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A Song For Eli [YJA2017]

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posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 12:36 PM
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A Song For Eli



Eli considered his next move. Grandpa was good at chess, and they had been playing ever since Eli was eight. It was Grandpa who taught him the game, on his birthday seven years ago, almost to the day. They knew each other well, and could largely anticipate how each other would react in certain situations.

Grandpa's fianchetto opening would be tough to crack. He knew Grandpa would castle shortly - he always did. Grandpa was a defender, lurking in wait until Eli screwed up somehow, then he would strike and the axe would inevitably fall. To describe Eli's wins as "seldom" was being generous. But his grandfather had abundant stories to pass the time, and Eli always enjoyed Grandpa's stories.

His head hurt today and he was having trouble concentrating.

"Your head's bothering you today, isn't it, Eli?"

"Yeah, it really hurts," he said, honestly. "I'm OK, though."

"Good, I wouldn't want to have an unfair advantage. Your move," he said with a smile.

Eli studied the board and tried to guess what his grandfather would do next, but his heart just wasn't in it today. The medication the doctor had prescribed for his headaches didn't seem to help today.

"Grandpa, can I ask you a question?"

"'Course, Eli, always," he said.

"What did you get your medals for?"

Grandpa arched an eyebrow at Eli. "You haven't asked about them in a long time. What's got you thinking about war medals?"

Eli didn't answer right away, but instead fidgeted with a piece he had captured.

"I guess, I just wonder what I can possibly accomplish in my life. You're a war hero, and a fireman to boot. And don't tell me you're not a hero, Grandpa, I saw the Mayoral Medal of Honor, too. The article says you saved six people that night."

"Son," his grandfather said, leaning forward a bit, "just because someone gets a medal doesn't mean they are a hero, or even that they earned it."

"Did you earn yours?"

"By some standards, I suppose I did, sure. But Eli, it's just a piece of metal someone polished and engraved a bit. That medal doesn't talk about the people I couldn't save. Don't let someone else's idea of glory and honor define yours."

Eli thought for a second. "But I'm not good at anything, Grandpa."

"Who told you that?"

"No one," Eli said defensively. "It's the truth."

"You know I don't let you win at chess, right? I have to try to beat you. So you're good at that," Grandpa offered.

Eli looked at his grandfather wryly. Just then his head throbbed, and he massaged his temple a bit.

"Not good enough, huh? Well, how about this, do you remember that mother who lost her child? Turned out they lived only a few blocks from you?"

"Yeah, that was what, two years ago?"

"I think so. You made a card for her on the computer, and you & I brought it over to her. Did you see the smile on her face? It wasn't there long, but she smiled. You brought a smile to a woman with a broken heart, son. That's something, and I'll bet you a chocolate malt she remembers it even today."

"Yeah, but anybody can do what I did, Grandpa," Eli said.

"How about that boy with cancer you visited in the hospital? You remember bringing Buck to the hospital, and you brought him a Lego set too. That kid - what was his name, Danny? He smiled the whole time you were there. You and your dog brought joy to a really sick little boy, Eli. Not everyone could have done that, or would have."

Eli remembered that day. Danny had rare form of leukemia. He died not long after Eli had visited him. "It didn't save his life, though, did it, Grandpa? I mean, he still died."

"Son, it's not how many days you have, it's what you do with them. Look, we all die. We are all headed toward that moment, Eli, every one of us. Your journey to the afterlife doesn't begin when you die. It starts the day you're born. And whether you have seven years like Danny, or seventy like me, well, we all face it in the end."

"Do you believe in angels, Grandpa?"

"Of course, why?"

"Danny told me he saw angels once, two of them. He had a nightmare one night, and when he woke up there were two angels in his room, watching him. Watching over him, is what he said."

"Well, I believe him, do you?"

"Yeah, I think I do. Do you think we turn into angels when we die?"

Grandpa chuckled. "Your grandmother had that idea. I disagree. I think we become...well, something else. Something beyond words." He smiled warmly at Eli, a wistful twinkle in his blue eyes.

Eli's head throbbed again, and he groaned.

"You ok, son?"

"It's getting worse today, Grandpa. Hurts bad," Eli said softly. The pain was making his vision blur just a bit. "Will you tell me about when you saved those kids from the housefire, Grandpa?"

"Maybe you should rest, Eli."

"I'm OK."

"Well, that's an old story. How about you tell me about that girl you wrote to in South Africa. You remember the one with that really rare cancer?"

"Yeah, she had multiple myeloma. She was really a sweet girl, I wish I could have met her before she died. She told me her scans showed over a hundred tumors...do we have to talk about that?"

"No, 'course not. Tell me what you're learning on the piano, then."

"Oh, well, I've been working on one of Clementi's Sonatinas. And a piece by Bach adapted for piano. It's hard though 'cause it was originally written for organ, so some of it is very difficult. I was working on another transcription of one of George Winston's pieces, too - his arrangement of The Holly And the Ivy. I was hoping to play it for everyone at Christmas."




posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 12:36 PM
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(cont.)

Grandpa smiled. "Do remember playing the piano for Christmas last year?"

"Yeah, it was another George Winston piece - Thanksgiving." He winced as a knife of pain stabbed behind his eyes and at the base of his skull. The lights in the room seemed too bright. They hurt his eyes, and he squinted, feeling slightly nauseous.

"You should have seen the room behind you, kid. All the grownups, they were all crying."

"Was it that bad?"

"Of course not, Eli. Sometimes, when you get older, you take some of your memories and emotions and shove them down into a box inside you. You can't worry about them just now, can't deal with them because you're too busy with the rest of life. But every once in a while, something happens - a moment of beauty, something someone says, a piece of music or a story - something opens that box. And for a little while, it overflows. Sometimes there's joy, sometimes sadness, sometimes both. But it comes out and you can't stop it. You gave all of them a moment like that. You gave them all a little bit of beauty, and you opened their boxes. They all remember, every one of them."

"How do you know that, Grandpa?"

"Think, you know."

His headache was much worse now. "Grandpa, it really hurts. Feels like someone's got a big clamp on my head and they're squeezing it."

"I couldn't have done that, and you know why, Eli," Grandpa pressed on.

"You weren't there, how come? I can't remember, now. Grandpa, it really hurts now!"

"OK. Can you walk?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Come on, let's go for a walk, then you can rest. Fresh air will do you good." Eli nodded weakly.

His grandfather took him outside the cabin into the yard. The sky was blue, and the sun shone bright on a perfect summer day. The water of the lake was mirror-smooth. The sunlight, despite being bright, actually seemed to help his head a little. Eli's grandfather led him out onto the dock, all the way to the end. The water was high this year and lapped the bottom of the decking, just a few inches below their feet. Right at the edge of the dock, they stopped and Grandpa turned to him and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Son, there's a principle about time called the Butterfly Effect. The basic idea is this: even tiny actions can have a great effect in the future - they can get magnified and it can affect the lives of people in drastic and unpredictable ways. We can't know how our lives will affect others. All we can do is try to live as best we can. Live true, and live well. You lived well, Eli. That mother you made smile? She was contemplating suicide that day. She was drawing her last bath, but you rang the doorbell and gave her hope. Now she gives every spare moment to helping parents who've lost children. Danny was holding the Lego set you gave him when he died. His parents still have it with his things. And that girl in South Africa, she kept your letters in a special scrapbook, and read them every day. Your cousin Jonah took up piano and guitar after you played that Christmas. Now he brings his guitar up to the hospital and plays for the kids in the pediatric cancer ward. Son, if you insist on comparing your life with mine, then understand this: you gave me a fifty-five year head start, and you still beat me by a mile. Never, ever think you didn't matter."

It all flashed back suddenly. Grandpa's heart attack had taken him six months before that Christmas where Eli played the piano.

"You're not really my Grandpa." It was almost a statement, rather than a question.

"Yes and no. It's easier if it's someone you know."

"Are you God?"

Grandpa just smiled affectionately at him, then stepped off the dock and stood on the water. He turned and lifted a hand out to Eli.

"It's time for some rest, son. Are you ready?"

Shaking, Eli reached his right arm out, took the hand that was offered, and stepped onto the water.

~*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*~



They had all gathered at Auntie Becca's house. The hospice nurse had warned them early that morning that Eli was in his final hours.

Jonah was scared. He didn't want Eli to die, but there was nothing anyone could do. The brain tumor couldn't be operated on, and the radiation and chemo had all failed.

Jonah stood with his aunts, uncles, and cousins. His little sister clutched at him, crying. Auntie Becca was kneeling next to Eli's bed, holding his hand and brushing his hair back.

She whispered, "It's OK, Eli. It's OK to go."

Eli's eyes opened suddenly. He took sharp breath, and lifted his right arm, as if he was reaching for something. The family was startled, some gasping and others crying anew. Eli's arm fell, his eyes closed, and he exhaled.

Jonah heard Uncle Pete whisper to Uncle Rob. "He hasn't been able to move that arm for weeks."

The hospice nurse Natalie felt Eli's neck. Gently, kindly, she put her hand on Auntie Becca's. "He's gone now, Becca."

Uncle Mark came and hugged Auntie Becca, and they wept together.

A melody sprang into Jonah's head. He could almost see the notes on the page, see his fingers playing them on the piano, see the chords fit together like interlocking puzzle pieces. He kept it in his head, over and over again, so he could write it down. A song for Eli.

That's what he'd call it.

A Song for Eli.


THE END


edit on 3-7-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: Adding part 2



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 12:49 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Very nice Prairie. Beautifully written.




posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 01:47 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Wow.
You touched on a lot of topics that hit me personally there. (translation...I'm bawling...)
It was beautifully written, Shep.
A lot of true (profound?) statements in Grandpa's conversation...but then, it wasn't really Grandpa.


I'd say it paid off for you to take your time to write this, it's not a fluff piece (like mine). I did try to write a serious story for this contest but depressed myself into deleting it all.

Yours wasn't depressing but it did remind me of many people from my past and their losses (and the broken hearts they still have to this day). I love how all those little random acts of kindness were noticed by "Grandpa".
S&F
jacy



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 01:50 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Nice entry. I enjoyed it.



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 02:44 PM
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a reply to: luckskywatcher

Thanks Luck! I'll get over to yours in time - might take me a few days to read through all of them.

a reply to: jacygirl

You're sweet, Jacy. I'm glad it wasn't depressing - that most definitely was not the message I was aiming for.

And no, wasn't really Grandpa.

What gave it away?


a reply to: AugustusMasonicus

Thanks Augustus!
I've been starting to read through the Softball thread (slowly, I have to sound out a lot of the words
)
Good stuff in there!



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 02:47 PM
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Your story gave me goose bumps. That says an awful lot.

Well done.



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 02:47 PM
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originally posted by: PrairieShepherd
I've been starting to read through the Softball thread (slowly, I have to sound out a lot of the words
)
Good stuff in there!


Thanks, it's a fun thread.



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 02:50 PM
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originally posted by: PrairieShepherd
a reply to: luckskywatcher


a reply to: AugustusMasonicus

Thanks Augustus!
I've been starting to read through the Softball thread (slowly, I have to sound out a lot of the words
)


A word of advice, friend...do NOT google search some of those words!! (trust me)

(*bumping* thread...single handedly (why is that word red squiggled?? I googled it, it's right...bah!...taking over the front page with stories...)
jacy



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 02:57 PM
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a reply to: angeldoll

Thank you, Angel. I'm flattered and glad you enjoyed it.


a reply to: jacygirl

Oh dear.

Oh dear.

*Shep blushes. Just a little.*

Ah who am I kidding? You know I don't blush at stuff like that. Not with some of the other stuff I've written.



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 02:59 PM
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Great story Shep!




posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 03:00 PM
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originally posted by: PrairieShepherd
a reply to: jacygirl


You know I don't blush at stuff like that. Not with some of the other stuff I've written.


Awesome! Now everybody knows I'm secretly reading your dirty stuff.
There goes my reputation.
jacy (dons disguise)

edit on 7-3-2017 by jacygirl because: wouldn't you like to know?



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 03:07 PM
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a reply to: Errollorre

Thanks, Tom! I'm glad you liked it!

a reply to: jacygirl

Eh, I needed company in my depravity. Besides, that was a very important plot point!
Nice sunglasses. RayBans?



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 03:09 PM
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originally posted by: [post=21986108]PrairieShepherd

a reply to: jacygirl

Eh, I needed company in my depravity. Besides, that was a very important plot point!
Nice sunglasses. RayBans?



It's fine. I know you tried 13 other members before you found one online (me).

Thanks. Dollar Store.



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 03:18 PM
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a reply to: jacygirl

But you were in the most expensive section of the dollar store, deary!



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 03:26 PM
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a reply to: PrairieShepherd

Well written. Great story.

It was like I was reading chapter from a book that you can't put down.

kind regards,

bally



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 03:36 PM
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originally posted by: PrairieShepherd
a reply to: jacygirl

But you were in the most expensive section of the dollar store, deary!


Deary? That's worse than ma'am...


And I will have you know that our dollar store has an entire $3 section that I frequent.
Young whippersnappers...how rude!!

*waves "hello" to bally*



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 03:47 PM
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a reply to: bally001

Thanks Bally! Very kind words, I'm humbled.


a reply to: jacygirl

Sorry, I had a little Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold thing going on there for a minute.

*puts cane away*
*takes off gold jacket & makeup*


Now then, where were we?

edit on 3-7-2017 by PrairieShepherd because: thing 1, thing 2



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 03:51 PM
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originally posted by: PrairieShepherd
a reply to: jacygirl

Now then, where were we?


Do I know you?

*wanders out of cheap section to browse sunglasses*



posted on Mar, 7 2017 @ 03:56 PM
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a reply to: jacygirl

LMAO! OK, point -> Jacy.



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