They Don’t Come This Way Anymore
February 26, 2012
After – Soloist Gilbert Elder
May 14, 2012
They Don’t Come This Way Anymore
February 26, 2012
After – Soloist Gilbert Elder
May 14, 2012

ABE

Bryan glanced down at his speedometer. “Sixty-seven miles an hour,” he whispered aloud. Traffic was light and he was making good time for a Friday as he headed home. He stretched over to change the radio station, and hit button two for the news station. Looking back to the road, he saw nothing but red tail lights and cars skidding in front of him. By instinct, he jerked the steering wheel to his right and slammed on the brakes. The car crossed the shoulder, and skidded through the grass toward a huge oak.

◊◊◊◊

“Do you know what your name is?” the ICU nurse said while she buzzed the front desk. “Can you have the doctor come in here? Mr. Edwards has come out of the coma.”

Bryan blinked several times at the bright light and weakly managed to say “Bryan Lee Edwards. Where am I?”

“You’re in the hospital. You had an accident,” the nurse said as she took his wrist and felt his pulse.

“What day is it?” He questioned.

“It’s Thursday.” She took out her pen and jotted the reading on the chart.

“Thursday? What’s the date?”

“July 30th. You’ve been in a coma for three weeks.” She put on her stethoscope and listened to his heart.

“Three weeks?” Bryan couldn’t believe it.

“Yep, three weeks,” the nurse replied.

Bryan looked around the room in disbelief. “Who is that?”

“Who?” she asked as she looked around the empty room.

“That young man standing over there all dressed in black.”

“There’s no one in the room, sir. You had a bad head injury. Maybe you just need a little time to heal.”

He thought she might be right. The man in black remained expressionless watching him. Bryan squinted at the monogram on his black long-sleeved pullover shirt. It looks like ABE. ABE? Is this Abe Lincoln coming back to see me? I must be crazy. No, he doesn’t look like the pictures of Abe Lincoln. Bryan thought he was quite handsome. Bryan rubbed his eyes and looked again. Still there. Maybe a nap will help as he closed his eyes and dozed.

He awoke with the sound of the doctor and the nurses talking. He quickly looked around the room hoping the man in black had been a medicine-induced figment of his imagination, but he was still there, standing at the back of the room against the wall. No use saying anything, he thought. They’ll just think I’m wacky.

The doctor wrote something in the chart. “You’re doing very well. You’ll be out of here in no time. The nurse said you might have had a problem with seeing someone who isn’t here. Do you still see him?”

Bryan looked over to where he had seen ABE last and he was still there.

“Yes, he’s still here.”

The doctor smiled, shook his head, and walked out of the room. The nurses followed him.

He looked at ABE again. “Who are you?”

ABE said nothing.

“Is your name ABE or are you from some company, like Acme Bicycle Company?”

Maybe he’s an angel. But he’s wearing black. Maybe he’s a demon just waiting for me. “Are you an angel or a demon?”

ABE said nothing.

I must have hit my head and now I got this person or whatever he is watching me.

“Do you talk?”

ABE said nothing.

He looked around for something to throw at ABE. He reached for a tissue box and threw it at him, but it fell short of his target. ABE didn’t flinch, but just stared.

“I’m just going to call you ABE. I’m not crazy. I must have shorted out some neuron or something.

“Are you here to harm me?” No, Brian thought, he would have if that were the case. He’ll probably disappear, I hope.

The door opened to his room and another doctor walked in.

◊◊◊◊

“Hello, I’m Dr. Barnes. I’m the psychiatrist. I understand you think you see someone who no one else can see.”

“Well, yes,” Bryan said.

“This isn’t too unusual after a head injury. Sometimes people see old school mates or someone in their past due to the head trauma. Is it someone you recognize? Maybe someone you had a conflict with in the past?” Dr. Barnes asked.

“No. I have never seen him before,” Bryan said.

“Are you a religious person? Maybe you’re dreaming up an angel or other being.”

“I’m religious, but I’m not dreaming up someone or something,” Bryan assured.

“What is this figure you see doing?” Dr. Barnes asked.

“Nothing, just standing there watching me,” Bryan replied.

“Does he speak to you?”

“No, he just looks at me.”

“Well, I’d say since you’re a religious person, your mind probably is imagining someone has come to save you from further injury,” Dr. Barnes said. “Just try to imagine that you are now perfectly safe and you have no need for someone to watch over you. It will go away, just be patient.”

◊◊◊◊

The days passed and beautiful Julie Jenkins walked down the aisle toward him as he waited in front of the small Methodist church. Standing next to Mitch, his best man, he looked around the room for ABE. He was there sitting in the back row. Bryan took a deep breath and looked back to his bride. Whoever it was didn’t cause him any problems. He sure couldn’t tell Julie about him. No use her thinking he was nutty even though he might be.

◊◊◊◊

A year later Bryan stood at the nursery window looking at a wrinkled little boy asleep in the crib. The card in front said Robert. Bryan smiled proudly and looked around the hall. ABE was there, some ten feet away watching this proud moment. Bryan thought about chasing ABE, but that would look silly, especially since no one else could see ABE.

◊◊◊◊

Two years passed and Cynthia was born. Bryan was getting use to having ABE at all these occasions. “Isn’t she cute?” Bryan said to ABE. Bryan felt embarrassed when a man next to him answered. “I think they’re all cute.”

◊◊◊◊

“Bryan,” his manager said, “You are the kind of person that will move this company forward. We are promoting you to vice president.” Bryan shook hands with his manager. A quick glance to see if ABE was in the room. He was. Bryan felt surprisingly comfortable. Maybe ABE was good luck to him.

◊◊◊◊

“Fore,” Bryan shouted as he sliced out into edge of the fairway. Yet one more weekend at the golf course, he thought. Taking customers golfing is just a benefit of this new job, or was it a curse. Missing another week of going to church, he could count on one hand the times he’d been in church this year. Not much time with the kids either but that’s the price you have to pay if you want to live in a nice house and drive a nice car.

◊◊◊◊

Bryan sat at his desk staring at the latest production figures displayed on his monitor. The phone rang and the caller ID showed it was Julie. “Hi, what’s up?”

“I have bad news, Bryan.”

“Ok.”

“Your mother has passed away.” There was a long pause as he tried to sort out what he had just heard. “You ok?” Julie asked.

“Yes, I’m ok.” He looked at ABE who gave no sign of condolences. “I’ll be right home.”

◊◊◊◊

Bryan sat next to Julie as they watched Robert walk across the stage to get his engineering degree. Smiling on the outside, inside he hurt because Robert had already accepted a job in Texas and was leaving tomorrow. He looked back in the auditorium at ABE who showed no emotion at the turmoil he felt.

◊◊◊◊

Julie picked up the ringing phone. She smiled brightly at Bryan. “It’s a boy. They called him William.”

“So, now I’m a grandpa,” he said under his breath as he looked toward the ever-present ABE.

“I hope we can get together this Thanksgiving, but I’ve been so busy since they promoted me to Senior VP.”

“Well, you’ll just have to take the time off. Julie frowned. “We need to get the family together. Cynthia is off to Hollywood. It won’t be long and she’ll get married and have a family. Maybe we can go to Texas and see the new grand baby.”

“It all seems to happen so fast.”

Bryan walked into the den and slumped into his overstuffed easy chair. He looked at ABE. “All these years and I still don’t know who you are. Are you ever going to say anything? Oh well, it doesn’t matter if you’re real or just an image I can’t get out of my head. You are apparently here to stay. You have become a kind of friend. Wish you could say something. Another few years and I’ll have to take retirement. I’ve reached the top, ABE, but soon I’ll be over the hill as they say. Did God send you to watch me to see if I’m good? If so, I hope you give me a good recommendation.”

“Did you say something?” Julie asked as she came into the room.

“No just talking to ABE.” He said with a smirk.

“Who?”

“No one, it’s just a joke. It’s like Harvey. I talk to him when I need to talk with no one.”

“Well tell, who’d you say—ABE—we’ve got to get ready. We are having dinner at the Simpson’s tonight.”

◊◊◊◊

“We will all miss you here at the old salt mines,” the president said. “Now you can play all the golf you want. Have a good retirement, and stay healthy.” Bryan sat in a daze at the center table dreading this day. This place was his life. Now it’s over. He got up and shook hands with all his friends and colleagues that had taken time to come to his retirement luncheon. They slowly drifted out of the room. He picked up his gifts and looked around the empty room. ABE leaned against the conference room wall. I wish he would smile or frown or something.

◊◊◊◊

“You’d better go find you something to do. You just can’t sit around here all day doing nothing.”

Julie was right. She always was. “What can I do?”

“There’s plenty to do out there. Maybe you can work with kids or something. You can still drive can’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Well get out there and look for something. I’m tired of you moping around the house.”

Bryan pulled out into busy traffic and headed south on Main Street. Work with kids, no thanks. He passed a pizza shop with a help wanted sign in the window. Maybe a part-time job. No, I don’t want to get back in the work grind. There must be something. He passed the hospital. A sign caught his attention. Drivers needed for Meals on Wheels. He pulled into the parking lot and found an empty parking spot. “Come on ABE, we’re going to deliver meals.” He walked up to the desk. “I saw your sign out front for drivers.”

◊◊◊◊

Bryan dropped off the last meal at Mrs. Allen’s house. She was quite a character. Ninety-two years old and still had a keen wit. “Thank you so much young man. If they’d let me drive, I’d go shopping myself. But I don’t see good enough to drive.”

◊◊◊◊

“For ten years of service we want to honor Bryan Edwards for his faithful service to Meals on Wheels. We wish we could persuade him to stay another ten years.” Bryan smiled as he heard the applause.

Bryan waved his hand to the handful of fellow workers gathered. Every time I get something going, it seems like its time for it to end. Bryan looked for ABE. He didn’t see him. Is he gone finally? He turned to leave and there was ABE near the door. No, he was still here. Wow, I think I would miss him if he left now.

◊◊◊◊

“That shortness of breath is just your heart giving out Mr. Edwards.”

“That’s not what I want to hear, Doc.”

“Well, you are getting up there you know. That’s just what getting old means. I’ll write you out a prescription that will help. Take one tablet with each meal. I wouldn’t drive any more. It’s too dangerous. You could pass out.”

Bryan looked at ABE as if the doctor had pulled the plug on him. Don’t you feel bad for me, Abe? I just wish you’d change your look just once.

ABE just stared his usual uncommitted stare.

◊◊◊◊

“The doctor said no more driving.” Julie mustered up the most sympathetic look she could.

“No more living.”

“Oh, it’s not that bad. We’ll get along just fine. It just another adjustment. You’re good at making adjustments aren’t you?”

“You’re right. Just another adjustment,” Bryan managed a weak smile.

◊◊◊◊

Bryan awoke and looked around. That’s right. I had a little problem breathing and they brought me to the hospital. Looking up at the heart monitor, the little blips were flashing regularly. Guess I’m still alive. He looked around the room, but it was empty except for ABE. “Well ABE you staying with me to the end? That’s nice. Are you my guardian angel? They say we all have an angel that stays with us from birth to death. You’ve been with me through my whole lifetime. Well, at least since that car accident. You’re not going to say anything to me?”

ABE leaned on the chair back. Bryan watched as ABE slowly walked toward him. “You here to take me home?” Bryan managed to say, surprised at ABE as he had never took any action toward him before.

“No, I’m not your guardian angel. You and I were given a special privilege. Who you have been has determined who I will someday be. My name is Albert, Albert Bryan Edwards. I will be your great great grandson.