Escape of Harvey Goldfether
By Michael Hawkins
"It's a damn shame, ain't it Maggie? We coulda been so good, you and me. I'd a loved to buy that cottage, you know? Down at the beach, just you and me, walkin' the shoreline. God, it'a been good." He was laid back on the adjustable bed, letting her button his jammies in the front.
She smiled, reflecting back on days when they were shorter in the tooth. He had to go and bring up that cottage again. Always holding it over her head he was. Every time she came to see Harvey Goldfether, he reminded her of that proposal ten years ago. He said he was going to take her in his arms, sweep her away, and carry her off to some little white cottage by the shore where they would wither away together. She had turned him down. Now he was withering away with dozens of people in Rolling Hills, all alone.
She straightened him up and pulled the cold nylon sheet up to his neck. "You want the bed lowered down?"
"No, I'm fine there, Maggie. You just go on home now. Don't wanna see no bags under them pretty little eyes of yours." He was grinning like a little kid, made her wish he had gone ahead with those dentures years ago.
She turned off the bedside light and leaned down to his ear, felt
him tense at her touch. "Back
when you promised me that cottage, I shoulda said yes.
The hall was filled with the
buzz of the florescent lights, not another sound.
After clearing the sidewalk,
the driveway to
Maggie O'Malley had broken his heart ten years ago. They had been dating for three years, both widowed by kind spouses not built for the long haul. They went to dinner, went to the movies, went shagging, spent four or five nights a week together. Harvey Goldfether walked her home every night and gave her a goodbye kiss on the front porch. He was courting again and loved every minute of it.
One Monday night in June of '91, he decided to pop the question in his own little way. They were sitting on the front porch swing watching the sun go down. The sky was glowing purple, orange and white. He put his arm gently around her shoulder and let it all out.
-Maggie, I tell you, I didn’t ever think I could be this happy again. It's like bein' a teenager. I want you to know that I love you.
-I love you too Harvey, and you look like a teenager.
-No, I'm serious. I feel like a crazy kid. I'll prove it to you. Get in my car with me, lets drive up to a chapel in Gatlinburg and get married. After that, we'll head for the coast and get us a cottage on the beach all by ourselves."
-I ain't kiddin'! Let's go.
-Are you turning me down, woman?
She looked at him and raised an eyebrow. -You're serious.
-I have never been any more serious in my life. I'm gonna take you up, sweep you away, and carry you off into that pretty sunset. All you gotta do is say I can.
She smiled and a tear
swelled up in the corner of her eye. –Oh,
-It just don't feel right,
-So let's be old together. Come on, Maggie.
She pulled him back down
beside her. -
He squeezed her hand, hoping
she couldn’t see or hear his heart breaking.
They sat there like that for
ten minutes, not saying a word.
She held his hands. –For now. I might change my mind one day.
-Maybe. I'll let you know. But we have to make a deal.
-I might be right there with you, or I might be somewhere and call you on the phone. Wherever we are, we leave and go straight to the phone booth in front of the Beckley Street Market, right on the outer edge of town. From there we'll call our families and tell 'em the news, then ride off into the wild blue yonder.
Harvey Goldfether dreamed of that meeting for ten years. In his mind they were passing the phone back and forth excitedly crying tears of joy. They hopped in a convertible beetle and rode off into an orange sunset. A minor stroke took his mind off of it for a few months, but when Maggie brought him to the Rolling Hills Retirement Home five years ago, he was happy to see that their phone booth was right across the street.
The same phone booth he was
standing beside now, shivering in silk jammies, leaning his walker against
the booth. Maybe he had made
too much out of what she said. Maybe
she wasn't coming. ‘I
shoulda said yes’ wasn’t a dead giveaway.
It was by far the strongest tease she had given in ten years, but
maybe that's all it was, a tease.
crested the hill. Harvey
Goldfether trembled with joy as the red Volkswagen convertible pulled up
to the curb. The door flew
open and Maggie took him in a tearful embrace.
She kissed his lips and disengaged to put change in the payphone.
When she was done with her daughter and sister, she put more change
in and gave the receiver to
She embraced him and looked
adoringly into his cloudy blue eyes. "Come