Plain Old Magic

by Sasha A. Palmer

This is part four. Read the suite from the beginning


Jim

Mr. Cooper saw his parents today. They had been dead for thirty-five years. It was nice to see them. Dad sat in his favorite armchair, tracing the lines of the “Leatherstocking Tales”with a cracked magnifying glass. Mom – at the table, admiring her collection of postcards featuring famous actors.

When Mr. Cooper entered the room, they both looked up and smiled. Mr. Cooper did all the talking.

“I missed you guys,” he said, “how have you been?”

They nodded, smiling.

“You look well,” he continued, “I’ve been okay, too. Julie…she’s got this…memory problem. Has to stay at the hospital for a while. Wish she were here now.”

Mr. Cooper thought he saw Mom pout and suddenly remembered that she and Julie never got along. Maybe it was for the better his wife wasn’t home.

“Next time,” he said quickly, “next time for sure.”

Mr. Cooper walked over to the closet.

“Recognize this, Dad?” he reached to bring down something lying on top, “Gosh, it’s heavy.”

It was a battered ash hockey stick. The kind they made in the old days. Crafted from a single piece of wood.

“I remember the day we got it like it was yesterday,” said Mr. Cooper, “My fifteenth birthday. The best present ever.”

He gripped the handle tight. Now, almost seventy-five years later, his fingers still tingled with excitement. The same way they did at the store when he pointed at the stick, and the clerk handed it to him.

“I don’t care it’s not laminated. I’m glad it isn’t. This is better. This is special.”

He knew it the very first time he touched it. It was magical.

Mr. Cooper shut his eyes and saw the old skating rink and a young boy, himself, kicking the puck with friends. His hat was stuffed in his pocket and there was snow in his hair.

So much snow. Everything was white. Except for the tiny red flame moving about. Flickering in the white mist.

That girl. She wore her red beret on one side letting her black curls bounce on the other. He left his hockey stick on the ice, made her trip. It was an accident.

I’ll wait for you,she said three years later as he palmed her dear face and kissed her goodbye.

He was eighteen now. Onboard of a Navy ship in the Pacific. Happy, because he was going to war. Because death didn’t exist. Because Julie waited for him at home.

Mr. Cooper opened his eyes, coming back. His parents were still there.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, lifting up the hockey stick, “perhaps it’s time to pass it on. Remember the Millers? A nice family, moved in next to Liz’s? Had a little boy Johnny?”

His parents smiled, nodding.

“Well, it’s the Millers’ grandson. John Miller Junior. The newspaper boy. Just turned sixteen. His mom is a nurse. She’s been very good to Julie.”

Mr. Cooper was silent for a moment.

“You know,” he spoke again, “if I had a son, I would want him to turn out like this kid.”

Now that it was decided, Mr. Cooper set to work without delay. He cleared the table. (Mom collected her postcards to make more space.) He found all the supplies he needed. He wrapped the hockey stick very carefully, securing the many layers of tissue paper with little bits of scotch tape. Just in case. With a permanent marker he wrote on the package To John Miller Jr., then added Grace Miller’s son. He laid the package on the table, dragged himself to the couch and sat down heavily.

He had never been that tired in his whole life. Or that content. Mr. Cooper closed his eyes and there he was again. In the middle of the old skating rink.

Hey, remember me?he called, chasing after the girl in the red beret.

I remember you,she said, glancing over her shoulder, You made me fall.

Sorry about that. How are you feeling?

I’m fine now, thank you.

And they skated, and skated, and talked about nothings. And then he took her hand, and she didn’t mind. Didn’t mind one bit.

The snow was coming down hard. All turned white but for the tiny red flame shining through the thick mist. But then the flame, too, flickered and went out.







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