( I in no way own this image I found it on the internet)
Written by: Cheyenne E. Mitchell
“Time is a curious thing. It is nothing you can see nor touch yet it is ever-present. It dictates aspects of life and death, actions and reactions, joy and fear. It either moves as slowly as watching molasses pour out of a jar on a cold winters day or with the rapidity of a scared rabbits heartbeat. For an invisible facet of life, it yields great power. The idea or the actuality of ‘time’ has the ability to stop your life as an individual possibly keeping you from moving forward. It creeps up on you slowly at first so you feel as nothing will ever change, and then suddenly it’s over. What you have waited for is gone. For you were so busy waiting for that thing to come that the waiting consumed you and you didn’t live your life. Life and opportunity left you behind and gave its helping hand to someone else who wasn’t afraid. Isn’t that an interesting concept when you stop and think about it, Marigold?”
Marigold seemed less than interested in any of Mr. Barberry’s musings over his morning’s newspaper. So he asked her again, “Marigold don’t you think that is an interesting notion?”
The only response Marigold gave was a roll of her very large green eyes, then stretched out her little white mittens and returned to her semi-recumbent position. You see Marigold was Mr. Barberry’s black and white tabby cat. She cared nothing for the idea of time and the curious thing of whether it would stop and go on without her. All Marigold cared about was breakfast time, lunchtime, dinner time, an occasional treat, her morning cuddles and afternoon sunbathing.
“Cats really do have a wonderful life. To think they are pampered, loved, stroked and fed and all they are asked to do is give their owner a little affection now and then.” Mr. Barberry mused to himself as he patted his little tabby’s head. Marigold rather liked this for as he began to stroke her long beautiful fur; she let out the most joyous contented purr. Turning once again to the paper he stumbled over the obituary column to see that his neighbor of three houses down died. “Extraordinary,” thought Mr. Barberry “he was an old fellow to be sure, but not as old as all that, to go ahead and die,” he said out loud to Marigold. At this, she now opened her one eye and picked up her head slightly and looked at her “pet” as she considered him to be as if to say ‘really tell me more.’ Wishing to oblige the cat’s curiosity Mr. Barberry continued to read aloud the obituary “Mr. Wilber Watkins 72 of Wimpole Street has died, late Tuesday afternoon. The causes are unknown.” ‘Very interesting,’ thought Mr. Barberry; he continued reading “He appears to have expired while waiting for his afternoon mail as he did every day. Services to be held this weekend at 3 pm at the Corner Church.” With this, Mr. Barberry took off his spectacles, put down the paper, and looked at the fat tabby who had moved from the sunny spot in the chair next to him to his lap. “Unknown causes eh? See Marigold he died while waiting for the postman to arrive. It’s just what we were discussing this morning everyone is always waiting for something and he died while doing it. He died rather suddenly; I wonder what the family thinks he died of? A broken heart maybe?” While scratching his chin Mr. Barberry suddenly stood up knocking the poor stunned tabby to the floor. “I have got it!” he exclaimed, “We will solve the case of Mr. Watkins death.” For poor Mr. Barberry was a lonely widower who had no company except that of Marigold and an occasional visit from the odd niece and nephew from time to time. He, therefore, read a great deal and thought himself to be somewhat of an amateur sleuth.
Quite excited by his idea of finding the real cause of old man Watkins death; he quickly grabbed his favorite sweater and walking shoes. He, to Marigold’s utter fright and dismay, picked her up and shoved into a harness and leash and off the two went. Mr. Barberry, since the death of his wife never went anywhere without Marigold. “We will call on young Mrs. Jenkins first Marigold, she lived next door to him, and maybe she will have an idea of what happened.”
Mrs. Jenkins was a thirty-something blonde woman who had lived on the other side of Mr. Watkins for the past six years. She, though striking in appearance, was the nosiest, most gossiping woman in town. “She should know something about the matter, don’t you think Marigold?” As Mr. Barberry began walking up to the house, Mrs. Jenkins watched him through her windows and ran out to greet him. Before Mr. Barberry could say “How do you do?” Mrs. Jenkins began to question him about the death of their “ beloved reclusive neighbor Mr. Watkins”. She began “ Well I was just as surprised as could be! I never expected such a thing, did you? I never saw him come out of the house except to greet the postman, did you? All he did was either wait in his front room by the window or wait on the front porch. Did you ever hear of such a thing? Life just passing by and all he could do was to look out the window!” She prattled on like this for several minutes. Mr. Barberry tried to interject several times but to no avail. Marigold now began tugging on her leash as she rolled around in the sandy brown dirt on the sidewalk. She began meowing, which signaled that it was time to leave. Before Mr. Barberry made his farewell to the effervescent and gossiping Mrs. Jenkins, however, she did manage to utter one small thing that could help to find out the reasons for his neighbors’ death. “One thing that struck me as odd” she continued “was that housekeeper … fifteen years she had worked for him! And not one word came out of her mouth when I asked her about the old man’s death.” How could she with your constant talking” Mr. Barberry thought to himself? “ Do you know the housekeeper’s name?” “ Oh yes” answered Mrs. Jenkins “Tabitha… something… or other… she is still staying in the house while she wraps up Mr. Watkins affairs.” Here Mr. Barberry thanked the gossiping Mrs. Jenkins. Then he and Marigold walked down the road to Mr. Watkins house to speak with the housekeeper. As Mr. Barberry walked away carrying Marigold, he heard Mrs. Jenkins calling after him that, if Mr. Barberry should find out anything that he should be sure to let her know.
Mr. Watkins house was large, though; marred from the time it still held certain cheeriness about it. Mr. Barberry walked up the walkway to the home and promptly knocked on the metal knocker. Within minutes a stout middle-aged woman came to answer the door.
“Hello madam, I am here to inquire as to the death of my friend and neighbor Mr. Watkins.”
“Come in, Mr. Barberry,” said Tabitha “there is no need for you to be so formal, I know who you are.”
“Yes I would watch you from the study windows with Mr. Watkins, he knew that it was you who would leave him those basket of cinnamon rolls every Sunday morning on the front porch.” With this last statement, Mr. Barberry squirmed and twisted about with a great deal of embarrassment. He hoped that the gesture would lure the old recluse outside of the home, but he never wanted to be discovered.
“Well now,” Tabitha continued, “I am sure you have as much right as any to know what happened to our friend Mr. Watkins. Come with me.” She led Mr. Barberry through the cheery hall into Mr. Watkins private study. The interior of the home much like its exterior retained cheery elements through the decaying wallpaper and furniture. Now standing in the brightly lit study Mr. Barberry and Marigold looked about them with great surprise. This room, unlike the others, was well preserved and modernly furnished. “Mr. Watkins had me fix the place up in case you should call after he was gone.” Said Tabitha.
“How did he know I would be coming?” asked Mr. Barberry somewhat shocked by this last bit of information. It was here for the first time Tabitha smiled, and what a beautiful smile it was.
“Her smile is enough to light up the entire world,” thought Mr. Barberry as he placed the ever-squirming Marigold on the floor. Marigold tired after being carried down the block looked about the room for the sunniest spot. She stretched her little paws yawned and jumped into an oversized chair in the brightest sunniest spot in the room and went to sleep. Mr. Barberry watched her for a moment to make sure she was not going to be naughty and make a mess. Tabitha who had momentarily left the room and returned by now with tea for Mr. Barberry and an extra treat, a saucer of milk for Marigold.
“Now, won’t you please sit down Mr. Barberry and read this letter Mr. Watkins left it for you before he died.” Indeed it was a letter addressed to him.
“ I don’t understand” began Mr. Barberry “ How did he know…”
Here Tabitha interjected “Just because the man was a recluse doesn’t mean he didn’t know you. Now I will leave you to read your letters if you or Marigold require anything else just call out.” Tabitha reached down to pet the head of the lovely tabby before shutting the door behind her.” Mr. Barberry thought it was all very strange and he repeated his thought out loud to the contented and sleeping feline.
“ September 21, 1958
Dear Mr. Barberry,
If you are reading this letter I must be quite dead by now. You are probably thinking to yourself how strange that this man I never met is writing to me. Well, it may seem strange to you, but to me, it feels as though I am speaking to a long lost friend. You see Sir, I have watched you for many years out my window and I have come to feel that I know you. As such, I feel it only good and proper that you hear my true and actual story of how I came to this sorry state of life and how it ultimately has caused my death. The question I find myself asking is where to begin? Certainly not, in the beginning, I lead a very ordinary and dull boyhood. So I suppose I will start in the spring, in Paris 1919, I was 33 years old. Did you ever walk out on the street in one of the most magnificent cities in the world and simply ask yourself ‘what am I doing here?’ “How did I get here?” Well, I have. Those thoughts raced through my head every day that year. I met and married a beautiful French woman and we traveled home to the states. I had waited what felt like a century to meet this woman. I waited yet again for her to agree to marry me and waited longer still for the ceremony to take place and to travel home. Married life was blissful as all marriages can be in the early days. Until suddenly it was no longer bliss, for her at least, I had noticed some little oddities in her behavior as time went on but they were so few and far between that, I paid them no mind. How was I to know that they were warning signs of things to come? More time passed and I noticed that my darling wife was becoming more and more indifferent to me. Not wanting to upset her, again I waited to see if she would tell me what was wrong. Nothing, no word pursed her lips and she fell silent. No longer did she take meals with me, no longer did she even want to remain in my company. I never understood why. I gave her everything I owned I provided for her in every way I could think of. Nothing it seemed was good enough. Then the day after news of the bombing Pearl Harbor, she quietly slipped out of the house and I never heard from her again. I contacted every authority known to man but no one could find her. It was on that day that my life ended. Time seemed to stand still and I no longer seemed to care about anything. It was on that day I felt a crack in my heart which has grown ever bigger since. That is why you see you always can spot me in two places either on the front porch waiting for the postman just hoping he has a letter for me from her or inside looking out the window hoping to see her smiling face walking up those 200 brick pavers and those 15 porch steps. I have counted them you see. I waited so long for her to tell me how she felt that I never took the time to ask her how she felt, and because of that I lost her. Time is a funny thing, is it not Mr. Barberry? It moves so slowly until suddenly it is no more and you have none of it left to give someone else. I believe my heart died that day and I have been waiting ever since for the rest of my body to go with it. And now the time has come for the rest of me to go. But before I do I wanted to tell you this story so you wouldn’t become what I have, a mere shell of a human being. I know your wife has left you in the sense that she has passed on. But don’t let your heart turn to stone as mine has. Go out on the town with a pretty lady; take in a picture show with Marigold, that naughty tabby. I happen to know that Tabitha is fond of Picture shows and chocolates. Well, I believe I have moralized on this long enough. Take care, my dear friend. I have no doubt you should keep my confidence.
P.S. Thank you for the cinnamon rolls, always so kind.
Very truly yours,
Mr. Barberry sat in the modern sofa still staring at the page not sure what to think. How could this man die sitting and looking out his window waiting for her all this time? ‘Most importantly’ he thought ‘why tell me’. Well it is plain as plain could be Marigold that he counted me as his friend…” here is thoughts wandered back to Mr. Watkins’ words, “Tabitha likes chocolates and a picture show… It has been a long time since we went to the movies, eh Marigold? Tabitha does have a beautiful smile… what say you Marigold should we ask her to come out with us?” At this Marigold once again rolled her green eyes stood up stretched wiggled her little toes and hopped off the chair and sat at her “pet’s feet”. She gave a little meow and purr as Tabitha walked back into the room, indicating that it was time to go. Mr. Barberry and Tabitha exchanged a few words and the three of them stepped out into the early autumn air.
Time as Mr. Barberry earlier observed does dictate all in the end. It continues with or without you, moves slowly or with rapidity. And as Mr. Watkins learned it is how you best make use of that time that makes all the difference. Poor Mr. Watkins learned this lesson too late, but perhaps it will save the lonely and kind Mr. Barberry.
** A note from the Author**
I hope you enjoyed tonight’s tale and I hope to see you next time when we return to more storytelling.
In the meantime, I remain as always, respectfully,
Cheyenne E. Mitchell