I couldn’t sleep tonight so I sat down to tap something out on the keyboard. This story had been bouncing around in my brain since yesterday, so I let it come out.
It’s rough and can use a good polish, but I’m pleased with the flavor and direction. This was the result of a random prompt – a tan chair. Critiques welcome in the comments – get those red pens out and start attacking :)
The Woman Walked
The woman walked past an alley on a cold day. Looking into it, she saw a small boy, barely clothed, sitting alone on an old, metal chair with a seat made of tan plastic. The small boy was shivering, his legs and arms bare to the chill.
“What are you doing out here alone?” asked the woman. The boy looked up at the woman, his eyes ringed with shadow.
“My mommy had to go,” he said, his thin voice quivering. “She said I was to stay in my chair until someone came for me.” The old woman’s heart melted. Her own life had been childless, not by choice, and she yearned to care for the abandoned boy.
“Your wise Mommy sent me,” said the woman. She gathered the small boy up in her arms, wrapping him in her scarf. The chair he refused to leave behind, and the old woman awkwardly drug it home behind her, raggedy boy clinging to her like a baby chimp.
The boy was quiet and meek at first, but when the weeks went on to find him fattening up with care, he grew wild and adventurous. The poor old woman’s house, and then life, turned upside down. Her collection of prose fell to her box of art pastels, under the hand of her adopted son, pages of Shakespeare was transformed into stick figures brandishing spears. Her Grand Piano, hauled up to her third floor apartment with great care, became a mottled beast with missing ivories and skin pocked with carved initials and poke marks.
Despite the old woman’s lack of discipline, her son grew to be a fine man that went on to become a prominent doctor that cared for some of the best names in the city. He married a beautiful woman and moved into a large house filled with fine furniture and facing a park. In his study, the man kept the old, metal chair with a seat made of tan plastic to serve as a reminder of where he had come from. It made the man work very hard, and he frequently referred to his hard work as keeping him “out of the chair.” Very few knew what he meant by the phrase.
His status kept him busy and he seldom saw the old woman, but he dearly loved her and she never had a lack of anything except his company. He bought her season passes to all the symphonies and operas and she sat in the best seat of the house flanked by the mayor’s wife and three pastors. For all the entertainments, clothes and carriage rides, the only thing she hungered for was his company.
“My dear son, I never ask you for anything,” she said one day during a rare visit with him. He embraced her.
“Anything you want, just ask,” he replied.
“Will you let me have your old, metal chair with a seat of tan plastic?”
The man was silent, and he swallowed. For a moment, he looked just like the shivering boy she had taken in so long ago. The chair was his most loved possession in the world, and he had no idea why the old woman would want it, but he agreed. He kissed her goodbye and promised it would be delivered the next day.
The woman was overjoyed. She hoped, by having his precious chair close at hand, he would find himself needing to visit it, and by default, her. When the chair finally arrived the old woman had it placed in the window looking down at the street so she could sit and watch for her sweet boy.
The visits didn’t come as she had hoped, however, and the woman began to sit in the window out of habit, her poor, old bones, creaking on the hard plastic. She watched life in the street turn and change like one of the musicals she used to attend years ago. And then, one day, the woman stopped waiting.
When they called her son to tell him the sad news he rushed over immediately, leaving the mayor shirtless on the table with a pressure cuff still attached to his arm. As he hurried, he found himself trying to remember the last time they had visited. When was the last embrace?
The apartment was quiet when he entered. Out of respect, everyone had withdrawn to the hallway to give him time alone. There sat the old woman in the chair, leaning against the glass, watching for him. He knelt at her side and wept, regretting the faded hours that had slipped away unseen.
After the funeral, the man let all the old woman’s things be auctioned off and given to the less fortunate, with the exception of the old, metal chair with the tan, plastic seat. That he kept, more treasured than before. He was often to be seen carrying it into places that housed the unwanted elderly. He would bring in that mean little chair, set it in the middle of the floor, and talk and read to the residents for hours, filling their days, and his own heart, with joy.
The man had learned, in the kind, old woman’s passing, that it wasn’t the comforts and status that made a satisfying life, but the moments spent giving of himself that gilded the hours. He gave away all he had, moment by moment, from an old, metal chair with a tan, plastic seat.