The Morrow House (Unprompted Fiction)

This photo has nothing to do with the story, except that to me, rays of sun streaming through clouds IS "Hope"
This photo has nothing to do with the story, except that to me, rays of sun streaming through clouds IS “Hope”…and hope is a theme of this story.

Ashley stared at the red numbers projected onto her wall by her bedside alarm clock:  11:58.  For two nights now, the phone rang at precisely 12:15.  Each time she answered, there had been a pause and then the connection broke. Intrigued by the timing (not many people call after midnight) and the origin of the call (The Morrow House, an assisted living facility) she anticipated the shrill staccato that would disturb the gentle snoring of her beagle, Elvis.

As if sensing the internal restlessness of his motionless companion, Elvis, curled at her feet, raised his head and gave her a tilted head glance.

“Come here, boy,” she whispered.  That was enough to convince him to bathe her face in slobbery kisses before collapsing in her arms; his exposed underside the not-so-subtle invitation to rub his belly.  She didn’t know the precise moment when she became lonely enough to look forward to a late-night hang up call, but she suspected it may have been when the door clicked behind Brent as he carried the last of his belongings to his Chevy Blazer. The thought had crossed her mind to beg him to stay, but as much as she wanted to, she could sense he wanted to leave more.  So she let him go.

Six years together disappeared in two carloads.  For the first few months, Ashley expected him to come back, realizing the error in his choice.  Now, going on the fifth month, with divorce papers on her nightstand waiting on her signature, she’d learned that setting one free with the notion he’d return was just foolish hope harbored by the naiveté of a romantic heart.

She’d never make that mistake again.

The sharp ring of the phone cut through the silence, startling Ashley.  Elvis barely raised his head.

“Hello?”

“I know you’re there.  Please talk to me.”  She detected two shallow, raspy breaths that made her question her sanity.  I’m asking for trouble.

“Edith.  Is that you?”  A man asked.

Ashley let out a surprised gasp.  “My middle name is Edith.”  She rarely admitted it because, although she was named after her great-grandmother, she found it too old-fashioned.  “Who is this?”

“David.  They won’t let me come home to you.  They say this is home now.”

She remembered driving by The Morrow House and from the outside, it looked like a warm, well-kept building.

“Do they take good care of you?”

He sighed.  “I suppose.”  He dropped his voice to a whisper.  “But no one took care of the Colonel like you did.”

“What is your favorite meal?”

“Always turkey dumplings.”

“Oh, I love to make those.  Most people use chicken, but turkey adds more flavor.”  Without expecting it, she blurted another question.  “What about dessert?”

“I don’t get sweets much but if I could sneak another bite of lemon meringue pie…”  He paused.  “Someone’s coming.”

Before she could answer, the call disconnected.  In an instant she knew what she’d do.  She had recipes for turkey dumplings and lemon meringue pie, passed down in her family for generations.  “We’re going to give David a taste of home,” she said.

Elvis wasn’t impressed. Drool pooled under his loose lips and his eyes twitched beneath closed lids.

She rolled onto her side ran her fingers down his back.  It wouldn’t be long before his steady snore would lull her to sleep.

The next afternoon, Ashley left work early to cook the surprise dinner.  Elvis acted the attentive companion sitting in the middle of the kitchen, always just a couple steps away from her.  She knew it was the turkey that kept him there, waiting for a dropped scrap.

By five o’clock she backed into a space in the parking lot of The Morrow House. She lifted the cardboard box holding the pie and a huge stockpot of dumplings.  She tapped the door closed with her foot.  Elvis had tried to follow the turkey into the car, but thankfully, Ashley caught him before he pounced onto the seat.  He didn’t know she saved a bite for him in the refrigerator.

She climbed the five steps leading to the main entrance door.  Before she had time to contemplate how she’d get the door open, a woman from inside held the door for her.

“Thank you.”

“I’m Susan.  Welcome to The Morrow House,”  She smiled, revealing teeth whiter than Ashley had seen on a woman of her age.  “Mmmm… that smells delicious.” She closed her eyes during a deep inhale.

Ashley smiled.  She found it curious that people did that when admiring a scent.  It was as if sight impaired the olfactory experience.

“What room number?”

“Oh.  Uh, well, it’s kind of strange story…”  Ashley didn’t even think to ask for a room or last name.

The woman listened and tilted her head to the side with her eyebrows scrunched together.  “Interesting story.  I don’t think we have a David here right now, but I’ll check with the others to be sure.”

Ashley walked around the tiled lobby, gazing at the family photos intermixed between canvas paintings.  Next to the foyer she’d passed through with the box of food, she stopped to read a bronze plaque.  It was dedicated to David “Kernel” Kearney, who had donated a large sum of money to the home when he passed away in 1979- five years after his wife, Edith had died.  “No one took care of the Kernel like you…”  she remembered the man’s words on the phone.  Then, she heard ‘Colonel’, but maybe… couldn’t be.

Ashley heard footsteps behind her, and the woman apologizing for not locating the man she described, but the last engraved paragraph of the plaque prevented her from turning around.

In deepest appreciation of the Kearneys and their children, Rose, Arthur and Sheila, in 1980, we renamed the old West Town Care Center ‘The Morrow House’ as David Kearney requested.  We continue to honor his vision of maintaining a care home that provides hope for tomorrow while celebrating the joys of yesterday.

“David Kearney was a great man.”

She turned to face the woman.  “Did you know him?”

A proud smile lifted Susan’s coral painted lips.  “Why yes, I worked here long before we became The Morrow House.  In fact, it’s the only job I’ve ever had.”

Ashley shook her head, stunned.  “Did you know Sheila?”  She pointed to the name on the plaque.

Susan smiled.  “Sweet woman; the youngest of the three.  We were sad when she passed so suddenly.”

A tingling numbness traveled from the base of her skull, down her right arm.  “Was her name Sheila Brookman by any chance?  Did she die of an aneurysm in 1989 at the age of 57?  Did she have a daughter she named Betilda because Sheila and her husband, Armin, couldn’t settle on ‘Betty’ or ‘Matilda’- both beloved deceased family members?”

“Why yes… how did you know?”

“Sheila was my grandma,” Ashley whispered.  “I’m Betilda’s daughter, but she goes by Tillie.”

Susan reached out and latched onto her arm, leading her to sit in an armchair a few steps away.

“I think my great-grandfather led me here.”  Ashley glanced up at Susan and was met with a smile.  Not the I-think-you’ve-lost-your-mind,-but-I-don’t-want-to-be-the-one-to-tell-you kind of smile, but a ‘knowing’ smile.

“How would you like to serve supper?  I think your large batch of dumplings would make our twelve residents feel at home.”

Ashley nodded.  “I’d like that very much.”  For the first time in months, she felt a reason for ‘being’ and had hope for tomorrow.

~~~-~~~-~~~- ~~~-~~~-~~~- ~~~-~~~-~~~- ~~~-~~~-~~~- ~~~-~~~-~~~- ~~~-~~~-~~~-

Inspiration for this story:

One night a few weeks ago, I received a phone call after midnight from a local assisted living facility.  Curious, I answered the phone, but no one was there.  I didn’t think about it again until I drove by the place a few days ago and the sign triggered my memory of the name on my caller ID.

My imagination took over and I wondered, “what if a resident was calling for family?”  I pictured a man calling the last phone number he could remember, only to reach a stranger. Then, my twisted side thought, “what if they strike up conversation and then she surprises him by visiting, only to find out there was no resident by that name.”  And then my twisted side really got into it and added, “wouldn’t it be weird if she realizes it was her great-grandfather who’d passed away many years before?” Finally, my sappy side waded through the weirdness and suggested, “but wouldn’t it be great closure of a sad time in her life, with her husband leaving her, if she experienced a new kind of love in helping others in the place her great-grandfather wanted to be place of hope?”

So this is what happens when an innocent idea is corrupted by dueling views of a twisted and sappy wanna-be writer, haha 🙂

Thanks for reading this rather lengthy story.  As usual, I have no idea how this story will be received, but If you’ve got a comment to share, I’d love to read it!

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36 thoughts on “The Morrow House (Unprompted Fiction)

  1. Lance July 17, 2014 / 7:18 AM

    I like the pacing and as always your dialogue is very natural.

    More please.

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 11:04 PM

      Thanks for reading, Lance – glad you enjoyed the story!

  2. Debbie July 17, 2014 / 8:22 AM

    Aw, gee, what a great story, Janna. I like how you’ve included your inspiration this time, as well as a “More” link so those of us itching to read “the rest of the story” could do so.

    One teensy suggestion on the following paragraph:
    ‘The next afternoon, Ashley left work early to cook the surprise dinner. Elvis acted the attentive companion sitting next in the middle of the kitchen, always just a couple steps away from her. She knew it was the turkey that kept him there, waiting for a dropped scrap.’ I think you might have left out a word because ‘sitting next’ doesn’t make sense to me.

    Neat twist in the ending — very hopeful!

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 11:06 PM

      Thanks, Debbie! I usually don’t use the ‘more’ tag, but this story was a bit longer (over 1100 words) so I was afraid the long text would deter some from reading any of it.

      Thanks for pointing out the typo (next has been removed). It seems I’m a terrible editor at 2am… I found a couple more mistakes earlier this evening, too 😦

  3. suzicate July 17, 2014 / 8:29 AM

    I love it…both the story and the fact your imagination took off from a real life situation (phone call). You are a creative genius!

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 11:07 PM

      Thanks, Suzicate! I wish I was a creative genius 🙂

  4. nrhatch July 17, 2014 / 10:12 AM

    Wonderful! I guessed that there was a connection between Ashley and David when you said: “She had recipes for turkey dumplings and lemon meringue pie, passed down in her family for generations.”

    That made me read faster to get to the finish line.

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 11:09 PM

      I had to leave a few clues (and just hoped they weren’t too obvious) – but I couldn’t get them by your keen eye! I’m glad you read til the end, Nancy 🙂

  5. Sean July 17, 2014 / 10:15 AM

    when I reached the end of this story before the read more, I was contemplating on how this could be finished. I actually thought of the way which you finished this as my first realm of possibilities. I’m not sure what that says about me but it was a good finish. I enjoyed the twist at the end where Ashley was asked to stay and feed the residents. I did find it interesting that Susan didn’t bat an eye when Ashley told her the story. It was like she had heard similar stories before. Hmmm, maybe another lead to another offshoot of this. I know, just what you need. Enjoy your day and your drainage ditch looks well done. Keep an eye out for crawly things within the rocks. Your boys may find them interesting to play with but you may not find it the same way. Take care

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 11:13 PM

      Hmmm, perhaps I’ve become predictable, Sean 🙂 Yes, Susan has encountered his ‘presence’ so it wasn’t a shock at all (but Ashley didn’t know that). If I were the story-finishing type I’d have several that I could expand on. Maybe when a shiny new idea isn’t distracting me 🙂

      The boys can play with all the insects/toads/grasshoppers/lizards they want but I’ve been very clear, they all stay outside. Once they cross into my house, they die! Hope things are going well for you… not too busy.

  6. shirleyjdietz July 17, 2014 / 10:44 AM

    It was good because it had real people feelings in it. I like hearing how you build stories too.

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 11:14 PM

      Thanks, Shirley! I appreciate you reading.

  7. Imelda July 17, 2014 / 10:46 AM

    The story turned out well – the combination of the weird and the sappy, as you called them – did give a nice plot to the story. This is very creative and imaginative as always. 🙂

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 11:15 PM

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Imelda. It was late when I finally finished it so I had even more doubts about it 🙂

  8. philosophermouseofthehedge July 17, 2014 / 3:41 PM

    Winner!
    “internal restlessness of her motionless companion” – like this line – and the whole story.
    “hope harbored by the naiveté of a romantic heart”…although she promised, we knew she couldn’t stop being who she is.
    Sometimes good reaches out to good.

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 11:16 PM

      I’m glad you liked the story, Phil! I also enjoyed reading the lines that stood out for you most 🙂

  9. agjorgenson July 17, 2014 / 7:45 PM

    A beautiful story, and such a fine articulation of hope. I especially like the attention to the senses in the description of the woman closing her eyes to smell. The story draws upon the whole of the reader. Well done!

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 11:17 PM

      Thanks for reading and for the kind comment, Allen. I always hope my stories seem real and like the reader is right there.

  10. Eric Alagan July 17, 2014 / 10:25 PM

    A well conceived and related story, Janna. I thoroughly enjoyed it 🙂

    • jannatwrites July 17, 2014 / 11:18 PM

      Oh, thanks, Eric! I’m happy the story was a nice read 🙂 (I finally got to read your last Altan piece tonight , and that story has drawn me in!)

  11. Emilio Pasquale July 18, 2014 / 1:47 PM

    Sappy, yet twisted. Whatever works, I always say. Well, actually that’s the first time I said it. But it works for you! And I love it. When it starts to get too sappy, you give us a twist. That’s what keeps me reading. That, and you give us just enough information throughout to drive us to finish!

    • jannatwrites July 18, 2014 / 11:42 PM

      I’m glad you liked the story, Emilio! Sometimes the way the stories turn are a surprise to me as I write them 🙂

  12. Emilio Pasquale July 18, 2014 / 1:52 PM

    Oh, and another thing. Stop writing such sappy stories that I read at work or at least warn me in advance. Everyone’s asking me what’s wrong. My eyes are all teary!

    • jannatwrites July 18, 2014 / 11:46 PM

      Haha, I will keep that in mind, Emilio. (Oh, who I’m I kidding… I might still write sappy!)

  13. diannegray July 18, 2014 / 4:11 PM

    This is fabulous, Janna. I just love your writing 😀

    • jannatwrites July 18, 2014 / 11:47 PM

      You are so nice to write that – thanks, Dianne!

  14. Leigh W. Smith July 18, 2014 / 7:09 PM

    There’s no trace of “wanna-be writer” about you, Janna! This is sweeter than lemon meringue pie . . . just perfect and so gripping and heartfelt. Eminently publishable and memorable as always, fwiw! Keep it up, J! 🙂

    • jannatwrites July 18, 2014 / 11:48 PM

      No, your comment is sweeter than meringue pie, Leigh 🙂 Thanks for reading and for your encouraging comment!

  15. Kathy Combs (@KathyCombs16) July 18, 2014 / 9:56 PM

    This was one amazing story and I am in awe that your imagination goes into overdrive over a simple occurrence and you create a story of this quality. WOW. ♥

    • jannatwrites July 18, 2014 / 11:49 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, Kathy! I appreciate your kind words about the story.

  16. Sandra July 21, 2014 / 9:31 AM

    What an interesting story! I’m glad your shared your inspiration for it. I think it’s quite difficult to write unprompted fiction, so this is purdy darn awesome! I’m so glad to see Ashley finding another sort of happiness that is so selfless and benevolent. 🙂

    • jannatwrites July 23, 2014 / 4:41 PM

      Thanks for your sweet comment, Sandra! I’m glad you liked the story 🙂

  17. pattisj July 26, 2014 / 9:28 AM

    I enjoyed reading your hope-filled story. It was interesting to hear your thought process, and the inspiration behind it.

    • jannatwrites July 30, 2014 / 9:17 PM

      Thanks, Patti! I appreciate you reading it 🙂

  18. Sarah Ann August 24, 2014 / 8:50 AM

    Well, if that’s what twisted and sappy thinking create, let’s have more. I liked the was this built to its resolution. Although I don’t think I’d be keen on receiving calls at that time of night from anyone.

    • jannatwrites August 24, 2014 / 8:53 PM

      Ah, thanks, Sarah Ann! I don’t particularly like late night calls either… they usually mean bad news.

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