Topaz, Chapter 4
Topaz Chapter 1: Here
Topaz Chapter 2: Here
Topaz Chapter 3: Here
Not even the bus’s adequate air conditioning can prevent a sheen of sweat to form on the old man’s palms. He tries blocking the painful memories, but they endure. The man remembers the modified shed where they lived, a structure similar to hundreds of others. He thinks of its twin three houses down where another family lived, where a beautiful girl lived with her parents. The girl shared the man’s birthday, though a year separated the two teenager’s ages. He thinks of her beautiful face, a face he married, a face he saw through 40 years of marriage and through the birth of two sons, a face he comforted when news of their oldest son’s death reached the heartbroken parents upon hearing of the accident while the son served his country in the army, a face he gently kissed before the casket lid closed and her still beautiful face entered the fire that destroyed everything he had already lost.
The man returns the small box into the pocket of his jacket as the bus approaches the stop near his home. The man looks again at the magazine. With some difficulty the old man stops and picks up the magazine and places it beside the sleeping man’s other personal items.
The cane sinks ever so slightly into the spring grass as the man transfers from the curb to the sidewalk. The bus disappears into the street’s vanishing point as the cane’s metal tip strikes the cement as the old man closes the gap between the bus stop and his home. The man checks his watch and a smile crosses his aged face. Only five hours remain until his son’s family arrives to celebrate his great-grandson’s 12th birthday. The old man slowly approaches his front door and with an unsteady hand fumbles with the key until the front door swings open. The man’s cat meows as he quickly runs out between his feet, the animal eager to explore his limited existence.
The man enters the house, places the warmed Panama hat on the hook and leans the cane next to the doorframe. He walks to the dinning room and takes out the wrapped gift from his jacket pocket. The old man places it on the kitchen table and silently hopes his great-grandson enjoys his new wristwatch.