THE SHINE JOURNAL

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Three From Margaret Davidson

 

CELL

 

 

 “You are going to take your cell phone with you, aren’t you, Susan?”

 

“Why do I need it?  You can call me on my sister’s phone.”

 

“I don’t know why I bought you that phone.  You never use it.”

 

“I hate the things.”

 

“Do you even know how to turn it on?”

 

“I’m not stupid, Ben.”

 

“I know that, but you do have a problem with electronics.  You don’t even know how to turn on the television.”

 

“I used to know, before it was necessary to have three remotes to work the darn thing.

 Anyway, I don’t watch television.”

 

“Let me show you how to use the phone.”

 

“Ben!”

 

“Okay, okay. Well put it in your purse so that when you get back to Rochester you can call me from the plane as soon as it lands.  I’ll wait in the office until I hear from you.  It’s only five minutes from the office to the airport.  I’ll be there before you even get into the terminal.”

 

***

 

It’s a week later and JetBlue is racing down the runway having just landed in Rochester.  Susan hunts for her cell phone in her purse, drags it out and studies it.  She should hunt for her glasses, but they’re right down the bottom of her purse.  She can see the “On” button and presses it, then squints at the options some more.  Hadn’t Ben programmed in their home number?  Yes, she knew he had.  How to retrieve it?  Maybe the darn thing has voice options.  She holds it to her ear.  Odd, no dial tone.  She presses “On” again.

 

“Do you need some help?”  It’s the man in the next seat speaking, and Susan can swear he’s smirking at her.

 

“No, I’m fine.”

 

“May I make a small observation?”

 

What a jerk!  Susan ignores him.

 

“Only, lady, that don’t look to be a phone you got there.”

 

“What?”

 

“Looks like a tv remote to me.

 

###

 

 

 

THE GIFT

 

The brilliance of the crystal chandelier in the center of the theatre began to dim as Maestro Levine, amid thunderous applause, entered the orchestra pit. He bowed once to the audience and then, turning to the orchestra, he raised his baton. A moment of dead silence, and then the music soared upward.

 

I glanced sideways to catch my dad’s reaction. He was leaning forward in his seat, eyes fixed on every movement of Levine’s baton. Just maybe this had been the best idea I’d ever had.

 

Years ago, when I was a child, I remember how my dad had so enjoyed listening to the great Italian tenors of the day.  He’d turn the radio on full blast and sing along with them.  The fact that he could barely carry a tune hadn’t phased him in the least, and nor had the fact that he didn’t speak a word of Italian. That didn’t matter, he said, it was the emotion carried by the voice that counted. I remember my mother pretending to block her ears as he sang along, but she always wore a smile as she did this. 

 

How Dad would have loved to attend a live performance. That had been his dream; to one day ride the train to New York City and spend an evening at the grand opera. Oh, how wonderful that would be; the set of the stage, the gorgeous costumes of the cast, and the music.  Most of all the music. He was going to do it someday he’d promised, over and over again.

 

But my parents were not rich people. There was money enough for us to live comfortably in the suburbs, money enough for decent clothing, and good food, but a trip to the Met was something they could not rationalize, not with three children to educate.

 

Now, my mother had been gone fifteen years already, and Dad had just turned eighty.  This trip to the opera was my gift to him. I just hoped I hadn’t made a terrible mistake.

 

I turned to the stage once more as the curtain rose to the opening act of La Traviata.

 

***

 

The final curtain came down for the last time, the cast took their final bows, and the applause died. I led my dad out into the lobby, down the giant winding staircase, and out through the doors and into the street. All around us snippets of conversation reached my ears as people dissected the performances. “Pavarotti was better in that role,” I heard.  “Too bad he cancelled at the last minute.” “Zefferelli’s sets are always the best,” offered somebody else. Dad was oblivious to the passing conversation. Was it my imagination, or were his eyes wet?

 

My spirits plummeted. I should have known better. I should not have done this stupid thing. “Are you alright, Dad?” I asked, as we wended our way through the crowd.

 

He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, turned toward me and, yes, his eyes were full of tears. “Thank you, my darling,” he said. “Thank you so very much.”

 

Ecstatic, I hugged him, choked with tears myself. It had worked. I had given him something special after all. The fact that he was too deaf to hear much of the music hadn’t mattered in the slightest. Being at the Met, seeing the spectacle of the grand opera had been enough.

 

Grand it certainly had been, and my Dad had lived his dream.

 

LAST CHANCE

 

 

It was twilight when Nathan reached the middle of the bridge and stared down into the swirling depths below.  His plan was to jump.  He leant against the parapet and uncapped the quart of rough whiskey he’d bought with his last few dollars.  He took a swig, and as warmth coursed through his body he thought back.

 

He’d made good money as a croupier, but soon realized he could do better.  He began playing the games himself, beginning with small stakes, building to larger ones.

 

He’d been good.  More important, he’d been lucky.

 

Then one night his luck began to change although, at the time, losing one blackjack game hadn’t seemed ominous.  But the next night he’d lost again, and the next.  Even after several months he could have recovered, but by then the whiskey had him.  The more he lost, the more he drank; the more he drank the greater his losses.

 

Now, a year later, he was broke and craving liquor even as he contemplated his demise.

 

He had nothing to lose by climbing the parapet and jumping.  Wasn’t it preferable to living life without friend whiskey?  Booze was the only friend he had, gambling not being a profession that encouraged close relationships.  Sure, there’d been women.  Glossy creatures who’d hung around the casino tables like ravens.  Women who’d migrated from Nathan’s life along with his fortune.

 

Dying was the answer.  And yet ….

 

The wind had dropped with the arrival of night, and the river was calm enough now that Nathan could make out jagged rocks rising from it.  Death by drowning was almost peaceful, but smashing his head against rocks was less appealing.

 

Was he making a mistake?  Was there a chance of beating the booze; embracing life again?

 

Nathan slumped to the pavement, thoughts skittering back to his second love.  Gambling.  He’d miss that almost as much as the drink.  What was it to be?  Life or death?  He couldn’t decide.

 

Then his whiskey-addled brain came up with a plan as ironic as it was brilliant.

 

If gambling was his love, why not let a gamble decide his fate?

 

Fully dark now, Nathan could see passing traffic only by the light of a nearby lamp.  If, after the village clock struck nine, the third car that passed was black, he’d jump.  Any other color and he lived.

 

He waited two long minutes before the first chime.  One…  Two…  On the ninth stroke a car sped across the bridge.  It was red.  An agonizing three minutes later a gray Honda swept by, and right on its tail was a third.

 

Nathan couldn’t tell the color at first, but it looked dark.  It was slowing; stopping under the lamp.  What the --?

 

Somebody stepped out.

 

“Come along, buddy.  Cold here.  Let’s get you to the station and a hot drink.

 

 

Next morning the only thing Nathan could recall was how pissed he’d been that the rescuing car was pitch black.

 

 

MARGARET DAVIDSON shares...

MARGARET DAVIDSON was born and raised in England and now resides in upstate New York. Over three hundred of her fiction and non-fiction stories have been published in print and online magazines. Margaret may be reached at MargaretDa@aol.com.

 

 

 

MOTIVATION

 

"Cell"

 

I have a friend who was sitting in the waiting room of her doctor's office when her phone rang.  She dragged it out of her purse and put it to her ear before realizing she had pulled out her television remote rather than her phone.  She told me how embarrassed she'd been, giving me the kernel of an idea for a humorous short tale.

 

 

"The Gift"

 

My first visit to the Metropolitan Opera in New York was many years ago, but I've never forgotten the glamour of that evening.  Of course, the music was wonderful, but so was the spectacle of the larger-than-life performances on stage and the beauty of the theater itself.  I've attended the opera at the Met a number of times since, and that initial excitement has never worn off.

 

Thus the motivation for this story, which is pure fiction. 

 

 

"Last Chance"

 

I often wonder how much of a role sheer luck plays in all of our lives.  Perhaps more than we imagine.  Thus this story