneliness come over me. I’d find myself wishing I had a companion to share those moments. 

 

 

Evenings were the worst. Seeing a couple holding hands or laughing, touching each other affectionately, would send me on a downward spiral. Sitting alone in whatever room I was renting, I’d read from my suitcase of books until I fell asleep. 

 

 

In the morning, after a shower, a cup of coffee and a good cigar, I’d be eager to take in the local sights or anxious to set out for a new destination.

 

 

Late January found me in Manhattan enjoying the cosmopolitan flavor of my favorite city, marveling at the skyscrapers and the canyons of concrete, steel and glass they created. Canyons where the swirling wind might blow from four different directions in less than a minute, where there was always a steady stream of pedestrians, all in hurry. Some of them risked life and limb to dart across side streets and avenues where a heavy congestion of cabs, buses and trucks competed for every spare inch of asphalt. 

 

 

Caught up in the contagious energy of the city that doesn’t sleep, I did the museums and libraries by day and the stage plays, streets and clubs by night

 

 

Late one of those winter nights, I was walking the streets of Greenwich Village, recalling all the famous artists who had once called this neighborhood their stomping grounds. 

 

 

About midnight, the sounds of soft, well-constructed jazz drifted through the air, emanating from a little club on Bleeker Street. The music and a strong desire to quench my thirst with a cold mug of beer beckoned me. Inside the nightspot it was cozy and warm.

 

 

The trio of musicians ended their set with a modern jazz rendition of Blue Moon about the same time I was ordering my second mug. It was then I noticed the black man sitting at the end of the bar. There was something familiar about him that struck me instantly. Then I realized the man was none other than Raymond T. Sparks, the fellow I’d met on the Santa Fe Flyer. 

 

 

I eased down on the barstool beside him as he gazed into a dark beer that was nearly empty.

 

 

After a respectful moment or two, I asked casually, “Mind if I fill that glass for you?”

 

 

He turned his head toward me slowly, a smile forming at the corner of his mouth. When his eyes fell on me, he did a quick double take, then smiled broadly.

 

“Hey, man!” he said. “We run into each other again, I see!”

 

“Deja vu, all over again,” I cracked.

 

“All over again!” He laughed, patted his thigh and asked, “So what brings you to the Big Apple?”

 

 

I gave him a brief account of what I’d done since getting off the train in New Mexico, then asked, “How about you? What have you been up to?”

 

“Just sitting here grooving with the music. Especially the last song. It took me all the way back to when the Marcels did their version.”

 

“Aren’t you a little too young to remember when that came out?”

 

“Too young!  I’m fifty-five years old!”

 

“Fifty-five!”

 

“That’s right,” he said with a chuckle, “but I like to tell people, especially on the Internet, I don’t look a day over fifty-four-and-a-half.”

 

“You look much younger. Much younger.”

 

“I’ll tell you my secret,” he glanced conspiratorially across both shoulders before adding, “I do dye my mustache every couple of months or so.”

 

 

After a brief silence, curiosity got the better of me. I asked, “How’d your rendezvous with Cindy in Lynchburg turn out?”

 

 

He frowned and dropped his eyes to the bar top. “Not quite like I expected.” He paused. “I ended up being stranded at the train station there. A little dumpy place with no ATM machine, a pay phone that didn’t work and out of order restrooms. It was eleven o’clock at night when I pulled in and the doggoned place closed at five a.m., with no trains that would do me any good until much later.”

 

“What did you do?”

 

“Since there was no place within walking distance, I dragged all my bags over to a park across the street and slept on ‘em.” 

 

 

I was about to say something but he went on. 

 

“But something really interesting happened that night.” He went on to tell me about a homeless man who came along and befriended him. “When I told him how I ended up getting stranded, tears almost came to his eyes.  He said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve got a tent just up the tracks. I’ve got food and blankets, too. We could build a fire. I’ll keep you company.’” Ray paused and smiled faintly. “When he said that, all my troubles just floated away.” He snapped his fingers. “Just like that!”

 

 

We both drank from our mugs, and I studied him as an artist does a subject. He was about six feet tall and lean, with cinnamon colored skin. Although he’d missed the mark of handsome by a few points or more, he had charisma. Above all, he impressed me as being sincere, which as far I’m concerned, is a lost art form. 

 

 

But, I was compelled to ask, “What about the woman who was suppose to pick you up? What happened to her?”

 

“Cindy,” he said wistfully, then his eyes reflected sorrow for a beat. “She had been trying to reach me ever since the train pulled out of L. A. My cell phone was supposed to have national coverage but didn’t. So none of her calls reached me. She made a number of them, too. She sent a bunch of e-mail alerts, as well, trying to tell me that her aunt in Boston had died and she was going up there with her mom and was unable to pick me up at the station.” He shook his head with a grim smile. “Once I got my cell phone operating again, I had two weeks worth of messages from her. ‘Where are you? Where are you?’ That’s what she wanted to know. But, as you can probably imagine, I was wondering the same thing about her.”

 

 

I registered all the information he’d given me, but I began to suspect that part of the picture was missing. I even found myself wishing inquisitive Doug was there at the moment to fire off some of his straight from the shoulder inquiries, a style I’d never developed in a social context.

 

 

Finally, as the band was taking the stage again, I asked, “Did you ever actually meet her?”

 

“Nope,” he said flatly. “Too many ironic twists of fate kept us apart.”

 

 

Above the slow ballad the band was playing, I came back with, “What kind of twists?”

 

“Like once,” he said, leaning closer to me so he wouldn’t have to speak too loudly, “I was on my way down to meet her and an ATM machine ate up my card, leaving me in the lurch for ten days.”

 

“Believe it or not,” I said, “I had that happen to me once. I think I punched in the wrong code too many times because my mind was elsewhere.”

 

“I’m sure that’s exactly what happened to me,” he said, tapping a forefinger on the side of his mug in time to the band. “I called her and said I’d be running a little late and told her why. She offered to send me money. That I could hardly believe. I turned her down, though. Told her we’d waited all this time -- so let’s do it right. I didn’t want to meet her with no dough in my pockets. Know what I mean? Shit! At the time, I had just traded on some stock, and it was really frustrating not to be able to get my hands on a cent of it. So I crashed with my godson in Frederick, Maryland for about a week.” He shook his head from side to side. “At the time, going down there busted just didn’t seem like an option.” 

 

 

The band finished their introductory number and went straight into a fast tune with a Latin flavor. I offered to buy another round, but Ray insisted on ordering the next one.

 

“To friends!” Ray said as he clicked his mug to mine.

 

“To friends!” I said, adding another dollar to the two bucks he’d already laid down as a tip for the bartender. 

 

“The next one for you guys is on the house,” the bartender said.

 

 

Ray and I turned our attention to the band, sitting through two songs in silence. All the while, I missed Doug more than ever. Finally, I summoned up enough courage to nudge Ray’s arm to get his attention.

 

“Where’s Cindy now?”

 

 

Ray let out a long sigh and looked up toward the high ceiling, 

 

“She passed away August the fifteenth.” He took a deep breath and steeled his shoulders. “She went into the hospital for breast surgery. They removed a benign tumor, but after a two week battle against an infection she’d pick up, she passed away.”

 

“No!” I said, my mouth hanging open. “That must have been hard news to bear.”

 

“I can’t tell you how many tears I shed. It was like losing my best friend, my soul mate, my biggest fan.” He sighed and looked me directly in the eye. “Did I tell you that she was forty-one years old and ready to quit her job as an electrical engineer for a power plant to help me produce some of my film ideas?”

 

“She sounds like she was the real deal,” I said. “And to think that it all started with words. You two, expressing yourselves honestly. Nothing physical. Sounds like a truly spiritual love.”

 

“I know!” He smiled and patted me on the shoulder. “I’m lucky! Some people will never know a love like that.”

 

“You got that right!” I said, amazed at myself for never trying to get that close to anyone. “Sometimes the physical confuses the issues.”

 

 

“That’s why Cindy and I had more than one personality to show each other. We even made up fantasies and role played, even when we talked on the phone. She was a lot of laughs,” he giggled. “She even bought several wigs of different colors and styles to help take some of the monotony out of life. Like me, she had quite a vivid imagination.” He paused and frowned. “I sure do miss her.”

 

“I can imagine!”

 

 

We clicked our mugs, sitting on the side of the barstools, facing each other. 

 

“I still can’t help wishing she was here. Like, right now, walking through the front door.” He sighed again. “I remember telling her in an e-mail that since I was older I’d probably die first. Then I went on to tell her that we would have so much fun in the meantime, I’d still be able to live in her heart.”

 

 

I digested his words.

 

“Now I’m the one left with the job of holding her in my heart. But it gets so lonely sometimes, especially when I see no one on the horizon that I can imagine replacing Cindy. She was ready to spoil me! And I was ready to spoil her right back!”

 

 

We decided we’d had enough beer and went looking for a restaurant for a midnight snack and coffee. I ordered a pastry and Ray got a slice of lemon meringue pie with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. 

 

“How did you find out she died?” I asked, halfway through the desserts.

 

“She had a laptop. We stayed in touch through her entire stay in the hospital. Right up until her last two days.” He was silent for a long time, then spoke hoarsely, “Then, I got an e-mail concerning Cindy.”

 

 

Tears formed in his eyes and I handed him a handkerchief across the table.

 

“I knew right away what to expect when I opened the message. But it still hit me hard.” He cleared his throat. “The message came from her sister in law, Jan. She’d taken it upon herself to contact all of Cindy’s e-mail friends. But… she went on to write that she knew how much Cindy loved me. That her whole family had heard about me. At first they were hesitant to give her their blessings. Then, according to Jan, she sat each one of them down individually and won them over.”

 

“She must have been one heck of a communicator!”

 

“You got that right,” he laughed. “I told her she’d missed her calling. She should have been a civil rights attorney.”

 

 

We were both staying uptown, so we decided to catch the same train. The wind had grown fierce since earlier in the night. It whipped up the dirt and razor-sharp grit from the sidewalks that slashed at our faces as we leaned into the wind, marching against the elements.

 

“I was invited to the funeral,” Ray picked up the story, “but the invitation arrived too late.”

 

 

While waiting for our train, we turned down the offer to have a good time with two hookers who both looked as though they had been on the streets far too long.

 

 

“Well? If you didn’t make it to the funeral and never actually met her, how can you be so sure that she was ever what she claimed to be?”

 

 

Ray laughed so hard his whole body quaked. 

 

“Don’t look so red in the face. That’s a natural response,” Ray said with a shrug. “Doubt! A scam, perhaps! Don’t you think I had my share of doubts concerning Cindy, too? But… I knew, deep in my heart, that no one could pretend to be who she was. Not for two years running.”

 

“That’s called faith,” I said, speaking very slowly and distinctly. “Do you know for a fact, however, that she was anything near to what she claimed to be?”

 

“Sure! I’ve got proof!” Ray reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet.

 

“What are you going to show me? A picture?”

 

 

“More than that!” He said, as he handed me a photograph in a clear folder. The photograph showed a blue eyed girl with pigtails, highlighting a very cute face.

 

 

“Now ask me where I got it!” He demanded.

 

 

“Okay! Where’d you get it?”

 

 

“Her family gave it to me on Thanksgiving,” Ray said proudly. “She was ten years old then. Turn it over. There’s a more recent one on the back.”  

 

 

The other photograph showed the same smile radiating from an older, attractive face. She reminded me of a blue-eyed Jaime Lee Curtis. Her aura appeared to be confident, self-assured and intelligent.

 

 

Heading uptown on the train, Ray continued telling me about how his meeting with so many of Cindy’s relatives had changed his life.

 

 

“Even better than the pictures… they gave me several journals she’d kept over the years, too. At one point,” Ray said, “I turned into a babbling, bawling idiot. And there was her family, all of them with tears in their eyes, but consoling me. Me… a stranger until I walked into their lives that very day. It was a Thanksgiving in the truest sense. It was also a memorial for Cindy.”

 

 

The wheels of the train seemed to be keeping pace with my thoughts, no faster, no slower.

 

 

Ray went on, “At the end of the evening, we all told Cindy stories. We all think she was a very special person.”

 

 

“That’s a powerful story, Ray!” I said, finally breaking the silence. “I hope you write it all down some day.”

 

 

“I lived it… and,” he said, looking up at the blinking lights of the train, “at the moment, I’m too close to the story. It’s as though… I’m too busy living it right now to write about it.”

 

 

“You should make the time, my friend,” I said. “You owe it to Cindy!”

 

 

“Umm!” he said with a wry smile. “I don’t know if the world’s quite ready for that. And even if it is, I’m not quite sure I’m ready to tackle it. I wouldn’t know where to begin… or end.” He touched his left shoulder. “It’s like, I’ve got an angel on my shoulder… and I know her very well! For right now, that’s plenty enough for me.”

 

 

Although my train station was further north, I followed him off at his stop.  There was one more question I needed answered, and it had nothing to do with history, recent or ancient. 

 

 

Facing each other on the train platform at three o’clock in the morning, hands jammed in our overcoat pockets, I asked, “So what are your plans, I mean… for now and the future?”

 

 

“That’s the good part,” he said. “I’ve got an agent who loves one of my scripts and there’re a couple of producers he wants me to meet. So I’m flying back.”

 

 

“When are you leaving?”

 

 

“Got an early flight tomorrow. So… I’ll get a few Z’s in, then off for another adventure. They seem to follow me.”

 

 

“I have a morning flight, too. Florida this time.”

 

 

“You couldn’t pick a better time of year to be in Florida or California.” Ray shivered in his overcoat. “Anywhere warmer than New York in January. Huh?”

 

 

“Oh,” I said. “How about that Virginia land your aunt gave you. What became of that?”

 

 

“Boy!” he said, “you sure have a good memory.”

 

 

He explained that it took him six weeks of digging through court and local records, etc., to gain easement.

 

 

“I’m planning to build on it, come spring or summer.” He added, “As MacArthur said, ‘I will return’. I’ve got to, man. We’re talking old Cherokee land with a nice hillside view of the nearby mountains. And best of all… it’s got a creek on it about eight feet wide.”

 

 

“Well…” I said, beginning to feel awkward. “Good luck with all your plans, Ray!”

 

 

He gave me a peace sign, turned on his heels and walked into the loud roar of my oncoming train. At that precise moment, I realized that while I knew Ray’s full name, he didn’t know mine. I started to call after him but he was too far away. Then I found myself wondering if his Hollywood dreams would ever pan out the way he hoped. 

 

 

Regardless of how it turned out, I had to admire his gumption and his unwavering faith in himself. I knew he’d need it. Being aware of how the film industry is so fond of pigeonholing people by race and age, I decided having an angel on his shoulder might help.

 

 

Beyond that, deep in my heart, I wished him well.

 

 

As I was about to step on the train, from the corner of my eye, I saw Ray running toward me waving my handkerchief to draw my attention. I backed out of the train and the doors closed as he reached me.

 

 

“There’s one thing I forgot to tell you,” he said, returning my handkerchief, “to help you realize how real Cindy truly was.”

 

 

“What’s that?” I said as the sound of my train began to fade in the distance.

 

 

“She also left me a large sum of money in her will.” 

 

 

Before I could respond, he went on. 

 

 

“One time, from the hospital, she wrote me saying how she thought I was destined to help many people.” His eyes and arms rose toward the heavens above. When his arms flopped back to his side, his eyes were fixed intently on mind. “That’s why I think she left the money to me. I suppose she knew even from the grave, I’d need her help.”

 

 

An electric chill, like tiny hot and icy fingers, ran up and down my spine.

 

 

I watched him walk away again. Although an indescribable sense of exhilaration overwhelmed me, I noticed Ray’s walk had changed slightly. His step was not quite as spry. His shoulders sloped noticeably and he seemed to be walking in a semi-daze, as though dealing with his own share of questions.

 

 

Back in my hotel room, I went straight to the telephone as soon as I took my overcoat off and canceled my flight to Florida. In the morning, I called Lydia.

 

 

“I’ve been thinking about us,” I said, as soon as she answered the phone.

 

 

“You have!” She sounded confused. “What did you decide?”

 

 

“We have a lot of history together.”

 

 

“That we do!”

 

 

“I was also thinking about coming home.” 

 

 

“Really!” 

 

 

The one word reverberated in my ears through whatever brain I had left.

 

 

There was excitement in her voice. Excitement I had not heard in ages. Stumbling to find the right words, I finally settled on speaking the truth. 

 

 

“You know, I really do miss you.”

 

 

There was a long pause on the other end of the line. 

 

 

Then gratefully, I heard the exact words I was hoping to hear. 

 

 

“I miss you, too. Please come home soon!” 

 

 

“I’m on my way.”

 

 

 

 

THE END

    


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charles Shea LeMone

was born in 1945 in Philadelphia, his objectives are to teach, consult, and lecture on creative writing techniques and develop screenplays  as an independent producer.  In 1999 he published “The Gratz Street Terriers” in The San Diego Writers Monthly, in 1998 he optioned "Solomon's Mind" to Lloyd Silverman of The Artists Colony and performed poetry with "The Shamans" on "Jazz and Poetry", he has also published several poems in Shofar Magazine.  His work includes: Creative-writing instructor for I HAVE A DREAM Foundation's Watts branch office  Creative-writing teacher for middle and high school students in The Los Angeles School District, Optioned screenplay for TV pilot based on novel "A Dance in the Street" to Universal Studios, Off Broadway Play "Shea's World" showcased at the John Houseman Theater, he performed poetry with musical accompaniment at Dreams of LA, The Silverlake Nights Festival, and The Onyx Café, Published a mystery novel "A Dance in the Street" with Avon Books, Script consultant for Universal Studios producer Lloyd Silverman, Co-founded The Second Saturday Silverlake Writers Group, Wrote additional scenes for filmk "Gone In 60 Seconds II" an H. B., Halicki Production, Optioned a screenplay, "Call It Destiny", to Robert Schnitzer Productions, Production assistant and still-cameraman for "The Junkman" an H. B. Halicki Production.  At present Charles Shea Lemone is working as a Script and story editor with J. T. O'Hara's Writers Unlimited. 


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