There once was a long-time neighbor of mine by the name of Mr. Howard Delaney, who stood outside in his garden for hours on end in the pouring rain. There was no Mrs. Delaney to speak of; the man was a bachelor all his lifetime, never quite showing any interest in courtship and the like. I say was for the singular reason that the unusual habits of my neighbor indisposed him. That is to say, Mr. Delaney took gravely ill; gravely, indeed, for he passed on with a cold head gifted to him by a head cold.
I was distressed at the news of this, as you can imagine, having lived by the fellow for such a long while- most of my life, in fact- and was fully dreading the walk home from the burial. Such a cool autumn night it was, too, and I wrapped my coat about me tighter than normal, yet the forceful wind still snuck itself under it to chill me to the bone.
Shivering, saddened, and tired, I trudged until I came to the bend that would bring me to Mr. Delaney's former residence, and afterward, my own. I stopped in my heavy footsteps to stare a bit at the silent, brooding, empty shell that had housed Mr. Delaney, Mr. Delaney's father, Mr. Delaney's grandfather, and Mr. Delaney's great-grandfather, now without anyone to inhabit it due to the old bachelor's lack of a wife and therefore children. A tear fell about my cheek and I hastened to remove it, when suddenly a voice (that sounded in suspiciously good health) shouted, "Hullo there!"
I turned swiftly to the source. Imagine my surprise when I saw, sitting on the front steps beside the garden, Mr. Delaney himself, looking very much alive and well. Now, dear reader, do not think for a moment that I fainted from shock (though I very well wished to). Instead, I held up my hand to him and replied, "Hullo, Mr. Delaney. How do?"
"Oh, feeling fine, feeling fine!"
"Are you certain?"
"Why, I've never been better!" cried he, beating on his chest with a fist. "Why do you concern yourself with such questions?"
"Well-" I began, "Well- we just buried you in a rather fine wooden coffin: remarkable craftmanship, if I do say so myself."
"Buried?" guffawed the other. "Buried! You say I'm buried, but if I were to be in such a state, why would I be here?"
"That's what I was wondering."
Mr. Delaney floated up to the fence and rested his hands on one of the posts- rather, he tried, but didn't quite get them to stay, for the rascals refused to remain on top and were wont to go through it. He gave up this endeavor on the fourth try and stood with his hands in his pockets. "I'm as dead as that tree over there, and it's still thriving, as am I!" He jerked his head (which almost rolled off his neck) in the general direction of a gnarled, ancient tree that was blackened and seemed to intend malice for all who tried to remove it.
"If you say so."
"And I do!"
"I really must be going, Mr. Delaney. It was good seeing you."
"You as well!"
I entered my house pale as... well, Mr. Delaney.
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