The Game is Over

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers
Harry’s wife Jean liked to watch game shows on television. There was only one thing wrong on this occasion. She had been dead for three months!

Submitted: July 21, 2017

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Submitted: July 21, 2017

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The Game is Over

Harry was shocked to find his wife watching television in the living room. She had been dead for three months, yet here she was sitting in her favourite chair watching her favourite game show as if she had never been away. Harry’s heart raced. He backed out of the room, closed the door and then sagged against the nearest wall. What had just happened? Had he stepped back in time? Had he seen a ghost?

Jean’s death had devastated Harry. One more month and they would have been celebrating their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Right up to the day the ambulance took her to the hospice, he had clung to the belief that she would get better; but that was not to be. When Jean died, Harry’s reason for living died with her.

During the months that followed, Harry lived aimlessly from one day to the next. The house was too big for him now. He ought to sell it and move to a smaller place. He would get around to that one day, but not just yet. So much of Jean’s personality remained here. Harry could see her in every picture, every ornament, and every piece of furniture. Memories were all that he had now. Each day of his lonely life had become the same as the last … until today. Something really weird had happened today.

Harry retreated to the kitchen and made himself a cup of coffee. He hadn’t long finished a cup, but it gave him something to do while he thought. There had to be a rational explanation for what he had seen. He thought at first that he had slipped back in time; but everyone knew that time travel was impossible. A ghost then? Some people believed in ghosts. That seemed to be the most likely explanation; but why had Jean come back from the dead?

Harry would have to go back and face whatever he had seen in the living room; but not just yet. He sat at the small kitchen table staring into space while his forgotten coffee grew cold. After a while, he began to think more rationally. A ghost? Nah. It couldn’t be. It must have been just an illusion … or a remarkably vivid memory. Disease had stolen Jean’s power to get about and take care of herself, so she had spent most of each day sitting in her recliner watching television and reading the newspaper. The sight of her sitting there amid a scatter of half-read newspaper pages had become etched in Harry’s memory. That must be it. What he had seen was just a flashback of what he had been seeing every day for months.

Harry felt much better now that he had found a credible explanation for what he had experienced. He took a sip of coffee, grimaced, and put the cup down. He would go back to the living room right now and find everything as it should be. Then he would laugh at himself for being so foolish.

He made his way to the living room, stopped outside the door, and listened. Silence. Of course it was silent. There would be no Jean in there. No half-read newspapers scattered about. No game show on the television. He opened the door.

A burst of sound drew Harry’s attention to the television screen. ‘For you, the game is over!’ declared the game show host. Jean? Harry swung his attention to her recliner. Yes, there she was. He could see only the top of her hair above the high back of the chair, but he would know that hair anywhere.

‘Jean?’ he said.

 No answer. Harry took a step into the room.

‘Jean?’ he repeated.

Still no answer. He moved further into the room and sat down in a chair were he could see her better. She was dressed as usual in her comfortable jeans, shirt and well worn slippers. A white socked toe peeped from a hole in one of the slippers. On the side table next to her was an array of creams, tissues and manicuring tools. The newspaper pages lay scattered on the floor around her. Everything was just as it used to be before … before they took her to the hospice. Harry fought to control the emotion that welled up inside him.

‘Jean,’ he choked, ‘is that you?’

‘Shush!’ said Jean at last. That was her usual response when Harry interrupted something interesting on television. Harry shushed. There would be an ad break soon. There always was. By then, he might be better able to accept the impossible situation that his senses revealed.

‘Jean,’ Harry repeated when the ads came on at last. ‘It is you. Isn’t it?’

‘What?’ Jean said. She gave Harry a puzzled look. ‘Of course it’s me you Wally. Who did you think it was?’

‘But you are… Wait a minute. What day is this?’

‘It’s Thursday.’

‘Yes but what date? What month? What year?’

Jean’s face clouded. ‘Harry, are you feeling OK?’

‘Yes. I think so. I mean I’m not sure.’ Harry reached for a page of the newspaper that Jean had been reading. It showed today’s date. So no time travel then. He was talking to a ghost. ‘Jean, I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you, but … you aren’t real. You can’t be.’

‘Of course I’m real you silly sausage.’ Jean gave Harry a curious look. ‘What on earth are you on about?’

‘But I was at your funer…’ Harry stopped. He couldn’t say that. Jean didn’t seem to know that she was dead. Instead, he said, ‘Would you like a cup of coffee?’ Good grief! I just asked a ghost if she wanted coffee.

‘Not right now,’ Jean said. ‘I need to get up for a bit. Give me a lift will you?’

Jean had become frail in the months leading up to her death. She was comfortable in her recliner, but getting out of it was a major exercise. Harry went over to her. Her arms had grown too weak for him to pull her up by her hands, so he lifted her by placing his arms under her armpits and rocking back as he straightened his legs. Up she came. She had been so light. Harry held her in his arms. It felt so good to feel her body against his again; her hair brushing his face. He smiled.

He was still smiling when they found him next day in Jean’s recliner watching her favourite game show through sightless eyes.

 

End


© Copyright 2017 Joe Stuart. All rights reserved.

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