“Could have, Would have, Should have”
© by Elliot Richard Dorfman
It was the first Saturday in November. Victor G. Hordes sitting in his armchair stared out of the bay window at nothing in particular. He was just recuperating from a cold and had taken a few days off from his job as a clerk in the town's records office. When at home, this forty-year-old bachelor felt so lonely, for besides a few friends from the job and one or two distant relatives, there was little communication with people.
“Guess I'll make myself another cup of coffee,” Victor thought. As he got up, the front doorbell rang.
A boy, about fifteen, with red hair and bright green eyes pleasantly smiled at him. “Hi. I see you've got a large yard full of fallen leaves. I could rake and bag them for a small fee. Say, about twenty dollars? ”
Victor liked the boy's initiative. Besides there would be someone around to talk with.
“Sure, that's cheap enough.When would you like to get started?”
“It's still early. Just give me a rake and some large trash bags. I'll start right now,” the youngster enthusiastically answered.
“Okay. I'm Mr. Hordes, and what's your name?” Victor asked as they went around to the garage where the tools were stored.
“What a coincidence. That's my first name, too!”
The boy laughed. “I know.”
“You do, how?”
The boy fidgeted a moment, than he smiled.
“It was written on the front of your mailbox. I figured that was a good omen, right, Mr. Hordes?”
“Guess so. After all, I did hire you,” the elder Victor cheerfully responded. “By the way, let's not be so formal. In order not to get confused, I'll call you Vic and you can call me Victor. Is that okay by you?”
Vic seemed pleased. “That's fine.”
The boy got right to work. Working with zest, he finished his work in a couple of hours.
“Come into the house and I'll pay you. How about a soda and some chocolate chip cookies before you leave? I baked them myself.”
The young Victor nodded.
“You like to cook Mr. Hordes?” the teenage asked as he was served the refreshments in the dinning room after being paid.
Victor smiled. “Got no choice, Kiddo, got one else here to do it for me.”
Young Victor got up and looked around. “You live in this big house all alone? Isn't it kind of lonely for you?”
Victor shrugged. “That's the penalty of being a perennial bachelor. I inherited this place from my mother. It's kind of old but in good condition and all payed for, so there's no sense in moving out. Let's change the subject. Tell me, do you have some more time next Saturday afternoon, say about noon, to help me haul some boxes of junk from my cellar and bring it to the dump? Give you forty bucks.”
“Great,” Vic said, heartily shaking hands with him.
A few minutes after the teen left, Victor noticed the forty dollars still lying on the dinning room table.
“Talk about being forgetful. I can't believe that Vic left the money here. He'll probably be back for it any minute.”
But Vic didn't return.
The week went by very slowly. As Saturday drew closer, Victor looked forward to seeing young Vic. There was something very personable about the teenager.
Vic showed up promptly at noon.
“Say, you forgot your pay for last week,” Victor said, handing him the money.
“Oh - er - yah. I couldn't come back and get it,” the teenage replied.
A few minutes later the two got busy brining up the cartons from the cellar. They could load only a third of them into the SUV, so three trips were made to the dump. It was hard work, but the kid never complained. During the rides, he would look around with his big green eyes in wonderment.
“Isn't life, great?” he enthusiastically said.
By the time they got through, Victor figured the boy must be famished and asked him to stay for dinner. The teenager readily accepted.
“You don't want your parents to worry. Call them and let them know. I'll drive you home afterward.”
The boy shook his head, sadly. “I ... don't have any parents . . . so there's nothing to worry about.”
“Then your guardians or whoever is taking care of you.”
Vic, took a big breath. “Nobody takes care of me because . . . I wasn't born .”
“Very funny,” Victor said, slapping the boy on the back.
“No, it's true!” the red head youngster seriously replied
The man was flabbergasted. The teenager had seemed so normal, but obviously had a few screws missing.
The boy noticed the man's expression.
“Please, don't look at me as if I'm nuts. Let's eat, then I promise I'll tell you everything.”
“But if you weren't born, you're not alive, and if you're not alive, how can you be hungry?” Victor quipped.
“I'm an unborn soul that's been given the opportunity to feel what it is to be alive for a while and try to remedy the situation.”
Victor scratched his head in confusion. “I haven't the slightest notion what you are talking about, but okay, I'll make us some grub, then we'll talk about it.”
“Great,” Vic responded with relief.
He sat on a stool and intently watched Victor prepare one of his specialties, meatballs and spaghetti. For a desert, there was a seven-layer chocolate cake.
Vic seemed to enjoy every morsel of food. When finished, the teen sat back, extremely contented. “Wow, that was fantastic! I never knew food could taste so good. Thanks, Victor.”
Victor was still anxious to get a further explanation about the strange comment his dinner companion had made before the meal. “So what did you mean earlier when you told me you were an unborn soul.”
“I am and that's because you were willing to let your mother have complete control over you, even as an adult. Truthfully, you were a wimp. Remember how much you were in love with Jane Sanders and intended marrying her?”
Victor jumped up. “How could you possibly know that?”
The youngster put up his hand. “Please, let me finish.” As he continued speaking, his voice became more emotional.
“Your widowed mother put a stop to it by brain washing you into thinking that your one true love wouldn't make a good wife. That dominant old lady wasn't going to allow her only child to leave her nest, even if it meant ruining his chance of having a family, a son, me! ”
Victor could no longer contain himself. “Oh, come off it, do you expect me to believe . . . ”
Furious, the unborn soul rose. “Be quiet for a moment and take a look at this.” Snapping his fingers, a large album appeared on the table. “Go ahead, glance through it, that should convince you. It's got lots of pictures showing the life you could have had.”
Slowly, Victor opened the book. There were photos of him, Jane and Vic enjoying many family events such as birthdays, holidays and vacations. They all looked so happy and contented.
“Could have, would have, should have. Well, it's too late now,” whispered the disheartened bachelor.
“No, it isn't,” the unborn soul said. “I knew you'd feel this way, so I begged the almighty powers that be to give you a second chance and let you return back to the past. They agreed to it after I kept on begging them and finally broke down their resistance. I think they were glad to get me out of their sight for a while. Now, do you think you've got enough gumption to resist your mother this time around?”
A sudden shock went through him and the next thing he realized was putting on his coat in the front hall. Glancing in the wall mirror, a young man of twenty-four stared back at him. Victor pinched himself to see if this was real. It was! There was something in his coat pocket, a fancy blue velvet box containing an engagement ring
“Incredible,” he exclaimed, “I've gone back to the night I was supposed to get engaged to Jane! ”
It was snowing outside as he opened the front door. Just at that moment a chubby woman with braided gray hair came rushing into the hall. It was his mother, Zerina A. Hordes.
“Where are you going?” She excitedly asked in a high-pitched voice.
“Oh, come on, Mom, you know where,” her son replied, anxious to avoid a scene.
“Do you mean to tell me that you're still intending to ask Jane to marry you after we came to the conclusion that it would be a bad idea not even ten minutes ago? ” Mrs. Hordes began to cry. “That woman will be your ruination, mark my words.”
Victor felt all the anger he had suppressed toward her spill out like lava from a volcano. “No, Mom, you will be my ruination if I listen to you. I should have realized that the first time.”
“First time? What are you talking about?” She touched his forehead. “Your head feels Warm. You must be sick. If you go out in this weather, you'll get pneumonia. Better go to bed now. We'll talk again tomorrow.”
Victor pushed past her.
“What the matter, Mother, afraid your little boy is going to escape the coop?”
“But, Victor . . . ” the woman said, astonished that her boy was finally asserting himself.
“Quiet, Mother,” he said, slamming the door behind him. In the distance someone began to wildly cheer.
“Okay, Son,” Victor said to himself as he drove to Jane's house.“This time there's not going to be any deterrent to my getting married. Get ready. Your wish is soon going to become a reality.”
The following November, Victor G. Hordes, Junior was born - eight pounds, nine ounces.
Elliot Richard Dorfman taught
in the New York City School System for more than three decades, as well
as giving private vocal and piano lessons. He founded Suma Play Productions,
Inc., and was artistic director of the American Youth Repertory Company,
Off Broadway. After retiring, he moved with his family from the borough
of Brooklyn to Johnstown, New York. Among his successful former students
are American tenor, Daniel Rodriguez,character actress, Kelly Wolf,
and Broadway stage manager, Ira Mont. Mr. Dorfman, a former member of
the NY Dramatist Guild and Associated Music teachers League, has appeared
and written for radio and television. His plays (dramas and musicals)
have been presented on the professional stage, schools and centers.
Since the fall of 2007, over sixty-one stories have appeared in the
following magazines: Delivered, Twisted Dreams , Bewildering
Stories , Golden Visions , Static Movement, NVH, The
Tiny Globule, Perpetual, Paradigm Shift: New Paradigm ,
Black Petals, Blood Moon Rising , Demonic
Tome, Short Story Library Magazine,Stories That Lift, M-Brane Science
Fiction, Coffee Cramp eZine,Infinite Windows and House of Horror. Five
poems have appeared in Falling Star, Orange Room Review, Debris,
and Golden Visions. Voted by GOLDEN VISIONS MAGAZINE readers
as best 2008 author.