Tell Me the Story, Daddy.

“Tell me the story, Daddy. Tell me …when you met Mommy. Tell me when you knew.”

Arthur smiled that smile that never quite touched his eyes anymore. “When I knew what, son?”

Little Sammy squirmed atop his bedcovers. “You know, Daddy. When you knew… You know.”

Arthur almost laughed. Almost. “Okay. Okay. …Once upon a time, your dad -me- was young. I was barely an adult and was working my first job, at a bookstore…”

Arthur could still smell the scholarly breath of time and leather that greeted him each morning, could still hear the muted tinkle of the bell over the door, could still see the morning light filtering through mullioned front windows. Tomes ranging from paper romance to hardbacked alchemy built labyrinth paths between the barely-visible masonry walls. The dust of every bibliophile’s essence hung, distilled, in the motes that danced where empty spaces dared exist.

“I stood at a desk where I could see the door. Everywhere else was books.” This is where he changed the story; embellished it. “Harry Potter, James and the Giant Peach, Shel Silverstein, and even Where the Wild Things Are; comic books, picture books; fat ones, thin ones; old and new.”

His son’s eyes shone and then twitched over to the bookshelf in the corner. “What about your books, Dad? Did they have those, too?”

“Yes, son. Those, too.”

“Did Mom like your books, Dad?”

Sammy hadn’t asked that one before. The question gave Arthur pause. “No, not really. She -well! That’s a different story!”

This elicited a giggle and more rocking. Sammy even turned a lopsided somersault into his pillow.

Arthur wagged his finger in a pretended sternness. “All right. One day, I heard the bell on the door that meant someone had come in…”

There had been more light that day, enough that the younger Arthur could not see who entered the store. He raised a hand against the brightness and squinted at a diminutive shadow. The door closed, the bell sang, the shadow resolved to a timid, tiny young woman. Encircled by light and interrupted space, Arthur was smitten.

“I saw a very small, very beautiful woman. She came up to the desk and slid a paper on the glass -too shy to ask me for the name of the book she’d written on it.”

His son’s eyes -her eyes- were round in his small, attentive face.

“It was a book on poetry. ‘For school,’ she whispered. She wouldn’t look up, but I saw her look at me when I was searching through our book about books. …We didn’t have computers then, you see. We had a book that we wrote all the books in -well, we typed them on papers, then…”

Sammy yawned.

Now, Arthur managed a shadow of a chuckle. “I came around the desk. She seemed surprised when I stood; later, she said she hadn’t realized we were so close to the same size.”

Something inside fluttered at being nearer to her, he remembered. Her smile set it off again. The feeling was unlike any he’d felt in his lonely, empty life; one spent with one relative or another handing him off till he could move out and raise himself. Whether she smiled, or not, her very existence shook his. Next to her, he could be anyone or do anything.

“But, Daddy! When did you know?”

Arthur’s eyes refocused to the bedroom of the apartment he and Sammy shared, just the two of them. “I …walked with the gir- woman, over to our poetry section. I found what she needed. Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. She took it from my hand, and our fingers touched.”

It had felt electric, a touch of divinity that opened an eternity of thought and feeling for this tiny, timid woman before him.

“And that, Sammy, was when I knew I loved your Mommy.” Arthur smiled. For an instant, it reached his eyes.

His son somersaulted again. “So, then you asked her to marry you?”

Arthur blushed. “Yes.”

The laughter from his son sounded so much like her startled laughter, from all those years before. At first she’d been shocked, of course, then she’d laughed. How much it sounded like the door bell, he’d thought. He had also thought to hide in a pile of The Rise and Fall of the Greeks and Romans.

“All right, Sammy. Time for bed.” Arthur stood and pushed the chair beneath his work desk. He’d be revisiting it in the morning while Sammy slept in.

Sammy snuck a few more twists and wiggles in before allowing his dad to lift the covers and shoo him beneath them. “‘Night, Dad.” He rolled his head up to see the framed photograph on the desk. “‘Night, Mom.”

“Good night, Sam.” Arthur went to the door and stood. Good night, Catherine, he thought to her picture, and turned out the light.

©2021 Chel Owens

38 thoughts on “Tell Me the Story, Daddy.

  1. Sadje January 17, 2021 / 1:51 am

    What a lovely and touching story

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chel Owens January 17, 2021 / 8:47 am

      Yes. 😦 Thank you for reading.


  2. Norah January 17, 2021 / 3:35 am

    So much love and so much sadness in your story, Chelsea. What happened to Catherine?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chel Owens January 17, 2021 / 10:01 am

      The real life version passed away this morning from pancreatic cancer.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Doug Jacquier January 17, 2021 / 4:22 am

    One of your best pieces ever, Chel. ‘The dust of every bibliophile’s essence hung, distilled, in the motes that danced where empty spaces dared exist.’ What a literary gem. Truly a great crafting that brought a tear to me eye and a yearning to know what happened to Catherine. Have mercy on your readers and keep this going.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Chel Owens January 17, 2021 / 10:02 am

      Thank you, Doug. I took some liberties with the real story. The one this is all based on passed away this morning.


  4. mymindlessdrivel January 17, 2021 / 10:24 am

    Oh so bittersweet. Lovely, m’dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Deb Whittam January 18, 2021 / 12:00 am

    Very poignant Chelsea and beautifully written

    Liked by 1 person

  6. acflory January 18, 2021 / 1:00 am

    What a lovely, vivid story. But…but…what happened to them? I feel like a little kid begging for another bedtime story! lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chel Owens January 18, 2021 / 8:30 am

      😀 I know what you mean. I’ll visit them again if they allow it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jules January 18, 2021 / 12:50 pm

    Heart warming.

    Check your email… I sent you something. I think I have two addresses for you, but I think I sent it to one that you can get to.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. johnlmalone January 19, 2021 / 1:49 am

    it’s a beautifully written story, Chelsea, may I say mesmerising? at the end I thought, oh no! they’re divorced or she’s passed away then I saw in the comments that the real life version passed away 😦 😦 😦
    I was so sad; a loving tribute to their romance 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chel Owens January 19, 2021 / 5:12 pm

      I hadn’t considered divorce. Yes, I took a few artistic liberties but the one she’s based on passed away Sunday.


      • johnlmalone January 19, 2021 / 5:13 pm

        so sad; it’s good though to honour the recent dead 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. manitobamomblog February 16, 2021 / 7:44 pm

    Your writing is very vivid, Chelsea. Your descriptions are so clear, I feel like I’m actually there!

    Liked by 1 person

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