The Apology

Contributor: Elliot Richard Dorfman

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In his sleep, Paul McCue heard someone knocking at his front door, but upon wakening, the house was quiet.

Getting off the bed on this cold February morning of his sixtieth birthday, he looked out of the window. The grounds were beginning to be covered with the falling snow. Whenever the weather was like this, he felt aches throughout his back and feet. Well, at least today was Saturday and the accounting firm he worked for was closed.

Quickly dressing, he went into the kitchen of his well-maintained ranch house that was located in the small town of Mayfield, New York. After feeding Scruffy, his little black dog, he made himself two pieces of toast and a pot of coffee. Eating, the thought of his wife leaving him two weeks ago hit him and he sighed.
“It’s been rough trying to adjust my life since Noreen left me for some man she met in the library. How could she do such a thing - especially after 35 years of being married?”

To avoid becoming more depressed, Paul dropped the thought from his mind and took his dog for a walk in the backyard. By now, the snowfall had intensified.

“Wow, if this keeps on, we’ll be getting well over a foot by this evening,” he told Scruffy, who quickly did his “business, anxious to get back inside.

A few minutes later, the phone rang. It was his son, Vick, who lived with his wife and two children across the street.

It’s fortunate to have my son so near during this difficult time of my life, Paul thought.

“Glad I got your birthday cake last night, dad. It may have been difficult going to the bakery today in such a snow storm,”

“Ah, you and your family didn’t have to go to all that trouble,” Paul replied, not wanting to be a bother.

“But we want you to have this birthday party, pop!” Vick answered enthusiastically. “So, what time are you coming here?

“I’ll be at your house about three.”

“Fine that gives us ample time to get everything ready for the party. Be careful when you cross the street, the weather is treacherous.”

“I’m aware of that,” Paul said, appreciating his son’s concern.

After the call, Paul cleaned up in the kitchen, took a shave, straightened up the bedroom, and went down into the den to check if there were any e-mails on the computer.

Since it was his birthday, there were many messages. He felt fortunate to know so many people who cared about him. Too bad his wife was not among them! It took him over half an hour to check the e-mails, and by that time, he was ready for another cup of coffee. Putting on the television, a bulletin flashed on the screen warning people not to travel far since ice and snow had built up on the roads.

At ten to three, Paul crossed the street. It took him nearly three times longer to get to his son’s house because a strong wind kept blowing the snow in his eyes.

His two grandchildren, Victor and Connie, his daughter-in-law, were eagerly waiting for him and ushered him into the dinning room. The room was cheerfully decorated with colorful balloons and a big happy birthday sign. Connie had prepared his favorite dish, Lasagna, which was served before the cake. Around eight in the evening, Paul decided to go home and take Scruffy for his evening walk. Fortunately, the snow had stopped, so it wasn’t difficult to walk his dog. Later that night, Scruffy began growling. Running to the front door, the animal began scratching it with his paws.
“What’s wrong, pal, is there someone out there?” Paul asked, recalling his morning dream, cautiously, grabbing a metal stick that was kept in the closet for defense in case an intruder tried breaking into the house.

“Who is it?” Paul asked.

There was no answer, but a moment later – someone knocked on the door again.
“Who’s there?” he asked much louder.

Still, no one responded.

Cautiously, Paul opened the door. A gust of cold wind blew into his face. Strangely, Scruffy calmed down immediately and sat next to him. A figure shrouded in the darkness moved forward. It was his wife, Noreen. Her face was pale, and she had such a sad expression, that he felt pity for her suddenly.

“It’s cold out there, Noreen. Come in and get warm. We have much to talk about.”

She moaned and shook her head. “I wish I could, Paul - but that’s impossible.”

He could feel his bitterness and anger towards her returning.
“Well, what do you want then?”

“I just came back for a moment to apologize for leaving you. I hurt not just you and the family, but myself as well.”
Paul gloated. “Why the sudden change; did your infatuation with that man fade - or did he get tired of you?”

Tears fell from Noreen’s sunken in eyes.

“What difference does it make now? I was wrong and was going to make it up to you, but fate has other plans for me.”

She moved closer to him and gave him a kiss.

“Happy birthday, my darling,” she said with affection, and vanished.

Paul gasped. Where had she gone? He and Scruffy looked in the street, but it was empty. Had she just been an illusion created by his subconscious longing to have her back?

Unable to sleep after this experience, he put on the television.

“Now for the local news,” a reporter said. “We just found out a moment ago that the woman who died early this morning after her car skidded and overturned on the thruway has been identified as Noreen McCue of Mayfield.”

“Well at least she somehow got the chance to apologize and wish me a happy birthday,” poor Paul whispered.

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Elliot Richard Dorfman taught 31 years in the New York Public School System and was an artistic director an Off-Broadway Repertory Group. Since 1997, over 120 short stories have appeared in 36 publications. He has written 2 novels, the second just published in April. Further information:
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