Today Was a Good Day
“Darling, you know the knight can’t move there!” The old man shouted as he slapped playfully at the young woman's still hovering hand, the black knight suspended there wriggling uneasily in her grip as his hand came into contact with her own. As he exclaimed, his sagging, haggard jowls jostled alongside one another up and down in delighted laughter; and his keen, bright blue eyes gleamed resolutely in the brilliant mid-morning sun.
“Just seeing how awake you were today, old man.” The young woman responded, quickly flashing a sly little smile into her elderly companions own broadly grinning visage. Before the old man could answer, she quickly placed her piece. “Check.” She volunteered softly, that sly little smile still dancing around the corners of her lips.
“Oh, very good!” The old man exploded, his aged and sundried features suddenly cracking wide open as he bellowed in his ebullient mirth. “Now you see, my darling.. That was a move I did not expect.” He spoke through great, breathless guffaws, the air nearly catching in his throat as he bellowed in his glee.
“Oh, Horace!” The young woman suddenly shouted, rising quickly to her feet and approaching the old man’s side at once. “Make sure you breathe!” She hollered again, still smiling, as she slowly rubbed in a long, smooth circle of pressure into the old man’s quaking, emaciated back. Slowly, sputteringly, the aged fellow called Horace began to breathe normally again - his wizened, emblazoned features gradually cooling themselves off to their usual decrepit pallor.
The old man smiled and gazed up into the kind brown eyes of his companion. As he gazed up into her sun-drenched face, was reminded suddenly of just how lovely she was - her delicate, chestnut brown skin, the strong, healthy black hair that fell down her body in great dollops, cascading nearly down past her waistline. Her sumptuous figure as she moved about his small cottage, tending to his every need. Often in those early days of her service, Horace had watched her, closely, as she flitted about the small coastal home, tidying this and straightening that. For a brief time, he had wanted her - but even then, he knew the truth. He was too old. Too broken, for a woman like that. And that was just fine, he supposed. He had lived a long, fantastic life, full of adventure and romance. And it the end, he was just fine with a little bit of sweetness for the eyes before he was to go.
“What is it, you old fart?” The young woman asked Horace plainly, staring steadily into his crinkled, watery eyes. Not even a hint of sarcasm in her twinkling voice. She had caught him staring, lost in reverie. At her words, the old man nearly exploded in laughter once again. She really did have a way about her. “And you know, it’s still your move.”
As she spoke, she flashed the old man that sly little succubus grin once more, and moved towards Horace again, gently gliding across the floor on her delicate, bare brown feet. Gently, she set her right hand down on Horace’s left shoulder and gazed calmly into his eyes. It was as if she were looking for something invisible - some tell-tale sign or marker that she knew she could not find - and yet... She stared, studying every crease and wrinkle of the old man’s until suddenly, she spoke. “So, how are you feeling today, Horace?”
The old man’s face suddenly fell, deflated. It was as if the last dregs of oxygen left extant within his ancient, curdling skin had suddenly been sucked away from. Only his eyes remained alight, still gazing up adamantly at his lovely young companion. When he finally spoke again, it was with a heavy tone - one entrenched fully in the years of aloofness, and embarrassment he had faced at his own unwitting hand.
“I know what’s wrong with me” He slowly spoke, his brilliant blue eyes trained directly on the soft, comforting brown of her own. “I know that I’m sick.” Suddenly, he looked to the ground, ashamed of his own apparent weakness.
“Oh Horace, everything will be okay!” The young woman shouted at once, beaming suddenly, and holding on tight to his quivering and helpless left arm. “I’ll take care of you, after all!” She said again, the delicate charm having never once left from her lovely, twinkling voice.
The old man smiled back up at her again, for a moment, and then sighed - again looking away. “I’m sure you will, young lady.” He uttered slowly, gazing down at the chessboard in front of him for a moment before lighting up suddenly again. “But, my dear.” The old man said with a renewed vigor in his voice. “Who will take care of you?” As he said the words, he grabbed hold of his white queens crown, and dashed her quickly from one edge of the board to the next, covering her husband's vulnerable aft, completely.
“Oh you sly old dog, you.” The young woman declared immediately, a playful oh no you didn’t look dancing in her deep, calming eyes. For a moment, she just stared at him, before she finally said his name.
“Horace.” She muttered, looking again directly into the old man’s battered, and weatherworn face. “Do you know where we are right now?” She said, at last, studying her aged companions expressions with the utmost care.
Horace grimaced as if suddenly he had been thrust headfirst into some great pain - torn betwixt two realities, and terrified - and in that instance, alone.
“Yes.” He spoke finally, the word coming forth in one breathless gust of remnant wind as if it had been the last thing to leave him. The very last thing that had been left. “Yes.” He said again, looking now up again into his lovely young companions delicate, kind, eyes. “We’re in my home… Aren’t we?” For a moment, there was a flickering look about the man’s face, as if he wasn’t quite sure. “Ah, yes!” He shouted at last. “Of course we are.” He looked out the window to his left quickly one time. “But then where’s..?” He trailed off, slowly looking around as the past, that adroit serpentine soulthief, came carefully slithering its way back into the deepest bowels of his mind. He grimaced and screwed up his eyes, his entire self-wavering under the force of it all as his life rushed back to meet him.
“Oh, sweetheart.” The young woman whispered, her hand placed now softly on the crest of the old man’s shaking, wavering back. “It will be okay.” She looked down at him, smiling. Her warm eyes filling his heart suddenly with not just compassion - but with courage. Yes. She would help him do what he had to do.
Suddenly, with a long, drawn out sigh, the old man spoke again. As the words came burgeoning forth, he stared deeply, directly into the face of his young, beautiful companion. “I must be quite the tough nut to handle, sometimes, mustn’t I, my dear?” He spoke with a tone of deepest remorse, so thoroughly ashamed at what he had lately become. His companion only giggled, quickly covering her mouth as she did. Horace looked bewildered, but before he could speak.
“Of course you are, you silly old man!” She jeered at once, playfully. “But you’re also wonderful, and sweet.” As she spoke the delicate words her hands suddenly closed around one of his own and held it there. “Horace,” she said, staring directly into his brilliant blue again, “you’re sick. I think right now, you know that. And that’s okay. I’m here to help you.” The young woman smiled, her heart suddenly full of the love and compassion she had come to acquire for this wonderful, decrepit old man.
“Yes, but there must be something, mustn’t there be?” Horace spoke again, calmy. “Something I’ve done that’s been really bad.” For a time the young woman was only silent. She stared into Horace’s deeply lined face again, seemingly looking once more for that invisible something that would tell her what to do now. “Come now, you can tell me!” The old man proclaimed. “Hell, I’ll probably forget by tomorrow anyway.” He spoke at last, a sad smiling dancing for a moment across his darkly etched and timeworn face.
It took her a moment before answering to gather her thoughts. Finally, she said, “well Horace.” She spoke softly as if rather than to an old man, she was speaking instead with a young one, dangling listlessly off of some ephemeral, unwavering ledge. She cleared her throat gingerly before she continued. “You have tried a few times to…”
“To kill myself?” Horace finished plainly for her, his radiant baby blues swimming directly down into the murky depths of her own. The old man smiled at her astonished expression for a moment, before speaking again.
“For that, I am sorry, my love.” Horace sighed, his already emaciated skeleton appearing for a moment to shrink down even further as if within his bones there had been some remnant air that was finally being let go. “Only the insane notions of a sick and dying man, I suppose.” He muttered again, looking down once more. “But today.” He said, looking up into her face and suddenly beaming. “Is its own day.” He finished with gusto, raising one gaunt and bony finger high into the air as he did.
As if to underscore this revelation, the old man’s stomach suddenly emitted a long, lingering scream. The rumble emanated throughout the entire room somehow, filling the brief silence that had been left to hang between the two. The young woman’s eye’s betrayed her before her smile did. “You old fool.” She said plainly, as she moved towards the kitchen, her hand momentarily lingering on his elderly and quaking knee.
He could hear her in there, hustling and bustling about from the fridge to the cupboard and back again. “Hey.” She shouted suddenly after about a minute or two. “Would you like something to drink, too?” She called out, questioningly.
“No, no. I think for now I’ll be alright.” The old man returned, giving a brief and unseen gesture towards the still half full glass of water that she had been so kind as to fetch for him early this morning.
“Well alright then, whatever you say!” She shouted back, as she rounded the threshold of the kitchen door, a small blue plate held gently in her hand - the familiar and heavenly smell of peanut butter and jelly wafting ahead of her and she came. As she set the plate down next to the old man, she flashed him again that quick, sly little smile - a twinkle of laughter obvious in her brown, tranquil eyes. She was about to sit back down when the old man spoke again, hurriedly, as if the notion had only just begun to pop into his head.
“The crusts!” He shouted, gesturing wildly with his spindly, skeletal limbs.
“The crusts?” She responded, a fresh swath of giggles beginning to bubble up within her chest.
“That’s right, the crusts!” He whooped again, pointing again towards his perfectly encrusted sandwich. “I remember now…” He said again, trailing off for just a moment. “I fucking hated those things!” He finished, laughing violently in one great clamorous bark.
“Oh, you crazy old man.” The young woman muttered again, smilingly kindly towards the direction of her elderly companion. As she rose, she noticed him squirming, as if in some state of great excitement. She only giggled again. “You really want those things gone, don’t you?” She spoke listlessly, affecting an overly exaggerated slump to her shoulders and back as she shambled mockingly to the still open kitchen door.
Upon her return he was beaming, nearly jittering in his sudden, childlike compose. “Bring it here, darling.” He muttered at once, holding out his shaking, anemic left hand. For a moment, she was unsure of what to do, the knife glistening inertly in her right palm. “Come now, darling. I want the joy of doing it myself.” And then with a slight edge to his voice. “Please, darling.” He stared adamantly into her eyes. “While I still can.”
She sighed and smiled. “Of course, Horace.” She said, as she leaned over to hand the old man the admittedly time blunted, yet still remarkably serrated metal kitchen knife. At once, the old man began to cut. Delicately at first, but then really putting himself into it. His face was screwed up in desperate concentration, as he precisely released one curling and crumbling facade of bread away from the rest of it’s soft, delicate interior. The job was a short one, and yet, it was undeniably satisfying. Setting the cold steel knife back down to his plate, it’s blade now gummed heavily with peanut butter and strawberry jam, the old man looked quickly across the table, into the watchful and smiling face of his young, charming companion.
Without saying one more word, the old man took his first bite. A look of sheer ecstasy permeated across his lined and ancient face, his own bliss underscored tremendously by the subtle moans of pleasure escaping from his mouth in between every single bite.
“Water.” The old man said, at last, gesturing towards the nearly empty glass that still sat on the table beside him.
“Oh, I knew you’d want some more.” His young companion shouted as she sprung giddily to her feet, the look of pure joy found on the old man’s face reflected ten times over on her own. “I’ll just be right back!” She exclaimed, smacking at Horace’s aged left knee as she snatched his water glass and began to move towards the kitchen door.
“Sandra, wait,” Horace said, delicately, and with great intent. The young woman froze at once, shocked that he’d managed to even remember her name. Today really was a special day, she thought quickly to herself. As she turned, he finished, a monumental smile dazzling his entire, decrepit face. “Thank you.” He said at last. She smiled and looked down at the old man, a strange look having been plastered over his usually wizened and grizzly eyes.
“You’re welcome, Horace.” Was all she could think to say.
As she finally moved passed the threshold, and into the kitchen, Horace groaned. His old bones creaked and grumbled under the strain of the gravity that held them down. “Yes.” Horace thought. “Today was a good day.” As he took one final bite of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that he still clutched in his shaking, liver-spotted right hand. “Maybe my last.” He thought again. He could hear the steady tinkle of water from the kitchen sink, and the delicate jingle-jangle of the ice cubes that his young friend has been so kind as to include. Horace smiled, thinking about all of the good times he had had throughout his long, wonderful life.
Slowly, the old man reached his left hand out, towards the small side table. Towards the plate, and past it. Settling finally on the dull, serrated kitchen knife, still gleaming in the mid-morning sun. As he picked it up, he smiled. “Today was a good day.” He thought again, as he began to laugh. Then, speaking out loud as if to make sure that it was true, and not just some wicked dead-man's-fantasy, he said it again before beginning. “Today was a good day.”
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The story you just read was written by me, Matthew Munsey @matthewmunseyart
This is the second edition of this piece, hopefully finally error free for your reading pleasure!