Jamie Phelps walked into the Lakeview Nursing Home for his weekly visit with Jumper. Coming there was more difficult now with snow on the ground. He hadn’t been able to use his bike since a week ago when eight inches fell over Marbury. It was an unusually severe storm for the beginning of March.
His Father had brought him by car last week and stayed to visit also, but was unavailable today. So Jamie had walked two miles from school to bring Jumper his birthday present. Today he was eighty six and Jamie wasn’t going to miss giving him his present.
Jamie walked into Jumper’s room carrying a gift-wrapped box under his arm along with the local newspaper. Jumper was dressed in a robe and pajamas staring at the window fixed on frosted snowflakes that clung to it. He reached with his fingers trying to touch them on the other side of the glass.
“Hi Jumper,” Jamie said putting his hand on his shoulder. “I got you a birthday present. Happy Birthday. You’re eighty-six.”
Jumper didn’t respond. Instead he reached for another snowflake.
Jamie put the box in his hand and took off his coat and hat. He laid them on the bed then sat down next to Jumper.
“Let me do that for you,” he said removing the wrapping.
“Jamie,” Jumper said suddenly, turning from the snowflakes. “You’re Jamie.”
“Right Jumper, and look what I got you.”
Jamie held out the open box and Jumper reached inside.
“A football! Look at that, a football.”
Jumper tossed the foam half sized orange football up and down in his hand.
”Go out for a long one,” he said.
Jamie took a few steps backwards and Jumper threw him the ball. When Jamie caught it he threw it back. Jumper tried to catch it. It fell to the floor, but he held his hands clasped together against his chest as if he had caught it.
“I got it,” he said, mumbling the words. His eyes opened wide and he started breathing heavily, his nostrils widening over the oxygen tube in his nose. “They won’t get me now, I’ll jump over them.” He moved his hands from side to side as if he were running downfield.
“You’re gonna score,” Jamie said encouraging him on in his imaginary run.
“Yeah, score. I’m in the end zone. In the end zone.”
He caught his breath and leaned back in his chair exhausted. Jamie took the ball and put it on the bed. Maybe he shouldn’t have gotten it. It was causing too much excitement. Instead he opened up the newspaper and turned to the sports section.
“There’s some news here about the Marbury football team Jumper,” Jamie said. “Remember the Marbury Raiders that you played for?”
Jumper stared back at the snowflakes.
“They got a new coach for next season it says here. Guy’s name is Steve…Steve Dolan, grandson of…” Jamie realized too late what he had said.
Jumper turned away from the snowflaked window. “Goddamned Dolan. That sonofabitch can’t run a team! That bastard!”
“No Jumper. It’s not that Dolan. It’s his grandson that’s…”
“He was responsible for it all. That poor guy…”
“What poor guy Jumper?” Jamie asked. Weeks ago he had made the mistake of getting his grandfather agitated, maybe at least this time he would get something out of him.
“Dolan … got his land no matter what. The fire. Got out of hand. All because of that bastard. We could have gotten there on time…could have…”
Jamie knew Jumper had served in the volunteer fire department.
“Do you mean the fire department Jumper?”
“That sonofabitch. Gimee the ball!” Jumper was gasping for breath again. He grabbed the foam football from the bed. “I’ll run right through that bastard!” His arms were moving back and forth as he held the ball. “You’re gonna get what you deserve this time!” His face was turning red and the veins in his neck were throbbing. He threw the ball against the window. It bounced off harmlessly falling to the floor. And so did Jumper.
He clutched his chest as he fell from his chair landing face first. The oxygen tubes popped out of his nose and dangled around his neck. Jamie sprang from his chair and knelt down beside him.
“Jumper what’s happening?” Jamie shouted turning Jumper’s head to the side. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t breathing.
Jamie reached for the emergency buzzer, but decided it wouldn’t be fast enough. He ran from the room shouting as he went down the hall. “Somebody help! My great grandfather is dying! Help me!”
An orderly was coming out of a room with a nurse. Jamie screamed at them.
“What room son?” the orderly asked.
“One twelve. Hurry.”
They ran into the room. The orderly turned Jumper onto his back and the nurse put her hand on his neck to check the carotid artery. “Ring for code red,” she told the orderly who quickly pressed a button over the bed.
A doctor and two more nurses rushed into the room pushing a crash cart. They got Jumper back on the bed and hooked wires to him while the doctor gave him an injection straight into his heart.
“You’re going to have to wait outside son,” the orderly told Jamie as he drew a curtain around the bed.
“No I can’t! I’ve got to stay with him,” Jamie said holding back tears.
The orderly gently moved him away, out into the hallway. He took him to a waiting room at the end of the corridor.
“Is there someone you can call?” the orderly asked.
Jamie nodded. Jumper was going to die. He knew it. If he hadn’t read that name Dolan by mistake it wouldn’t have happened. It was his fault.
He reached his father at work who said he would be right over. It took him about twenty minutes while Jamie sat in the waiting room staring into space. Just as his father arrived the doctor also came into the room. He said they had done all they could for Jumper but his heart had just given out. He was dead.
As tears ran down Jamie’s face he knew that whatever hatred Jumper had held against James Dolan had died with him. And he didn’t care. He had lost a wonderful great- grandfather that he had loved dearly. Nothing else mattered.
The following Spring.
“He’s on thin ice now,” Ed Wilson said looking out on the lake at Harold who was sitting precariously in his chair tilted to one side.
Ray Marione stood with Ed on the shore in back of Wilson’s store looking at the stuffed figure through binoculars. He adjusted the focus with his left hand rather than the right, which he still didn’t have full use of.
“Doesn’t seem to be any ice under the chair at all Ed. I don’t know what the hell is holding him up,” Marione said shaking his head. There was a pool of water all around Harold where the ice had melted. “Got that camera ready?”
“Yeah it’s all set.”
“Well he’s going to go anytime now. Who’s gonna be the lucky winner?”
“My wife Emily’s the closest,” Wilson said. “Picked April twentieth at 6:30 PM. That’s just about two hours from now. Nobody else is even close.”
“Well Harold’s still got that goofy grin on his face. Like he’s going to make her about three hundred dollars richer.”
“I won’t see any of it,” Wilson said. “She’s got it spent already.”
“Don’t they all,” Marione said philosophically. He kept the binoculars fixed on Harold. Now there was a crack in the ice that had formed about twenty feet from him.
“What’s happening Ray?” Wilson said sensing his friend’s silence.
“I dunno, but I think Harold’s about to go.”
Wilson raised his digital camera and adjusted the zoom lens just far enough so he would get all of Harold falling into the water.
“What the hell is that in the water just behind Harold?” he asked.
“Right behind him. It’s moving.”
Marione focussed the binoculars and saw something too. It was a black shape on top of the water.
“Oh my god.”
Wilson zoomed the camera lens in a little tighter. It was the fin of a shark. There was no doubt about it.
He couldn’t speak as the head came up out of the water and filled the image in his eyepiece. The mouth opened showing dagger like teeth that crushed into Harold’s stuffed leg.
Click. Wilson caught the image. He heard Marione say. “Goddammit. I don’t believe it. It’s back.”
Harold was thrown out of his chair, one leg dangling in the air, the other being pulled into the water.
Then with a violent downward motion Harold went into the water with just his head remaining above the surface. Water thrashed below him while his head was tossed from side to side. His hat flew off. Wilson zoomed out a little.
The thrashing stopped and Wilson saw the dorsal fin turn in the water. What was left of Harold floated back to the surface. One leg was missing, the other half ripped apart with stuffing floating next to it. The chair was upside down.
“Holy God,” Marione said lowering his binoculars.
“I can’t believe what I was seeing,” Wilson said. “It should have been dead by now.”
“Yeah, but we’re in for another season of this thing.”
The two men just stood looking at Harold’s remains. He looked like a dead man floating in the water. There wasn’t any blood, but if he had been human there would have been plenty of it.
“I guess we better go and tell somebody,” Wilson said finally.
“Yeah, Piccolo’s going to drop dead when he hears about this.”
“And so is everybody else.”
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt are
Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com