Prompt Day #269: Devise a plot surrounding a schoolyard bully…when he’s elderly, in the nursing home.
One Last Adventure
“I can’t believe he’s gone.” Wade heard his Aunt Josie say. “How’s Wade holding up?”
“Oh, I don’t know, he’s been in his room a lot. Doesn’t say much.” His mom said. Wade shut his door quietly and shuffled back to his bed. He already missed his Grandpa. They’d been close. Wade was the first grandson and carried his grandpa’s name. Everyone said Wade was the “spitting image” of his granddad but Wade wasn’t sure what that even meant. All he knew was Grandpa was dead and Wade was alone.
He dug through the treasure chest he and Grandpa had made together. It was filled with trinkets and treasure maps; records of their adventures together. Memories of Saturday mornings before the sun came up, when Grandpa would show up with his metal detector and shovels. Wade wiped away a tear and shut the box. There would be no more adventures.
He was about to give in to the ache in his chest and the burning in his eyes when his mother was at the door.
“Wade? Wade, are you in there?” as if she didn’t know, he thought and rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, Mom.” She opened the door tentatively. She held a box in her hands, similar in size and shape as his treasure chest. It was obviously his grandfather’s work. He perked up.
“Aunt Josie brought this. It was on a shelf in Grandpa’s closet.” She held it out.
“What’s in it?”
“Don’t know. This was on it.” She pulled an envelope out of her pocket. “It said ‘For Wade when I’m gone.” Sitting it on the bed, she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. “You open it when you’re ready, Sweetheart.” She left. Wade touched the box, then picked up the envelope. For Wade, when I’m gone. He opened it.
If you are reading this, it means I’ve passed on. I do not want you to be sad, because I lived a wonderful life and spending these last years with you made me feel young again. You gave me a second childhood, Wade and that means more than you can know. You see, my childhood was not so good. We were very poor and I was an only child, there was no one to keep the other children from picking on me. I kept to myself, invented games, adventure games—like the ones you and I liked to play. I made up treasure maps and hid shiny rocks as my prize. I pretended I was a pirate and the woods were haunted. Sometimes I scared myself so bad, I had to run home until I could find the courage to go on. There is no shame in being afraid, Wade, only in quitting. Anyways, that’s not what this letter is for, Wade, I’m not so vain that I think I need to leave you with a note full of old man wisdom. You’re a smart boy.
I want to tell you a story and then, I’m going to ask you to do something for me and it isn’t a nice thing that I’m going to ask you to do. After I tell my story, you can decide if you want to go on one last adventure with me or write me off as a crazy old man. No matter what you choose, Wade, I’ll always love you and I will always be proud of you. And now, before my arthritis stops me, I want to tell you about Jimmy Beckett.
When I was your age (eleven when I wrote this letter), I was on one of my forest adventures. This time though, I could swear I heard someone following me. I heard ghostly voices and twigs cracking. I was so afraid. I decided to go home, the game wasn’t fun. Something was happening beyond my imagination this time. Just then Jimmy Beckett, the class bully, jumped out from behind a tree and yelled “Boo!” I screamed, I cried, I peed my pants. Well, I hope you never experience a bully, Wade, but if you do, you’ll find that they are always afraid too, so they bring back up with them. That’s when one of Jimmy’s cronies grabbed me from behind. Jimmy was laughing and pointing at my wet shorts. They tied me to a tree and left me in my shame, my heart pounding, and my tears flowing.
The rope wasn’t tight and when I settled down and came to my senses, I easily slipped out. I didn’t go home right away though. I was so ashamed. I stayed in the woods for hours until my pants and my tears had dried. By the time I made it home, my mother was in a frenzy. The police were at my home; even the newspaper reporter. In the small town where I lived, no child have ever gone missing. Oh it was a big to-do until I got back to school. Jimmy, of course told everyone that I had peed my pants in the woods and was too afraid to come home. I was the laughing stock of the school. Of course Jimmy was the leader, but the others didn’t like the attention I had received coming home, so they fed into it. And anytime someone decided enough time had passed and tried to move on, Jimmy was there to remind them of my shame.
All the rest of my school days, Jimmy was there, reminding me and anyone who tried to befriend me, that I was a wimp, a scaredy cat. I never had any friends, Wade. Not until I joined the Army just to prove to myself that I wasn’t a coward. But Jimmy’s taunting stayed in the back of my head all my life.
Pretty sad story, eh Champ? I know, and I’m ashamed of what I’m about to ask you to do but, damn-it, Wade, that man ruined me. He went on to a great job in construction, worked his way up into management and eventually bought the company. He married a beautiful gal and had three kids. The great American story, right? Now, don’t you get me wrong, Wade, I ended up with the best wife and kids and grandkids anyone could hope for. Don’t you tell anyone else, but you’re the best thing of all. My best buddy, my namesake and doppelganger (that means you look just like me). That’s why you’re the only one who can do this.
In the box, you’ll find some clothes that should fit you. They’re as close to what I used to wear when I was your age. You will also find a brochure on Golden Oaks Nursing Home and a recent photo of Jimmy Beckett. Buddy, this adventure is going to be a little scary, but you’ll find bus tokens that will get you there and back at least three times and lastly, a script of things I want you to say to him. I want you to be my ghost, Wade. I need you to haunt that bastard. Every day for three days, I need you to scare him, make him believe it’s me back haunting him. Wade, I want you to make him piss his pants! Can you do that for me son?
Now, just remember that no matter what, I love you and I am proud of you.
Wade sat on his bed, Grandpa’s note dangling loosely in his hand. He didn’t know what to do. He did not like Grandpa’s final adventure at all, but he did not like to think about how that boy, that old man now, treated his Grandpa. Grandpa Wade was the bravest, smartest, funnest man Wade ever knew and this was Wade’s chance to be Grandpa’s hero.
“I won’t let you down, Grandpa.” He said. He opened the chest and took out the clothes, a white tee shirt and brown khaki shorts. Beneath them lay the brochure with a picture stapled to it and the script, an envelope full of bus tokens and another envelope with Wade’s name on it. It was heavy. Wade opened it. An Army medal fell out into his palm. There was another note inside.
Wade, this is the Bronze Star medal. It is given out for heroism in combat. It’s yours now. Love, G
The next day, Wade rode the bus to Golden Oaks after school. He carried a library book with him up to the desk.
“Hi, I’m uh Junior uh Starr and I’m here as a project from school to read a book to a senior citizen.” He pulled out the picture of Jimmy Beckett and held it up. “I’ve been assigned this guy, uh, his name is Jimmy, Jim Beckett. Can I see him?” He thought he’d covered pretty well. The desk clerk stared at him and then down at the book on his desk and back up at Wade again.
“Uh, so this is a school project?” Wade nodded. “Well, you got the short end of the stick, buddy. Mr. Beckett had a stroke last year, he’s in a state of catatonia. He isn’t gonna talk to you and I doubt he’ll talk to you. Let me know if you need me to sign anything to say you were here. He’s sitting in the common room” he pointed down the hall to the right. “He’ll be facing the window, that’s where he always is.” Wade took off without thanking him.
He saw one man sitting facing out the window. The man looked small and frail, slumped in his chair. Wade slowed down and dropped his book and back pack at the door. He walked silently over to the statue of a man who once treated his grandpa badly. He walked around to stand in front of Jim Beckett. He saw no recognition in the man’s eyes, in fact, the man never even focused on Wade, just kept on looking out the window. Wade took a deep breath and recited the words in his grandfather’s script.
“Hi Jimmy. Remember me?” He waited, Jimmy didn’t move
“Wade Tarleton. Remember when you tied me to a tree in the woods? I’m dead now, did you know that?” Nothing.
“I swore that day I would come back for you. Here I am Jimmy. The ghost you tried to be. Here to take you to hell with me.” He didn’t like this anymore. The man was old and sad. There wasn’t anything left in there of the bully he was.
“I’m sorry, Mister.” He said and ran out.
It wasn’t until he was on his way to school the next morning that he realized he’d left his backpack at the nursing home. He used the second set of tokens to get back to Golden Oaks after school. Luckily, the same desk clerk was working and waved him through without a word.
Jimmy was sitting in the exact same spot. Wade wondered if he’d been moved at all. He tried to remember what the pattern on his pajamas had been yesterday.
“Hi, Mr. Beckett.” He said walking around in front of the man again. “It’s me again. Wade. Not Wade Tarleton, he’s my granddad, but…”
“Wade?” The old man said. Wade jumped. The man had not moved. His eyes still staring at something only he could see far in the distance, gave no indication that he’d seen the boy approach.
“Yeah, I’m Wade too. Wade Tarleton is my grandpa.”
“Wade Tarleton?” Jimmy said. Wade nodded. Jimmy nodded and said nothing more.
“So, I came back to apologize for scaring you yesterday, if I did. Anyways, I’m not really a ghost. I think you hurt my grandpa’s feelings a long time ago and it bothered him for a long time. He sent me here to see you.” Wade didn’t know what else to say. “Ok, so bye.”
Wade found himself back on the bus again the next day. He used the last of his tokens left for him by his Grandpa.
“Hey, Mr. Beckett.” He said, this time patting the man on the shoulder. “I thought maybe I could read you a letter my Grandpa wrote to me. I thought maybe if I did, you’d remember and say sorry and maybe that would be enough, you know, for my grandpa.”
“I wanted to play with you.” Jimmy said.
“What?” Wade asked.
“I followed you because I wanted to play with you. I liked the game, I used to watch you, follow you around, I wanted to play.”
“But what about the other guys? Why did you bring them?” Wade was confused. He fell into the conversation as the ghost of his grandfather.
“I didn’t bring the other guys, it was just you and your friends. Why’d you do that to me, Wade? I just wanted to play.” Wade backed away. This was wrong, this was all wrong. Jimmy had been the bully, not Grandpa.
“You tied me up! You made fun of me.” Wade was yelling now. Hot tears stung his cheeks. He saw the clerk out of the corner of his eye. Everyone was looking at them. Jimmy was crying.
“You’re a liar Wade! You scared me and you laughed at me. All I wanted to do was to be your friend.” Jimmy was crying now too. “I just wanted to be friends.”
“I’m sorry, Jimmy. I’m really sorry. I want to be your friend. Can we be friends now?” Wade asked. Suddenly it didn’t matter anymore who did what. This needed to end and Wade didn’t want to know the truth. He wanted to love and miss his grandpa and he wanted to visit with this man too. Maybe they could be friends now. Maybe that’s what this last adventure was about, why his grandpa sent him here. A confession, a rewrite, someone to help fill the void his grandpa left. Maybe none of those things.
Jimmy nodded. “Yeah, Wade. Friends.”