Charlie: a short story

The regulars, who visit the resort, all get to know each other, well, recognize each other by sight. For everyone is here for a night out of drinks and dancing with music provided by various bands.

This night there is a new person sitting at the bar alone. A short man of undetermined age, slicked back thinning hair, dressed in a short-sleeved white shirt, skinny tie, black slacks, white socks, and dress shoes. Very formally dressed reminding my husband of a Baptist preacher. Is he a local or a hotel guest?

Nursing a beer, he watches as the band sets up, chatting up those sitting on either side of him. Soon the band, a good band that everyone loves, is ready, and the night begins. Slow music at first for those dinner guests still eating or those wishing to slow dance. Then up-tempo into faster music. At this point, the man begins to direct the band.

The regulars all try not to stare as the man gets animated in both his frenetic dance moves of flailing arms and his ‘I’m not worthy’ homage to the band. Must be a visitor, many think to themselves.

But no, the man eventually known as Charlie returns the following Saturday and every one thereafter until he is considered one of the regulars even if his behavior raises eyebrows and causes eye rolls among the other patrons. The bands just indulgently smile as he directs them and then bows to them when songs are finished. The less wary women will agree to dance with him, at least once, until his antics on the dance floor bother them. He talks on his cell phone gesturing wildly as he does so, yet according to some, his cell phone appears to be a block of wood painted black.

For months this continues until one night he is sitting not front and center at the bar, but at a table eating dinner with a lump of a woman with a blank expression on her face. The rumors begin that this is his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. All night long, Charlie is solicitous and kind, hovering over her like a mother hen with her chick. He leaves her side only once to dance wildly in front of her as if to get her to respond, but she doesn’t. They leave early, even before the band’s break.

The next week he returns, alone again, sitting at the bar, nursing a beer, talking to people on either side of him, dancing, directing the band, and generally acting the fool. And so on it goes.

Weeks pass, and again he is dining with the frizzy, white-haired woman with the blank expression. The pattern is repeated except now, the rumors are confirmed: this is his wife, who lives in a ward for patients with Alzheimer’s.

Again and again, every month or so, Charlie brings his wife to dine, and slowly, ever so slowly, there is an awakening. First, she seems less blank and smiles timidly when the music begins, and then one night she seems to sing along with the band as if the muscle memory of old lyrics kicks in. Finally, one Saturday night months later, he coaxes her onto the dance floor. They slow dance together as he softly croons in her ear.

That was the last time the regulars saw her as it becomes known that she has passed away. Charlie comes a few times more himself, always dressed as he was the first night, always playing the clown until it’s reported that he, too, has died.

Was it all an act, this outrageous behavior of Charlie’s, or was it an act of love to help bring Lucy back, to help unlock memories? Or was it a combination of both: acting the fool so that no one would notice Lucy’s dementia by focusing on his antics? We will never know. As for me, I hope it was an act of love. That he was the sad pirouette playing happy to awaken his long lost Lucy.

About pedometergeek

A pharmacist by profession, a haiku poet by nature, I read and write. I have a book of haiku, Ohayo Haiku, and another somewhat alternative haiku book, Three Breaths, but write other genres. I also read...lots of novels! My favorite is, and remains, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged but I am also a big Harry Potter fan. I truly am a pedometer geek strapping on my pedometer as soon as I awaken.
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8 Responses to Charlie: a short story

  1. rebbthoughts says:

    Lovely piece, Nan. Very touching. Hooked me from beginning to end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jane. Your words are always so comforting when I have my doubts. As I mentioned to Rebb, it has been written for several weeks, but I kept thinking it needed something else. I think I added four words to it last night and decided to post it regardless. ~nan


  2. Jules says:

    There is always a fear of exposing our words… but how can a love story such as this not see the light of day?

    Your story reminded me of a local here who loved his wife dearly – she had early Alzheimer’s and was put in alternate full time care early in her life. She live longer than any expected. But the gent was true to her care. Eventually too he passed (a few years ago, several years after his wife). But his loving kind nature will be remembered.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pedometergek says:

      Thanks, Jules, for your kind words as well as your story about your local man and wife. I have seen plenty of people with Alzheimer’s (and their caregivers) over my career. Every time, it is heartbreaking. I remember a male patient who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. He was a real favorite of mine, but he eventually had to be put in full-time care. Sad to say, but after he died, I sent a card to his widow and teenage daughter. She told me later that no child should have to clean her father’s bottom, and they were forced into putting him in a skilled care facility when he became violent. He was the sweetest man, and it was hard to hear that. The family was just the nicest family, and although it has been over twenty years, I hope they are doing fine. ~nan

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jules says:

        When my FIL was in the hospital for the last time… he too just wanted to retreat and give up. And became animated about it. I never have spoken much about that time with my hubby who was there… It must be hard to see kindness fade. Unfortunately when my own father was in his last days he wasn’t able to communicate much. But he did squeeze my hand …one last time…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I saw it with both my dad and Rob’s dad, too. I am glad you had the memorable last squeeze with your dad. A little teared up thinking about this, both for you and me. Hugs across the miles, JP.

    Liked by 1 person

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