Involuntary Diet

First of all, thanks for the kind wishes. It’s nice to know so many people care!

I’m back at work today physically, if not mentally. I was able to eat a little bit yesterday, which is good. I managed to weigh myself last night and I’ve lost around seven pounds, although I would not recommend this diet to anybody.

I had mentioned here a few times the writing contest hosted by my local newspaper. Well, entries were due yesterday. I had about 500 of the 700 words written, so I decided to finish my entry even though I felt less than sharp. I think I got my story idea down here, but I’m sure it could have been improved with a second draft. Oh well. I promised I would post it, so here it is. First, though, read Part 1 provided by the newspaper. This is my take on the second part (please don’t think less of me for the shoddy effort):

Ann looked once in the direction of the voice, glanced at the contents of her coffee mug, and looked back again, wondering if the waitress had poured into her cup something a tad bit stronger than Folgers. The face staring back at her belonged to her childhood friend and closest neighbor from the time she and her parents had lived in the aging two story house near the Granary in Lemont. Seated beside her was her friend’s father, who seemed at the time and looked absolutely ancient now.

“It’s been a while Sarah,” replied Ann, taking a deep breath as she joined them at their booth. It had been thirty years, in fact.

“It’s great to see you Ann,” said Sarah Waters. “How have you been?”

“I’ve been fine,” said Ann. “And you?” Ann refrained from discussing the challenges she was facing in her life, burdening an old acquaintance with her problems. She was her mother’s daughter after all.

Sarah had no such qualms. She talked about her various health issues, dished on all the dirt she could muster from all of their classmates, and Sarah also went into great detail about her love life.

The old man said nothing. He simply sat with his hands folded on the table, smiling. Occasionally, he would shuffle the faded manila folders, so thick with papers it seemed they would burst, underneath his soft, wrinkled hands, never once losing eye contact with the person speaking, nor losing his smile. Ann had fond, if vague, memories of the man, but what struck her most about him was that it seemed like he wanted to tell her something, only he was waiting for the right moment.

After some time, with Ann barely able to add as much as a “uh huh” to the conversation, Sarah stood up to leave the table. “If you’ll excuse me,” she said, “but I have to use the rest room. Keep an eye on him for me, please?”

As she walked away, Ann noticed Sarah glance mournfully at her father.

“She thinks I can’t talk, you know,” said the old man, once he was sure his daughter was out of the room.

“What?” said Ann, her jaw nearly scraping the table.

“I haven’t said a word to her in years,” replied the old man. “It’s much quieter this way. Besides, they all though I was senile, getting a bit crazy. Took me to so many doctors. In the end it was just easier to give them what they were looking for.”

“But what about..”

“It’s not important,” said Mr. Waters, waving his hand. Suddenly, he didn’t seem so old. “I’m so close I can feel it, you know. So close.”

“Close to what?” said Ann, hoping Sarah would return soon. At least with Sarah, Ann knew what was being discussed. Mister Waters seemed to be talking in some code only he knew and about some subject he thought common knowledge.

Mr. Waters slid a weathered manila folder across the table and said, “You really don’t remember, do you?”

Ann wanted to yell “Remember what!” but instead opened the folder, flipping through its contents. Inside there were blurry photographs of an animal of some sort, never fully in frame, old newspaper clipping, and several hand drawn maps. Ann closed the folder and slid it back across the table. “The Nittany Lion is real?” she said. “I thought it was just a guy in a costume that ran around during football games.”

Mr. Waters laughed. “He’s real and we’re gonna find him. Don’t you remember helping me search for him when you were a little girl?”

Before Ann could answer, Sarah returned. “Well, we should be going,” Sarah said. “Good luck with your car.”

“Thanks,” said Ann, unsure what her next move was going to be.

Sarah and her father picked up their check and left the table. Ann noticed a small piece of paper that they had left behind.

Written on the paper was a phone number and a note that read, “I need your help.” Ann folded the note, put it in her pocket, and sighed.