Novel Excerpt

From The Beauty of Morton’s Toe

by René Wells

Step by step, Henry and Emma progressed through the park they had passed through so many times together over the years. They hadn’t been there in a while, but Emma was determined to keep Henry up and about and as fit as possible for as long as possible. That was one thing she had learned about aggressive cancer, it just keeps coming, so you just have to keep moving and hope to outrun it. The fall colors were in full swing. Oranges and yellows and reds of all shades and hues fluttered in the wind and glowed in the morning light, a delight for the eyes, whether you had artistic inclinations or not.

“The colors are beautiful, aren’t they, my dear?” she asked.

Henry hadn’t been paying attention, focused on maintaining his pace and energy – he had one goal for this walk and paying attention to the scenery was not it. But who knew when he might ever see such a sight again, and he could use a break, so he said, “They are. Why don’t we stop at the Heine bench up ahead and just enjoy them for a bit.”

“Excellent idea,” said Emma, “Will you recite poetry to me there like you used to when we were young? Maybe you can make me swoon and I’ll do naughty things to you in the woods again.”

Henry laughed. He had forgotten all about that. He always had been good at quoting poetry – something to be said for the harsh rote learning he had endured when sent off to boarding school soon after his mother’s death. He racked his brain for a moment and then a bit came back to him:

“It kissed me in German

and spoke in German
(You would hardly believe
How good it sounded)

the words: “I love you!”
It was a dream.”

Emma squeezed his arm in delight, “Ah, you still got it, Henry, you still got it.”

“I try,” said Henry, “but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass on a trip into the woods. I think it’s a bit too chilly for me to get naughty if you know what I mean.”

Emma laughed, and slapped him on the arm as they made it to the bench and sat down. They held hands and gazed at the dance of colors in the trees for several minutes in silence, letting nature sooth them, basking in the sunlight and the respite from human life’s troubles for a moment. A young couple pushing a baby carriage came by and nodded at them politely in passing, the young couple admiring the beauty of the old couple still in love on the poet’s bench, the old couple admiring a new family born out of young love, making their own memories for a lifetime. It really was a beautiful day.

“Do you think the Kid will ever settle down and find happiness? Have a family?” asked Emma.

Henry sighed, “I hope so, but how is he supposed to do that living in an old age home? Would you want to bring home a date to us? Ha! His chances of getting naughty are about zero if he did that I would say. Maybe we ought to tell him about the woods.”

“I have a feeling the Kid knows a lot more about the woods than we do. How many girlfriends has he had?”

“I lost count. More than me that’s for sure. Lucky bastard.”

“Hey!” said Emma punching him in the arm with a laugh.

“Just kidding. One woman is more than this old man can handle.”

Emma laughed again. She leaned into Henry, kissed him on the cheek, and placed her hand gently on his trousers where it hadn’t been placed in a long time. “You sure you’re not up for a trip into the woods?”

Henry laughed and batted her hand away. “Don’t be cruel to Little Henry, Little Emmie. Besides, we’re on a mission, remember? We don’t have all day to play in the woods.”

“True,” she said, “we’ll just have to come back again another day when we have more time.”

“Sounds like a dream, Emmie, a beautiful dream.”

“A girl’s got to dream.”

“Come on, dream girl, let’s get a move on before we wake up.”

They stood up and left the bench behind, continuing their mission and march through the colorful park.

“Do you think he’ll be surprised to see us?” asked Emma.

“Ha! I think he’ll think we’ve really gone mad.”

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