Monday, May 21, 2012

Life - another short story...

Another writing assignment from five years ago. Unedited and uncorrected. I recall this one wasn't rated as highly as some of my others. Too much happening in 1000 words or less. We were supposed to write about an image supplied showing "an old man standing in front of a house wearing what I interpreted as an old army cap." Here goes nothing... enjoy!


By Richard Howes
Oct 15th, 2007

Gary answered his cell-phone, while he looked at his watch. It was nearly three in the afternoon. He wondered how late he would have to work tonight. The doctor was supposed to call with the test results for his son, Tom.
"Hello." He said flatly.
"Gary! TOMMY IS GONE!" Gary's wife, Jill, screamed into the phone. "He's gone, Gary. I went for groceries while the babysitter was here and I was downstairs doing laundry and the house is empty!"
"Jill, slow down!" Gary tried to calm his wife. "When did he leave?"
"I don't know! The babysitter said he was upstairs. You've got to come home! Where is he? YOU HAVE TO FIND MY SON!"
"I'll be home in forty-five minutes. Jill… Call the babysitter and the neighbors! "
"Where is he?! He might die! He could fall and have brain bleeding. His bones are weak!"
Gary raced down the freeway, avoiding snow-plow trucks and deep slush. He fumbled with his cell-phone as it rang. "Did you find him?" He asked.
"Mr. Peterson?" A man's voice said, "This is Doctor Silvers."
"Yes, Doctor?"
"I wanted to talk to you before I talked to your wife. I think it might be better if you knew first."
"The aging disease? What are the test results?" Gary asked as he thought of his missing son, 'Does this matter now? Tom must be playing in the yard or the wooded lot out-back, but Jill would have called back…' Gary caught himself not listening to the doctor.
"… more advanced form of Progeria. His heart is very weak. I don't think he has much time left…a few months…."
'Jill must be losing her mind. Did she call the police? I should call the police.'
".. This kind of advancement at eight-years-old is very rare."
'The doctor is saying something.' Gary thought as he tried to concentrate.
"…Gene therapy is in its infancy. There are some drug-trials scheduled but… Um? Mr. Peterson?"
"I'm here." Gary replied.
"Are you okay?" asked the doctor.
"Tom is missing. He is nowhere in the house."
"I see. Is there anything I can do?" The doctor offered.
"Can we have this conversation later?"
"Of course. I'll have the nurse setup an appointment in a few days. You should come in with your wife. Tom doesn't have a lot of time left. There are arrangements to make. I am sure you will find him. He is just a curious eight-year-old boy who probably is playing in the snow. Call the police and tell them of his condition."
"Okay. Thank you." Gary hung up the phone and dialed ‘911’.
Police cars blocked his driveway. Gary watched with trepidation as an ambulance followed him down the street. “Did they find him? Is he injured or…” As he got out of his car, several police officers walked down the snowy path from the porch. Jill rushed past them and grabbed him.
"HE'S GONE!" Jill screamed hysterically. "WHY AREN'T YOU LOOKING FOR MY SON!" Jill shoved Gary back and began pounding his chest.
Gary grabbed at her arms, trying to hold her as the police officers stepped back, unsure if they should restrain her or not.
"Sir? Are you the father?" a police sergeant asked. Jill turned on the police officers, screaming at them to find her son. Gary grabbed her and held her as she sobbed.
Inside the suburban row-house a din of excitement brewed. Gary and Jill's friends arrived with news or suggestions of places to look, or places they had already checked. The sergeant called for calmness, "Please! Quiet! We have to ask some questions. Maybe we can determine where he went. What was he wearing? Did he take anything?"
"His cavalry baseball hat is missing." Jill answered in a hoarse broken voice, as she sat on the couch sobbing. "His toy rifle he uses as a crutch and his winter army-coat, his mittens…"
Gary stared into space. The babysitter left a coffee cup, newspaper and a bus and train schedule on the coffee table. He wondered what the paper would print tomorrow, as the sergeant continued his questions. "Did he mention going someplace? A park? A friend's house?"
Gary's nightly talks with his son jumped to mind. "He wants to be a soldier. He wants to fly army helicopters. He said he wants to see lions and tigers and pet dolphins. Of course he can't do those things. He is very sick. The doctor just called…" Gary met his wife's eyes. The sadness in her face destroyed his soul, but he knew he must stay strong for her.
Glancing back at the bus schedule he was struck with an idea. Gary leaned towards his wife, "I think I know where he went." Her eyes lit up as he rushed outside.
"Sir! Where are you going?" the officer asked.
Gary sped hazardously to the train station as he thought of the next couple months and the limit the doctor put on his son's remaining life. He rushed to the platform as the first evening commuter train stopped, squealing brakes and spewing diesel exhaust. A small boy with a yellow, wrinkled face behind large thick glasses perched on a hawk-nose, hobbled with bowed legs down the steps of the train. He leaned on his toy rifle as he walked. He was warmly wrapped in an oversized army-coat with a baseball hat on his sparsely haired head,
"Tommy!" Gary cried as he rushed to the child, seeing that the boy was okay.
"Hi dad!" the boy yelled out as he waved a camouflage tee-shirt. "Look what I got! It's a Military-Museum shirt. A guard gave it to me!"
Gary scooped the boy up. "Tom! I'll make a deal with you." Gary's voice was stern and gruff but cracked with nervous relief.
"Am I in trouble?" The boy cast his eyes down as he grabbed his thick glasses that were slipping down his nose.
"If you promise to never leave home alone again I will take you to swim with the dolphins and we'll go to Africa to see the lions."
The boy smiled brightly. "Really?"
"But you must never leave home on your own? You got it? You promise?"
"Sure, Dad! You are the best!"
Gary smiled and said, "I'll look for flights tonight." He dialed Jill's number on his cell-phone.

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