A Moment of Clarity


Weeks of obsessive tending and gentle turning ensured a blue ribbon for his biggest pumpkin next weekend. Simeon's chest puffed with impending pride as he fantasized about the envious stares of the other town folk, especially that pretty, stuck-up woman next door, who always looked through him, not at him.

Secretly he admired Elizabeth, but was upset with her complete lack of interest in him. He often saw her head above the high fence in her back yard, probably working in her garden, but he couldn't be sure. The fence was solid. He was curious, but refrained from looking over the top for fear she'd see him, which would give her more reason to be snooty and spread rumors about the strange farmer boy next door.

A week later, Simeon stood proudly by his pumpkin, which weighed in at four hundred and seventy-eight pounds. No other pumpkin on display was even close to the size of his. He was a sure winner.

He turned toward a commotion at the entrance to the barn. Several men struggled with a cart which carried something huge covered with a tarp. Simeon watched with apprehension as they turned down the aisle where the pumpkins were displayed. They pushed their cargo passed Simeon and stopped near the end of the row. His fear was realized when the tarp was removed and the biggest pumpkin he had ever seen was hefted by a dozen men from the cart and placed on the scales. Those gathered around gasped and then applauded.

After the pumpkin was placed on display, Simeon strolled over and stared in shock at the tag: Weight: 567 Lbs. - Owner: E. H.

"E. H.? Who's E. H.?" He wondered.

"Hello, Simeon." He turned and stared at his neighbor, Elizabeth Hannah.

"Elizabeth?" He stuttered. "You grew this? Is this what you were working on in your backyard all summer?"

Elizabeth smiled. "Yes, I did." Her green eyes sparkled with pride. "And yes this is what I worked on."

"I didn't know you were interested ... He paused. "I didn't know you liked to grow pumpkins."

"It's something I got interested in after watching you year-after-year."

"You noticed?"

"Of course, you silly boy."

He blushed. His dream of winning this year was forgotten. Something more important was at hand. "I'm surprised. This is some pumpkin, Elizabeth." He lifted his hat and scratched his head.

"Yours is big too, Sim."

Sim? Did she just call him "Sim"? Only his departed mother had ever called him that. "Yup! It is, but it looks like you beat me by close to a hundred pounds."

***********************

The cold wind started again and he shivered, watching the sky darken too quickly.

As bright, painted leaves rained on his crop, he instinctively turned his head toward an infant's cry. At the top of the hill, under the old Maple, his former stuck-up neighbor was shielding a bundle from the wind, fumbling with her blouse. Simeon watched her nurse their son.

After learning Elizabeth did notice him and that she also enjoyed the challenge of growing large pumpkins, his attitude toward her changed. He learned she wasn't snooty; she was just shy. They became friends. Love bloomed. Now they were a family.

***********************

"Dad!" His son called. "Dad!"

Simeon was pulled from his memories. He turned and stared at the strangely familiar man who called out. "Dad, it's time to go."

Simeon struggled to remember who this man was. His gaze fell upon a white- haired lady who stood at the man's side. She smiled at him. Simeon's mind cleared.

Confusion, his constant companion, was momentarily gone. On elderly legs, he hobbled closer. His gnarled hands shook as he cupped the woman's face. "Ellie? Is that you?"

Her still clear green eyes stared back at him. They filled with tears. A bright smile lit up her face. "Sim!" She choked on her words. "Sim, I love you." She reached out and held him in her frail arms.

Simeon rested his gray head against hers. "Where have you been?" He sobbed.

"I've missed you so much."

"I've been here, Sim. I've been here all along."

***********************

Simeon sat in his wheel chair and stared into the past. Alzheimer's had done its damage. The ceremony around him was a blur of confusion. A cold wind ruffled his white hair. His son tucked a blanket around him. "Are you warm enough, Dad?' Simeon continued to stare into his own world.

His son left Simeon's side, approached the opening of the grave, and placed a single red rose on his mother's casket. "Mom," he whispered. "You got your wish. You wanted dad to recognize you one more time before the cancer took you away." He paused to gain control of his grief. "You were right to take dad to the old farm. It gave him one rare moment of clarity. Now you can rest in peace."

Michael T. Smith

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