Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer
Where did your rock ‘n’ roll fable go, Ella May? Did it get lost way back amongst the evergreens, or did it get too close to the railroad tracks, and go under them drivin’ wheels?
“Can I help you?”
I remember when you bought the first dress like the one you’re wearing, and it fits better now than it did back then. You were too self-conscious about it, being all gazelle with tiger eyes and a shy heart.
“Ellie. It’s me. Johnny.”
Short for ‘Dear John B. Better than the last time’.
“Johnny boy? Step into the light. My eyes don’t see so well these days.”
But they’re still beautiful, Ella May. Not that you’d ever believe me, then or now.
“Oh my lord, you do look like him, don’t you? But Johnny’s gone. He’d a been eighty-three last month. No. He’s gone, like Jack and Tommy. I did my grieving beside both Diane and Gina, not that I had any right, but-” she falls silent.
But your words, back then, made the Johnny I was take his hurtin’ anger and blaze myself a career with it. Like a shootin’ star, cold as ice and passin’ everyone by, I took myself places the old gang wouldn’t believe. Led many souls to sell themselves down at them crossroads, too. I became a veritable pied piper in an uncivil service. Even led myself astray; got well and truly lost for a while. Then, one morning, I saw a man I’d thought heartless plummet past my window, just to make sure his family got death-in-service benefit. It was like the rest of me finally woke up, I swear. That same afternoon I applied for retirement at eighty.
“It’s me, Ellie. Been a long time makin’ my way back. Never thought you’d still be here. Was expecting to start a hunt, instead I find myself lost in your eyes, again.”
Well, lordy. That wasn’t meant to meet the air.
“Your gob still spouts what your heart wants to hide, doesn’t it?”
“Only round you, Ellie. Only you.”
There’s a smile and I know where your fable went, honeychile. You still carry it inside, just like me. This world doesn’t want believers anymore, no matter who or what they believe in. People with beliefs are one insult away from being dangerous fanatics, that’s what we’re all made out to be.
“Rebel rebel, I still like your dress.”
She drops her eyes, then slowly pirouettes with her arms out, just like that night outside the Shaky Do, when I told her I’d love her forever and she told me ‘only the stars love like that’.
“I shouldn’t have told you no.”
I grin: “You didn’t. You said ‘one day’. Just wondering if I could take you up on that, having taken some time to think it over.”
We can go anywhere she wants, or I can run far. Either way, a getaway.
She smiles: “What if I said we’d need more than a day to catch up?”
“I’m free for the rest of my life.”
Now she’s not looking at me anymore. The last time I saw her eyes shadowed like that, I was on a train to the big city the very next day. C’mon, lady, not again. Don’t be cruel, Ella May.
“May be more than we need. That a problem?”
“More or less, it’s good by me. Not doing it would be the problem.”
Her eyes meet mine and it’s sixty-five years ago outside the Shaky Do.
“Only the stars and us, then, Johnny?”