The Final Story

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The wind was blowing through the window. The cold air slapped him in the face as he remembered his whole life flash before him. He remembered the time he took his family to the beach. It was a wonderful vacation, full of life and full of love. There was one time when he crashed the car one week before they were to leave on the vacation of their dreams. It seems like there was always something that impeded Richard’s plans. And now, he had outlived them all. His wife and kids were all gone.

It was a fever that made him open the window on this night. The wind was telling him to, whispering into his ear, everything that he wanted to hear. The story of his life. Both good and bad decisions were plaguing his mind, but he would not let the bad choices he made destroy him. He figured that this was the end, but there was one thing that he still had to do. His great grandson was about to turn eighteen years old and was leaving for university soon. The young man fancied writing stories.

“Don’t take me yet,” he whispered into the icy wind.

The very second he did that, his fever vanished. He felt a boost of energy and used it to drag out an old cedar chest from the floor of his closet. Richard shut the window and situated the chest at the foot of his bed. Then he sat down. When he was younger, he would have bent over easily to unlatch it, but he was ancient and stiff now. He dusted the old chest off the best he could with his foot, flipped the latch with his big toe and slid down onto the floor softly so he could inspect the contents. 

There were notebooks, papers, pens—some thirty—forty years old. Maybe older. He was staring at his missed dream. Instead of following it, he worked himself to death.

“I’ll write tomorrow,” he always mumbled to himself.

He started tons of stories, but never finished.

His grandson had taken after him. It was a talent. Not being a writer, but being a storyteller. The ideas freely flowed in his mind, and they still did. He categorized every piece of writing that he had ever written. He put them in order of what he considered being his best work first.

Richard didn’t know how long it took. He knew his grandson, his only surviving relative, would come and check on him before he left for college in a few weeks. Richard began by picking up the most important story and reading. The characters were not as he remembered them, and the story felt foreign. He created a movie in his head, a movie that ended abruptly, not even halfway through.

“Damn it—No more words. It was just getting good,” he shouted.

He picked up the pens from inside the chest, but none of them worked. He crawled over to the nightstand and found a few that still did. Then he crawled back to his warm spot by the cedar chest and wrote. The morning light came, then the dark, and then it repeated. He didn’t know how long this went on as he lost track of the time. Occasionally, he would endure the painful mixture of old age and gravity to stretch and drink some water in the kitchen. But he dared not eat any food. The more he starved, the more fragile he felt. The more fragile he felt, the better his writing became. 

He was creating masterpieces. Not just one, but many. His body continued to get weaker, and he finished the entire spectrum of writing projects from most promising to least. Now even the weakest story had a strength and power behind it. His experience, life and creativity created gold. But there was one more thing to write.

It read:

Daniel,

You are my grandson, and I absolutely love your writing. As you know, I am an old man. My time here has ended, and I feel you could use my stories, even if it just for inspiration. So, I am gifting them to you to do with as you see fit. Use them as your own, change them, but please don’t change them so much that you destroy them. The stories are like children to me, and like children, they must be treated with care. I trust you will take care of my life’s work. I love you and I will always root for you from wherever I may be.

Love Grandpa.

Richard gently placed all the writing back into the cedar chest and closed it. He slid the letter in the box’s side so that Daniel could easily find it. 

This time when he opened the window, the coldness came to take him. But a warmth and feeling of accomplishment engulfed him. He smiled, took a final deep breath, and whispered, “I’m ready.”

Copyright © 2021 by Ryan Barnard-Stoker

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