Gee, I'm prolific. . .of course, now that I've said that, I'll have the worst writer's block ever known to humankind. I'm the queen of jinxing myself.
Anyway, here's a little not-quite-angst, something a little different. Standard disclaimers apply: Gary's not mine, neither's Marissa or the Paper or the Cat. Everybody else is, though, so ask if you wanna do anything with this. Thanks!
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by Jayne Leitch
Rose Galen nodded at the nurse on duty and strode down the hall, nodding occasionally at the various nursing home personnel she was acquainted with. The slim twenty-three year old visited often, and had come to recognise the senior staff at sight.
"Hello, Hannah," she greeted one such attendant as they nearly ran into each other turning the same corner.
"Rose! How are you?" The matronly woman smiled warmly, and shouldered her burden of folded sheets. "Haven't seen you around for a while."
"Well, I've been busy." Rose took a deep breath, then relayed the news. "We buried Grams yesterday."
Hannah's smile faded, and she touched the younger woman's arm. "I'm sorry. I know how much you loved her. Both of you." Suddenly, she frowned. "He doesn't know, does he? He hasn't said anything. . ."
Rose shook her head. "No, that's why I'm here. I have to tell him. . ." She trailed off, then sighed. "They were so close when they were younger, and I know he would've wanted to be at the funeral, but--well, you know how his health is, you see him every day."
Nodding, the matron ressurrected her soft smile. "You're right; he's not very strong anymore. However, he did insist on being taken out to the garden today; that's where you'll find him." A tiny light lit up on her beeper, and Hannah raised her eyebrows. "Duty calls," she announced, and moved the blankets back into her arms. "Again, I'm sorry."
"Thanks." Rose smiled as Hannah bustled off again, and headed for the doors leading to the garden.
It was a bright, sunny spring day, and the trees overhead had budded just enough to provide some shade as Rose strolled down the garden path. It was also unusually warm; the young woman undid her light coat and shrugged it off, then folded it over her arm as she scanned the small area for her friend.
He was sitting under a freshly green maple, a thick blanket spread across his knees, a newspaper, as always, open in his hands. In fact, Rose couldn't remember a time when she'd seen Gary Hobson without a daily paper; he always seemed to have one somewhere on his person. It was part of the package, or so Grams had always said. . .
"Gary?" Stepping up beside him, Rose twitched a corner of the paper away playfully, then shook her head when she saw what it concealed. "It's back *again*?"
The elderly man glanced from her to the large orange cat curled up comfortably in his lap. "I just can't seem to get rid of the darn thing," he answered without heat. "It always comes back." Smiling a little, he folded up the newspaper and took Rose's hand. "How are you, Rose?"
"I'm fine, Gary." Giving his hand an affectionate squeeze, Rose took a seat in a plastic lawnchair beside him, and began to screw up her courage. "But I do need to tell you someth--"
"Isn't today gorgeous?" The sudden interruption caught her off-guard, and she blinked while Gary continued. "Lots of sun, not a lot of wind. . .that's why they let me out."
"It is a nice day," Rose agreed, "But I'm sure if you just asked, you could come out here whenever you wanted."
Gary shook his head. "They don't like it when I go outside. They don't even like it when I walk around inside; they make me sit in this silly chair." He indicated his wheelchair with a shaky sweep of his hand. "Treat me like I'm old."
"Gary, you've reached the ripe age of ninety," Rose stated. "At your time of life, you've earned the right to sit down all day."
"Hmm," he replied, almost convincing her that he was actually grumpy. "Doesn't mean I have to like it, now, do I?"
Rose smiled. Then, unhappily, she realized that she had to try again. The smile faded, and she took a deep breath. "Gary, it's about--"
"Did you hear about Patrick Quinn?" Again Rose was cut off, and she stared at the older man, mystified by his rudeness. "Remember Patrick? Used to tend bar at McGinty's."
"Yes, I remember Patrick. What about him?"
"Apparently he was awarded an honorary degree from Harvard," Gary informed her. "They had a big ceremony, made him get up in front of all the students and give a speech. Something about--what was it now, 'Superior Works in the Field of. . .' something-or-other. Made a big deal of it all." He shook his head. "Our Patrick, getting a big degree. That boy was wet as a tidal wave when he worked for me, and now--well, he must've learned something, 'cause here he is, barely eighty and apparently a genius. . ."
Gary rattled on, his hands stroking the cat absently while he talked. Rose let him for a moment--then she realized that not once during the whole speech did he look at her. Reaching out, she gently touched his arm, stopping him mid-sentence. "Gary, what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," he said sharply, still not looking at her. "What, I can't talk about my old friends without someone thinking something's wrong? Since when has anyone screened my topics of conversation? If I'm old enough to be able to sit around all day, why can't I choose my own conversation? Just because I don't feel like having anybody break it to me gently that your grandmother's dead--" he broke off.
Rose sat quietly for a moment. "Someone told you?" she guessed at last.
Gary shook his head. "No one needed to."
"I saw her obituary."
There was silence for another minute. Then, smoothly, the cat on Gary's lap sat up and looked at Rose; as she stared back into its eyes, a chill ran up her spine. "But. . .the obituary won't be printed until tomorrow," she said slowly. "How did you--"
Sighing, Gary picked up his newspaper again and handed it to her. "So Marissa never told you," he mused, pointing a gnarled finger at the masthead. "Look at the date."
Obediently, Rose glanced at the top of the folded page. The paper was the Chicago Sun-Times, the date--
"That's tomorrow's date." It took her a moment, then Rose shook her head sadly. "Gary, it must be a misprint. They probably printed the obituary a day early; I'm sorry you had to read about it, I wanted to tell you--"
"Rose, it's tomorrow's paper." Taking it out of her hand, Gary looked it over wistfully. "I've been getting tomorrow's newspaper for the last sixty years. With this cat." He scratched behind the animal's ears, and it began to purr. "Marissa knew about it. I even used it to save her a few times."
Rose felt a lump form in her throat. Gary had always seemed so. . .stable, so grounded. Even as he got older, even after his legs had given out on him, he was always alert and aware. She'd thought he would stay that way until he died. . . "Gary, if Grams knew about this, wouldn't she have told me?" she asked gently.
Gary was quiet for a moment, and she thought she had reached him--but then he spoke. "She didn't think it was her place to tell," he said simply. "But it has to go to someone; I haven't been able to do anything about it for years." He gave her a slow smile. "At my time of life, saving the city gets a little difficult."
Rose shook her head. "Gary, you're confused--"
"Rose, would you listen to me, please?" He looked at her pointedly until she sighed, and nodded. "Good. Now. . .did Marissa ever tell you about how she got her first seeing-eye dog?"
And he told her the story. . .
Email the author: Jayne