Heart Lessons

Heart Lessons

Jacob took inventory of the items on the counter as he slipped on his jacket. He checked his jacket pocket to make sure his knit hat was there. These February days looked warm from inside, but that assessment would change with a few minutes in the cool wind. He grabbed the picnic basket, the box of chocolates, the card and the flowers from the counter and headed out the door. The trip was short and familiar – one he had made numerous times each week for the past four years. As he parked the vehicle his attention was taken by the rows of grey stones adorned with flowers. Once he arrived at the grave, he sat everything down and began his ritual of pulling any weeds or long stems of grass from around the headstone. Once that was complete, he removed the blanket from the picnic basket and spread it out on the ground. “Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.” The words seemed empty. “I brought you flowers. Not roses, like our first year, but those snap dragons that I later learned were your favorite.” He laid the flowers at the base of the headstone. “I wonder how many years I gave you roses before I finally figured that out?” A blast of wind sent a chill through his body, causing him to put on the hat from his pocket. He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. His eyes traced the letters on the headstone. “I still miss you like crazy.” Tears formed across the bottom of his eyes. “Special days like this...
Closing Time

Closing Time

“Hi, Larry. What’ll it be?” Jon wiped the counter and placed a napkin in front of him. “Anything – as long as it has rum in it. I’ve got a day full of meetings I need to wipe from my memory banks.” “Where’s Tony?” Chuck craned his neck and looked around the room. “He could give you a run down of the options. The guy’s a virtual encyclopedia of cocktails.” “True.” Larry nodded towards the corner booth. “Who’s the new guy?” Jon added a plastic stirrer to the drink and placed it on the counter. “I don’t know. He came in about an hour ago. He keeps alternating between reading the newspaper and typing on his laptop. He’s on his fourth gin and tonic, though.” “Maybe we should go over and greet him – give him the good ol’ Friday’s welcome.” “Nah. We shouldn’t interrupt while he’s typing. We’ll catch him when he takes a break. He can’t hold in four drinks forever.” “Good point, Ganny.” “So, Jon, you really closing this thing down tonight?” “Yep. It’s time to move on.” “Move on? But I like this place.” “Look around. Everybody is spending all their time at the newer places.” “Bah! I don’t like those new places – people go there to dance. I just want a place to drink.” “Besides, it’s so loud in those places. You can hardly think, much less talk. And the beer here is better than anywhere else.” “Don’t worry. We’ll still be selling at the weekend festivals. You can get your fix then.” Jon placed a full glass next to the almost empty...
Zephyr

Zephyr

Hi, My name is Xiomara. I’ll never forget hearing Miss Alice’s voice that night. I was shocked to see her and embarrassed that I was there. You see, at first I liked being called Eddie’s girlfriend. He was nice to me and I felt protected. But later I would see what he was really like. He viewed me as his property. I didn’t know what to do. The one time I tried to break up with him, he slapped me and threatened to kill me. I was so scared. That was not the life I wanted. I wanted to go to college this past fall. I had good grades and even a scholarship in literature, but I was afraid of what Eddie would do. He has friends all over; I would worry about mom. I should have talked to her about it, but I was embarrassed. That’s why I was there that night – because I was supposed to be. And when Miss Alice spotted me, she came straight towards us. “What is she doing here!” I think it’s the first time I ever heard her yell. When Blake knocked her down, I moved towards her and yelled for them to stop. That is when Eddie hit me. He was leaning over me, yelling, when she came up and kicked him. “Run!” she said. I didn’t know what to do, but when Eddie turned towards her I ran. I ran all the way home, crying, and my mom took me straight to the police station. I had no idea what happened to Alice after I left. I should have...
Young At Heart

Young At Heart

I met Alice at the diner. For a while I would eat dinner there at least once a week just so I didn’t have to cook. The more we chatted, the more we realized we had in common. We both had our only child – sons – when we were in our mid thirties and we both raised them as single moms. Alice was several years younger than me – my son is off to college now. But I was surprised at how close we were in age, because she seemed so much younger. She seemed more energetic. I always wished I had half of her energy. I guess it’s true what they say about being young at heart keeping you young. We quickly became friends outside of the diner. She introduced me to spin class. I’m not sure I’m thankful for that – ugh – but I am thankful that I had someone to exercise with, to talk with, and to laugh with. Emily Dickinson said, “We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” That’s how I saw Alice – newer every day.   (This is part 25 of 26 of the story What Happened to Alice. To see the full listing click here.)  ...
Xenial

Xenial

I like to use the word xenial to describe Alice. My name is Louis Harrington and I am a University Professor of English at Portman University. I first met Alice through my work with the Immigration Support League where I serve as a member of the board of directors. Alice was a volunteer with our organization and was always willing to open her home to anyone that might be new to the area. And that, to me, is the essence of the word xenial. Informally, the word is often used to describe someone who is hospitable – especially to foreigners. The Greeks originally used the word to describe someone who was to host a guest from another city. In either case, the word describes Alice as well as possible. You heard Miss Ortez speak earlier of how Alice helped them when they first arrived. There were several others over the years as well. All had different situations and needs, but Alice was willing to help in whatever capacity we asked. It is truly rare in this day and age to find someone so willing to open their home to foreigners. I certainly wish there were more Alices in this world.   (This is part 24 of 26 of the story What Happened to Alice. To see the full listing click here.)  ...
Waitress

Waitress

My name is Mike and I’ve known Alice for a long time now. You have all touched on various aspects of Alice that made her special. She wore so many hats – mom, friend, mentor, co-worker. And while I am thankful to call Alice a friend, I will always remember her as the prototype waitress. A lot of people don’t realize how challenging that job can be. Karla and Evan touched on this a little bit, but Alice was the model for how the job was done. Being quick and efficient while also spending time with the customer is not an easy balance to strike. People often come into the diner wanting a respite just as much as they want food. Alice knew that and it showed in her work. If you want proof of the impact Alice made, just look at how our customers have responded. We started collecting donations this week to establish a college fund for Christopher. In only two days, we have already collected several thousand dollars. People love her. She worked her way into all of our hearts and she will be missed by many.   (This is part 23 of 26 of the story What Happened to Alice. To see the full listing click here.)...