Words of Forever

May 3, 2011
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The white-bearded man leans back in his creaking chair and rocks back and forth slowly. His wife, Melissa, had just put the soup over the fire, filling the house up with a rich, warm scent. His glassy eyes peer over the top of a large, leather bound book that he had been holding without fully realizing it. This isn’t the first time he had been found holding onto this blank book, either. The steam is beginning to rise, and Alfred watches it swirl in the air, creating elaborate pictures that look like hazy words to him. If Melissa looked into it, no doubt she would see the running, playing children she never got to have for herself. Alfred notices the book in his arms and places it on the table just to the left of him, straightening up to get a better look at what the soup’s trying to tell him, knowing that it has to be important.

“Alfred,” the steam writes out in the air. “Alfred…” The words drift out of the pot long enough for Alfred to read them, but dissolve into the cold air of the quaint wooden house, leaving behind only the scent of boiling cabbage.

Alfred does not move at all or call out to his wife, willing the strange words to float back. He is here, and he is paying attention. The steam always talks to him, and today, he is not going to miss it. “Yes?” he asks very quietly, the air of his words only noticeable by the slight disturbance they caused among his beard as a hair or two moves. The wood of the chair groans as Alfred puts all his weight on the front, leaning forward excitedly with his elbows on his knees.

The air above the pot begins to become more opaque, more active, more swirling. “Alfred,” the first of the words settles into place. “Do not forget…” These words dissipate quickly, only to be replaced by more with another puff of hot air. “What you are here for,” the steam continues.

Alfred’s eyebrows turn inward, almost brushing against his eyelids as he thinks about what this is suppose to mean. “Don’t forget what I am here for?” He asks himself. “What am I here for?” As he focuses his eyes once again on the swirling air currents, he chants to himself, “Tell me, tell me, tell me.”

“You are here to remember,” the steam answers, leaving Alfred no less confused than before.

He makes to get out of his chair to get closer to the source of his enlightenment, but his wife had told him not to try to walk on his weak legs. His recent bout with pneumonia had left him weaker than previously, and his bony legs were prone to shaking and giving out when he least expected it. The past couple of nights, he had attempted to get closer to the soup, but his escapades were never successful. So Alfred remains in the chair, eyes squinted near shut, his entire life balanced on this moment, caring only in what the steam might have to say next.

“Remember, what has never happened. Make it happen forever.” The air finishes its cryptic message to the old man and floats away.

Alfred leans back, shutting his eyes contently. “Yes, I shall,” he calls out to the empty house.

“The soup’s ready now,” Melissa calls out as she enters the house knowing by experience that the food would be perfect eating temperature. She had cooked this meal of cabbage soup more times than she could hope to count. “I am very glad you stayed in your chair today. I didn’t want another incident like the past few night with you on the ground, halfway to the kitchen.” She takes out two clay bowls and a ladle, filling them to the brim with hot, almost clear liquid.

“I’m glad too.” Alfred says simply, relieved to have finally heard the full message of the air. He rocks back and forth, playing the words over and over in his head.

Melissa brings a bowl over to Alfred and sets it down on top of the book that is covering up most of the small table. “Wait!” Alfred exclaims suddenly, surprising both Melissa and himself with the force of his words. “Take it back,” he continues.

Melissa picks up the soup without question, use to her husband’s strange antics. She merely stands in the center of the room, her tired eyes looking at Alfred, waiting for his next command.

“I know what I need now.” He says, looking his wife straight in the face. “I need my pen. Go get me my pen!”

Melissa dashes from the room, placing his soup bowl back in the kitchen. She walks to the back of the house, into the bedroom they use to share back when Alfred didn’t prefer to sit in the chair. She didn’t blame him though, walking did look painful. She pulls open her dresser and sifts through all their clothes. At the very bottom, she finds the pens she had placed there a long time ago. She wraps her fingers gently around the pen, surfacing it from the mounds of not-quite-clean clothes. Melissa brings the pen up to her face, and is glad to find it still mostly full of ink.

“Do you have it?” Alfred asks as soon as Melissa enters the room, not as patient as he normally is.

In response, Melissa holds the pen out in her hands, letting Alfred reach out to take it from her with a smile. “Thank you, my darling. You may leave me now.”

Melissa blushes at his uncommon bestowal of endearment and rushes from the room back into the kitchen. He sees her settle herself down in a plain wooden chair in the corner. Alfred beams at her, and then picks up the leather book on the table. Realizing his purpose and the message he had waited so long to receive, he opens the book up to its first page, blank, and begins to write. The words he uses form stories that have never happened, but once he puts it down on the page, miracles happen forever.

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