This short story is based on a strange and evocative dream I had.
Looking back, he took a double take. He looked again. Where in the world had that come from? It didn’t belong to him. And, what in the world was he going to do with it? He continued driving down the rural, country road — one he had driven upon a thousand times. It was a relaxing drive, with its rocking hills and peaceful views. The radio played a song he realized he was singing. It was one of those moments where a song that never meant anything in the past now fully grasped him in its melody and rhythm.
The truck came to a stop. Jumping out, he waved at the owner of the shop to come on out and take a look. An immediate shaking of the head. Yeah, we don’t have much use for that, and don’t know that there’s a place to return it, but you could try down the road. He scratched his head. Was it even worth a few more stops?
Arriving at home, he parked the dark grey pickup on the gravel driveway and sketched out the steps he would take in the morning. The sun was setting, and now he had a change in schedule, but a set plan. It felt good. It felt right.
He headed inside and began opening drawers that hadn’t seen the light of day for years. We all have them. He started emptying them, but dug deep to find the remnants of years past. He smiled and shook his head in disbelief that some of these things still even existed. Wow. Greeting cards of bygone celebrations, including some from friends and family long gone. Little trinkets of things that he never needed, but just couldn’t throw out. Too sentimental. It would have been sacrilege to toss them. Then, there were the pictures, many faded over time. He never took the time to look at them anymore, so they were a collection made available to include. He shuffled through the scattered photos he gathered while smiling and breathing in the memories and emotions they carried.
Scraps of paper were gathered, and with them, this project that would carry him through the night began. As the moon rose and the sound of crickets chirping outside became a symphony, he wrote. The rule of thumb was one word, per month, per year of his life — of course. But lives intertwine and as the minutes ticked by, it was no longer solely about him. It was about all that had circled around him through the seasons. Memories emerged and he would just pause and nod. At other times, he would get teary in his sleepless daze. There were moments of divine inspiration where he was in his truest form and state of mind. He wouldn’t stop until he completed the goal. Arrive at the present.
The words formed themselves. Born. Love. Mother. Father. Grandma. Firsts. Trains. Hat. Blanket. Poppa. Bicycle. Smiles. Hug. Hold. Presence. Light. Shadows. Home.
And they grew.
Dreams. Future. Ending. Begin. Find. Remember. Discover. Trust. Lost. Gone. Hope. Within.
He arrived at this present month, this present year, this present day when this thing to complete, this moment had found him. He stretched out on the ground, surrounded by hundreds of the colored slips of paper. He looked at the blank ceiling canvas, now seeing the words which had filled the entire night. They graced his mind, appearing and fading away in his prism view. He shuffled the papers into a mix, weaving the words of memory along with the cards, trinkets, and pictures into what he now carried toward the door. He hopped into the vehicle, looking back once again to check that it hadn’t all been a dream. Sure enough, it was still sitting there in the pickup bed.
Driving down now toward the lake, it was again a sunny day, and he could see the tall waving grass from afar. When he arrived, he opened the door at the back of the pickup. Looking at the simple grain of the wood, it really was just a plain box, not even fitted with any nails. He lifted the lid and sprinkled his lifetime collection into the box. The papers fluttered about. He replaced the lid, and slid the long casket from the end of the truck carefully to the ground. He hadn’t finalized his plan. To bury? To let it sail away on the lake? A fitting venture, but it would probably sink. There gladly wasn’t anyone around. He looked at the lapping water kissing the grass on the shore. A slight breeze blew.
Reaching into his pocket, he felt the permanent marker he had been writing with throughout the evening.
He wrote one more word on the lid, watching the ink absorb. He couldn’t imagine the reaction of the next person to drive up, but at least the first word they would see would be this one.
Cantor David Reinwald