By Jared McVay
It was early morning on the 25th day of December 1949. It was not only Christmas day, but also Jubal Courtney’s 100th birthday.
Jubal swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. After stretching, he looked out of the bedroom window. It had snowed more than a foot during the night and everything was covered white. Jubal turned and walked over to the bureau and stood smiling at the picture of a woman who smiled back at him. With his index finger he slowly traced the outline of her face as he spoke to the picture. “Oh Melinda, if you could only know how much I miss you,” he whispered. “These past nine years have been the longest and loneliest I've ever known. But don't you worry none, because after today, we'll be together again.”
Yesterday Jubal had decided he'd been alone long enough and had gone out to the garage where he'd rigged a hose from the exhaust pipe to the inside of the car. Today he would start the car, lean back and close his eyes, and wait for that long sleep that would reunite him with his beloved Melinda.
In the kitchen, Jubal put a pot of coffee on the stove to perk, then went to the bathroom where he showered, shaved and got dressed.
On the way back to the kitchen, Jubal picked up the picture of his wife and took it to the kitchen with him and set it on dinette table.
As he shuffled around the kitchen, turning off the fire under the coffee pot, taking a cup from the cupboard, and removing the half full bottle of Jim Beam whiskey from it's hiding place behind the container of Quaker Oats, he talked to the picture of his wife.
“Remember how I used to joke about us being a team, like Mutt and Jeff, cake and ice cream, or the Lone Ranger and Tonto – and you would pat my cheek and say, 'I love you, too, Jubal.' Oh Melinda, how I miss those days. Why did you have to get sick and die?”
The picture of Melinda could only smile back at him as Jubal remembered standing alone next to her grave with tears streaming down his face, mixing with the rain that soaked him from head to foot as he cursed, God, the doctors, and even the minister, for his loss, wishing he would die and fall into that black hole with his beloved, Melinda.
But he didn't die that day. Instead, he lived on and on. And now, nine years, two months and twelve days later, Jubal Courtney was still the picture of health – six feet tall and so robust and healthy he couldn't even catch a cold.
Even though his hair was as white as the snow outside, it was still full and wavy. His teeth were still all his own and he could see and hear better than most of the younger men he knew. Since the day he was married, eighty-two years ago, his weight had not varied more than a pound or two either side of one hundred and eighty pounds. And he still walked five miles a day, rain or shine, the distance from his house to the graveyard and back, where each day he would visit with Melinda.
While downing several cups of coffee, Jubal thought over his plan and found no hitches. He would wear himself down by walking in the bitter cold to the graveyard and back, then fortify himself with the whiskey so sleep would come easier – and by the time the car ran out of gas, he would be with Melinda. The cold would keep him preserved until the county nurse arrived, tomorrow.
He would leave a note tacked on the front and back door so she would find him and his last will and testament would be in his shirt pocket for her to find.
Finding no flaws in his plan, Jubal dawned his hat and heavy wool coat and headed out the back door. The thermometer on the back porch read, five degrees below zero. The snow from last night was beginning to crystallize and crunched beneath his feet as he walked along. Overhead the threat of another storm was evident as dark clouds came rolling in, blocking the sun. Jubal smiled. Everything was going as planned.
Six blocks from his house, Jubal turned onto the lane that led into the city park. The lane would take him past the small fishing pond, and on to the far edge of the park and the road that led to the graveyard.
As Jubal walked along, he allowed his mind to wander back to his childhood, when he and Melinda had played here. He had been Robin Hood, and of course, she had been Lady Marian. She would smile at him and say, “Jubal, you will always be my knight in shining armor.”
Suddenly the air was filled with the sound of cracking ice, splashing water and the screech of a young girls voice, calling for help.
Jubal was still a short distance from the pond, but knew instantly what had happened. A young girl had gotten a pair of ice skates for Christmas and had been too eager to wait for her parents to get up and had sneaked off to the pond to try out her new skates – and had fallen through the ice.
As Jubal ran, the girl's cry stopped and he knew she'd slipped beneath the icy water. “Please, God, don't let me be to late! Let me get there in time,” he cried out as he ran up the small hill overlooking the pond.
As Jubal ran down the hill to the edge of the pond, he could see the hole, but no evidence of a child. Then a pair of hands appeared, followed by the face of the young girl, gasping for air as she tried to grab onto something, anything, but there was nothing to grab onto and she slipped once again beneath the icy water.
Without hesitation, Jubal pulled off his coat and ran out onto the ice and when he neared the hole, the ice began to break and he felt himself slip into the icy water. Just as his feet touched the shallow bottom, Jubal found the girl and pulled her upward until her head was above the water, again. Then he turned and with his other fist, beat a path back to the shore where he dragged them both onto dry ground.
Jubal wrapped the girl in his heavy wool coat and with great effort, took her in his arms and stood up, looking around, unsure which direction to go. His body was wracked with pain and his teeth were chattering.
Then, to his right, Jubal saw a man and a woman running in their direction. The woman was waving her arms and screaming, “Melinda!”
The young girl snuggled close to Jubal, then looked up at him and said, “Thank you. You are my knight in shining armor.”
Jubal looked down at the little girl and smiled, knowing he would not be taking that long sleep any time soon.
About The Author
Suffice to say, besides being a writer for many years – Stringer for several newspapers, my own bi-line for articles in SAG and AFTRA mags., short story writer, screenwriter, and now two books, I’m also a blue water sailor, been a carnival barker, wrestled an ape on exhibition, rode the rails as a hobo for the experience, rodeo clown, storyteller, stand-up comic, MC, electrician, power lineman, owned several companies, circus clown, over 20 years as a prof. actor; Stage, Film and Television, along with some other stuff I can’t think of right now. As my good friend, Jimmy Stewart once said, It really is a Wonderful Life.