This story is now published as part of the anthology ‘Loyal and True’.
Darrick Mcquire was young at a time when it was good to be young.
Being young during a Summer that seemed to go on forever was just fine.
As long as the Summer lasted he had work.
He wasn’t a fan of Winter, not because of the cold but because it was harder to find work.
The world was forgiving of a young man who had no idea what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
It was not that he was lazy he just didn’t know what to do.
Being a Life Guard suited him just fine.
He liked looking out for people.
The wages weren’t great but he didn’t need much.
He had turned the garage at old man Turner’s place into a bedsit. He did all the fitting out himself.
Darrick was handy that way.
He paid old man Turner a few dollars a week as well as doing most of his odd jobs. Mowing lawns, clearing out the gutters, carrying heavy stuff, that sort of thing.
Old man Turner liked having him around.
Whenever there was a big pile of stuff in the back garden that needed burning, these two men from different eras would sit by the bonfire and drink red wine and tell stories.
Mostly Darrick listened because old man Turner told great stories.
He particularly liked to hear about the Battey sisters.
Racheal Battey still lived in the area and her daughter Phylicia had a daughter Ethelene who was about Darrick’s age.
Darrick secretly thought that knowing stories about Ethelene’s grandmother when she was a girl would give him a better chance with her when he decided to make his move.
Not knowing what you wanted to do is not the same as not knowing what you didn’t want to do.
Darrick had a long list of things that fitted into that category.
For a while he kept it on his fridge but eventually he took it down because it seemed too negative; he wanted to focus on the things he wanted.
That list was a great deal smaller, but Ethelene Battey was on the top of that list.
They had not gone to the same school which put him at a disadvantage.
They both left the area to go to university and both had returned but Ethelene knew what she was going to do, she had always known.
She wanted to be a nurse.
She had known since she was six years old.
She even remembered the day she made the decision.
It was a Tuesday and the sun was shining, and her cat looked at her as if to say,”What are you going to do with your life?” Which seemed like an odd thing for a cat to ask, but she was ready, none the less, with an answer.
Her great aunt, who was a nurse in WW2, had survived a massacre.
Thirty captured nurses were marched into the sea and machine gunned.
She was wounded but not killed and survived because she could hold her breath for a really long time. She lay face down in the water and held her breath until the soldiers marched away.
As a little girl Ethelene practiced holding her breath for a really long time just in case this ever happened to her.
Darrick felt that Ethelene was way too good for him, but he could dream and he knew that one day he would get up the courage to make his move.
Old man Turner was not much help in the ‘how to attract a female’ department as he had been an abject failure in that regard.
As a result his life, though productive, had been filled with loneliness, and this is a substance that no one wants to be filled with.
When he wasn’t setting fire to piles of branches or mowing lawns or carrying heavy stuff, Darrick was sitting and watching; keeping the young people safe and wondering what his life would bring, when it finally got started.