This story is by Louise Janis and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The violent crash of metal shattered Luke’s daydream and shook the heavy door to his shop. A deafening thud rocked through the room and he nearly sawed off his hand. Silencing his power tools and the wail of electric guitar riffs he was listening to, he made his way across his workshop. Wood projects stacked neatly on either side of the shop door had toppled, sending up a sawdust haze that disoriented him. Unable to slide open his garage door, he reached for his cell phone. It was in the house and he remembered Vicky had planned to drive to the nursery. Pressing his ear to the thick door, he could faintly hear singing, a ballad, he thought. “What the? Vicky?” Silence.
Luke managed to pry open a window painted shut years ago and climbed out. There his smashed truck sat wedged between a boulder and the shop door. He could see her, sitting very still behind the wheel, staring straight ahead as if in a trance. Her favorite artist crooned that familiar ballad through the cracked window.
“Vicky? Are you…?” His words stuck in his throat. The driver’s door was jammed. She did not move when he walked to the other side. Luke swallowed hard. “Vicky, are you all right?” Forcing fear from his voice, he called out again, “Vicky?”
Insistent barking of their dog broke her silence. “Ollie, stop barking,” Vicky muttered in a dream-like slur.
“What happened? Why are you in the truck?” Once he had spoken, he knew it wasn’t what he had wanted to ask her.
Vicky, his bride of forty years had not been herself for well over a year now. She had been repeating herself, forgetting conversations that took place only an hour before. Last week she arrived home with four gallons of milk instead of one; far more than the two of them could drink in a month. Luke had been worried sick that her condition was getting worse. It broke his heart to see her slipping away from him.
“Luke, I was backing up and I, …I might have stepped on the gas instead of the brake.”
“Can you walk?”
“Of course I can walk. I’m just shaken up that’s all.”
“Did you hit your head?”
She started to answer when Ollie came galloping down the flagstone path demanding answers of his own. Vicky sweetly told him, that they would play ball later.
“Let’s get you in the house and clean up the scrape on your forehead.”
Vicky agreed and Luke offered to draw a bath for her. “A soak with lavender salts is just what I need.”
“I’ll sit with you a while.” Luke wanted to make sure Vicky didn’t fall asleep in case she had a concussion. He worried about how this accident would affect her cognitively.
“Luke, what are we going to do with the messy maple trees. Soon the leaves will fall and I’m tired of all the raking. Oh and remember dear that we have dinner plans with Andy and Isabel tomorrow night. We’re bringing salad and a bottle of red wine.”
“One thing at a time Vicky. Let’s make sure you feel up for it. We can call them in the morning.” After her bath, Luke read to her from a book of poems she liked.
“Darling Luke, thank you for pampering me. I think I’ll get up now and put my ‘crash’ clothes in the laundry.”
Luke watched her dress, admiring her slim build and the way her short hair suited the features of her face. Though he felt helpless most of the time, sick with worry and concern, tonight he just wanted to comfort her. He felt a rush of appreciation for his wife, and all the luck they’d had.
Vicky tossed a worn tennis ball down the hall for Ollie. “Go get it fella.”
“Take it easy V, you’ve had a shock. You need to rest.”
“I feel great honey and I promised to throw the ball for Ollie.”
“Okay, but I’m making you chicken soup and some garlic bread for dinner. I want you to relax tonight.”
Luke didn’t turn on his golf channel after they ate. “What do you think of watching one of those old movies you like so much, huh Vicky?”
“Sure, I’ve been wanting to see
Luke fed Vicky chocolate chip ice cream to keep her awake, while he suffered through the romantic comedy with her. He was relieved when it was time to turn in. There would be a lot to sort out in the morning, and he hoped for a good night’s sleep for both of them.
“Ollie shush, why are you barking? It’s just the wind.” Vicky yawned, turned on her side and fell back on her pillow. She dreamt of leaves, hundreds of them, orange, red and yellow ones floating softly down around her. Vicky read the inscribed messages of her dream leaves. You will be cared for. It’s all love. Only blue skies ahead. The last leaf fell in the tub, where the water blurred the words.
Vicky woke with Ollie licking her face. While Luke slept, she and the dog stepped out to greet the first day of Fall. “What a day, huh Ollie? It’s crisp as an apple and just bursting with beauty.” Wind rustled the trees, nudging leaves to fall on the soft ground. Vicky pulled her flannel robe tighter against the nip in the air and smiled. “Hope!” she said. “The leaf in the tub read…hope.” Ollie yipped as if he understood and they turned back to the house.
“Rise and shine darling, the oatmeal is just about ready,” she cooed in Luke’s ear. “Vicky, how are you feeling, any pain anywhere?”
“Pain? No just the usually morning aches. I guess with the change of weather that’s no surprise. Oh, but I had a wonderful dream last night.”
“Hmm, that’s nice honey.” Luke threw on an old tee shirt and jeans before heading out to assess the damage to his truck and their property. His cell phone rang as he walked out the door.
“Luke, it’s Andy. Mind if I come up to make a few cuts with your saw? Is now a good time?”
“Listen Andy, we had quite a….” Luke broke off his sentence when he rounded the corner of his shop. “But how can my truck be…?”
“Andy, let me call you back in a few.”
“Uh sure, oh and we’ll see you two later at our place for dinner.”
“Sure Andy, dinner tonight, right.”
Scratching his head, Luke went and sat on the boulder where yesterday his truck had been wrapped around. “That was one strange dream boy,” he said to Ollie. The dog stopped rolling in the leaves, sat up and wagged his tail. “Look Ollie, my truck doesn’t have a scratch on it. It’s unbelievable.”
Vicky was in the kitchen leafing through the yesterday’s mail, when Luke came in. Smelling their favorite French roast calmed Luke and he went to fill his mug. “Boy, a cup of coffee is just what I need. I had the craziest dream last night.”
“Oh Luke, after all your pampering last night, I slept great. I dreamt leaves were falling around me, comforting me like old friends. It was a beautiful dream. And it sure was nice of you to watch the movie with me. After all these years you still know how to show a girl a good time!” I love you honey.”
“So you liked that science fiction flick, huh Vicky?”
“Oh Luke, you and your jokes. Let’s finish up breakfast and take your truck to pick up a new rake. The leaves are falling and you know how I enjoy raking them. Silly, huh Luke? Afterwards, we can stop to pick up a bottle of red wine to bring down to Andy and Isabel’s tonight. You haven’t forgotten our plans have you?”
“No Vicky, I haven’t forgotten.” Luke said. He reached across the table and squeezed Vicky’s hand, before getting up to clear the dishes.
That cool fall evening the four friends enjoyed a wonderful dinner.
“Smell that fresh Fall air. Let’s drive with the windows down okay” Vicky asked.
“Sure. It all goes so fast” said Luke.
“Oh, you know, Fall. The trees drop their leaves and the season is over.”
Driving home he thought about the state of his own Autumn and how he could let go of doubt and fear, leaf by leaf. He thought about his dream and how his life was woven with Vicky’s by the golden thread of love they shared.
Days turned into weeks, then, months. Luke eventually forgot his dream, while Vicky vividly remembered hers.
The following Autumn, the maple trees shed their leaves as nature asked. Luke didn’t know how it had happened, but somehow he and his bride had made it through another Fall.