And on the sixth day it was decreed that all color, hue and chroma would be banished from the world.
It was raining. Again. Not hard, just a little cold drizzle. Andy drew his jacket a little tighter and frowned.
Why was he here?
The kids had made him come. They said he’d enjoy it. Steven, his grandson, made the arrangements and was here with him, but he wished he was anywhere but here.
“Hey Pops, look at that. I’m sure this was standing before any Englishman set foot in America. It might even be older than that place where you raised Dad.” He smiled broadly at his joke.
Andy continued to frown. He knew Steven was trying, but it was useless. Even the old jokes about the house on Cleveland street rang dull, colorless in Andy’s mind. The myths and legends of the 1950s, seen almost as black and white reruns of the Donna Reed show or Leave it to Beaver had help to shape Steven’s childhood, but they had moved out long before he was even born.
For a moment he resented Steven’s intrusion on his world. He did not want to be here.
This was his third time in England. The first time it was as staging before crossing the channel. Yeah, Steven wanted him to visit Normandy for the big anniversary of that day, but it was day Andy had tried for the last 75 years to forget.
“It’s so intricate, so ornate that it doesn’t look real. Do you remember this place?”
Andy shook his head, though in reality he did. He had seen it after he had been called fit to return to the front lines but before he left for his second bout of Hell.
Sometimes the memories came back to him vivid, as if he were still living it. The water after his landing craft was crippled. The bullets. He often woke up in a sweat with those memories. But usually the memories were just old black and white news reels, the life and chroma sucked from them, but occasionally those news reels were washed over with the red blood of his friends.
“Oh, a garden. Let’s explore!”
It was funny how Steven used almost the exact same words as his grandmother had when they had been here over 35 years previously.
Andy had married Margret only a year after returning home. She quickly became the light of his life, added color to his universe.
Andy let himself be led into the garden. It was remarkably unchanged from his last visit.
Andy had retired in 1984 and took Margret for that long promised overseas trip.
England had seemed gray and poor then, full of anger. But there was a bright spot. He was still as in love with Margret as the day they had met.
As he worked hard to forget his past at one location or another, she saw it all with fresh eyes. How could he do anything but see it that way as well? So much color when Margret showed him were to look. She had loved the gardens more than anything.
Why did Steven want him to relive all of these painful memories? It was a time long past, may it rest in peace.
“Look at the flowers, Pops. Aren’t they beautiful?”
Andy looked, but didn’t say anything. The flowers had lost their luster, the chroma sucked from them when he lost Margret.
A red rose stood out. Andy stared at it and then closed his eyes.
Margret had hung on for six painful days after the stroke. He was holding her hand when he realized she was gone. The color departed from the world with her, turning it into a monochrome dreamscape.
Did he even want to go on?
He opened his eyes.
Margret was standing there looking exactly as she had the first time he had seen her. The dress was bright. He had forgotten the vivid colors.
“Doesn’t Steven look just like his dad? How old is he now? Must be almost 50! That’s just amazing, isn’t it? It seems like yesterday that Charley was born.”
Andy just started. He didn’t believe in ghosts. Was he hallucinating? Perhaps he had a stroke himself was about to join her.
“Don’t worry, Honey,” Margret said. “We will meet soon enough, but not yet. You still have a few good years in you. And though you might not see me, I will be here with you, hopefully adding color to your life.”
She smiled like the rising sun.
“Hey Pops, you OK?”
Steven was obviously worried, so Andy tried to smile for him.
“Yeah, just some memories. Hey, follow me. I’d like to show you something over here. I remember it from back in ’45.”
Obviously relieved, Steven smiled. “Sure Pops, I’d love to see it.”
Andy’s smile was now real. The rain had stopped and a little sun had made its way down. The garden began to glow with color.
Following the steps of his past, Andy walked into the future, out of his monochrome nightmare and into the light and color of the day. He couldn’t wait to get to Normandy where he would remember some of his long lost friends.
For some odd reason that first line popped up in my mind and I had to write it down….