Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Sister Elizabeth

My sister Elizabeth Croson was diagnosed with PPMS (Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis) several years ago. Before the disease robbed her of most of the things we take for granted, she enjoyed writing among other things. Here is one of a few stories I'll be posting.

Mistaken Identidream

June and George were married on a beautiful day in June 1956. They dated for roughly 6 months before George, in his clumsy yet endearing way, proposed. The prenuptials took place in a small church in Fresno, California where they both resided. The first year went very well, and they became comfortable with each others good habits as well as bad.

Being a new bride, June looked to her friends for advice and an understanding ear. She had been concerned about George and spoke with her dearest friend, Janet. "He works sometimes, 12 hours a day. This just can't be good for him. When he gets home at night he's so exhausted he can hardly finish his supper!" June explained, with worry in her voice. "Maybe, its better he's at work and not under foot all day!" Janet said half kidding. "Now that Harold's home, I can't seem to get anything done." Harold had hurt his back at the plant 3 months ago and Janet claimed he was "under foot" everyday.

"Janet, does Harold talk in his sleep?" June asked, trying to avoid the unpleasant topic of Harold being off work. "When that man puts his head on a pillow, he's out like a light" Janet said in a disgusted voice. "Why do you ask?" "No reason, I guess. I really should get gin'. I'll call you later okay?" June escaped without any more questions.

That night George arrived home later than usual. As he walked in, June was waiting for him, a worried look on her face. "Sorry honey. It was an awful day." the look on George's face was tired and worn, more worn then he had ever looked. "George, you look positively drained" June said with concern in her eyes. She walked to him and placed her hand across his forehead, feeling for a temperature. "Junie, really, it was an awful day. Did you happen to see the evening paper?" George stood patiently as June finished her examination. "No fever. Open your mouth, stick out your tongue" June commanded like an overly protective mother. "June please, I’m not sick." George said obviously annoyed.

"Well, what’s wrong then? Every night for the past month you've been dragging yourself through this door, unable to do or say a thing but sleep." June began to sniff and tried to hold back tears. "Ah, Junie" Harold said, taking June in his arms. "I know this must be difficult for you. Let me make it up to you, hmm? How about dinner at Alfred's, you know, that little Italian place down on 8th.street?" George hugged June tighter.

"I made dinner. Its in the warmer." June pouted, playing with George's tie. "I'll eat it tomorrow, com'on." George smiled at June, knowing she could never resist his smile. George shrunk down to June's height. "Please" George said with a very pathetic smile, but also very convincing. "O.K. you win" June said happily defeated. "Let me put some lipstick on".

June rushed out of the room, like a child that had just gotten her way. George rubbed his temples and slumped down into his easy chair. He thought about the traumatic events that took place at work that day. He thought about June and how she would respond, and then decided against saying anything. He didn't want to upset her. He felt she was already too fragile because of all the time he had been spending at work.

"Ready? George?......." June stood looking at her husband. "Oh, you look nice. Ready?" George said, coming out of his trance.

The restaurant was empty except for the staff, and George found them a small out of the way table in the back of the restaurant. He missed being alone with his wife. A waiter came over immediately and took their order. George ordered a stiff scotch and soda, and when it arrived he drank it quickly. "George, you never drink." June said surprised. "Special occasion, I guess" George said smiling." I’m having dinner with my wife".

By the end of dinner, June had secretly marked her napkin with her fork. Five different lines were scratched on it, each line meaning one stiff scotch and soda. George seemed to be talking incessantly, about nothing. June just sat quietly, smiling and nodding. She wished they would leave. Their waiter came over to the table, for the fourth time, and again asked if they needed anything else. "Yea, gimme another" George slurred. "Bar's closed ,sir " the young man said nervously. "Please George, lets go." June pleaded. "Closed!? Really? We're just gettin started" George belched and laughed. "O.K.,O.K., here we go. Com'on Junie." George said trying to stand and stumbled. June jumped to her feet, putting her husbands arm around her shoulder. "Could you call us a cab?" June smiled with obvious embarrassment.

When they finally reached their apartment, June had to wake George and announce loudly, they had reached their destination. The cab driver gave her a sympathetic smile as she ushered George from the cab. She helped George to bed, and made sure to roll him on his side so she wouldn't stay awake half the night with his loud snoring. Dressing for bed she thought to herself, he deserved this. He worked so hard, and never had time for fun. Turning out the bed side lamp, June crawled into bed.

She lay awake listening to George dream. He always talked so much in his sleep, mainly about work. "Is he dead?" George mumbled, still sleeping. "Oh! Christ! NO!" George mumbled louder. June thought about waking him, but found the dream much too intriguing. "No that won't work" George snorted. Beads of sweat began to form on his forehead and upper lip. "We have to tell, don't you see a man is dead" June felt her stomach turn. What could he be dreaming? "George" June whispered, not really wanting to wake her husband. George stirred. "You have to find that glove!" George said, very clearly. June quietly inched her way out of bed. She didn't want to hear anymore.

Slipping her robe on she went into the living room to write the letter she promised her mother days ago. June sat at her desk; pen in hand, trying to concentrate on what to write. It became a pointless effort and June decided to give up after the 3rd. try. Gathering up the crumpled papers on the desk, she tossed them into the trash next to the desk. Noticing the evening paper stuffed deeply in the can, she sifted through the unwanted trash to retrieve the paper.

"Why would he throw out today’s paper?" June said, out loud. George had always left the paper on the coffee table for at least a day, just in case June didn't have the chance to read it. Ignoring the minor irritation, she found the unwanted paper and curled up on the sofa to read. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the article on the front page. It read: Thomas L. Sherman Murdered, Police suspect employee.

June's mind raced reading the article. She knew the name, but from where? It finally occured to her. George's boss! She bolted upright unable to comprehend what she was reading. Found dead in his office from apparent poisoning, the article read. She found herself correlating George’s unusual behavior and the death of Mr. Sherman. What was she thinking? This was crazy! She became angry with herself, and had a sudden wave of guilt wash over her. She began to wonder why George had not said anything to her.

She sat up a while longer knowing it was pointless to try and sleep. She thought of waking George and asking him about the disturbing news, but opted to allow him his sleep.

The next morning June was awakened by the sound of water running. She squinted at the living room clock. “6:30" June whispered out loud and slumped into the sofa again. The sweet smell of soap and aftershave cologne permeated the tiny living room when George opened the bathroom door. George walked out into the living room with a towel snuggly around his waist. He knelt down by June and brushed the blond curls from her face.

"Hey sleepy head " George whispered. June stirred, pretending to still be asleep. She was feeling a bit guilty because of the thoughts she had had the night before. She turned to him and tossed his wet hair, smiling. "Hey that took me a long time to get just right." George said with a chuckle." Why didn’t you come to bed, are you angry with me?" George asked. "Couldn't sleep and I really needed to get a letter out to mother" June said, while yawning. “You want some breakfast?" “Thanks, I'll get something at the office." George said, giving June a peck on the forehead. As George got up to get dressed June pulled him close to her.

"I love you, George. You know that don't you?" June whispered into George’s ear. “You sound so serious" George said almost worried. “I love you." June watched George leave the living room to get dressed. He glanced back at her and smiled. Only when she heard him opening and closing the drawers in the bedroom, was she able to breathe deeply.

Mark Albright hurried around the small and crowded office. He was still amazed at what had taken place just days ago. This was defiantly a first for him. Who would have done such a thing to Mr. Sherman? He thought to himself. He always thought his boss much too overbearing, but opted to keep that to himself. Now, he was even more relieved.

As he busied himself he heard a familiar voice talking with one of the many receptionist's in the office. Sneaking a quick look out his office door, Mark stumbled over one of the many boxes that littered his office. He was pleasantly surprised, and embarrassed, to see George Shuenic. George stood grinning at Mark, doughnut in one hand coffee in the other. "Hey Albright, you look pretty busy." George said with a chuckle. "You know me, George." Mark said, while picking himself up. He had always liked George but lately he had noticed George seemed preoccupied. "You ever think about cleaning that "trap" of yours?" George said, still grinning. He knew how

Mark felt about cleaning his own personal space. "Bad luck, George. I do some of my best work in this office, you call a trap." Mark said almost offended by the question. George must be back to his old self if he was cracking jokes, Mark thought to himself. It was good to hear him laugh again.

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