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A Second Chance for Alex

by Anthony Samuels

After eating his breakfast cereal, Alex Martin, a 69-year-old recluse, decided to take his newspaper outside into his backyard on this beautiful day. While seated in his wheelchair, he grabbed a blanket and tucked it around his withering legs, arranging the newspaper on top. He thought about the teenage thief who shot him, wondering how he was doing in state prison. The elderly man wheeled himself into the television room and through the automatic glass doors onto the patio. A perfect South Florida day beamed down and a gentle ocean breeze danced across his face. “Oh God,” he sighed, “to be on the open seas fishing and diving again.”

He steered himself towards the shade of his giant black olive tree and surveyed the view of his neighbor’s backyard across their 100-foot-wide waterway. Alex’s boat sat in disrepair at the dock, its hull encrusted with barnacles and its Bimini top in tatters. The tree was a haven for wildlife. Birds, squirrels, and even iguanas inhabited its thick canopy.

Image of two canoes on the shore of a lake with boats and trees in the distance.
Image credit: Joshua Trommel on Unsplash

Unfolding a copy of the Fort Lauderdale Sun, he referred to the sports section, “Florida Gators 28, Seminoles 14. Brian Brandon’s Florida State Seminoles were no match for the University of Florida Gators yesterday. Coach John Majors…”

Alex looked up, his thoughts interrupted by several birds, finches most likely, chirping loudly and rustling in the branches above him.

He read on, “Coach John Majors praised his star quarterback…”

Now the bird clamor became much louder. Unable to concentrate, he folded down the top of the newspaper and noticed a few birds swooping low in circles around what turned out to be one of their comrades resting in the grass in front of him. The old man thought the bird must have tumbled from the tree. It looked haggard. His feathers were wrinkled. The poor fellow could barely stand. Several birds fluttered down and landed, appearing to give the fallen one support and encouragement by nudging him with their beaks and flapping their wings at him.

Back to the paper again after he lost his place: “Coach John Majors praised the star quarterback, Tony Tillman, as he threw for 265 yards…”

However, Alex’s concern with the birds now overwhelmed his concentration. He peered over the top of the newspaper in time to witness the entire flock fly across the waterway, landing in his neighbor’s backyard. Some foraged for food, others looked back and chirped at the one left behind.

Alex again studied the newspaper, but soon his gaze moved to the fallen bird who was now walking along the seawall’s edge. The finch screeched towards his flock, then unfurled his crumpled wings. After a few seconds of silence, as if meditating, the creature finally jumped. The old man watched as the bird fell out of view behind the seawall, not knowing where it had gone. Then it reappeared again, flying awkwardly towards the top of his neighbor’s seawall, struggling to gain altitude. His companions lined up along the edge, chirping to encourage the creature on. Then Alex cringed in horror as he witnessed in disbelief the bird falling short, crashing into the wall just inches from the top. It spiraled downward, out of control, into the canal below. Frantically flapping its wings, it was unable to fly above its water’s entrapment. Exhaustion soon became apparent as the finch scarcely held its bobbing head above the surface.

A lone white feather lying on the sandy ground.
Image credit: Ralph Katieb on Unsplash

As the newspaper fell from Alex’s loosened grip, an enormous surge of remorse and sorrow overcame him. The old man turned his head, unable to witness the bird’s final moments. He advanced his wheelchair back over the patio and through the automatic doors. Then there was silence when the doors closed behind him, blocking the screeching noise from the throng of birds still outside and across the canal.

Wheeling with seemingly no direction over the floor, he was so upset he could barely focus. Alex finally discovered himself resting in front of his big screen television, staring without thought into its blank screen.

Eventually he came to his senses. Alex pushed himself to the kitchen telephone, dialed a number, then waited for the response.

“Sacred Cross Hospital,” announced the operator.

“Physical therapy department please,” Alex asked.

A brief hold.

“Hello. Physical therapy. Dan speaking.”

“Dan. This is Alex. Alex Martin. Remember me?”

“Ah… Oh yes! I remember. Hey! You sound upset. Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m okay. Dan, listen. Things are different now. I want a fresh start. I want to begin my physical therapy again. I was in a terrible frame of mind after the shooting. I’m have a different attitude now.”

“That’s terrific! Glad to hear it. What’s your schedule like?”


Black and white image of the author, Anthony Samuels.
Anthony Samuels

The author had a late start in writing. Being so involved with his career in emergency medicine, he had little time for reading anything other than related journals and attending seminars. The two novels “Next” and “Prey” from the physician/author of “Jurassic Park”, Michael Creighton, inspired him to take up reading novels again. Dr Samuels retired in his late 50s in Fort Lauderdale where he presently resides with his daughter. Publication: "Cosmic Showers"/ Quillkeepers Press.

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