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To Live Forever – Part 2

Posted by Les Becker on May 22, 2011 in Short Fiction, To Live Forever |

… the continuation of a short story in three parts, originally published in my high school newspaper, The Husky Print, in 1983.

In case you missed it… To Live Forever: Part One

***

huskyprint-Nov1983For the first time in his twenty-one years, death had touched Cecil Walters’ life. He didn’t know how to take it; he was frightened, but he didn’t know why. Everyone who knew him noticed the change. He didn’t wave on the street and he didn’t smile. All Cecil could do was think about Gerry and the way he had died.

Cecil used to believe in God, but now he wasn’t sure if he believed in life after death, after all.

“I don’t want to know,” he thought. “I don’t want to die!”

Cecil now had trouble concentrating at work, and Mr. Stewart dismissed him until he was ‘feeling more up to it.’

Now he spent his days on a park bench in Battery Park, watching an old man feed the birds. He didn’t know why the man fascinated him so much; maybe it was because he never failed to be there. If it rained and the birds didn’t come to him, the man looked at the sky, or watch the rain form puddles on the path.

One day, three weeks after Cecil had begun coming to the park, he noticed that the old man wasn’t there.

Disappointed, Cecil sighed, and was settling on his bench, when he felt someone sit down beside him. He turned, and saw the old man.

Cecil felt an unexplained discomfort in the man’s presence and edged away.

“Do I frighten you?”

Cecil stiffened. “I beg your pardon?”

The man eased back on the bench. “You’re frightened,” he said.

“What would I have to be frightened of?” Cecil asked nervously.

The man smiled. “Death, of course.” He threw crumbs to the birds as he spoke. “and I suppose you feel that you have good reason to be afraid.”

Cecil stood up, preparing to move away. “I’m not accustomed to discussing my feelings with strangers,” he said coldly.

“Sit down, Mr. Walters. Your problem won’t be solved by turning away from me.” The man’s eyes flashed, and as Cecil looked into them, he began again to feel very afraid. He sat down.

The man laughed, and his eyes began to twinkle. “Don’t you wonder that I know your name, Mr. Walters?”

Cecil’s eyes widened in astonishment, as he realized that the old man had really mentioned his name.

Cecil shook his head and said, “I don’t think I want to know.”

The man nodded. He stretched his legs, then sat up abruptly. “I’m here to help you,” he touched Cecil’s arm.

Cecil jumped and jerked away uneasily. “Help me? Help me how?” he asked.

“To live forever, young man!”

Cecil shook his head in disbelief.

“Oh come now, Mr. Walters! Do you mean to tell me you would rather face death? I won’t believe that!”

“I don’t understand.”

The man looked at him pointedly. “You mean you don’t believe– but it’s true, Mr. Walters. If you really wish it, I can make you live forever!”

Cecil laughed. “And how much would all of this cost me?” he asked jokingly.

“A great deal, Mr. Walters.” The old man didn’t laugh. Instead, he stood up to leave.

“Hey, wait a minute!”

The man turned.

Cecil said, “How will I get in touch with you? When can this be-”

“It’s already done, Mr. Walters. And you have already paid me. You will never die.” And then the old man was gone down the path.

***

Cecil sat in the park for a long time after the old man had gone, contemplating what he had said.

After a few hours, he couldn’t think anymore and he walked to a nearby tavern to have a drink.

It wasn’t ’til two or three drinks later that he began to feel afraid again. What if Cecil really would live forever? Thinking about this, his spirits lifted until he thought of the power that must lie in the old man’s hands. He began to feel more afraid than ever.

“Well, there’s no way of knowing right now, anyway, ” he thought. He decided it was time to settle down. He didn’t want to increase any chance he might have of having an accident like Gerry’s. If he couldn’t live forever, he wanted to live as long as possible.

Cecil started for home at a late hour, and thought about how he was going to “settle down.” He thought marriage would be the best start for him, but when he thought of all the girls he knew in his neighbourhood, he was at a loss as to which would be the best wife for him. He knew he could ask any one of them and he would get an affirmative reply.

As he thought about it, he decided that it really didn’t matter whom he married. He wasn’t marrying for love; he was near home, and he had decided who she would be.

Her name was Rachel Mott, and Cecil had dated her often in the past. She was pretty and dependable and Cecil knew she would agree to marry him. They had grown up together and they lived on the same street. It was late, but he wanted to ask her now.

As Cecil came up to the Mott house, he noticed the windows were dark. Everyone was asleep.

Without thinking, Cecil bent to pick up a stone from the immaculate lawn of the Mott’s. He searched for almost fifteen minutes, but couldn’t find even one stone. The lawn was completely cleared of them, and Cecil wondered how he could wake Rachel without the rest of her family waking up, also.

As he thought, he paced the yard. He shoved his hands in his pockets, and as he did so, his right hand clutched his change purse.

Cecil laughed and moved toward a row of windows at the side of the house. “What better way to get romantic than to throw all your money away on your girl?” he thought.

Cecil realized he didn’t know which window was Rachel’s, and he paused beneath a tree to decide what to do.

“Oh well; just close your eyes and pray, Cec,” he said to himself as he threw the first coin.

PING! The coin bounced off a window and clattered onto the stone walkway at the side of the house. The second coin flew through the air, hitting another window, and landing on the lawn.

“Hey! What’s goin’ on out there?” A coin struck the sill of the open window, just above Mr. Mott’s head.

The man ducked. “Who’s down there?”

“It’s me, Mr. Mott – Cecil Walters.”

Mr. Mott stuck his head back out the window. “Oh, it’s you, Son, is it? I s’pose ya got a good reason for tossin’ rocks at me windas, do ya now?” Mr. Mott was fond of Cecil, just like the rest of the neighbourhood, and he hoped Cecil was here about one of Mathew Mott’s seven daughters.

“Are you calling me a vandal, Mr. Mott? Shame on you!” Cecil laughed, and tossed his last coin to the confused man.

As he caught it, Mr. Mott called out in surprise: “Are ya crazy, boy? Throwin’ your money away when rocks are Free!”

“Not in your yard, Mr. Mott. I guess you keep your yard clear of stones to keep the boys from waking your daughters!”

Mathew Mott laughed. “Me daughters, is it, eh, son? Okay I get the idea. Which one do ya want and why did ya come to me and not to her?”

Cecil wasn’t about to admit his mistake.

“It’s Rachel, Sir. I though I should be gentlemanly and ask you for her hand before I spoke to her.”

Mr. Mott began to laugh again. “I’d have considered ya more of a gentleman if ya’d knocked on me door in daylight, Cecil Walters! Now, go home and get some sleep, Son. Ya’ve got me blessin’s, and ya can call on Rachel in the mornin’.”

And in the next rooms, Rachel and her sisters, who had heard the conversation, lay awake all night, anticipating the coming wedding.

***

Cecil and Rachel had been married for twenty-two years when World War I broke out. Cecil was forty-three years old.

Because of Cecil’s age, Rachel thought the army would let him stay home. They already had her only son in uniform. But the army found Cecil “able-bodied and willing to fight for his country”, and he was sent to fight alongside nineteen-year-old Gerry Walters.

Twenty-two years of marriage had produced four children for Rachel Walters, and she was glad she had only one son to go to war. As she and her girls were kept busy helping the war effort, Rachel prayed that Cecil and Gerry would return home.

Three weeks after they had left with the army, Rachel received a cablegram stating that Gerry had been killed in a grenade attack. Cecil was missing in action and presumed dead.

On November 28th, 1914, Rachel Walters died from wounds inflicted upon herself by her own hand.

Two months later, her husband was discharged from the army, with a broken leg and missing half of his left hand. He Was sent home with a medal for bravery.

Continued in the next issue…

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