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The Clock - How Long Has It Been?

I've enjoyed writing since I was a kid: Fiction, poetry, non-fiction. I like it all.

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Good God, is it finally that time? Eleven o'clock. In half-an-hour it'll be lunch-time. I can put this camera away and enjoy myself. Since the Shelter-in-Place my job has us out on these missions to find material to post to social media for our clients, since we can no longer go to the usually-packed center where our clients used to go every morning to be entertained and cared for by us support staff.

So, I got this virtual field trip happening for clients that they will be able to view online but it's not what I want to be working on, by any means. I'd rather be fishing, as they say.

I took a moment to breathe in that fresh ocean air. All of a sudden all I could think about was that clock. I just wonder how old it is. Looks old. And I remember playing in the neighborhood - this neighborhood I grew up in - and stopping and just staring at that clock. Faded blue, peeling paint, it was old even forty-two years ago. Strangely it looks about the same.

It's weird how an object will bring back a memory. Just a smell, a song, a child bouncing around at the park, will open the gate to nostalgia. I remember playing near that clock when a group of kids came up to me wanting to give me a little lesson in how cruel the world is. Even though one of them landed a good one to my jaw they were all suddenly stopped by that familiar voice that would often be harsh but usually gentle and reassuring.

Miss Cate. Haven't thought of her in years. I didn't even care about those kids anymore, I was remembering Miss Cate. A beautiful woman and my sixth grade teacher. The boys were in love with her. I know I was. My first crush and, at the time of the clock incident, my savior. I was glad to see her that day, but I was always glad to see her. What a woman!

Whatever happened to her?

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Well, after the incident she'd taken me to Bair's Drug Store. They had a freezer section. She let me pick out the ice cream and I had a favorite, like all kids, so I grabbed it. Ice cream sandwich. To this day I have this emotional association of ice cream sandwiches, Miss Cate and comfort. When I'm feeling down and out I go get an ice cream sandwich from Bair's. I guess Miss Cate and Bair's are my refuges from the bullies of the world, like those three bullies from more than forty years ago. Of course, there are a lot of bullies in the world. The bully of getting old, the bully of the nine to five work day and the bully of the rude and unrelenting bill collector. But it's nothing that an ice cream sandwich can't handle.

But Miss Cate. She was the icing on the cake. She made it seem like that ice cream sandwich was dipped in chocolate and covered in sprinkles. Dang! Whatever happened to Miss Cate?

It was killing me. I was really wondering at this point.

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The Center looks like a house but it was specifically built to be a homey adult day care center. Clients were meant to get a feeling that they were at home when they were there. I kind of agreed with that sentiment. Nothing quite like a "facility" feeling to make you good and depressed. Fortunately not too much of the staff were cruel.

Well, I had to make a stop at the Center to catch up with the boss on what I was doing and to get further instruction on what my "off-site" duties were going to be during the Shelter-in-Place.

I walked in and saw an old woman in a wheel-chair. She looked very frail. And absent: That special kind of vacancy that only dementia can bring about. I guess she was a new client going through the in-take process.

As I got closer, I suddenly realized something about her, something unmistakable. She saw me too, and in that moment she was no longer vacant. She was totally there for me. And her eyes were filled with tears.

And so were mine.

Comments

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on April 23, 2020:

Thanks, Jodah. Very much appreciated.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on April 23, 2020:

What a wonderful story, Nathan. I think most of us have a Miss Cate. Perfect ending too. A great response to Bill’s photo challenge.

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on April 23, 2020:

Thank you for your kind words, DreamerMeg. You are very right about dementia. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on April 23, 2020:

Thank you for your kind words, DreamerMeg. You are very right about dementia. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on April 23, 2020:

What a lovely story and so sad. Dementia can rob a person of themselves but a vivid incident can imprint itself very strongly. Enjoyed that.

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on April 22, 2020:

No problem, Bill, and thanks for the photo prompts. It was cool how it all just flowed out of me. I enjoyed it very much!

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on April 22, 2020:

Thanks, Kyler. It's funny I got inspired to write this and it really kind of flowed out of me. I'm glad you liked it. And, yes, the old woman is Miss Cate.

Kyler J Falk from California on April 22, 2020:

Woah, the old woman must be Miss Cate! If so, that ending was a doozy!

A little slow on the uptake for me, but the ending hit me like a brick! Great piece!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 22, 2020:

Did you find Miss Cate? I hope so.

Great story! I was just thinking about my 2nd grade teacher the other day. I had such a crush on that woman. I wonder what happened to her?

Sigh!

Loved the story! Thanks for taking up the challenge.

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