As I wrote this, I kept getting a sense of deja vu. As if I’d read or seen the story (or parts of it). So to whomever I plagiarized, my extreme apologies. When I taught, plagiarism got you a -0!
I read to Vincent every afternoon. Today, it was Kerouac’s On the Road. Vincent slept through our readings; that was best. Hospice meant the end was coming; this place gave dignity, respite from pain, and humanity to the process.
I was always tempted to pull my journal – beautifully bound in soft black leather, creamy, thick pages hand bound – out of my bag. Open it to the page marked by the ribbon marker, and give Vincent my “happily ever after.”
Vincent owned a book shop even more ancient than he was. Shelving groaned under the weight of the thousands of hard-cover books – no paperbacks here – almost meeting at the top like of Elizabethan houses along narrow, crooked lanes. Dust clouds rose when books were pulled from the shelves for closer inspection.
Vincent and I spent hours in his back room arguing politics, popular culture, the environment, music and of course books over countless cups of thick, strong espresso. I had been the one to turn the sign to close and lock up when Vincent came here.
He had given me the journal with a smile, saying “I know this book was meant for you.” I was puzzled at the blank pages; but I had told him I needed a new journal. I wrote on the first page my name, date, and whimsical title: happily ever after.
The book had magical properties. If I wrote stories with happy endings (usually not my style), drew pictures full of light and colour (also not my style), the words and the images manifested themselves. I kept things simple. I knew from fairy tales that such powers should never be abused.
So, an abandoned lot full of garbage, crumbling foundations, hopelessness, gradually became a wildflower garden. ‘Leeza Porter came into the woman’s shelter and off the streets. Joe went back to school at a place designed for folks with learning challenges.
Now, watching Vincent fade away, I wanted to take away his pain. To bring him peace. To repay him for his gift.
One a misty fall afternoon, Vincent clearly spoke to me though his eyes remained closed; his body stilled by the latest pain shot.
“Do you like the book?” he asked.
“I titled it happily ever after. I want to give that to you.”
“You already have. I think you were about to start Chapter 3.”
Vincent died that night. When I opened the book to record my sorrows, I found that all the pages were blank. Everything I had drawn and written in ink dipped in light were gone. I hoped that what was created when the words and pictures became real didn’t unravel.
I turned the back space of the book shop into my living space. The folks from 2nd Chance raised even larger clouds of dust as they cleaned the shop. I bought new cups, and moved the espresso maker to an old counter. Added a few mismatched wooden chairs. A discussion corner, I hoped
Vincent’s will gave me his book shop; our happily ever afters. I kept the blank book bound in soft black leather with thick, creamy pages safely in my room. I would know who to pass it along to when the time came.