(the caretaker - page 2)

 

 

“i mean that you can stay here   if you want   until the summer.”

 

they hit him like a wave.

mr crosby’s words pushed simon back twenty years

back to innocence and trust and expectation.

his heart was heavy with delight   pained by mr crosby’s generous surrender.

 “i’ll take care of the place”

he said.

though his voice was weak   simon had never felt so strong.

 

mr crosby’s mind was already somewhere else.

he was thinking of her

and the trip that they had planned together.

suddenly   there were so many things that had been left undone.

 

“i don’t believe that you talked to her”

mr crosby said.

“you didn’t know her   did you?”

 

“okay.”

 

“okay what?”

the old man snarled at simon.

 

“okay   i didn’t.”

 

“really?   you didn’t talk to her?”

 

“no”

simon shook his head gently   honestly.

 

“i wasn’t sure”

mr crosby continued.

“when you first said it   i believed you

because it sort of made sense   then it didn’t.

who are you?”

 

simon was silent.

 

“what’s your name?”

mr crosby clarified.

 

“simon.”

 

“simon”

the old man repeated it thoughtfully.

“simon   why are you here?”

 

“the back door was open and…

and i thought i would watch the place.”

 

the old man was fascinated.

“well   it doesn’t look like you’ve ruined the place”

he said as he looked around the living room and into the kitchen.

“it hardly looks any different   aside from the upgrade on the back steps.

but you know   simon   this is quite odd.

you…  you can’t just do this.   it’s not proper.

where do you normally live?  

are you…  running?”

 

simon shook his head with quiet confidence

while mr crosby examined him as if he were from a rare species.

as the old man leaned forward to stand up   simon spoke

“i like it here.”

 

mr crosby struggled to his feet   wincing.

“so did she.”

he moved toward the window   his back facing the loveseat.

 

simon followed mr crosby and helped him open the blinds.

the light poured into the room and onto their faces

as the two men stood side-by-side   looking out into the bay.

 

“she loved this view.”

 

“when i first saw it”

simon confessed

“i was so happy i couldn’t leave.”

 

“we left so many times.

she always wanted to stay longer   to come back sooner.”

 

“can i be the caretaker?”

simon interrupted   the two men still shoulder-to-shoulder facing the window.

 

“she wanted to move here years ago”

mr crosby continued.

“i just wasn’t ready.

i just didn’t think it was time.

i thought…  i thought we had more time.”

 

 “why did you come now?”

simon asked

 

“i got an electric bill   and an email from jack.”

 

“i’ll take care of the place”

simon repeated his pledge.

 

“well   i’m in no rush to sell it.

she didn’t want me to sell it   ever.

if she was alive she’d…”

mr crosby finally turned to look at simon.

the two men were relatively the same height

though the old man’s weight hung heavily on his weary bones

while simon’s light frame seemed to be hovering.

mr crosby had been crying   his face streaked with tears.

“... she’d let you stay here.

she was like that.

what the hell do i know?   maybe she did ask you.

maybe from the grave   she chose you.”

 

simon cringed.

he felt sorry for mr crosby.

 

“if you want me to leave   i’ll leave”

simon attempted to negotiate.

 

“i said you could stay”

mr crosby stood his ground

“but i can’t pay you.

i won’t pay you.”

 

“it’s okay”

simon replied.

“i don’t need it.”

 

“okay”

mr crosby turned back to the view

nodding his head as if he’d just fixed a contract   which he had.

“my son’s about your age.

he doesn’t want this place   nor does my daughter.

they both live in europe with their families.

they have their lives.

we had ours.”

 

simon listened to mr crosby’s sad story.

 

“they’d take the money   of course   if we ended up selling the place.

not that they really need it   especially my son.

he came for the funeral with his sister   but their spouses stayed at home with the children.

seven grandchildren.

it was a quiet funeral   mostly old people.

yes   simon   i suppose you can...

you can be the caretaker.”

 

******

 

at noon   simon played host as the two men shared lunch.

it was a simple meal of beans on toast.

in the afternoon   mr crosby gave simon a full orientation on the cabin and the property

including a detailed history and a full range of stories pertaining to mrs. crosby.

simon listened attentively and nodded his head often.

 

“no guests”

mr crosby said.

“no one except jack.

anyway   you can’t really stop jack.

he does whatever he wants   goes wherever he pleases   

but you can trust him.”

 

“i like jack”

simon offered timidly.

 

“so do i.”

 

that night   

mr crosby slept in the guest bedroom.

the master bedroom   he insisted   belonged to her.

simon happily returned to the couch where he lay awake pondering the day’s events.

after he was certain that the old man was asleep

he returned the knife to the kitchen drawer.

 

two days later   mr crosby got back into the small wooden rowboat

and made his way calmly to the boat in the bay   while simon waited patiently on the beach.

as the motor started   he waved and watched as the boat rounded the bend.

mr crosby went home   and simon went to work.

he took care of the place.

 

on thursday morning   he called his mother twenty minutes before she left for bowling. 

Property of Namesake Writing, Inc. All rights reserved. All photographs are original. 

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