The Most Beautiful Story – IV


Up until this moment, Harrison had only managed to go to one funeral. That was for his father nearly twenty years ago and it was awkward. He didn’t mourn his father’s death. He couldn’t. He mourned the loss of his father when he left his family years before. By the time his funeral came around, he was already grieved out. So, that was a different experience than what he felt today.

Today he was at Mrs Carrington’s funeral. It was much different than his father’s. The anticipated crowd size was so much that the services were being held in a community center. Good call. Harrison looked around and didn’t see an empty chair. He could also see people standing in the hallway. Of course Mrs Carrington would have so many people wanting to come and pay their respects. She taught school for over 30 years. Every year there were probably 20-30 students in her class. She probably made each one feel as special as she made him feel when he was in her class. That was a lot of influence.

Rachel snuggled into his arm and whispered, “You okay?”

He nodded. “She was a great teacher.”

She nodded her head.

The preacher stood up and started the services. It all went along very nice. Mrs Carrington’s children each spoke and shared stories. Most of them weren’t sad rather remembering a live well lived with no regrets. A good person’s funeral is only sad because the person will be missed. Not because of missed opportunities. At least, that was the takeaway Harrison noticed between his teacher and his father.

Toward the end, the preacher said, “Now, we have someone the family has asked to say a few words. He was one of Estelle’s star pupils. You will recognize his name because he has been on the best seller’s lists constantly for the last ten years. I now turn some time to Clyde Smith.”

Clyde stood up and scanned the audience. His eyes met Harrison’s and he nodded. “Thank you for that introduction,” he said softly. “You know though, before my name hit all those best seller lists I was a lost soul. I was. I am only standing here today because of the faith, confidence, and friendship of two people. One of those people is sitting in the audience today. Hello Harrison.”

Harrison’s cheeks turned red and he said hoarsely. “Hello.”

“The other person was Mrs Carrington.” Clyde’s voice cracked with emotion. “I grew up in a home with high expectations. It was expected I would do certain things. Behave in a certain way. But I never understood the why. Because of that, I behaved the opposite of what was expected. In school I was what you would call a bully.”

Harrison smiled.

“Isn’t that right, Harrison?” He asked looking down at Harrison.

“I would agree with that assessment.”

Clyde nodded. “I was not a nice kid. At all. But Mrs Carrington saw something in me. Something I didn’t see. Something no one else could see. One day I had to stay in for recess for doing something not very nice to one of the other kids. It was toward the end of the school year. So Mrs Carrington knew exactly who she was dealing with at that point. I am sure she was at her wit’s end. I waited for the punishment that was to come which I was sure would include a trip to the principal’s office. The principal and I were well acquainted by that point. Instead, she sat down next to me and asked how I was doing. Then she told me that she saw something inside me. She said she was sure I had some stories to tell and I would probably tell the most beautiful story in the world.”

Rachel cocked an eyebrow and looked at Harrison. He had told her about his encounter with Mrs Carrington and what she had said to him. But he never told her what Clyde had told him in the jail cell thirty years ago. He shook his head as a sign that he was at peace with Clyde’s story and that he would explain later.

“Now, as you can imagine,” Clyde continued. “A nine year old boy isn’t going to be too interested in writing the most beautiful story.”

Harrison shrugged. His experience was different.

“So I didn’t pay much attention to it. I do remember how it made me feel to think someone actually had that much faith in me. But I continued on my same course for many years. I caused my family much strife and worry. It wasn’t until twenty years later when I sat in a jail cell with Harrison… I should have got permission to tell this story, hope it’s okay?” He looked down at Harrison again. “Rachel knows about your jail time, right?”

People chuckled nervously until they could see Harrison’s reaction. He smiled and held Rachel’s hand. “Of course.”

“So, there we were. Sitting in the jail cell. The class bully and the class bullied. Ironic, isn’t it?”

Harrison still wouldn’t call it ironic.

“And after twenty years we finally had a chance to talk.”

If this wasn’t a funeral Harrison would have argued they had plenty of chances to talk before their time together in jail.

“While we were talking, I remembered Mrs Carrington’s words to me all those years ago. I remembered that feeling I had when she said them. From that moment, I attempted to live up to them. Out of all the people I disappointed in my life I did not want to disappoint the one person who believed in me. So, I started writing. And I wrote poorly. But I kept at it because I could still hear her voice in my head. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And the funny thing is, the more I wrote the better I became. I realized all those years of writing were practice so that I could finally do it. I could finally write something beautiful.”

He paused and looked at her coffin. “Thank you Mrs Carrington for believing in me enough to save me.”

There was not a dry eye in room when he sat down. Even Harrison had to dab his eyes a little bit.

After the service, Rachel and Harrison found Clyde to congratulate him on his talk. He was back to being his normal self. His once black hair was now gray which gave him a distinguished look and he wore glasses. Harrison wasn’t sure if he needed glasses or even if his hair was naturally gray or if this was all part of his image now. Clyde stood next to a young blond woman. Wife number three. She was only a few years older than his oldest child.

“Good job,” Rachel said and gave Clyde a hug. “That was very moving.”

Clyde looked at Harrison to gauge his reaction. “Good job,” Harrison said warmly and pulled Clyde in for a hug. “That was beautiful. You have done Mrs Carrington proud.” Clyde’s cheeks reddened. Even though the family had thanked him it was Harrison’s approval he needed to hear the most.

The four of them decided to get some dinner before catching their planes to go home. The two couples lived on opposite sides of the country and didn’t get together very often. The last time they had been together was for Clyde’s last marriage.

After dinner they said their goodbyes. “Take care, my friend,” Harrison said and gave Clyde another hug. “We’ll see what the kids want to do now that they are at college but we should definitely make time to get together during the holidays.”

“Yeah, well, enjoy that time with your kids,” Clyde said. “Mine never have time for me anymore. My books haven’t impressed them enough to come and see me.”

Harrison nodded. He knew Clyde’s three kids were not happy with this latest marriage. His oldest two kids were from his first marriage and his third child was from his second. Each marriage ended because Clyde was not faithful. That put a strain on all his relationships. Instead of pointing that out, Harrison said, “That’s the downside to them growing up, they get their own lives and their own agenda.”

Clyde looked down.

“Just let me know what you want to do over the holidays.” Harrison said and ducked in the cab where Rachel was waiting. As the cab pulled away he waved at his friend. Despite all the success he felt sorry for Clyde.

“I got a text from Brian and Fran,” she said. “I told them we would be home in time for them to come for Sunday dinner.”

“Good,” Harrison said. “That is the perk of having the kids go away to school only an hour away. I want to keep those Sunday dinner traditions.”

Rachel leaned on his arm. “So, Mrs Carrington told Clyde the same thing she told you?” She asked.

“Looking back, she might have said that to a lot of us kids. Not in an insincere way. I think she truly meant it. She could see the potential in all of us kids.”

“It doesn’t bother you that Clyde has the same story as you do?”

“It did at first. When I first heard him say it I wanted to punch him.”

“Wait, is that why you got in the fight at the library?” She asked.

“No, I punched him because he wanted to ask out the cute red-head that had just peeked into our room.”

“Aw,” she said and he kissed her. “To think, I could have been wife number one.” She stuck her tongue out in disgust.

“Sorry I ruined your chance,” he smiled at her reaction.

They rode in silence for a moment.

“You never told Clyde that Mrs Carrington said the same thing to you?” She asked.

“No, I didn’t need the validation as much as he did. I mean, he was a pretty lost soul. That is no exaggeration. He needed that moment.”

“You are a good man, Harrison,” she said and kissed him again. “If it’s possible, I think I love you even more.”

“Really?” He asked. “Huh, who knew?” He smiled and looked at the passing cars.

“I still don’t understand your friendship,” she said. “I get him being a bully. I totally see that. But I don’t get this friendship that has lasted, what, thirty years now? What is this strange hold he has over you?”

He thought about it. “I guess I am thankful for him.”

“Why?” She asked shocked. “Just because he dropped the charges so you could stay in school? He was the reason you would have been kicked out in the first place.”

“True, but it’s more than that,” he scrunched his nose. “As strange as it sounds, I found my voice that day when I punched him.”

“Your voice?” She asked. “You didn’t talk to him, you punched him. A few times. With your fists.” She held up her fists in demonstration.

“I did do that, and to be clear, I’m not proud of that. But that was the first time I stood up for myself. It was actually a confidence booster.”

“If you say so,” she said unconvinced.

He smiled. “You could say, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have had the confidence to ask you out. So, really, we owe him…”

“Do not finish that statement. I will not thank Clyde Smith for my beautiful life. We will not go down that road.”

“Fair enough,” he conceded. “I sure hope no one from the funeral reaches out to Clyde and tells him that Mrs Carrington said the same thing to them. I’m not sure how he’d react.”

Rachel nodded. “He is always so fragile. But you have done all you can do. At some point, he is going to have to grow up a little.”

Harrison nodded. He thought of his own life and how excited he was to get back home. The home he and Rachel had built was his most favorite place to be. Even though the kids were away at college now he loved that they could – and still wanted – to come back home to visit.

When he got around to writing the most beautiful story, he was sure that it would include his home and all that was included in it.

Chapter V

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2 thoughts on “The Most Beautiful Story – IV

  1. Pingback: The Most Beautiful Story – III | ck's days

  2. Pingback: The Most Beautiful Story – V | ck's days

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