On the 8th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous paragraphs can be found in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)
The south corridor is darker than usual, which is no surprise to Wendell: Doors remain shut when someone dies. Some hide. Some mourn. Some—like kids trying to ward off the Boogie-man—hope that wood, varnish, and steel will delay their fate.
Only one door is open. Yellow light spills into the gloomy corridor. He makes his way to Ira’s room and peers in.
The bed is made. A wheelchair sits in the corner. The room is empty.
A middle-aged man emerges from the bathroom holding some toiletries and spots Wendell hovering in the doorway.
“May I help you,” he asks as he makes his way to the bed where a duffel bag sits.
“Ira Rubin. Is it true? He’s gone?”
The man stashes the toiletries in the bag. “Went in his sleep.” He zips it shut. “Were you a friend?”
“I suppose, although now that I think about it, I wasn’t a very good one.”
The man grabs the bag and heads for the door. He extends his hand to Wendell. “I’m Cliff Rubin, Ira’s son.”
Wendell stares in disbelief at Cliff’s hand and then into his face. Hooked nose, close-set eyes, piercing gaze. Just like Ira.
He throws off his doubts, regains his wit, and shakes Cliff’s hand. “I’m Wendell Bennett. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Cliff sucks in air and gives a solemn nod. He reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out a white envelope.
“He left this for you.”
“What’s inside,” he asks, fearing the worst news possible.
“No idea; yours is sealed shut, just like mine was.” He taps the pocket holding his letter. “Kinda how he lived: all sealed up, keeping everyone away, all his thoughts secret.” Finger tap, tap, taps. “I sat on his bed for over an hour working up the courage to open it.” He pauses and draws in a deep breath. “Figured it was a suicide note.”
“Suicide…” Wendell staggers against the doorframe.
“No,” Cliff says as he helps Wendell maintain his balance. “That came out wrong. I thought it was, but it turns out to be an apology.”