Backstory Excerpt: Annie’s Gone

Oliver always wished that he could see the magic in life like his mother did.  

“Do you know what this is Oliver?”, His mother, Annie, said kneeling down holding a small blue paperclip in the palm of her hand under Olivers nose. He looked at it and thought hard as if it was the first time he’d ever seen one but then after a second he shrugged the thought off and grabbed at it while saying, “a paperclip”.

She quickly jerked it away and held it back in her hand and started to explain, “To the normal untrained eye, yes”, her voice got a little creamier as if she was about to tell an epic tale, “but you have the eye for these things, right?” She asked and young Oliver nodded his little head, captivated by what it might be.

Annie leaned a little lower and a little closer drawing in the small boys attention as they both began to hover over the closed hand. The boy was convinced at this point that when she opened her hand, gold rays would shined out and he might still have to guess at what it was because it would be so blinding with awesomeness. His anticipation grew too big and finally he had to yell, “what is it!”

She paused. Looked at Oliver with a slight mischievous squint in her eyes. Then she finally whispered, “It’s a sword.”

As soon as she said the words, she bolted upright and unfolded the paper clip into a small stick and threw it into the hands of the young boy and she pulled out a tiny sword of her own and took her stance.

Little Oliver picked up his new blue weapon and charged without thinking. Just like a brave warrior would do, he thought. Annie ran as he stomped behind her screaming war cries and dodging obstacles. She ducked behind the counter by the cash register and very quickly realized she was cornered as the boy slowed as he went in for the kill like a wolf who had cornered it’s prey. Closer and closer. Victory will be mine, the boy thought as a look of overconfidence perspired from his face.  

“What’s that?” Annie suddenly said as she pointed behind the boy.

He looked behind him and the woman darted over him and got away (Five year olds are not very bright). And just like that, the chase was on again.

Small grunts and spoken sword sounds rang throughout store and it was a good day.

Oliver didn’t know why but it was one of those days that he would remember forever.

Occasionally it would pop into his head and make him happy. Sometimes for just a second, and sometimes more.

He remembered it at her funeral, too. But this time it didn’t make him happy, not even for a second. Standing over the coffin, he thought and thought and thought about this day and all the many other days he’ll remember forever and how they were over now and how it all happened so quickly.

He was grown now but here in front of her body he felt like a small boy again. Sad because she was gone and lost because she couldn’t show him how to see the magic in life.

She had gotten sick in May and died in November. It happened so fast that he still had a hard time wrapping his head around what had happened. One thing that no one had ever told him about when people die is that it’s not a slow thing and it takes a lot of work. When they had found out about her disease, Oliver quit school and moved back in with his dad and helped with the business and with hospital visits and homecare and so on. His father and him had to sit through countless doctor appointments and went on countless hospital visits only to hear the classic words, “there is nothing more we can do”.

He couldn’t really figure out why but the last few weeks were kind of nice. Calm, he thought. His mother was like was a candle in the dark and as her flame grew smaller the light became soft and they lived their lives quietly around her as if not to disturb the soft glow that she gave off. Scared that if they moved too fast or spoke too loud it would go out. His life had become more and more quiet even though his thoughts became louder and louder.

Oliver and his father sat in this surreal calm for a short while and just waited. Enjoying the serenity and appreciating what little light that Annie gave off. It was nice. Then one day, her flame flickered and then vanished. All that was left was a dark, cold room and some smoke that was just a whisper of what was there before. Oliver didn’t understand it at the time but in this darkness, he would learn to see the world just as she did.