Whisper by Ken David Stewart
It was back, Big Time. Harold Peyton found himself in the clutches of the most devastating episode of clinical depression that he had ever experienced in his sixty-five years. He was used to this. Harold suffered from the type of depression that was episodic in nature. He was not depressed all the time, but large chunks of his life had been lost. During these times, Harold would succumb to the vast darkness of depression. What Winston Churchill described as his ‘black dog’.
Harold just wanted to shut down and block out the whole world. He sat in a broken down office chair adorned with torn upholstery. Harold was a published author and was working on a new mystery novel. The problem was that he couldn’t get his muse turned on. Every time he tried to think of a new idea to move his plot along, his mind went blank.
Harold just stared at the blank word document on his computer screen. Everything that he attempted was hard. Harold was grateful that he had a month’s holiday left from his part time job as a substitute teacher. To do a job like that you have to be able to get yourself pumped up and be able to think very sharply. Right now, Harold could do neither.
Harold Peyton was exceptionally fit and healthy for a sixty-five year- old male. He was once a heavy smoker but overcame his addiction to cigarettes twenty years ago. Harold made his physical fitness regimen a top priority in his life. He rode his prized black and white Giant Mountain bike every day, even during inclement weather. On alternate days Harold would go to Shapes gym for a forty-five minute resistance training workout. Although he was still a bit pudgy, he carried his excess weight well and was still a physically attractive man. Harold looked at least ten years younger than his chronological age.
Harold lived in a modest home in the suburb of River Heights in the windy city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He loved animals and was presently the proud owner of two dogs and two cats.
Following the frustration of fifteen minutes of totally unproductive writing, Harold got out of his office chair and walked over to the burgundy colored drapes of his picture window. He tugged on the cord that opened the curtains and gazed upon the outside world. The city of Winnipeg experienced an early bitter winter during November, 2013. The picture window was covered with intermittent patches of frost and ice. Snow was now falling very heavily.
Harold honestly enjoyed the winter season especially fresh snow falls. He loved the way the tree branches looked when they were covered by shiny, white, snowflakes.
Episode 3 and 4:
But today the beauty of the winter season had little effect upon Harold’s somber mood. When he was trapped in this mental state, he was unable to bring himself to experience joy in things and activities that had once brought him pleasure. It was as if his happy button had been turned to the off position.
Harold thought of his ex-wife Clarissa. They had been divorced nearly five years now. Harold missed Clarissa, but he did not blame her for leaving him. What woman could live with the frequent
intense darkness of his moods. During these times Harold would totally ignore her as he closed himself off from the entire world. After staring out his picture window for about two minutes, Harold could hear his dogs barking loudly and sharply. He soon realized what was upsetting them.
A white Ford 150 truck was parked directly across the street from Harold’s house. He could see the black hair of a large burly man with black hair in the driver’s seat. The man appeared to be in his early thirties. He was very angry at a young female who looked to be in her early twenties. Through his picture window
Harold watched as the burly young man pushed his female passenger out of his truck and onto the ice packed snow covering the road. The burly man in his early thirties then tossed a large orange and turquoise colored duffle bag onto the street. It almost hit the young woman who was lying prostate on the street. The angry male in the truck yelled a few vile obscenities at his female victim and then drove away in his Ford 150.
Looking through his picture window, Harold watched the young woman slowly and painfully rise to her feet. She was wearing only a grey hoodie sweatshirt, black sweat pants with a tear in one knee and a pair of well worn red Converse running shoes. She was now standing in the street shivering on a cold day in March. A black Honda Accord honked loudly at her as he came close to colliding with the girl who now had tears streaming down her cheeks.
Harold watched after the Ford 150 drove away. He stood and stared at the young woman and started to think what he was going to do about her. Harold didn’t even consider calling the police. Instead he opened the front door of his house and called loudly to the girl in distress.
“Come here young lady. You need to get out of the cold or you’ll freeze to death!”
The young female looked towards Harold with a confused and frightened look. She wiped the snowflakes off her hoodie and walked awkwardly towards the door that Harold was holding open for her.
“Thank you so much Mister. You may have saved my life. May I come in your house?
“Step into the living room and make yourself at home,” Harold replied.
“Thanks. Hey, I should introduce myself. My name is Whisper,” the strange young woman said as she found a place to sit on Harold’s yellow and orange patterned sofa. Whisper admired the brass antique lamp to the left of the sofa. The full décor of Harold Peyton’s living room had the ambiance that could only come from a man who appreciated fine art.
“Could I interest you in a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee or perhaps a mug of hot chocolate?” Harold asked. “By the way, Whisper is a beautiful name. Who gave you that name?”
“My grandma came up with it if I remember correctly,” Whisper replied.
While standing in the hall, Harold now had a good opportunity to observe Whisper. Her hair was blonde highlighted by orange streaks. It presently looked wet and tangled. There were still some snowflakes in her hair. Whisper’s make up was smudged and smeared from her tears. Whisper had a gold rod piercing through her nose. She wore orange lipstick and had a pentagon tattoo on her left forearm. She was not very attractive and was slightly overweight giving her somewhat of a pudgy look. Harold thought that Whisper resembled a naughty, terribly neglected little elf.
“I would love to have a hot chocolate, sir. What’s your name?” Whisper asked.
“My word, where did all my manners go? With all the excitement going on, I failed to recall that I haven’t as yet told you my name. It’s Harold, Harold Peyton.”
“Could I ask a big favour of you. Mr. Peyton?” Whisper asked sheepishly.
“Oh, you don’t have to call me Mr. Peyton. I’d like it very much if you just called me ‘Harold’. What would you like me to do as a favour to you?”
“I would like to take a shower and get myself cleaned up,” Whisper asked as her face reddened with embarrassment. “But I would like to drink my hot chocolate first, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course you can my dear,” Harold answered. Harold wondered why he had called Whisper ‘my dear’. After all he didn’t even know this girl yet.
“Did you bring a clean change of clothes to put on after you wash up?”
“Yes, I have some clean clothes in my duffle bag,” Whisper replied.
“I just asked in case you didn’t have a fresh change of clothes with you. I still have all my daughter’s clothes in a closet in her bedroom. You appear to be about the same size as she was and her clothes would probably fit you. Harold’s countenance suddenly looked very pained.
“You said ‘was’ Harold. What happened to your daughter?”
“Today is the first anniversary of Erica’s passing. While getting a ride home from a party her friend’s car was involved in a head on collision. The driver of the other car was inebriated. Erica’s friend suffered severe injuries but survived. Unfortunately, my daughter did not survive the accident. As soon as he finished saying this, Harold Peyton sobbed loudly and his body began to shake uncontrollably.
“Sit down in your Lazy Boy, Harold. I’ll make myself a hot chocolate. Would you like something to drink too?” Whisper asked.
“Yes, I would like a cup of coffee if you don’t mind making a pot,” Harold replied starting to regain his composure.
“No problem. I see that you’ve got the good stuff, Tim Hortons. It should be ready in a few minutes.”
After setting up and turning on the percolator Whisper returned to the living room.
“I’m very sorry to hear about you losing your daughter. It must be very painful for you.”
Yes, it is, but I should be an old hand at grieving by now. My wife Clarissa divorced me five years ago,” Harold said causing another tear to trickle down his cheek.
“That’s terrible, man. Two major losses in five years! No one should have to suffer that much.”
“I agree, but it happened to me. It is what it is,” Harold said taking out a handkerchief to wipe away his tears.
“But I’ve told you enough for now about my problems. What happened to you out on the street. Who was that guy that pushed you out of his truck?”
“That would be Tony. He’s a real piece of work, man. He pushed me out of his truck after I told him that I wouldn’t have sex with him. Tony just figured that I owed it to him. He called it ‘taking it out in trade’. He said it was only fair because he let me sleep on his couch for a few nights.”
“Why did he drop you off in front of my house?” Harold asked.
“For no particular reason. Tony and I had been having a really wicked fight for about fifteen minutes before he drove the truck down your street. Tony told me that I was giving him a migraine headache when he pushed me out on the road. We were just driving around in circles. I really don’t have any place to go anyway,” Whisper explained.
Harold stretched out in his burgundy colored Lazy Boy chair. He owned a high end model that could give him a massage similar to what you could get from visiting a professional masseuse. He looked at an abstract painting that was situated on one of the walls in his living room. This beautiful piece of art had a splatter design using only black and white colors. The painting would have put a smile on the face of Jackson Pollock.
“Are you injured? Can I get you an ice pack from the freezer?” Harold asked.
“It would be a good idea to put some ice on my back. I probably have a couple of nasty bruises, but it doesn’t feel like anything is broken. You rest in your chair, Harold. I’ll get the ice pack myself while I’m making a pot of coffee. What do you take in your coffee?”
“I like Southern Butter Pecan International Delight coffee creamer along with two packets of Sugar Twin,” Harold answered.
“|gotcha. Your wish is my command,” Whisper said as she made her way to the kitchen. She liked walking across Harold’s retro yellow shag carpet. She had taken off her wet socks and sneakers and was now walking barefoot toward the kitchen. She noticed a family portrait on the wall that included Harold, his former wife, his deceased daughter and an unknown young man and woman.
After a few minutes had passed, Whisper returned to the living room with a cup of coffee for Harold, her hot chocolate and an ice pack for her back.
“What do the buttons on your chair do?” Whisper asked after she put the refreshments on a round glass coffee table.
“They are for giving a massage. Would you like to try it?”
“Sure,” Whisper said as Harold got up from his easy chair and exchanged places with Whisper on the sofa. It felt a bit damp where he sat on the couch as the snow that had been on Whisper’s sweat pants had melted.
I’m going to get you started on a gentle massage setting until your body adjusts to the new sensations,” Harold told Whisper. As a result of some permanent damage to his left eye Harold had difficulty reading the small lettering on the control panel of the easy chair. Harold accidentally pushed the high tension massage button.
“This chair is amazing Harold. I feel like I’m getting a real massage from a professional masseuse!” Whisper said. She could feel the heavy pressure on her back muscles. The sense of human hands kneading her back was now coming in waves giving Whisper a total body massage. It works by automatically descending to the lower back muscles.
“Did you set the timer for this chair Harold?” Whisper asked
“Yes. It should automatically shut off in ten minutes.”
“Thank you Harold. This massage is awesome. It’s helping work the soreness out of my bruised back.”
“When the timer goes off you can return to the couch and I’ll hand you an ice pack,” Harold said.
As soon as Whisper’s massage session ended, she and Harold exchanged seating locations. Whisper was now the one on the orange and yellow couch and Harold returned to his Super Deluxe Lazy Boy chair.
“I can’t thank you enough for letting me into your house and for treating me so well. I must be messing up your whole morning routine,” Whisper said.
“Oh, that’s not a problem. When I’m not out working as a substitute teacher, I usually try to dedicate at least a few hours to working on my writing. I wasn’t accomplishing anything when you entered my house anyway. I sort of had what those in the trade call writer’s block during the past few days. I’m trying to come up with a new plot and characters and I have been drawing a blank. Often writers experience this sort of thing,” Harold said.
“Can I suggest an idea?” Whisper asked.
“Certainly, I’m all ears,” Harold said.
“You could start your story off by writing about a stranger that arrived at your door one morning.”
This made Harold laugh. “You’ve got a quick wit my girl. But I want to follow up on something. You said that you don’t have a place to stay.”
“That’s right, but can I use your shower now? I’m feeling kind of gross.”
“No problem. The bathroom is upstairs first door on your left.”
“Thank you so much. We’ll continue the conversation after I shower and make myself more presentable,” Whisper said. As soon as Whisper had taken her backpack upstairs, Harold had some time to think. He thought to himself:
‘What are you thinking? You just let us strange young woman into your house. You hardly know anything about her. She could rob and kill you for all you know.’
Harold thought about the body art that was visible on Whisper’s arms when she rolled up the sleeves on her sweatshirt. He also remembered the piercings in her nose and close to her lips.’
Harold realized that these should be serious red flags for him.
When Whisper her shower and was coming down the stairs, Harold was astonished by how much more attractive she looked. Her shoulder length blond hair was slicked back and gave off a pleasant aroma as she descended closer to the bottom of the stairs.
Whisper was now wearing a Los Angeles Kings replica Jersey. It was the design the Kings wore when Wayne Gretzky was their team captain. On the back of the jersey the lettering ‘Whisper 99’ could be seen. She wore a pair of shiny silver slacks. The looseness of Whisper’s jersey helped conceal her extra upper body weight. Her silver slacks were also loosely fitted, disguising the impression that her legs were somewhat plump.
As soon as she got herself settled on the couch Whisper said, “Thank you for letting me use your shower. I feel so much better now. Does your coffee need to be reheated?” Whisper asked.
“Oh no. It’s fine. I’m about three quarters way finished it anyway.”
“If you want a fresh cup just ask,” Whisper said. “So you would like to know more about my housing situation.”
“Yes. It sounds like you don’t have a permanent place to live.”
“Yes. Unfortunately, that’s presently the situation I find myself in,” Whisper said.
“So I gather you can’t stay at Tony’s place tonight? Harold asked.
“Oh no. He might kill me.”
“You’re exaggerating, aren’t you?” Harold asked with genuine alarm in his voice.
“No, I’m not. I can’t count how many times that Tony has beat me up this year,” Whisper answered.
So, where were you living before you stayed with Tony?” Harold asked.
“At the Headingly Correctional Center for Women.”
“You’re kidding. What were you charged with?” Harold asked.
“Shoplifting,” Whisper replied.
“Why did you shoplift?” Harold asked.
“Probably because I didn’t have any money for food and cigarettes.”
“Do you steal from stores a lot?” Harold asked.
“Yeah. Quite a lot, actually. I get a cheque from social assistance, but it doesn’t provide nearly enough, especially if you smoke like I do. Mostly I steal because I need stuff. I run out of money early in the month. I don’t budget my money real well. Sometimes I just shoplift when I get bored. I get an adrenaline rush from it.”
“Do you ever feel guilty about stealing?” Harold asked.
“Not really. I mean I know it’s not right, but a person has to provide for themselves don’t they?.”
“Have you ever had a regular job before?” Harold asked.
“Sure. I was the human resources director for a large Christian non profit organization for about five years. Then I got fired.” Whisper answered.
“Why did you get fired?” Harold asked.
“For embezzlement. They found out that I was padding my expense account pretty regularly.” Whisper answered.