Chapter 15: The Fountain of Youth
“Frank!” Fred’s voice broke me out of my aquatic staring match. “Are you coming?”
I thrust my hand into the water, scattering the vision of my tormented face.
“I’ll be right there.”
I followed Fred’s voice around to the other side of the fountain, and found him and Christine huddled near the ground. Fred beckoned with his hand for me to join him. The sides of the fountain were ornately carved with a garden scene complete with figures of creatures, birds, and trees, and, in the section of which we were huddled around, a man and a woman at the base of an apple tree partially concealed by bushes. It didn’t take a Biblical scholar to recognized the Garden of Eden.
Christine laughed in delight, “Look there, Frank!” she pointed between the two figures, “can you see it? I can’t believe that it’s still there!”
At first I didn’t see anything unusual, but as I leaned in more closely, I could just barely make out the light etchings of a few letters between the figures, FE + CD
Fred’s initials were conveniently engraved on the side of Adam, while Christine’s where on the side of Eve.
Trying to make a little more sense of it all, I stared at the mural for a few seconds more. I was about to look away, when I noticed another strange engraving. Around the side of the tree on the side where Eve stood, a long slender serpent peeked its head from around the trunk. Directly above the serpent’s head, just barely visible, was what looked like another set of initials. Unfortunately, either time or man had not treated this set as well and it was no longer readable.
The happy couple, however, did not share my unpleasant mood. In fact, Fred was almost glossy-eyed in his trip down memory lane, “We went looking for the secret of the fountain on our first date. You see, she left me this note…”
Fred suddenly stopped and glanced at Christine, “Is it all right if I tell this story?”
She nodded and Fred continued, “Anyway, I found this note on my bed during a lunch break for one of our races, and with the note was this locket. It was shaped like a theater mask and there was a note that told me to meet her at this fountain. I rode my bike out here and found another note attached to the fountain which told me that if I wanted to know who I was supposed to meet I would need to retrieve the other locket from the top of the fountain to prove myself. I had nothing better to do, so I decided to play along. I sloshed into the fountain and made my way up the center.”
My heart smoldered in my chest as his story unfolded. Every word confirmed my darkest suspicions.
Fred leapt to his feet, gesturing wildly in an attempt to reenact the ordeal, “It was pretty slow going, because I kept losing my footing, and the wind was blowing pretty good, but somehow I managed.”
I shot a glance up at the fountain. The fountain was large as far as fountains go. Each of its sides was adorned with smaller carvings of cherubim, satyrs, unicorns and other mythical creatures. A main spout jetting out from a large stone bowl at the top spilled out into a network of dozens of smaller stone bowls around it in all directions. Spread out as the bowls were, they still made for pretty decent footholds.
Almost as if it were meant to be climbed.
Fred continued flapping his lips, “When I finally reached the top, I found the strangest thing: there’s a figurine of a woman’s head up there that spouts out water from the mouth, and around the woman’s neck was a golden locket similar to the one I had found in my bedroom, only that this one was frowning, instead of grinning. So, I undid the clasp and opened it up, and sure enough, it too contained just three words. At that moment, I suspected who this mystery person was, but it wasn’t until I turned around and saw Christine standing there at the bottom of the fountain that my suspicions were confirmed.”
Christine shrugged, and her cheeks colored with a pleasant rosy hue, “They were the perfect gift,” she admitted shyly, “we had been studying Hamlet in Drama class-I’m sure you remember that. I had found these upstairs in our attic just a few weeks before. My mom thinks they might have been her grandmother’s but she wasn’t really sure, so she let me have them. I remembered how much Fred enjoyed Hamlet.”
Christine’s countenance grew secretive. She leaned in closer as if ready to disclose the location of a bounteous gold mine, “That’s when we found…” Suddenly, Fred’s arm flew to Christine’s shoulder, cutting her off abruptly.
“…that it was time to go home,” he added hastily, shooting Christine a warning glance, “and so I took her home and kissed her goodnight. The end.”
For a full minute, the only audible noise was the endless trickling of the fountain. I gazed about at both of my companions, but neither one would meet my gaze.
“That’s a nice story you two. You’ll have to excuse me for a moment though. I left my…” I groped mentally for the right word, “…Frisbee in the car, and I’d like to toss it around for a bit if that is okay.”
The excuse was horrible as far as excuses go, but Fred ate it up “Sure, a little exercise.”
As I approached the car, I turned back momentarily to gaze at the fountain that had brought them together, one last time, when a voice crept into my head unbidden.
“Frank, aren’t you forgetting something?”
They were words from my past that had been spoken to me by Christine, when she was still my wife.
I cupped my hands over my mouth and trotted back to where Fred and Christine were still huddling around the fountain. I stood a ways off and yelled to them, “Fred,” I shouted, “just out of curiosity, what did you two do with those two lockets once you got them?”
Fred shrugged and cocked his head to one side, “Funny you should ask…Christine and I just donated them to the time capsule at City Hall this morning.”
He stuck out his lips and leaned in closer to Christine in an attempt to seem sappy, “That way, in thirty years when they open it up, we can celebrate how long our love has endured.”
Enraged at my compounded misfortune, I bolted for the car, not daring to glance behind. I fumbled for the handle, and nearly tore the door off the hinges. Once inside, I slammed the door and fumbled again for the keys. However, I quickly realized that Fred still had them, and thus I was helpless to go anywhere. Emotionally exhausted, I melted back into the chair and let a few tears glide down my cheeks. My entire concept of being able to find the lockets quickly and set everything straight was shattered in an instant.
A horrible realization of my own feelings washed over me.
I was happier when he was gone. I don’t understand what I did wrong in trying to put things right. Everyone, especially me, was supposed to be happier now. There must be another path to take.
I glanced over, and swiftly remembered that there was, or at least that there probably was such a path. Working swiftly, I opened the glove compartment, revealing the communicator. With sudden elation, I snatched it and was about to jam my index finger into the red button when something else caught my attention.
A newspaper lay out on the seat beside me, opened to a middle section, which sported a large portrait of the mayor on a podium outside city hall. The section heralded ‘Mayor to Dedicate Historic Time Capsule’ in large, bold print. I placed the communicator aside and scanned the article for information,
Mayor to Dedicate Historic Time Capsule
Citizens will see history in the making today, as Mayor Scott Graff dedicates a time capsule in honor of 120 years since the founding of our city. For the past few weeks, local residents have made tax-deductible donations to the capsule of which are accepted by a special committee at the time of donation, based on their relevancy to our city and its citizens.
The festivities will begin at 1:30 in old downtown with a parade, which will continue to, all the way to the lawn of City Hall. There, the Mayor will deliver a short speech about 2 o’clock, followed immediately by the burial of the capsule. Due to increased security measures, the capsule will be buried in an undisclosed location on City Hall grounds.
Hopefully, I shot a glance at my left wrist, but was met with disappointment: 2:37. I let the article drop to the floor, wishing that I could wipe the cheesy grin off the mayor’s face.
Now even firmer in my resolve, I retrieved the communicator and pressed the red button without a second thought.