by L C Stern
Tears streamed down the old man’s face as the policeman placed his hand on top of his head to help him duck as he got in the back of the patrol car. He flopped back in the seat and continued to sob. “I’d do it all over again. I’m not sorry. The children will understand…I know they will.”
Patrolman Shaw looked over his shoulder at the frail figure behind the cage-like screen as they pulled away from the shabby house on Thomas Avenue. “That doesn’t change the fact that you’re going to jail, old timer. Murder is murder.”
“Not when it’s for love,” the white-haired prisoner whimpered. He closed his eyes and replayed the last fifty-seven years in his tired mind. Ah yes, she was quite the looker. However, the first thing he’d noticed about her was her laugh. It had a lilt to it that set her apart from the other giggling girls at the Sunday school picnic. He remembered the heat flushing to the top of his head —embarrassed from being tripped by Freddy Geist. She turned as he hit the ground with a thud, and he looked up just in time to see her hands cover her mouth to muffle that laugh.
Years later, he would remind her how she laughed at him before they had even been introduced. She would always reply, “Laughter is what keeps a marriage going. I just got an early start.”
Their lives had been so tightly knit since that first meeting, friends simply referred to them as “The Dickinsons” — not Henry and Alice. Their children, when speaking of their parents also used that moniker. Not “are Mom and Dad coming to dinner?” but, “are The Dickinsons coming?”
Everyone knew they were inseparable. Until six months ago. Alice was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given two months to live. That was right after Christmas. Today was a gorgeous spring day in June. Henry watched the familiar houses of his run-down neighborhood zip by as his life with Alice was a slow-motion slide show. He squeezed his eyes shut tight to try to see her more clearly, as she was on Christmas morning, surrounded by their three children and seven grandchildren. He noticed that morning for the first time that her glow was missing. A week later, he learned why. This bright June morning, “his Heart” as he called her, spoke in a weak whisper to him. “Please Henry. I can’t take this pain anymore. It’s just too much to bear. It hurts me every time I see the look in the kids’ eyes when they visit. You can do this, if you love me.” This was not the first time she had pleaded with him. He kissed Alice gently on the forehead, placed the soft bed pillow upon her face and held it there for what seemed like light years. The patrol car jolted to a stop. “Okay, old man. We’re here. Let me help you out. Watch your head.”