Johann Huebsch Writing on Wool – IFWC

 

A Great Man

He drove down the street, and found a parking spot in front of the house. For a minute he couldn’t turn his head to look at the house. He sighed, looked into the rear view mirror, and combed his fringe back so it fell into place. He didn’t know why he felt compelled to do so, but he did it nonetheless.
The car door slams and he turns the key. The walk across the front yard feels like an hour. He stands still in front of the front door, and only then notices the other cars, and people dressed in black, slowly heading into the house. He lifts his right foot and enters his past.
He finds an empty chair near the window and sits down. He pulls the memorial programme from out of his left jacket pocket and reads the name; ‘Brian McDonald’. On the cover there’s an image of an old man seated next to his wife.
‘Excuse me, you must be Heath?’ He looks up and sees the old lady from the photograph.
‘Yes.’
‘I’ve heard so much about you. I’ve seen photos. You were only a child back then. My God, you’ve grown so much.’
He smiles hesitantly.
‘Come with me. I have something for you.’ She makes her way up the stairs and stops midway, ‘Come on.’

He gets up and follows her up the stairs, into what seems to be a main bedroom. She opens an old wardrobe and pulls out a thick white woollen sweater. ‘Here, your father wanted you to have this.’ She holds out the now neatly folded sweater and he reluctantly reaches out to receive it.
‘I’m so glad you came.’ She leaves the room and makes her way down the stairs.

The alarm woke him at 06:25 AM for work. He forced himself out of bed and saw his calendar. December 11, 2013. He switched on his phone and started reading the emails. In between the work notices and bank ads, there was an email labelled ‘With Hope’. He clicked on ‘Read’ and read the contents.

Hi,
I hope this email finds you.
I found your email listed as ‘Heath McDonald’, at Hue Co. and I’m hoping you are the man I’m looking for. I knew a man called ‘Brian McDonald’ and I am hoping to contact him. I knew him once and I remember him telling me about his son, ‘Heath’, who works at a large Publishing company in the Western Cape. I searched for long before finding your name. A couple of years ago your father helped me out financially. We knew each other in High School and ran into each other at a convenient store in Johannesburg. Despite not having spoken to me in years he decided to pay a debt for me. I never saw him after that. I do remember what he was wearing. It was a bulky white sweater with a green laurel wreath on the left breast. Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with details. Please could you provide me with a contact number so that I can speak to him and properly thank him?
He is a great man.
Best,
Charlie Marks

He scrolled up and read it again, ‘a great man’. He locks his phone and leaves for work.

After the final meeting, the week before Christmas, he walks into his office and the phone rings at once. He looks at his secretary’s desk and curses her absence. He puts down his laptop case, sits down, and picks up the phone.
‘Mc Donald.’
Silence
‘Mc Donald. Who is this?’
‘Mister Mc Donald, I’m so glad I found you. This is Aimee Hill. I was hoping you could help me. I’m looking for a Dr Brian Mc Donald; he used to work at Cape Constantia Hospital. I phoned there and they said that he is retired. They gave me your number. You’re his son?’
‘Yes. He died. I’m sorry.’

Silence
He could hear her crying on the other end of the line. He cleared his throat. ‘How did you know him?’
‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry to hear that. Are you alright?’
Silence
‘It’s just…I was a patient of his a while ago. He is…Was such a nice man. I had really bad temperatures you see, and he brought me this really soft white sweater. He told me that I could use it during my stay there. He left it with me the entire four weeks I was there. I had to leave it behind when I was discharged because I couldn’t find him. I wanted to thank you…Thank him. He was a great man your father. Look at the time, I must go, Merry Christmas!’
He slowly put the phone down and raised his hand to his jacket’s left breast pocket.

‘Thank you, and Merry Christmas sir.’

He picks up the bag with the two bottles of Jameson and leaves the store. The air is cold outside. He opens the door to his apartment and walks in. He enters the kitchen and removes the bottles of whisky from the plastic packaging, and places it on the kitchen counter. He opens the cabinet next to the fridge and finds a tumbler. He places the glass on the counter and pauses for only a second.

He leaves the kitchen and walks into his room. He sees the sweater on the bedside cabinet and walks over to it. He raises his hand to his left breast pocket again and pulls out the memorial programme. He looks at it, places it on the cabinet and without hesitation he removes his suit jacket. He drapes the jacket over the back of the chair by the desk, picks up the sweater, and slips it on over his shirt and tie.    He leaves his room, walks to the kitchen counter and picks up the two unopened bottles of whisky, one in each hand, and leaves the apartment.

He steps out into the cold air. Nearby he finds a dustbin and throws away the two bottles of Jameson. He slowly raises his right hand and brushes it up against the sweater, relishing its comfort. He whispers to himself, ‘a great man’, and walks on.

 

This text on Wool was written and submitted by Johann Huebsch for Round 2 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Check Johann’s entry for Round 1: How do you plead Nike?

Read all the International Fashion Writing Competition published submissions.

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