On the second day of Christmas: The continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man.
Wendell reaches The Commons of Villa Velencia and stops to get his bearings. In the center of the large room is a big-screen TV. The faithful huddle on sofas and loveseats to watch the morning game show. Scattered about the TV are sitting areas where other members gather. Some play cards. Some read. Some converse.
For the most part, he acknowledges, Villa Velencia lives up to its claims: elegance and amenities for those who can afford it. But there are some things not even money can disguise… He braces himself before checking on the cluster sitting in a shadowed corner. “…or change.”
They are phantoms of themselves; minds melting like wax near a flame. One entertains invisible guests; a petite woman hurls vulgarities; one man rocks back and forth incessantly. The others stare into space with eyes frosted over like panes of glass against a deep frost.
“Retirement villa,” he muses. Look at us! We’re like elephants in that Tarzan movie marching to a waterfall to die.
“Good morning, Wendell!”
He turns his attention to the feminine voice.
Ruth Tucker: South wing; husband passed some time ago; nice woman; attractive smile…
Her eyes twinkle with child-like exuberance, and for a split second, Wendell gets a glimpse of her when she was twenty. His emotions flair; he looks away to regain his composure.
“Are you going to join us?” She pulls her shawl close. “The shuttle is leaving soon for the mall.”
He notes the white microbus warming up outside the glass doors. Snow dusts the tinted windows.
“Why in blazes would I want to go to the mall?”
“Because it’s almost Christmas!”
“Oh yeah, ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ We buy things we don’t need for those we don’t like, and churches visit us to ease their conscience. Or is it to appease an angry God? Never mind, the fact is we’re alone 11 months like Tarzan’s elephants and…”
He catches himself, and despite his tirade, Ruth is all smiles. “I’m sorry. I must sound like Scrooge.”
She pulls her hand out from beneath her shawl and pats his forearm. “No need to apologize: I’m used to your moods. Should you change your mind, we’d love to have you tag along. Might do you good.”
She turns to join the others gathering near the doors. They spot him and wave him over. He ignores them and heads for the table holding hot beverages.