The sound of the leaky faucet woke Walter up at 5:45 am again.
Walter slowly sat up, feeling all the aches and pains in his back as he did. He wiped his mouth with the blue checkered handkerchief his wife had given him on his 62nd birthday.
“To keep you looking as good as you feel xx” the handwritten note had read.
“Drip, drop, drip, drop.”
“For God’s sake Walter, when are you gonna call someone to come fixt that thing?”
“I don’t need to call someone,” Walter huffed. “I can fix it.”
“Well the last 15 years beg to differ with you, my dear.”
They’d had that same argument every week for as long as Walter could remember. He used to hate the nagging, but what he wouldn’t give to have that fight one more time.
“Oh, shit!” Alex shouted as the box of lost and found items he’d been carrying toppled out of his arms and down the hospital hallway. People turned to stare but probably more due to the profanity then the strewn about belongings.
“Eh, sorry,” Alex mumbled as he quickly gathered the items and rushed into the break room. Alex had been volunteering at the hospital for over a month now and this wasn’t the first incident he’d had. He just couldn’t seem to find his place there. Helping the nurses definitely didn’t work out, talking to the patients made him too depressed, and now they had basically made him the errand boy which he still wasn’t great at. Alex had no idea why he chose the hospital for his volunteer credit in his social sciences class. He would love to just take the F but he couldn’t afford to fail any classes and lose his scholarship. His father had suggested him coming into the family business instead of college because their family had been needing a little extra help, but Alex couldn’t bring himself to fixing people’s toilets as a career. Once he got this scholarship, he saw it as his one way ticket out…but the pressure of keeping up the grades and all the extra work was getting to him. Maybe he would talk to his professor on Monday about switching from the hospital to a food bank to finish his hours.
“Um, Alex is it? You dropped this.”
It was Callie. One of the other volunteers. One who didn’t manage to make a fool of herself every day. She had a small black journal in her outstretched hand that must’ve fallen out of the box he was carrying.
“Oh. Yeah, thanks. I’m such a clutz.”
“Don’t beat yourself up. We’ve all been there. It gets easier.” She smiled and walked away.
Alex banged the journal against his head.
“Why did the only cute volunteer have to see me make a fool of myself again?” he thought to himself.
Alex stared down at the black journal. He’d been in charge of trying to find the owners of random things left around the hospital. Anything people didn’t claim he was allowed to keep. It wasn’t so bad, last week he snagged a pair of bluetooth headphones out of it.
“Please don’t have an address, please don’t have an address…” he thought to himself.
“If found please return to 1755 West Division Street.”
Now Alex was in charge of personally delivering this notebook to some stranger who probably doesn’t even remember losing it.
“Hmm, but what if this book is just full of old grocery lists or something? No one would miss that, right?” Alex justified to himself as he flipped ahead a few pages in order to save himself from a wild goose chase.
March 16th, 2004
Walter came again today. He has the most beautiful deep green eyes. Today he brought you a chocolate scone from your favorite bakery, Luna Cafe. He held your hand while you watched your favorite movie, “As Good as it Gets.” Today was a good day. Remember Walter tomorrow. You love him very very much.
Alex probably needed to return this.
Walter sat up, startled, and hit his head underneath the sink.
Walter hadn’t heard the doorbell ring in years. Who the hell could it be? He scooched out from under the sink and got up to wash his hands.
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” Walter shouted.
He hobbled over to the door and opened it slowly, peering outside.
“What do you want?”
Alex stared back at the old man nervously.
“Um, oh, sorry to bother you sir, but are you Walter Harris?”
“Who wants to know?”
“Oh, well I volunteer down at St. Mary’s hospital and I think I found something that belonged to your wife.”
“Not interested,” Walter said as he slammed the door.
Alex stared blankly for a minute and knocked again.
“God damnit!” Alex could hear Walter shout on the other side of the door.
“Please, sir, it’s important. I really think you’re gonna want to see this.”
Walter didn’t want to see it. He didn’t want to see anything that would remind him of his sweet June. Especially anything from her days at the hospital. But if it would get this kid to go away...Walter sighed audibly and opened the door.”
“Well, hurry up and get it over with then.”
“Well, um, it seems your wife left behind a journal.”
“A journal? My wife didn’t have a journal. She hated writing.”
“Oh, well, pardon me for asking but did your wife have Alzheimers or something similar?”
Walter paused and looked down.
“Yeah, she did. Why?”
“Well it seems to be a private journal for herself to um, help her remember..”
“Remember? What did she need to remember?”
Walter stared for a moment, a little confused.
Alex continued, “It’s all full of memories and details about you and your life and your visits, she must’ve been trying to help herself remember.”
Alex held out the book. Walter took it, hesitantly. He flipped open to a page, it was one of the last entries.
August 23rd, 2006
Walter came today and brought you flowers. Lilies, your favorite. He seemed sad today. You asked him what was wrong but he said nothing. You talked about your wedding day. It was an afternoon in late April and there was a bad storm. He was worried you were disappointed that the weather had been bad, but it was a perfect day. You wore your sister’s wedding dress and had baked grits and you all had to run from the ceremony to your daddy’s barn in the pouring rain. You all laughed and danced the day away, soaking wet. It was the most wonderful day because you married the most wonderful man. Remember Walter tomorrow. He is the best thing that’s ever happened to you.
Tears welled up in Walter’s deep green eyes.
“She loved you very much, sir.”
“Yeah, I suppose she did. It’s easy to forget. Sometimes, all I can remember are all the ways I let her down.”
“Like that goddamn faucet!” Walter laughed and wiped his eyes. “She got on me everyday to get someone to come fix it but I was too proud.”
“Oh well, my dad is a plumber. Maybe I could take a look at it for you?”
Alex turned the sink handle on then all the way off. No drip.
“There ya go. Good as new.”
“Well I’ll be. Look at that. How nice it is to have a father as a plumber, such great skills you’ll always have.”
“Yeah,” Alex laughed. “I guess you’re right.”
“Uh listen, I want to thank you for the sink and uh, for the book...”
“Hey, look. I wanna give you something for your trouble.”
“Oh no, that’s not necessary.”
“Please, it would mean a lot to me.”
Walt went to his dresser to grab his checkbook and came back into the kitchen and grabbed a pen.
“Oh jeeze, it’s been so long since I’ve written one of these damn things, let’s hope I do it right.”
“Really, it’s not necessary. It’s very kind of you.”
“Oh kind, schmind. I’m happy to do it. There. I think I got it.”
Walt ripped off the check and handed it to Alex.
“20,000 dollars?? Walt! I can’t accept this. Absolutely not.”
“Oh yes you can and you will. Look, I don’t have many years left and Juney and I always did pretty well for ourselves and we never got around to having any kids of our own. I know it seems like a lot but it won’t do me nearly as any good as it sounds like you would do for your family. And, well, what you’ve done for me here today…” tears welled up in Walter’s eyes again, “Well, it’s worth all that and more.”
“Walter...I really don’t think I can take this. It doesn’t feel right.”
“Well, okay here’s how you could make it right. How about you come visit me every now and then? Maybe after your shift at the hospital? It does get a little lonely over here and I wouldn’t mind the company every now and then. Plus, I might have a few more things you could fix up.”
Alex smiled, “Of course, I’d love to. Anything else?”
“Yeah. Take care of the ones you love, and let them take care of you. Every little bit counts.”
Alex looked down at the check. “Good advice Walt, I needed to hear that today.”
“So did I.”
Walter walked Alex to the door.
“Alright, so same time next Saturday?”
“I’ll bring my tools!”
Walt laughed, “Alright, take care kid.”
Alex walked out to his car and looked down at the check again. He knew what he had to do. He’d give the money to his parents to help the business out. He’d start focusing more in school to keep his scholarship, but maybe he’d start helping his dad when he could for some extra cash. He should start saving for grad school anyway.
Alex opened his car door and got inside. He noticed his hospital lanyard on the passenger seat and had a thought. Maybe he’d stay volunteering at the hospital for now. And maybe he wouldn’t give all the 20,000 to his parents… maybe he’d save just enough to take Callie out on a date. Alex laughed. After all, Callie was right... it does get better.