I often write about people, places, and things close to my heart. It's a wonderful feeling to reach the end of a created story and smile.
The Last Bottle
75-year-old Alma Darlin Davis smiled on that July day as she looked out her enclosed porch window at her husband Early, who was trimming bushes. They had lived on Jefferson Street for nearly 50 years. She remembered sitting on the top porch step as a young wife, smiling at her handsome husband planting those very bushes. She eased out of her gray winged back chair and stepped to the door, opened it, and asked Early if he'd like a cold glass of water or maybe a beer.
He answered, "Well my beautiful Alma Darlin Davis, I would love a beer." Alma smiled and went to the kitchen. She returned with a bottle of beer and dropped it as she opened the door. Early was laying on the sidewalk, clutching his shirt over his heart. The beer bottle bounced and went into the flower bed by the steps. Alma rushed to him as fast as she could. She cried, "Early, what's wrong?" He managed to moan the words, "My heart." She saw her neighbor across the street and shouted, "Call 911 Norma. Early needs help!"
Norma turned and went straight into her house to call. Alma knelt beside Early after getting him to swallow a few aspirins. Long before the ambulance arrived, Alma saw life leaving Early's eyes. When the EMTs made life-saving efforts, she could see in their faces that they were doing it for her. She knew Early was gone. One of the EMTs stood up and said in a hurt tone with a tear in his eye, "I'm sorry ma'am. I'm so sorry." Alma wiped her tears, gently patted his arm, and said, "I know you did your best. Thank you."
Rest In Peace
It rained hard the day they buried Early Davis. Alma sat among family and friends beneath the green tent and listened to the preacher Lawrence Crouter talk of heaven and how Early was a fine church-going, hard-working man. Alma stared at the bronze casket and thought of what Early would say to her at times of them just talking, "It ain't dying that bothers me. It is leaving without you that hurts my soul."
He had said that very thing to her a few days before he died. When the service was done, Alma asked everyone to give her a moment alone with Early. Even the graveyard workers walked up a small hill to give her privacy. Alma stood by the casket, dabbed her tears with her white handkerchief, and softly said, "Well my sweet Early, you have left me behind. I don't want you to hurt. You come hold my hand at night until it's time for us to be together again. Nobody but you, me, and the Good Lord in this universe knows the world of love we shared. I will share the next world with you, my love." She kissed her fingers, touched the top of the casket, and walked away.
Alma had a bittersweet time going back home that day. A few family members wanted to stay with her but she convinced them she would be fine and needed some time alone. She sat in her winged back chair that afternoon and looked out at the half-trimmed bush Early had been working on. She supposed the beer bottle was still in her flowers. She nodded off a few times and then fell asleep.
Her dream began. (Early shouted, "Alma Darlin Davis, you better quit looking for mushrooms and get over here and watch your fishing pole. You're gettin' all kinds of bites!" The trees were a hundred shades of green and the sky was as blue as Early's eyes. Alma could see three sponge mushrooms in her hands as she walked down the riverbank toward Early. The soft dirt path felt nice on her feet. She giggled and said, "I found three." She saw Early smile and say, "One for you and two for me." Alma laughed and said, "Only if you cook 'em." She sat by Early on a big flat rock and dangled her feet in the water. Early chuckled and said, "You're gonna chase the fish away even though you do have the prettiest legs in the galaxy." Alma smiled.)
Questions and Concerns
She woke and cried out for Early. She got up from her chair, walked to the door, and opened it. She looked down and saw the beer bottle lying in the middle of her Zinnia flowers. She bent down and picked it up. There was still a little beer in it and she poured it into her flower bed soil. Alma smiled and whispered, "Oh how I wish you could have taken this from my hand that day, took a drink, smiled, and said what you always said, "Thank you for the beer, my darlin' dear."
She went back into the enclosed porch, sat the bottle on the end table, sat in her chair, and remembered every detail over and over of her sweet dream. She had many more dreams of Early. The following Sunday, Alma went to church. It was only the second time she'd ever gone alone. Once before when Early was sick with the flu, she'd gone without him. She sat up front and when the service was over, she asked to speak with Pastor Crouter in private. He invited her to his office. As he sat behind his desk, he asked Alma how she was getting along since Early passed.
Alma told him she was fine but something about her dreams of Early made her curious. She asked, "Why don't I know Early is dead in my dreams?" Pastor Crouter sat back in his chair with a wondering look on his face. He thought for a moment and said, "Well Mrs. Davis, I have never had that question asked before." Alma smiled and said, "I have beautiful dreams of Early and me together. Sometimes we're fishing and sometimes we're in places I don't remember.
Once I was just sitting in the car, looking at my handsome Early as he smiled talking about a new tool he wanted from the Western Auto store. I just don't understand Pastor. I never know he's gone in my dreams." Pastor Crouter looked out the window and then back at Alma. He said, "I will have to pray about this one sister. I have had dreams of my parents, grandparents, family, and friends who've passed, and come to think of it, I never knew they were gone. I wish I had a biblical answer but I just don't have one. My best guess is you might be visiting him in heaven."
Walking to Heaven
Oh Those Dreams
Alma smiled and said, "That is a wonderful thought Pastor. Early was the only person to call me by my full name, Alma Darlin Davis and he calls me that way in my dreams. Pastor Crouter smiled and said, "That is a sweet name. I wish I could be of more help but dreams are a realm out of reach in this world for the most part. Alma stood up, thanked him, and said, "It is a beautiful thought that dreams of Early are visits to heaven."
She leaned toward him and said, "I did have one bad dream. It was about a floosie woman that sat on Early's lap at the Eagles club back on August 5th of 1967. She was drunk and he did politely remove her like a gentleman. I dreamed she was sitting on the hood of our blue Studebaker. She had on that same red dress and sparkly high heels." Pastor Crouter grinned wide and said, "Well Mrs. Davis, that dream may have come from that place that isn't heaven. Alma smirked and said, "I bet so."
Six years later when Alma died, her daughter Joan found her in her gray winged back chair. Her right hand lying on the chair arm, looked as if she'd been holding someone's hand. In her left hand rested between her leg and the chair arm was a bottle of beer.
© 2022 Tom Cornett