Middle-aged American Eric Holloway was thinking that it must be almost time for the miracle to happen again. He sat in a camping chair near the section of the shore of Loch Lomond facing Ben Lomond, one of the lochs someone wrote a song about, while chewing a mouthful of his onion bagel smothered in lox and cream cheese. Mark’s Deli in nearby Glasgow certainly lived up to its Yelp reviews. He was glad they opened early on a Sunday so he’d have the time to eat his breakfast. The retired electrical engineer would have hated to be reduced to the one he’d visited last Friday in the mall, and he only went there because he had to buy some fresh clothes Barry’s size and a small pack to put them in.
As he continued to maul his exquisite deli purchase, Eric used his free hand to wave away several locks of his salt and pepper hair off of his forehead. He always neglected getting a haircut until his mane became unmanageable.
The weather forecast called for morning showers and temperatures in the upper 30s F, but so far he could still see thin rays of sunlight through the overcast sky. Putting the half-consumed bagel on the napkin gracing his lap, and without looking down, he retrieved his thermos from on top of the grass to this right next to his rucksack. Unscrewing the lid and stopper, he poured himself a cup of streaming, hot coffee. It, along with his thick, woolen pea coat, would keep him warm on this morning in late December, just two days before Christmas, while he waited.
Finishing the coffee, he screwed the lid back on top of the thermos, and as he picked up the bagel again, he felt the Lazarus Stone begin to heat up in his shirt pocket.
“About damn time.” Putting his meal down again, he unbuttoned the top of his coat, and reaching in, pulled the silver-dollar sized flat rock out. Holding it in the palm of his hand, it glowed slightly green, feeling as warm as the fur of his cat Felix back home in Port St. Lucie.
He stood up on the uneven ground, placed the bagel on his chair, and walked a few steps forward.
“Come on, boy. What are you waiting for?” He closed his hand on the stone and lifted his fist in front of him, directly at the loch. “This time it cost me five months and a small fortune to track down and buy the stone, Barry, but I’m here with it.”
Then he saw the disturbance in the loch several hundred meters off shore. The surface of the water was rippling. As it got closer, he smiled and gripped the rock tighter. It was almost too hot to hold now, but the ritual required that he not let go until the victim could breathe again.
He might have started out by swimming, but now Barry was walking as his head emerged first, and then his shoulders and torso. The seventeen-year-old’s dark hair was dripping as it hung low over his forehead and ears, and his pale green eyes looked glassy.
Eric put the stone in his pocket and buttoned up his jacket again. “Welcome back, Barry. Do you remember me?”
“I…I…” Color began to emerge on his face, and his eyes and expression took on the appearance of knowing. “Eric…I…I…I’m freezing. Where am I? What happened?”
“Here.” He took two steps backward and then hoisted up the rucksack and unzipped it. “Got a towel and fresh clothes for you right here.”
Barry hastily pulled off his drenched t-shirt and swimming trunks, grabbed the towel out of the proffered pack, and rubbed himself down.
“Once you get dressed, I’ve got bagels and coffee. Should be enough to warm the inner man.”
The older man had to quickly retrieve his meal from the chair as the youth sat down to pull on his pants. In a few minutes, after Eric had bolted down the remains of his meal, Barry was huddled in a jacket and consuming his first warm drink since last July.
“I remember…I was on vacation…swimming in the loch.”
“That’s right. I got a call saying that you’d drowned, and even though they sent divers down, they couldn’t find your body.”
“A drowning this time? How many times do I have to do this, Eric? It’s getting to be a pain in the ass.”
“Beginning?” Eric laughed as he looked down at the befuddled and annoyed Barry who wasn’t quite himself yet. “You’re the one who told me about the curse. Perpetual youth and immortality, but only if accompanied by the curse of dying at irregular and unpredictable intervals.” As an afterthought, he pulled the Lazarus Stone back out. “Yeah, it’s dead as a doornail, and the next one won’t manifest until you die again. Then I’ll have to search for it.
“What’s the date?” He started eating his bagel, thankful that Eric had brought something to fill his cavernous stomach. “How long has it been?”
“You went in the water last July 8th. Today’s December 23rd.”
“Crap.” Crums dripped from his mouth as he talked and chewed at the same time. “Soon as I’m done with this, let’s get out of here. We got a flight back to the States?”
“Yeah, but we’ll have to spend Christmas in Glasgow. You really want to travel over the holidays?”
“I’ve been dead for five months. All I want to do is get home.”
Eric’s demeanour softened. “Yeah, me too. I’ve missed you boy.”
“Hah. You were only a few years older than me, or so it seemed, when I brought you on as my latest partner.”
“I guess you’re right. You’re hundreds or maybe thousands of years old, and I’m just the guy you said you’d share your wealth with if, when you died, I’d search for the next Lazarus Stone and resurrect you.”
“It always happens this way. The partner gets older and starts to think of me as his or her son. You know eventually, I’ll be the one burying you.” His eyes flickered with a hint of sadness and past grief.
“I’m satisfied with one lifetime, and being your partner has been an amazing adventure.”
“You’re a good friend, Eric.” Having finished breakfast, Barry stood up and the two men embraced. “Now let’s pack up and get to wherever you parked your car. Time to begin the next part of our adventure. Glasgow’s as good a place as any to start. Don’t think I’ve ever been here for Christmas before.”
I wrote this for the Double Mix writing challenge hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. Today, the idea is to take two sets of homophones and use them in a poem, short story, or other creative work. They are:
mall – shopping centre
maul – to shred
lochs – more than one lake
locks – 1. more than one security device, or 2. long hair
lox – salmon jerky
I put them in bold so the reader could find them in the body of my story.
I’ve already written about one immortal today, and as I started typing this story, I was wracking my brain in search for what to create.
After looking up lochs in Scotland and settling on Loch Lomond, I started with an actual (and really sad) news story of a seventeen-year-old boy who drowned in the loch last July. In real life, the body was recovered, but that wouldn’t work out in my tale.
At first, I planned to have the boy’s death be a murder, and Eric was his father and some sort of investigator come to Scotland to solve it. That really didn’t work out for me, especially since he was casually munching on his lox and bagel, so I settled on a form of resurrection, but I needed a way of making it somewhat casual.
So it became a repeated event, a person bearing both a blessing and a curse. Down through the ages, he’d need a friend or companion to find the mystical Lazarus Stone (which I adapted from the DC comics concept of the Lazarus Pit), which would manifest somewhere on Earth once “Barry” (only his most recent name) unpredictably died. Fortunately for this immortal, he’s found a way to amass a large fortune so he can attract an honest and reliable partner and enabling that partner from literally sparing no expense in finding the stone.
I set the scene to occur tomorrow morning, since a Jewish-run deli would never be open on a Saturday (Shabbos). Also, the forecast for Loch Lomond for tomorrow is for morning showers.
Lastly, there really is a Mark’s Deli in Glasgow (only 33 miles from Loch Lomond) and it’s supposed to be really good.