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The Visitor: A Short Short Story

Chris has written more than 200 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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The Visitor

The streets of this town are vaguely familiar to me. I must have visited here years ago although I barely remember. It’s a cool autumn evening, and I’m in a bustling downtown district.

I stand on a footbridge over a canal with a view of the shops that line the streets on either side. It is a pleasant place. The streets are not so busy with automobile traffic. People are content to walk or ride bicycles. Everyone seems to be going to or from somewhere. Except me of course.

The busy downtown eventually gives way to neighborhoods of houses with fenced-in yards. Dogs run and fetch balls thrown by giggling children. The aroma of meat being grilled overwhelms me for a moment with cloudy memories of relationships, celebrations, and good times.

The sky is growing dark, not because of the hour but because of the gathering clouds. The breeze turns cooler, and I sense it may rain soon. Families are busy moving their cookouts indoors. I continue with my walk. I know this town played a part in my life. But it seems very long ago.

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A white house in the middle of a block catches my attention. All the windows on the two-story structure have faux shutters—burgundy, to match the roof and front door. Someone has carefully tended the front lawn. Flowers line the sidewalk from the front porch to the street. A gentle rain begins to fall. Thunder rolls in the distance.

Why does this house capture my attention? Who lived here or lives here? Someone I knew and visited, it seems. I suppose I could go to the door and ring the bell. Maybe I’ll see a familiar face that will bring it all back.

Before I can take a step onto the sidewalk, the front door opens. A young woman steps out and meets my gaze. She is beautiful with long dark hair and a smile that lights up her face. I am mesmerized for a moment until I begin feeling uncomfortable. I am, after all, probably old enough to be her grandfather. I wave and turn to continue walking. The woman takes a quick step toward me so I stop. She motions for me to follow her into the house.

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She leads the way to the kitchen and points to a chair at the table. I remove my coat and hang it on the back of the chair. While she pours coffee, I sit down and watch her every move. When she turns, she sets a mug of black coffee in front of me. The first thing I notice is that she did not ask if I wanted cream or sugar. She just served it black, as though she knew.

The second is that the mug has writing on it. I read it out loud.

Dear husband,

I loved you then,

I love you still,

Always have,

Always will.

-Your wife-

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With a shaking hand, I set the cup down and steady myself by holding onto the edge of the table. When I look up, the young woman has aged. She is still lovely, but much older. Our eyes meet, and I am overwhelmed with a sense of recognition. Then a name comes to mind.

“Barbara?”

“Yes, Glen, it’s me.”

"I went on one of my walks again, didn't I? And got lost?

"Yes, my dear, but don't worry. It was just a few hours."

"I'm sorry."

"It isn't your fault. And it isn't the few hours when you are lost in this little town that are so painful. It is the weeks and months when you are lost in your own mind that cause me and the family so much sorrow and pain."

"I wish we could stop time right now when I can see you and know you."

“I’m just glad you found your way back to me today.”

“The children...how are they? And the grandchildren? And the great-grandchildren?”

“Everyone is fine.”

“I hope I can see them before—”

“Just enjoy the moment, my husband.”

We hold hands across the table with tears running down our faces. We talk about our life together and our family. She shows me photos of the grandchildren on her iPad. We’ve added a great-grandson since I’ve been gone. We laugh, cry, and love each other.

As the day wears on, Barbara serves dinner, and a growing uneasiness grips me like the tightening of a vice. While eating dessert, I am overcome with anxiety.

I push the plate away and look across a strange table in an unfamiliar kitchen at a woman I do not know. Why is she smiling with tears in her eyes? This esoteric stranger walks around the table and raises my chin with her fingers.

She kisses me and whispers, “I hope you can visit again soon.”

How sweet. How strangely sweet.

© 2019 Chris Mills

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 30, 2019:

Umesh Chandra Bhatt, Thank you for visiting and for the comment.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on December 30, 2019:

Impressive. Interesting. Thanks.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 28, 2019:

Shauna, Thank you for your comments. I'm glad you felt the emotion of the story.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 26, 2019:

Chris, you've given me goosebumps. This reminds me of "The Notebook", a movie I never tire of watching.

It's so sad what Alzheimer's does to the mind. It's even sadder to be on the receiving end of blank (or even frightened) stares. However, those precious moments when clarity resurfaces, are priceless.

Great job with this story. Very emotional.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 20, 2019:

Thank you my friend, Sean. I am going to go look at your latest hub now.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on December 20, 2019:

You are a vast heart, my brother! I am so glad that I didn't miss this little masterpiece. You've touched such a hard thing with kindness! I love the way you write but most of all the Heart you put in! Thank you!

Blessings from Greece!

Sean

PS: When you can, read my last hub. Is a letter of explanation about my absence.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 16, 2019:

Thank you, Dora.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 16, 2019:

Thank you, Eric.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 16, 2019:

How sweet! These fleeting happy moments when consciousness returns are really precious. Thanks for capturing it so well!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 16, 2019:

Thanks. So he gave the keys and let her drive. The young boy got up and told the man that that was wrong and he was worried. Two hours of worry. Two car wrecks in two days a bit earlier. CT Scan on Wednsday. Hard to sleep for all three.

You did a wonderful job here friend.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 16, 2019:

MG Singh, thank you for the visit and comment.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 16, 2019:

Lovely story. Made me think

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 16, 2019:

Flourish, I appreciate you visiting here and thank you for your comment.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 16, 2019:

This is a sad depiction of what it must be like. I have relatives with dementia, and they are also very suspicious as a part of their dementia.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 16, 2019:

Thank you, Linda.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 15, 2019:

This is a powerful and moving story, Chris. You have described the problem in an interesting and very creative way.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 15, 2019:

My dear Audrey, I am sorry to hear about your sister. I have many friends who are either going through this nightmare or have already passed on. My best thoughts are with you as you help your sister to the other side. Bless you for being her constant companion.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on December 15, 2019:

Oh, Chris, how I love this story. At times, it brought me to tears...my younger sister is in an assisted living facility and it breaks my heart to see her decline mentally. I lose a piece of her every time we talk. Fighting dementia is a losing battle. She holds on so tightly to whatever she still has control over.

I miss her. It's so hard for those who just have to sit by and watch a once beautiful, intelligent mind, dwindle to confusion and loss.

Thanks, Chris.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 15, 2019:

Elijah, thank you. It is my pleasure to put out stories that both challenge and satisfy the reader .

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 15, 2019:

Ann, I don't mind admitting to you that I had to rewrite a portion of this story after I published it. I got the impression others were not following my line of thinking, so I reworded some of the last third of the story. Before I originally released it, I ran it by my trustworthy beta reader who got the meaning right off. But after a few comments, I knew I had missed the mark. So I rewrote one section. It seems to have accomplished what I wanted. I only regret that many readers did not get to read the updated version. I thank you for your constant support and friendship.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 15, 2019:

Bill, just don't go anywhere. I need you to keep showing me how it is done...In every way. Thank you.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 15, 2019:

Liz, I know far too many who have fallen to the diseases classified as dementia. I'll correct what I have said in this column. I have four dear friends who are now fighting dementia. Two others have already fallen. I myself am now inside that realm of sufferers. My defenses are up.

Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on December 15, 2019:

Chris, you are a master of suspense, most keep mewled until the end. Thanks for them, keep them coming and I intend to read each as it comes.

Ann Carr from SW England on December 15, 2019:

Wow, Chris! This is powerful. So sweetly poignant. You convey all the realities of dementia in one go, with so few words. Well done!

Ann

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 15, 2019:

How strangely sweet indeed.I loved the story...loved the way you set the scene. I was there!

Liz Westwood from UK on December 15, 2019:

This is an incredibly poignant story. You seem to have gone inside the world of a dementia sufferer with a striking vividness.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 15, 2019:

Thank you, manatita. I responded to your email. Thank you for these thoughts from your thoughtful mind and caring heart.

manatita44 from london on December 15, 2019:

Brother I just sent you an email. Didn't someone write here recently of how thoughts can coincide? On Bill's Hub, perhaps. Your story reminds me of this. Instead of going to these heavenly places, bring them to your heart. Did you get my Christmas card? It fits here as a token from you to wife.

A Soulful Gratitude

“Your Heart of sweetness,

Soars upon the wings of Love,

Kissing and adorning my soul --

Like a rose -- with an impeccable fragrance.”

- Manatita, The Lantern Carrier. 13th December, 2019

I will add some more to this and write your poem. Love, You, Bro.

Oh! Your work is beautiful as always, with a very special and ethereal flavour. Way to Go!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 14, 2019:

Genna, thank you. As I'm sure you know, the symptoms of dementia can be caused by several diseases, most commonly Alzheimer's. The families of those who suffer from these diseases need huge amounts of emotional support as well as practical help. Thanks for reading and for your kind comment.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 14, 2019:

Pamela, I was attempting to tell a story from the viewpoint of a man suffering from dementia/Alzheimers disease. Of course, such a person would reach a point of not recognizing their spouse or children. It must be a terrifying existence.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 14, 2019:

John, Thank you. I appreciate that you got the gist of the story. Not everyone will, I suppose. Dementia is a horrible condition. Right now I have two friends who are going down this road and declining day by day. Two others just passed away.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 14, 2019:

I am sitting here wondering how the man can not really remember his wife. This is an intriguing story and I a wondering what is next? I hope we will read the next chapter in your next post. As always Chris, I like your writing.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on December 14, 2019:

So touching, Chris. You handled a difficult subject so tenderly and it was a pleasure to read.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 14, 2019:

Ruby, I hoped to have an emotional effect so I am glad to see your description of how you felt after reading the story. Many thanks.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on December 14, 2019:

Becky, terrifying is the word. Yet if we maintain a spirit of love toward those who suffer, we can endure it. But not without a great deal of support from others.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on December 14, 2019:

I'm guessing Alzheimer's, or seeming similar. It has always been my one fear of aging process. But your story conveyed beauty, patience and understanding -- for those we leave behind in the lost byways of the mind, and those who remember with an enduring love. Beautifully crafted, Chris.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 14, 2019:

This was a shocker. I am sitting here amazed and feeling sad. Mental illness must be so confusing. This seemed so real. I dearly love your short stories.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on December 14, 2019:

Terrifyingly real for too many in our world today. I hope I never forget those I love. Beautifully written, as usual.