A short story created by the contents of “Wordle #48,” from “The Sunday Whirl.”
~© Paula Tohline Calhoun 3/18/2012
“May I carry that for you, Ma’am?”
Before Elinor could answer, she felt a static spark from the young man’s hand on hers, as he leaned over and assumed the burden of carrying her suitcase. She wondered why she wasn’t frightened, but there was something in his voice that reassured her he was not a threat. Perhaps it was his singing. Not loud, mind you, but not timid either. The tenor of his voice echoed pleasantly in the hallways as they made their way to the platform where she would board the train that would take her home.
Home. It seemed farther away than ever, but she knew she would be unlocking her door about three hours from now. This trip had been the hardest yet, and she was exhausted. This visit was filled with the same drama as all the previous ones – her sister Claire, weeping constantly, making no effort to control her emotions, even knowing how much it distressed their mother. Her brother-in-law Donald’s impatient pacing added tension to the hostility inherent in the room. Privately she had told Claire, “He drives me crazy, too,” but Claire had informed her that she should show at least a little gratitude to the man who drives her all over town whenever she deigned to grace them all with her presence.
After a frustrated gesture of resignation, Elinor swallowed her sharp retort. She had no desire to add to the discomfort around her. Their mother was making an agonizingly slow departure from life, and Elinor felt a dutiful daughter’s guilt settle over her as she prayed fervently her mother would get on with this business of dying. Feeling selfish, she also knew she was nearing the limit of her patience with her so-called “family,” the sad collection of troubled people from which she escaped years ago. The new life she had found when she left them all behind was what gave her the strength to endure these weekly visits to see her mother. She wondered how many more of these pilgrimages she would have to make.
“Excuse me, Ma’am. Do you want me to stow your bag under the seat for you?” Elinor’s mind snapped out of its troubled reverie, caught off-guard again by the sound of the young man’s voice. For the first time, she took in his disheveled appearance. He looked even more tired than she, but there was something in the way he held himself, and there was something in his eyes as he awaited her response. Blushing, she answered, “Are you sure you don’t mind?” “It’s no trouble at all. I am glad to help,” and he grasped her elbow to guide her up the two stairs to the train. She felt again that odd charge of electricity when he touched her, and was surprised to feel her shoulders relax for the first time in days.
He efficiently tucked her bag under the seat and turned to go. “Wait, please!” Elinor reached out to him, and felt again the sensation of warmth and energy.
“What is your name,” she asked him.
Turning to face her he answered, “Michael.”
“Thank you, Michael. My name is–”
Michael interrupted her by speaking her name, “Elinor.”
“How do you know my name? “
“Well, your name in on your suitcase tag.”
“Oh! Well, it’s nice to meet you Michael. I can’t thank you enough.”
“It is my pleasure, Elinor. I am always ready to help you.”
With that, he stepped off the train, and though Elinor tried to follow him with her eyes, she quickly lost sight of him in the rush of last-minute passengers boarding the train.
The trip home was her most peaceful ever, and passed quickly, without any of the expected fatigue. With each passing mile on the train, she both relaxed and filled with energy, as though their sources were drawn from the same well. She could not keep thoughts of Michael out of her mind, and with growing curiosity, felt her hand and elbow, to discover if there was some trace of energy remaining where he had touched her.
Thoughts about Michael lingered in her mind, and followed her all the way home. His last words to her repeated themselves over and over in her memory, “It is my pleasure, Elinor. I am always ready to help you.”
The cab pulled up to her house and Elinor paid the driver and went inside. A sensation of happiness came over her, as she breathed in the familiar scents of her house, her home. Gathering the mail from the floor beneath the mail slot in her door, Elinor noticed beneath the pile a familiar-looking piece of worn leather. Picking it up, she turned it over in her hand and realized it was the name tag from her suitcase. “It must have come off as I was going out the door last week,” she said to herself as she snapped it back on its place on the handle of the bag. A rare feeling of joy went with her as she lightly stepped up the stairs to unpack. It wasn’t until she started to drift off to sleep that night that she remembered Michael had told her he knew her name because he had read it on the tag. The tag that he could not have seen. It all came back to her – the sound of his voice, the look in his eyes, and she smiled, feeling once again, the touch of his hand.
Hope the coming week is a wonderful and productive one for all of you, my Gentle Readers, that you may encounter your own guardian angels, and your days and nights be filled with the abundance of enough. . .