Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A few days ago I was searching my email account for some document from many years ago. While doing this I came became distracted for a long time with reading old stories from when I was in undergrad writing classes. I figured I'd dust some of them off and put them up here. Some are kinda cringe-worthy, to be sure, but this one, and a few others are post ready right off the shelf.

This one didn't even have a title and appears to be from a character sketch assignment with a single page limit.

Character Sketch


Finally, I was able to cross the busy boulevard and continue peddling my fashionable, yet old

steel Bianchi 12 speed road bike down the mature tree lined Side Street. It was not long before

I could see his house at the end of the block. Ernest had lived in this house since he was 20

years old. It was new when he bought it, and he and his wife had raised 5 children in it. Now, he

lives in the four bedroom, one and half bathroom, Tudor style home by himself.  Florence had

mercifully passed away many years earlier following a long and painful battle with pancreatic

cancer that eventually moved to her bones. At her funeral, I vividly remember Ernest saying

that his only regret was his selfishness, which he viewed as the primary reason his beloved wife

kept fighting and holding on to her poisonous, mortal shell. I was the only one present when he

spread her ashes in his vegetable garden the following spring.


Often, especially during the hot summer months Ernest would sleep in his basement during

the day and tear through 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzles, usually displaying images of faraway

lands that he has never visited. The local senior center offers a puzzle co-op of sorts, but he had

long since exhausted the limited variance of puzzles the offered. Instead, he had enlisted me to

order puzzles for him over the internet. The new one had been delivered to my house the day

prior. Because Ernest likes to sleep during the day he dislikes having the UPS delivery person

ring the bell during his slumber. Undoubtedly, he will work in a comment saying something to

the effect of: "I know what brown can do for me today, I wanna know what they can do for me

tonight!" Despite the fact his joke was never funny in the first place; I chuckle anyway, knowing

how much Ernest has a hard time making jokes, or, any small talk.


I stashed my bike along the side of his house, where the driveway extends back to the

unattached garage. In my backpack is his newest jigsaw puzzle, it has a picture of what appears

to be a terraced garden, obviously from somewhere in Asia. This may actually be a place

Ernest has been; he survived four years of combat fighting the Japanese in World War II. He

joined the war effort, like many of his peers, before he was 18. He was discharged when he was

20 because of an acute hernia that, in those days, was inoperable. When he does speak of the

past, often it will be in a wistful tone, accompanied by a distant look in his eye, and it is either

about the war or America’s (in his mind, at least) infallibility; which are, of course closely

related. Once, when I was helping him with his ancient roto-tiller, he looked up and told me

that if the hernia had not come along and spared him the rest of his tour of duty that the

dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan would have. He received his discharge papers while in

the military hospital in Hawaii on August first, five days before the “Little Boy” was detonated

over Hiroshima, effectively ending the combat in the Pacific theatre. I just nodded and returned

to the cleaning of the lone spark plug.


My knocking on the front door went unheeded, so I walked around to the back of the house

where I found Ernest sitting beside another person. This was very strange; Ernest did not

have visitors, unless they came bearing new challenges in the form of jigsaw puzzles. Both men

had their back to me and were speaking softly to each other while grasping a saucer in one

hand and the accompanying cup, with the telltale tea bag string dangling over the side. He

provided the Japanese two allowances: their white tea and their Akita Inus, a majestic breed of

dog once owned exclusively by Japanese royalty. I set the puzzle by the back door and pedaled

home.

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