Out Of Retirement Part 3- Welcome Home

Still leaning against the oak door, Michael tried to slow his breathing. He closed his eyes and pictured Miriam greeting him at the door after a hard day at work.

She would hurry to the front door as soon as she heard the door of his Cadillac close. Barefoot, she would stand on her tip toes in order to drape her arms around his neck. Miriam hated wearing shoes at home and Michael didn’t mind. He thought she had the cutest feet. They were dainty, like her, and her toes were always painted red. Even in the yard, she would garden barefoot.

“Welcome home, handsome,” she would say as she helped remove his jacket and hung his hat.

It didn’t matter what time Michael arrived home, Miriam would be at the door. He looked forward to it. Her arms around his neck, her soft lips against his, immediately he would relax no matter how rough of a day he had. Even if they had an argument that day, she would be at the door to greet him.

“I missed you so much,” she would say.

His eyes began to water. “I miss you so much, love,” he said aloud.

He opened his eyes. The clock across the room read 1600. There was still three hours until shift change and he couldn’t wait that long to find out what had happened to Tiana. He needed to make sure was OK. He couldn’t bear anything happening to her on account of him.

How in the world did he get himself into this mess? Why couldn’t he just stop working?

“Oh Michael, you will be working on the day of your funeral!” he could hear Miriam say.

He needed to get more information on the new nurse and he knew just how to do it. Janette!

Janette was the head nurse at Manor Lakes for the past 25 years and not only was she very hard on the new hires but she was known to be quite the petty gossip.

Michael made his way to the outdated nurses station once he made sure the coast was clear from trouble. Janette was just finishing up a phone call when she noticed Michael approaching her. She smiled and put up a finger to signal him to wait for her to finish up. Her salt and pepper hair was up in a loose bun held by a pen. She wore her glasses around her neck alongside her stethoscope. She was arguing with the caller. From what Michael could gather, it was the physician and as always Janette was advocating for her patient to a man who didn’t want to hear it.

She hung up the phone and mumbled, “How stupid can you be?”

Michael smiled. She reminded him a lot of Miriam. “We have to stop asking people that question,” he said. “Too many people are taking it as a challenge.”

Janette laughed, her cheeks turning pink. “Mr. Henry, you weren’t suppose to hear that!”

He shrugged.

“What can I do for you?” Janette said. “It’s not everyday you grace us with your presence.”

Michael looked around and while he didn’t see the ice queen anywhere, he didn’t want to chance her hearing their conversation.

He cleared his throat. “It’s sort of private, could I talk to you in my room?” Janette’s face became concerned. Michael never complained or wanted to be bothered for that matter. This must have been serious.

“Yes of course! Let’s go,” she said, standing up from her desk. She signaled to one of the other nurses that she would be stepping away for a bit and they made their way down the hall.

As they approached Michael’s room, the new nurse came out of the room across the hall. Great, Michel thought.

“After you,” he said to Janette holding the door open to his room. He shut the door behind them, but left it open just enough to keep an eye on the spy. She had parked the med cart right outside his room to make it look like she was working. She wasn’t going anywhere.

“What’s going on, Mr. Henry?” Janette asked.

Michael could feel ice queen’s eyes on him through the cracked door.

“Going on? Oh nothing really,” said Michael, shifting side to side. “Same old routine.”

The spy slammed one of the drawers to the cart shut and it startled Michael. As he jumped, Janette noticed.

“Svetlana, try to be a little quieter! No need to slam the drawers and startle the residents,” she barked at the woman in the hallway.

So that’s her name.

“Michael, are you feeling alright? You are not yourself! Come over here and sit down, let me take your vitals.”

“I feel great. I’m fine, really.” He said, not wanting to let Svetlana out of his sight.

“So what did you want to talk about?” she asked.

“Talk about? I didn’t want to talk about anything,” he responded.

Janette’s face was full of worry now. “Mr. Henry, I am very concerned. You are acting very confused. I need to check you out and possibly send you to the hospital.”

“I assure you that’s not necessary,” he argued. He was still pacing and peeking out the door.

“At least let me take your blood pressure,” Janette said. He knew she wasn’t going to take no for an answer so he sat on the edge of the bed and held out his arm.

“It’s very high! Let’s get you your prn dose of your blood pressure med. We need to get this down.”

Janette waved to Svetlana. “Can you get Mr. Henry’s prn blood pressure med? His numbers are 170/101.”

Svetlana nodded and smiled. “My pleasure,” she said.

There was no way Michael was going to go down like this.

“I’m refusing the med,” Michael said. “I’m fine.”

“Michael, what has gotten into you? If you don’t take it, I’m going to have to send you to the hospital.” Janette was annoyed now.

He shrugged. “I’m not taking it.”

Michael laid on the stretcher surrounded by EMTs.

“Have you had any falls? Any recent med changes? Any fevers?” The one gentleman asked.

Michael knew they were trying to make sense of his “confusion.”

“What if I told you I was being plotted against by Russian spies because I ruined a plan of theirs?”

The EMTs looked at each other and made their way to the hospital. He felt Svetlana’s eyes on him the whole way out of the building.

He wasn’t in the hospital room for more than a minute when the young doctor came flying in through the thick curtains. He looked familiar.

“Agent Foster?” Michael said. Foster put his hands up to his mouth. “I’m Doctor Roberts. Would you be able to take a urine sample for me today?” He said loudly, eyes wide and head nodding up and down. “Uh yes?” Michael responded. “Great, here is the cup. Bathroom is down the hall to your left.”

Michael took the cup and headed down the hall. He stopped outside the bathroom door but it was out of order. The janitor standing outside the bathroom handed Michael a key. “Down the utility hall, to the right.” He said, nodding in the direction.

Michael looked at him and made his way to his destination. At this point, what did he have to lose?

He approached the locked bathroom and opened the door with the key he was given. Inside was a duffel bag. He opened it up slowly. For the love of God, please do not be a bomb, he thought. He was relieved to find a suit, a government ID badge with his photo, and a letter.

Head out the cafeteria back door towards the loading dock. If anyone asks, say you are the health inspector.

Smart, he thought. Everyone usually runs from those guys.

Everything went according to plan and about 20 minutes later Michael hopped into the car with agent Foster.

Foster handed him a bottle of pills. “For your blood pressure, these are safe.” He said. “Would you like some water?” Agent foster offered, holding a bottle of Evian.

“The only water I’m interested in right now is one that’s been filtered through a brewery first,” Michael responded.

“Well, we don’t drink on the job, Michael.”

Boy things have changed.

Michael noticed Foster spending a lot of time on the computer.

“What’s the plan? Are we going to sit here and play Tetris all day or will we be listening to the recorded phone conversations to find their headquarters and Tiana?”

Agent Foster laughed. “There is no need to waste our time listening through hours of calls. This here is the latest computer program that does it for us. It sorts the calls and translates. It can even give us approximate locations.” He turned the computer towards Michael so he could see.

“Hmm, I don’t care for computers much. They are easy to hack and can’t always be trusted.”

“Things have come a long way since your tim…since you have retired,” Agent Foster said. “I have been using this program since I attended Penn.”

Michael glanced at Foster and rolled his eyes. These college kids think you can learn the world from text books but real education comes from life experiences.

“I’m worried about Tiana. How do we know she is safe?” Michael asked taking his medicine. His head was starting to hurt and he knew it was related to his blood pressure.

Foster clicked away on the computer and hit play on a recording.

“The girl is here with us,” a man said in a thick accent. “She will not be any trouble at the facility.”

“Keep her alive,” a second man said. “We may need her later.”

Michael’s heart dropped. He now knew she was alive but not necessarily safe.

“We need to get to her fast,” Michael demanded.

“These things take time,” Agent Foster said. “We learned in Penn that you really shouldn’t-“

Michael cut him off. “Stop thinking having a college degree makes you smart. I know plenty of people who have drivers licenses and can’t drive for shit.”

Agent Foster was in shock. “I’m…I didn’t mean to disrespect you, sir. We can try your way. You are very respected among us.”

Michael felt a little bad for the kid in that moment. “What does your robot say about their location?” Michael asked.

Thirty minutes later, they got a location and told the driver to take them downtown. On the drive they listened to more recordings. In doing so, they found out that the bomb was a distraction they were setting up so they could assassinate the Senator McConnell, who was planning on running for president that fall.

“Why would they want McConnell dead?” Agent Foster said. “It makes no sense.”

They listened to recording after recording and came up empty on a motive each time. Finally, they came across something as they pulled into the parking lot of the building.

The recording was poor quality but they could hear an American on the other end making a deal. He was giving them orders and information on the senator as well as government information. “I’ll be in to see the girl tonight,” was the last thing he said.

Who was this man? Whoever he was, he would be at this location by nightfall.

Agent Foster got on the phone to call for back up but Michael couldn’t wait anymore. He was out of the car making his way towards the building.

“Where are you going? You can’t just walk in? How do you even know what door to use?” Foster said as he grabbed Michael’s arm.

“Son, this is not my first rodeo. I know what I’m doing, let go.”

Agent Foster made one more phone call and quickly followed behind Michael as they made their way to the very back of the building where the loading docks were. There were two big trucks backed into opened garage doors and they heard boisterous voices coming from inside.

The trucks were loaded with refrigerated items and Michael knew exactly what to do. Agent Foster watched as Michael got under the truck and snipped a few wires. Immediately, an alarm went off inside the truck. The men walked into the back of the truck to check out the commotion.

“The reefer is broken,” the one man said. The other two men walked in to take a look. Michael could see there was no one else in the building so he took the opportunity to shut the gate of the truck and lock it. The men banged on the door, cursing in Russian.

Agent Foster was speechless. “How did you know?”

“Like I said,” Michael replied. “It’s not my first rodeo. They talked about shipping goods in the recordings. I know they have a candle shop in the mall as a cover and candles can melt easily so they would need temperature controlled trucks to ship.”

“Let’s go before they get help,” Michael said.

They searched the empty warehouse and were about to lose hope until they came across a basement door.

They opened it and made their way down the stairs.

“I’m not eating!” Tiana screamed. “Just take it away.” She was tied up in a chair, still in scrubs.

Michael ran over to her. “Tiana it’s me. We are here to rescue you.”

“Michael? What’s going on? Are you the old man these men are talking about?”

“No time to explain,” he said untying her. He looked at Foster. “How much longer until back up comes?”

“They are pulling in no-“ he was cut off by the sound of boots hitting the metal stairs.

The three of them stood frozen.

Out from the shadows appeared the president of the United States, Samuel Smith and Svetlana.

“It’s really a shame you didn’t just stick to your routine, Michael,” he said walking closer to him.

Michael had his hand on his gun just in case but didn’t want to pull just yet. This was his leader, after all.

“You really should have just stayed out of it.”

He could feel Svetlana’s eyes on him.

“You?! I trained this woman at work! You are involved?” Tiana shouted. Svetlana slapped Tiana across the face and threw her to the ground. Michael drew his gun but things weren’t the same anymore and he didn’t move as fast as he used to.

He heard the gun go off and felt his abdomen catch on fire. Looking down, he knew it was him.

Tiana rushed to his side and applied pressure. Agent Foster and President Smith had their guns drawn at each other. They could hear sirens and helicopters outside. Help had arrived and justice would be served.

“Help is here,” Tiana said with tears in her eyes. “Just hang in there a little longer, ok?”

Michael could hear Miriam singing their song as she walked down the metal stairs towards them. She was much younger as she stood before him. Her brunette hair was up in the same style she wore it the day they met. She always had a glow about her but today it was different.

Michael stood up and walked over to her. “Welcome home, handsome,” she said as she draped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

He could hear chaos behind them, although muffled. He looked behind and saw himself lying on the ground in Tiana’s arms. He saw President Smith being arrested and Agent Foster comforting Tiana.

He looked back over to Miriam. She frowned, then smiled. “It’s time to retire, love.”

Out Of Retirement Part 2-Ice Queen

Click here to read Part 1

He rubbed the business card between his fingers as he tried to remember all of the events from the day before. His head was throbbing and his ears were ringing a bit.

Think, Michael. Your memory is sharp, he thought to himself. You are nothing like the old guys in this joint. Think.

He remembered the trip to the mall and the bomb. The memories seemed very hazy, like a distant memory, not something that happened the day before.

“What happened when I came home?” He said aloud, hoping that hearing his voice would jog his memory. A flash back of Tiana came to his mind and something about visitors.

I better call this number before Ice Queen comes back, he thought as he dialed the number on the card.

“This is special agent Foster,” the voice on the other end said. Michael could tell right away this was a rookie, his voice was young and his statement almost sounded like a question.

“Is it?” Michael responded, quick as ever. “You didn’t sound too sure.”

The man cleared his throat. “Sir, how can I help you?” He put some authority into his voice now and it took a lot to make Michael not laugh out loud.

“This is Michael Henry.”

The man on the other end began coughing, as if choking on water and Michael could here rustling of papers.

“Mr. Henry. We weren’t exp-I mean we-we were hoping you would call,” agent Foster stammered.

“Have we met before?” Michael asked.

Agent Foster’s voice was starting to bring back some memories of his visitors the day before. He recalled an older gentleman and a goofball kid-must be him.

“Agent Jefferson and I were in to see you yesterday but you were not interested in what we had to say. You know the drill-we had to help you forget our meet-,” the man began to explain.

“I heard about you. We all have,” he continued. “You are a legend among the new agents. It’s really an honor to be speaking with you. You are the only one who can fight the Memory Eraser. How do you do it?”

Michael sat quiet on the phone. He was annoyed, he didn’t care much for small talk and he hated attention on himself. He just wanted the boy to get to the point already.

After a brief pause agent Foster spoke. “We can’t talk much more on the phone. As you know it’s not safe. Meet me at the bench out front by the river in 20 minutes, “ he said and hung up the phone.

Michael sunk into his chair, rubbing his temples. His headache and the ringing in his ears made sense now. Those bastards tried to erase my memory! Ha! They must have thought with old age it would have an impact on him for once-but his mind was far to sharp for that. Scientists all over the world had tried their models on Michael when he was in the service and he fought them all. They would always ask the same questions…they wanted to know how he fought it.

Michael would smile and shrug every single time and say, “when you cherish each moment in life you tend to cling to each memory tight.”

He knew the truth, however. He had a protection around him so strong in all of his years he served the country. His wife, Meriam’s, prayers. She loved Michael and her daughters fiercely, but she loved the Lord more than anything. When she told you that she was praying for you, she meant it. She would go into her prayer room and be on her knees fighting. It was in her nature to fight, and boy did she fight some heavy things in life. She grew up in an abusive home and joined the army as a nurse as soon as she could get away from her family. Once she was enlisted she was met with unpleasant experiences that she never told a soul on earth to, but her Father in heaven knew everything about her.

Michael often wondered if it was her relationship with Jesus that prevented her from hardening the way many people have who had gone through what she has.

Michael looked at his watch, 10 minutes had already gone by. Time always flew by when he thought of Meriam. He grabbed his cane and headed out the door, stopping to look at his schedule. He shook his head. Another day completely off his routine, he was so irritated. This meeting better be worth it.

The sun hit his face and caused him to squint as he stepped off the front porch of the nursing home and walked towards the empty bench across the street.

He sat on the metal bench, which felt cool despite the heat, and listened to the seagulls overhead. He checked his watch-he’s late.

Punctuality is very important to Michael and to him really nothing else mattered when it came to first impressions.

“Sorry I’m late,” Agent Foster said as he slid into the bench beside Michael. He was even younger than Michael has anticipated.

“Don’t be sorry, be better,” Michael responded, catching agent Foster off guard.

“Michael, your life is in danger. You need to leave Manor Lakes immediately,” agent Foster said. “You have to do it quietly. Start packing, but don’t make it looks like you are packing.”

“I can’t just up and leave!” Michael was furious. “What about my daughters? How can I explain me moving to them?”

“We will handle all the details, Mr. Henry. You know that. They have spies all over this place, it’s now of never. Meet me here tonight at 2000.”

With that he got up and walked away. Michael watched him step into a black suv at the end of the road, the driver nodded at him.

Michael looked out to the river and thought about what Meriam would have said if she was still alive. “Michael, you will be dead before you retire, and even then you will find a way to work!” She always said. He smiled. She was beautiful even when she was mad. Her cheeks would become pink and her lip would curl. He would give anything to see her again, even if it was just to hear her disagree with him.

They didn’t argue much, but when they did it was almost always about his work. Michael took pride in serving his country and the work that he did. He would retire only to joint special task forces when asked. He just couldn’t say no and chance something happening to the country he loves so dearly.

This country is where his parents came from England and on blood sweat and tears built a name for themselves. It was fighting for this country that he met the love of his life. It’s in this country he bought his first home and raised his children. How could he say no when they needed him?

“Well we need you, too.” Meriam would sulk as he walked out the door. “May God protect you today and always,” she said before kissing him.

A group of seagulls fighting over a piece of bread thrown by one of the other residents brought him out of his daydream. Michael made his way back into the building and headed to his room to pack. Just as he was about to walk into his room the Russian nurse approached him.

Nodding towards the schedule that hung she said, “for a man who likes his routine you sure don’t follow your schedule.”

Michael’s heart began to beat a little quicker.

“Want your bath now?” She asked.

“No, I’m ok, thank you. Where is Tiana?”

The woman’s cold features became even more icy-so much so that it gave the old man chills. Her smile was sinister. “She no longer works here.”

Impossible. Tiana was in nursing school and Manor Lakes was paying for her education. She had one more semester left, she would never leave. He felt sick to his stomach but had to play it cool. He could not let her know that he knows who she is.

“Ah yea this place has a bit of a turn around. I don’t know how you broads do it,” he said quickly shutting his bedroom door behind him.

All that sat between him and the femme fatale was a heavy oak door that didn’t even lock. He focused on his breathing in orders to gain his composer. He knew what the game plan was, but that was going out the window immediately.

He needed to find Tiana, but should he let the kid know his plans first? One thing is for certain, he could use a strong drink right about now.

Out Of Retirement

The soft knock on the door startled him. Unsteady from the abrupt awakening, his hands fumbled around the bedside table searching for his glasses. Before he could even put them on his face, the door opened just a crack.

“Good morning, Mr. Henry,” Tiana said. “May I come in?”

Now that his glasses were on, he could clearly make out the time glaring from the alarm clock across then room. It was 5:30 am. His alarm was set for 7:00 am, just like it was yesterday and the day before. In fact, each day was exactly like the last for Michael Henry.  He liked it that way. Michael was always ridged with routine, most likely from his time in the service, but he became even more scheduled since his wife passed away a few months ago. His daily routine was so consistent that everyone at the Manor Lakes Community knew about it. He even had it printed out and hung by the door of his room just in case anyone would need to find it.

“It’s really early,” he said as Tiana made her way to the bedside. He could see she was holding bath supplies in her arms. Her black curls sat just above her shoulders and her scrubs were neat and pressed as always.

“I know, Mr. Henry. I’m trying to get to everyone ready who is on the field trip list first this morning. I was surprised to see your name on the list, I know how much you enjoy your routine,” she said smiling and nodding towards the schedule that hung.
“I certainly did not sign up for a field trip,” he said with confusion in his voice.

Tiana shrugged. “That’s odd, Mr. Henry. Well how about we just get you ready since I’m already here and then when the recreational director comes in we will talk to her. Does that sound ok?,” she said holding up an outfit she pulled out from his closet  for his approval. He nodded in agreeance with her choice and her statement then slowly made his way out of bed and into the bathroom.

Tiana already had the water running to ensure it was warm enough for him. She was his favorite aid. He hated needing assistance in things like showering but he’d gotten pretty unsteady on his feet. About a year ago he had a bad fall that took a very long time to recover from. Tiana always made sure the water was warm, not everyone took the time to care for details like that. Even if she was swamped with work, she never rushed Michael, allowing him to take care of what he could on his own and only help when needed. Dignity was so important to the 82 year old man and she helped him maintain it. The others would rush him so they could check him off their list and move onto the next resident.
She reminded him of Meriam, his wife. She was a nurse in the service, in fact that’s how they met. After she left the service, she continued to work part time as a nurse at Pennsylvania General, even after she gave birth to their two daughters.  She loved her job and really took pride in her work.

He started to smile picturing the day he met Miriam. He helped carry a wounded soldier to the medic tent and she was there taking action. She was assertive and calm in a sea of chaos. Her brunette hair was pinned below the white cap that sat on the crown of her head. Her skin was flawless with youth. She caught him staring at her just a little too long and called him out.

“Officer are you going to just stand there and stare or are you going to help?” she asked with her hands on her tiny hips. He knew right then that he was going to marry that girl. And he did one year later.

“How’s the temperature, Mr. Henry?” Tiana asked bringing him back from his daydream.
“Perfect as always, Tiana. Thank you.”

Once he was dressed, Michael made his way to breakfast. As he walked along the outdated pink carpet that lined the long hallway that led to the dining hall, he glanced at his watch. It was 6:45 am, almost two hours earlier than usual for him. That means a whole new crowd to eat with. He grumbled to himself. He really enjoys his routine.

“Is that Mikey?” A hard voice called out as he walked towards the Buffett.
“It is! Mikey, did your clock break?” the voice said. Laughter erupted from the table.
“Good morning, Sam,” Michael said scooping some eggs onto his plate. He’s told Sam many times that his name is not Mikey but he stopped trying. Now he just avoids the miserable old man.

“Why don’t you sit with us?” Sam said.

Michael winced as he really enjoyed his routine. He sighed and made his way over to the table, eating quietly as the three men at the table complained about everything from the weather to the thin toilet paper the facility provided.

Just when he was about finished eating, he spotted Tiana out of the corner of his eye talking to Janet, the Recreation Director. He watched as she looked over in his direction with a smile and started to walk over to him. Her heels clicked across the tile floor and echoed through the quiet room. It reminded him of the sound the headmistress’s heels would make on the floor of the boarding school he attended. He was a bit of a trouble maker back then and when he heard those heels marching, it was almost always for him.

“Oooo your in trouble,” Sam teased.

“Good morning, Mr. Henry. It’s so nice to see  you this morning,” Janet said. Her choice of bright red lipstick really shows the years of coffee drinking and smoking on her teeth.
“Good morning, Janet. There seems to be a mix-up. I didn’t sign up for the field trip.”
“Oh, but I spoke to Mary and she said you would be looking forward to going. I do apologize,  I should have talked directly about it with you. Well, if you decide not to go, that’s ok, but I hope you do come. Change of scenery is always nice.”

Mary. He should have known his daughter had something to do with this. She was just like her mother, always pushing him to be more sociable. When Miriam was alive, she would drag him on all of these field trips, but he didn’t mind so much then when he had her by his side. She was his best friend. They would find fun in everything they did together. He missed her so much.

“Dad, it will be good for you,” Mary said through the phone. “It’s just a few hours at the mall. Remember when we would all go together as a family?”

He smiled picturing his daughters as little girls climbing up onto the water fountain and begging for pennies to throw in to make wishes. He remembered his wife’s stern voice telling the girls to be careful but he could see the smile in her eyes. She would hand them each two pennies and her voice would soften as she said,
“Over your left shoulder
And it will come true
One wish for me and
One for you.”

Mary’s voice snapped him out of his blissful daydream.
“You always had to stop for those Auntie Anne’s pretzels, remember? Just go for a little while and treat yourself to one. For me, dad?”

He agreed, but only for today. He liked his routine.

“Fine I’ll go, but don’t ever sign me up for anything without asking me next time ok?” He said.
“Deal!” Mary said with the sound of victory in her voice.

She was just like her mother.

Michael grabbed his wallet and cane and walked towards the front exit. He sighed heavily as he glanced over at his schedule. He liked his routine.
It felt safe. Expected. Unlike the death of his wife. That was a shock to them all.

The bus arrived at 1030 am. Janet assigned a few college volunteers to accompany the attendees on the trip.

“Hey Mikey, decided to come join the fun?” Sam called from the back of the bus.
All of a sudden, Michael felt like he was a school kid again. Good thing for Sam he wasn’t or he would have decked him in the face by now. He sat down in the front of the bus and got lost in the memories of Miriam.

When the bus arrived at the front entrance of the mall, it was almost 11:00am. Prime time for the annoying elderly speed walkers and the mommy and me groups, Michael thought to himself. He’s not sure what it was about the mall walkers that bothered him so much. Maybe it was jealousy that his hip left him unable to be as active as he would like or maybe it was the way they look back at him almost mockingly when they passed by. It’s as if they are saying Ha ha age hasn’t caught up to me yet, sucker! He rolled his eyes as he carefully got off the bus.

“Mr. Henry?” one of the young chaperones said.
Michael nodded.
“I’m Tom, I’ll be hanging out with you today. I can help with whatever you need.”

Michael knew that they had to have someone walk with him because of his occasional unsteadiness but he was annoyed. He didn’t want to have to entertain this college kid.

“Well I have to go to the bathroom,” he said.
“Ok I can come with you, I’m supposed to.”
“Young man, I’m perfectly capable of doing my business on my own.” Michael said.    Tom shifted uncomfortably. “Oh, ok. Well I’ll wait at the end of the hall. And will check to make sure you are ok. Sorry, sir.”

Michael made his way down the hall towards the restrooms when he heard loud voices coming from the utility closet. He stopped to get a better listen. He knew those thick accents from anywhere. They were speaking Russian and it just so happens he was fluent in the language from a time in his life he’d much rather forget.

He shuffled a little but closer, making sure to not make a sound. He glanced at Tom down the end of the hall to make sure he wasn’t watching. He was busy flirting with the smoothie girl.

His eyes widened. Did he really just hear that? A bomb? In the mall? Set to go off tonight during an event?

His heart began to quicken as he steadied himself. No one would believe this. He listened some more and fumbled to get a pen and paper from his pocket. He shut his eyes tightly as if that would help him hear better and he finally got what he needed…the location of the bomb.

It was in the storage room of Maxwell’s Candles.
This is crazy, he thought to himself. What in the world am I going to do with this information?

He knew the answer, though. He needed to take care of it. He made his way towards Tom who was still flirting with the smoothie queen. How was he going to ditch this kid so he can take care of business?

“Listen kid,” Michael said. “I’m an 82 year old man whose stuck in a nursing home all day long. I would love to just have a little freedom for the day.”
“I don’t know, I was told I had to stay with you,” Tom said.                                            Michael could hear the unsureness in his voice and caught him glancing over at the blonde behind the counter.
“I tell you what,” Michael said. “Here’s 20 bucks. Go talk to your girlfriend while I take a walk and I’ll meet you back here in an hour?”
To his surprise, the kid obliged and took off with the 20 dollar bill and hope in his heart.

Kids these days, he thought to himself as he made his way towards the mall directory. He saw that the candle store was right in the center of the mall. He had to pick up the pace if he wanted to make it in time.

He passed Auntie Anne’s on the way to his destination. He could smell the buttery goodness immediately. His stomach grumbled. I’ll get one on the way back, he thought to himself with confidence.

He walked into Maxwell’s Candles and was immediately hit with 30 different scents at once. He always hated these stores, they gave him a headache. Miriam loved them. She could spend hours opening each one, closing her eyes as she took in their unique scents.

A tall woman with dark features approached him. “Can I help you find anything?” she said as she touched his shoulder. She has a thick Russian accent and ice blue eyes. She was beautiful that’s for sure, but he was weary of how much she knew of what he now knows.

“No thanks, just looking,” he said exaggerating his hobble hoping it will make him look less suspicious. Who is he kidding, he doesn’t look suspicious at all in his old feeble age. The phone rang and the woman went to answer it. Michael made sure she was distracted and slipped into the back storage room.

There were boxes stacked to the ceiling all with different labels. He was looking for the box marked Gardenia Musk.

“Lost, old man?” A deep voice with a thick accent startled him.

A large man appeared from the shadows. Luckily in his old age he was still quick on his feet. He began to speak to the man in Russian explaining that he was to pick up the box marked Gardenia Musk.

The man stared at him for a moment and began to roar with laughter.                       “You??? You are not at all what I expected. This is genius.” He walked away continuing to laugh.

Michael’s heart was beating out of his chest. He was so close.  Soon this can be over and he can go back to his simple life and his routine.

The man reappeared with a duffel bag and eyeing Michael up one more time handed him the bag.
“Thank you.” Michael said as he walked towards the door that led to the store.
“Back door, please.” The man said nodding to the emergency exit that led to a hallway in the mall. Michael nodded and left.

He walked down the hall quickly. What in the world did you just do? He thought to himself. Up ahead he saw a janitors closet that was slightly ajar. He peeked in, it was empty. Quickly he unpacked the duffel bag and began to disarm the bomb. His hands weren’t as steady as they used to be and these bombs were a lot more advanced, but somethings never change. Sweat pouring down his face as he fumbled with the wires he heard footsteps coming closer. Just before the door swung open he was able to completely disarm the bomb and throw it back into the duffel bag.

“Sir??? You ok?” Said the young woman holding a mop and bucket. She was startled and confused.

“Yes I appear to have gotten lost. Where is the restroom?” Michael stammered.
She showed him the way, eyeing him suspiciously the entire time.                   

“Are you sure you are ok?” she asked. “Is there someone I can call?”                             
“I assure you I am ok, I have always gotten lost in malls. Used to drive my wife crazy,” he said laughing.                                                           

The young girl began to loosen up and she let out a chuckle while walking away.

He looked at his watch. He had five minutes to meet with Tom. It wasn’t enough time to get the Auntie Anne’s pretzel today since the line was now long. He shrugged. He just wanted to get home and take a nap. He really likes his routine. This was too much for him, he left this life behind him years ago.

He never thought he would be so happy to pull up to Manor Lakes Community but he could almost kiss the outdated pink rug when he walked in. Just as he was about to settle in for a nap there was a knock on the door. What now? He thought.

“Mr. Henry you have some visitors,” Tiana said. Behind her walked in two military officials. He closed his eyes and he sighed. He really likes his routine. Schedules are safe and predictable when you follow them. He always follows them, well almost always.

The alarm went off at 7 am. He woke up in a cold sweat and looked around. Had it been a dream this whole time? Of course it was! Boy that was the most vivid dream he has ever had. He glanced around the room for the duffel bag, it was nowhere to be found. It was a dream! Just then there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” he said.
He expected to see Tiana but through the door walked a tall woman with dark hair and ice blue eyes.
“I’m here for your bath,” she said coldly with a thick accent. It was the woman from the candle store. Impossible he thought. It was a dream. “I think I’ll take my bath tonight,” he said wearily.
“Very well,” she said placing a bag of Auntie Anne’s pretzels on his bed and walking out the door. “I’ll check on you soon.”

Michael reached for his wallet and pulled out a card he had never seen before. It was an official military card with a phone number written on the back and a message that said: “Call when you are ready to come out of retirement.”

 

Tiggy is His Name by Edward Zambrano

My son has always been a lover of books. Before he could read independently he would sit with us for hours as we read to him book after book, going on many different adventures. He would memorize the words of his favorite ones so that he could “read” along with us. The past few months I have been buckling down and writing my novel as well as keeping up my blog. He loves to read my posts, especially my Fiction Friday stories. “I want to write a story,” he said one day. I smiled at this thought. He would be an amazing writer just knowing the imagination he has. “You should! Want to try to write one for Fiction Friday?” I asked. He beamed and immediately got to work. So today I’m proud to present a Friday Fiction written by my son. Hope you enjoy!

 

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I remember the day my mom brought home the lovable, bright orange stuffed tiger. She said she got it from a mysterious old lady at an antique shop downtown. She always liked antiques and only picked the best ones to buy. I looked at the tiger curiously. It seemed from the look in its eyes that it was alive! Was that a wink? No, we all know that is silly, right?

That night, I woke up to a loud CRASH! BAM! As soon as I opened my eyes, I saw a monster lying on the green carpet of my bedroom. I was startled at the sight and knew exactly why, MY TIGER WAS GONE! Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the small orange stuffed tiger and he was beating up the monster! The tiger looked at me and I quickly pretended to fall back asleep but I am not a very good actor. “Excuse me! Are you up?,” the tiger said. “If you are, HELP ME!” I jumped out of bed not even questioning if it was a dream or not. Truth is, it wasn’t a dream. After the battle, I asked the tiger what his name was. “A stuffed animal’s name is earned and has to be given by my best friend,” he said. “I never had a name before.” I knew that I had to come up with something great.

That morning my mom took one look at the stuffed tiger and was shocked. “Take care of this more, he’s very valuable,” she said as she was gracefully sowing him back together. While she was sowing, I ran upstairs to my bedroom to grab my homework before school. The papers were recked during the fight last night and all over the floor. I picked the pieces up and left for school. At school my teacher asked for my homework and I decided to tell her everything that happen. “PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE NOW!” she yelled. That day my mom had a talk with me about “lying”. She said she loved my imagination but we need to be honest. Grownups never understand! The next morning I had scratches on my face from another battle. My mom asked, “Why do you have scratches on your face?” I told her and she smiled, shaking her head. “You have some imagination there, you should write a book!”

The years went by and the tiger and I went on amazing adventures until one day, we went up against the monster boss. His name? Well we don’t no how to speak monster but it sounded like a nightmare. We were fighting for what felt like days but we finally beat him working as a team. I was so out of breath, I tried to say something but all that came out was, “Tiggy.” That’s how he finally got his name.

The Moonlight

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Lying in bed she faced the open window, thankful for the cool breeze on that muggy August night. She watched the tree branches sway rhythmically and she imagined it was her dancing in his arms among the moonlight. There was something about the moon that always made her think of him. Perhaps it was the way his brown eyes showed specks of green in it’s light or that their first kiss took place in his pickup truck outside her parent’s home under the brightest full moon she had ever seen. She shivered as a rush of memories flooded her mind. That same night he had promised her the moon after she had mentioned how beautiful it was. “Anna, I promise you I will find a way to lasso the moon and catch all of the stars and give them to you,” he said as he tucked her red hair behind her ear and kissed her. She smiled remembering his voice but also at how smooth his game was.

It’s been eight months since she last heard from him and she still gets butterflies when she thinks about that kiss. From day one the letters came daily. She remembers the first day the mailbox was empty, her stomach was in knots as she sat at the dinner table with her family just staring at her plate. Her father could see the worry written all over her face. Out of all four of his children he and Anna has the closest relationship. She was the only one who would beg to tag along with him as he worked their family’s corner store in town. She would help with small tasks and he would pay her with a king size chocolate bar every Friday. “Anna, I know you are worried,” he said “but nothing good comes from imagining scenarios. Our minds can take us in dark places and the truth is the letter could have gotten lost in the mail or maybe he is traveling at the moment. I’m sure you will get one in the next few days.”

The letters never did resume.

There were many speculations about his disappearance, none of which made sense to Anna or his mother. He had promised her the moon and the stars and he was a man of his word.

She flipped her pillow over and laid her cheek against the cool cotton. She knows she should just move on, but there is just something about the moonlight that won’t let her forget him.

 

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The Son’s Light

B021FDCB-8C5D-4655-8EA1-FE520F6214DFI’m excited to announce the re-start of Fiction Fridays. Each week I will share a fictional short story which may or may not become something  more later on! Hope you enjoy! 

She ran out of the house fast and quietly. As soon as her feet hit the dirt path that led to the garden she drew in a deep inhale. Had she been holding her breath this whole time? She walked out towards the garden hoping to escape the suffocating tension in the house behind her. They were at it again. Each fight was worse than the last and she decided to sneak out before she was drug into this one as well.

Stepping through the old wood gate at the entrance of the garden her ice blue eyes stared at the the sunflowers ahead. Her favorite flower. She cocked her head to the side with curiosity as she walked closer. The flowers appeared to be facing a new direction this afternoon. She turned to face the same direction they were, as if to try and see what they were looking at. She squinted and held her hand up to her forehead to shield the sun’s glare. She could feel her porcelain cheeks turning pink from the heat as if the sun was kissing her with comfort. She welcomed any kind of comfort at this moment.

She always thought it was a myth that sunflowers “chase the sun,” but today she learned that it was in fact true. She can’t blame them. Why wouldn’t they chase the thing that gives them life? Shouldn’t she also be chasing after what gives her life instead of being stuck in a place that is slowly killing her? She sat on the stone wall that outlined the garden and kicked her sandals off one by one. What gives us life? She thought. Sure we need food, water, and shelter, but surely there is something more that I need to be searching for. A slight cool breeze picked up unexpectedly, but felt pleasant in the sticky heat. As she brushed her sandy blonde hair away from her eyes something on the wall ahead caught her attention. Was that writing on the wall? All of these years in this garden, sixteen to be exact, and she never noticed writing on the wall.

She got up and walked over to the opposite side of the garden to take a look. There were initials carved into the stone, EMJ, her grandfather. Below was a quote that read:

“Just as the beautiful petaled heads
Chase the sun’s golden light
May we always be in search
For the Son’s glorious light.”

She felt something she has never felt before as her arms prickled with goosebumps. Who was he talking about?

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