Never guessing that his life as he knew it was about to end, Gary Stone brushed back a mop of copper-colored hair as he unlocked his apartment door and shoved away the deluge of mail that had piled up under the slot while he had been away. Setting down his backpack, he grabbed the lone beer he found in the refrigerator and wandered through the apartment to make sure everything was as he had left it…unlike last year’s break-in. Reassured, he picked up the stack of mail and settled down in his favorite chair.
As he browsed idly through a Caltech alumni bulletin, a shiver shot through him as a name in the obits caught his eye. Apparently, Elise Aronson had died in a car crash. Their fields were so different that his path had never crossed hers until that reunion weekend a few years ago. They had found themselves alone together in the back of a room as others proudly showed off pictures of their kids.
“No commitments for me,” he had explained. “I need to be free to take off at a moment’s notice.”
That was when she had confided that she didn’t plan to marry either but that she knew she was letting down a family who had endured unspeakable hardships to get to this country. She was still living in their working class bungalow nearby. Her story was so compelling that, after a few drinks too many, he had agreed to go with her to her doctor’s office and provide the sperm that would allow her to carry on their line. When he eventually sobered up, he had wanted to renege but just couldn’t disappoint her when he saw how determined she was.
The next morning, unable to get the obituary out of his mind, Gary printed a map on his computer and got into his car. Half an hour later, parked on the street in front of a modest corner bungalow, he saw him. There in the backyard sitting on a swing, clinging to an old teddy bear, was a small boy with a thick shock of untamed copper-colored hair. The boy raised a small hand to his eye and wiped away a tear.
It hit Gary like a wallop in the stomach.
The following day, he went to see a lawyer. Then, feeling utterly conflicted, he drove back to the house and knocked on the door. It took a while, but an elderly man with a cane eventually opened it, obviously startled at the appearance of the man at the door.
“I was a close friend of Elise’s,” Gary lied.
In heavily-accented English, the frail man invited him inside. Then he explained, “As her only remaining relative, I was summoned from overseas…but I’m in ill health and will have to return home.”
As the two men talked, the little boy woke up from his nap and joined them. Within the next hour, the boy found his way onto Gary’s lap and into his heart. As the two pushed back identical mops of unruly copper-colored hair, there was a lot of light-hearted laughter. But eventually the sun went down and dusk settled in around them.
Slowly, an understanding evolved. An extremely tall man, Gary had to stoop down to hold the little boy’s hand as they walked out the door together into their uncertain future.
© Copyright 2009 Ellen Drebin. All rights reserved.
Ellen Drebin worked as a teacher and then a stockbroker for many years. She began taking screenwriting and playwriting courses in the evenings and on weekends. A few of her scripts have been optioned. She says “The more experiences one has in the world, the more stories one has to tell.”