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Two Blind Men and a Fool

by Sherman Smith

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Chapter 45: Follow Your Heart

Stella had been in San Diego for just over three months and had barely given a thought to family: Earl, Brooks, Henry, Gibby. She had been wrong to leave them.

Now she sat in the small departure lounge at the San Diego airport, chain-smoked, and worried. She had never flown before, but that was not what bothered her. She felt... well... she didn’t know what she felt, only that she was devastated by the news that she had only learned a few hours before: that Gibby had died and the bar was closed. As for Earl and Brooks, that was the question that drove her nuts.

She had been waiting at her favorite café for Marcus, who consistently set new standards for being late. She was beginning to think she might actually marry Marcus, if he would ask her, not that they had known each other that long, but sometimes a girl just knew these things. She thought she had come to terms with being an old maid — a spinster — for the rest of her life. Then Marcus had turned her world upside down.

She ordered a second martini, a drink she was beginning to appreciate, when she spotted Lt. Commander Mouck on the sidewalk just outside the café. She knocked on the window and waved.

The commander smiled, glanced at his watch, then joined her in the café.

“Well, Commander, what brings you to town?” she asked as she lit yet another Camel cigarette.

“I was about to ask you the same thing.” A waiter arrived just as he sat down. He waved him off.

“Are you sure?” Stella asked.

“I’ll have to take a rain check. I’m due at the Officers’ Club for a wake.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, someone died? You served together?” Stella felt suddenly uncomfortable.

“No. Just the opposite,” the Commander laughed. “When an officer resigns his Commission to return to civilian life, it’s a wake-up call. One last drink to remember those who we served with who will never come back.”

“Oh, I see...”

“After 1900 hours today I’ll be a civilian.” He looked at his watch. “Enough about me. What are you doing here? A well-earned vacation? If so, I’ll be in town for a couple more days.” He grabbed his hat and pushed his chair back.

“Vacation?” She looked at the blue sky and remembered the cold fog in San Francisco. “I guess you could say that. Actually, I’ve been here close to three months. I’m working as the head nurse at...”

The Commander suddenly sat back down almost before he started to rise. “Then you don’t know, about Adam’s Place, I mean. Let’s see, its been eight or nine weeks now.” He looked at her, not sure how to break the bad news other than to just blurt it out. “Gibby had a heart attack, he didn’t make it. I’m sorry. With Henry gone, there was no one left to run the bar. It closed, and about a week later someone broke into the place, accidentally started a fire, and that was it. Ashes.”

Her heart lurched. Her cigarette slipped from her fingers, landing with a silent hiss in her martini. Tears welled up in her eyes. “Oh, poor Gibby. Earl?” His face, voice, his music, his smell, his laughter, everything she could remember seemed to race through her brain all at once. Earl? If I hadn’t left...

“Earl.” The Commander filled in the blank to the question she couldn’t quite find the words for. “Earl and Brooks...” He shrugged his shoulders and reached across the table to take her hand.

She did not take it.

“They left the day after Gibby passed on. Where? I’ve asked around, but no one seems to know, with the bar burned and all, if they had left a note, anything... I haven’t a clue.”

The Commander glanced at his watch. “Stella... I...”

“I know,” her voice barely a whisper. I’ll be fine.”

The Commander left, with an awkward glance back, as he left the café hat in hand. Stella sat there, her mind numb, not knowing what to do. Finally, she silently reached into her purse, found a couple of dollars, paid for her drinks, and rose from her chair. Her legs were unsteady, but she was determined. It did not matter how, she was going to find him. Earl. I’m coming.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Smith

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