2007-11-03: Seasons In The Sun


Elena_icon.gif Frank_icon.gif Fenton_icon.gif

Guest Starring: Mr. Pibbs the Cat

Summary: Contemplating her own acceptance of the end should it come to that, Elena's find of a hardware store surrounded by festive Jack O'Lanterns makes her cross paths with a man who has lived a full life and tells her something she needed to hear: "You're young. You can walk it off if you wanted to. Even if you can't do that, you'll get over it."

Date It Happened: November 3rd, 2007

Seasons In The Sun

Now that the spring is in the air
Pretty girls are everywhere
When you see them I'll be there
We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun
But the hills that we climbed
Were just seasons out of time

— Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks

Frank's Hardware Store, Somewhere in the Bronx

It's not like those fancy-schmancy landmarks down in Times Square with all those billboards, LED lights, and Jumbotrons. It's certainly not Sesame Street either - it's the Bronx, and it's as good as it gets around here. History mixes a lot when one considers the changing cityscapes of New York, but this…has there even been any updates here?

Frank didn't think so. Everything looks the same to him after a while.

The broom stops mid-sweep on the porch of his shop, rustling against the pile of crumbling fallen leaves. He scrutinizes it for a moment, looking at the bare tree near the sidewalk that pleads its innocence. Seriously. It was the tree down the street that's still shedding. With a grunt, he gives the broom a quick flick, sending the leaves off onto the small flight stairs. The jack-o-laterns set there get new 'hats' while the ones in the higher rows look out at the street, some of them still grinning or scowling at those who decide to walk pass.

…Yes, he knows Halloween's over, but he's giving them another week or so before he takes them all down to set up for Christmas.

She had been wandering around aimlessly for a while.

There was a lot on her mind. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. It was hard to think of oneself possibly dying at 19 years of age. While she won't admit it to anyone, especially those terrified of losing her, Elena was strangely at peace with the fact. She had faith in Cass, in her father and Dr. Suresh. She believed that a cure was close in hand. But in case she doesn't make it, she accepts the possibility as best a God-believing Catholic female would do. It just meant that God wanted her back where she belonged in the end, and who was she to deny her maker?

The sun was already sinking further into the horizon, the orange-red glow of the dying light sliding along the vibrant colors of the fall and making the most of the few trees lining the walks of the Bronx. Wrapped up snugly in a black peacoat, gloves, and a vibrant, multi-colored wool scarf, she would've kept going if it wasn't for a few things that caught her attention.


Rows and rows of pumpkins. Carved painstakingly in many expressions. Happy ones, sad ones, scary ones… rows and rows of them. Despite Halloween having been three days past, they were still up. Whoever did this took pride in his work. She couldn't help but stop, and stare at them for a while, admiring the work put into each one.

"…wow…" is all she says, her voice muffled. Her pale, illness-stricken face is shadowed by a cap on her head, shielding her head further from the growing chill.

Frank stopped sweeping to look over a shoulder. "Hm?" Someone is admiring his pumpkin handicraft? Well, he's gotten that before, but it's not like it happens all of the time. All of the people living on his street already saw it so they wouldn't keep gaping at it over and over again. No, it's someone new. Someone he hasn't seen before.

He turns, slowly, to face Elena, his mouth stuck in between his usual scowl and an attempted smirk. "You look like you never saw jack-o-lanterns before," he half-yells, mostly for his benefit. "Enjoy while you can! They'll be gone before you know it!" A dry laugh is cut short as he places a hand on an open spot of rail, squinting at her. "And it might be just me or the lighting, but you look like death," he says plainly.

She looks up, startled, dark eyes blinking at Frank as he calls out to her from the steps of his store. Elena couldn't help but smile a bit, and turns her head back to look at the rows and rows of pumpkins. "They're awesome," she tells the shopkeeper sincerely, though her voice is a little hoarse from coughing fits through the last few weeks. "It's just that I've never seen so many surrounding a store before. Did you do all of these yourself or was this a community effort?" At least she's speaking in whole sentences…. cough suppressant has been a life saver for her in the last couple of weeks. She huddles further into her coat. It was cold, despite the layers of clothing she has. But she would rather be out, to a fault, than be cooped up inside. Not when the afternoon was so pretty.

She looks back over at Frank. "Did a lot of kids come?" she asks. She couldn't help but be a little wistful. "I missed Halloween this year, so….was a little too ill to go out. I bet they loved all of these…. do you do this every year?" He seemed like a veteran pumpkin carver with all of the orange faces about.

"I had lots of time on my hands," he replies gruffly. Close enough to a thanks. "All by myself. Sometimes I wonder why I even choose to continue doing it. Heh. I can't break that chain now, can I?" Frank pauses. "The community does their own thing whenever they get to it! Those slackers." What was the use of planning everything right as the holiday was coming around the corner? He never understood their way of working.

Frank glances over the rows, inspecting them. "If the parents let their kids go wander around, then it's a good turnout. Groups of them, of course. Not that many, but it was more than last year." Story mode: on. "Three Halloweens ago - now that was a great time! I ran out of candy before midnight! I ran back inside before a riot could break out! Hah."

Loafers shuffled across the cement, the broom half-dragging behind him as he reached for the door. "Eh, sicknesses strike whenever they want. No rules for them," he says, rotating a shoulder. "You're young. You can walk it off if you wanted to. Even if you can't do that, you'll get over it." As he opens the door, the bells set at the top jingle lightly against each other. There is another pause, as if he was trying to pace himself for going such a small distance. The old man just looks back at Elena, nodding toward the shop. "…Get inside. You'll get worse if you stand out here for too long."

He had a lot of time, and he was all by himself. This is surprising to her, considering the art that went into carving the gourds. "You don't have a family?" Elena wonders, looking over at him and looking surprised. She says it before she could control the words coming out of her mouth but once they leave, she instantly regrets it. "Ah…I'm sorry. I don't mean to be nosy. It just came out. I just thought….with all of these pumpkins that you'd have children of your own. Or grandchildren." The guy looked pretty old after all. She follows her gaze back to his carved pumpkin patch, listening to what he says.

Though when he reminisces about three Halloweens ago she couldn't help but smile. "Different time, then? That sounds like fun," she says. "My little sister loves Halloween." Watching the pumpkins a little more… "They must look spectacular when they're all lighted up," she offers. She could picture it, but it's not the same as seeing them in such a state in person.

When he looks over at her, and essentially tells her to walk it off, she can't help but laugh. "Trying, sir," she tells him somewhat cheekily, her cough muffled behind her scarf. Half her face was hidden, really. When offered to step inside, she hesitates. She had originally intended to admire the pumpkins and move on to keep walking…but she finds herself wandering up the steps, following the old man. "….my name is Elena," she offers to the man. "Elena Gomez. And thank you." He could be closing up after all and he's essentially offering warmth to some poor kid he doesn't even know.

"I still have five bags of candy leftover," Frank muses. He waves a hand as he walks across the scuffed wooden floor. "Had a family," he corrects, going past the two sectioned aisles running up and down the length of the place to stand next to the counter. The pictures along the wall mixed with the newspaper clippings make it even more obvious. "Three of them. Kids grew up, went to college, jobs, marriage. The eldest has two kids, the second one recently had twins. Don't recall twins in my lineage…" Thinking about it made him wonder, but he has other things to do. "Well, the girl is still finishing graduate junk, so she has time before she decides to settle," he says, lifting the top panel to drag a chair out. "The wife is, well." He gestures. "You know."

After doing that, he goes further into the back, yelling as he takes off his jacket and rummages around the small kitchen. "Anyway, good to see some people still enjoy the holidays. You and your family included! Keep it up."

Warming up milk in a saucpan and adding cocoa powder to it doesn't take too long. Soon enough, the man comes back with two steaming mugs, offering one of them to Elena. "Frank Wright. Drink up, the heat won't last long."

"….well if they're all still alive that means you still have them, right?" Elena says, looking a little confused. "Though I suppose they're all too old to go trick or treating." She turns her eyes to the newspaper clippings along with the pictures adorning the walls. She couldn't help but smile just a little bit. "You're blessed," she tells Frank, walking over to the counter and folding her arms over it. She observes the scuffed floor, the smell of metal in the air and the rows and rows of consumer items. "Have you always been here? I mean…. New York? This store?" He seems pretty easy with answering questions, so she can't help but ask more. He encouraged her by answering, so he opened the door to more.

She doesn't shuck off her jacket, it was too cold, even in warmer confines. But it's certainly a relief, most of the chills forgotten and she starts roaming around a bit, absently looking at the goods he had in the store. It was a simple hardware store, New York was full of them. But this was the only hardware store that had scores and scores of Halloween pumpkins out in front. It instantly had more character than any other establishment of the same kind she's ever been to.

When she's offered a mug of hot chocolate, she looks really surprised. "….thank you," she says, a little stunned, but she takes the mug and gratefully blows the steam out of the top. She loved hot chocolate, and she wasn't about to refuse the man's hospitality when he took the trouble making her hot chocolate. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Wright. Busy day today?"

He settles down behind the counter, joints aching as he sat. "You can call it that," he murmurs into the mug, sipping it slowly. Eyes wander about the store's interior for a moment, checking every single thing to see if it is still in place. "Well. Grew up in a small town. Went to help the war effort when I found nothing else to do. Eventually, I came back of course. I bought this place from a man who was closing it down. That was maybe…what, twenty, thirty years ago! A long time."

Frank sighs, leaning back. "Today's been like every other day. Not one person." He does get customers, but it depends. They usually come in once.

"….I'm sorry business has been so slow. It's…it's the economy. It's been pretty bad," Elena offers. Now she has to buy something. So she looks around the hardware store. She could get Gene something, or Rook, some of the tech-type people she knows. Hell, she could get Manny a new set of tools, a fresh start for whenever Papa buys him a new car to replace the old one that the Alchemist blew up which seemed like forever ago. Her eyes are already wandering towards things she could buy, that she could repay the kindness the other man had given her. That can come later though. She takes a quiet sip of her hot chocolate. Warmth suffuses in her bones. It was so funny how one single, offhanded gesture from an old shopkeeper could do so much.

She does look up, something about what he said catching her attention. "War effort? Which one? Vietnam? Korea?" Frank looked old. But not that old. If he helped in the last 'great war', he'd be around his late eighties or early nineties. He didn't look older than seventy.

Mew. It's a faint sound that comes back from the doorway facing the street, a quiet announcement from the orange striped tabby that has slipped its way in. As with all cats, it can't simply just walk inside, even with the door wide open, but as though succumbing to the gravitational pull of objects larger than it, has to rub up against the doorframe and then wind its way between the shelves, brushing up along each before hopping up on the main counter. Once there, it lets out another mewl as if to make sure it's heard if the first hadn't been enough.

The mug clunks against the counter. "I figure that's how it goes. But don't worry about me. I'm still living," Frank says, making a face. "I got a whole thing of canned goods in the back still. Which reminds me, I should go buy some more bread." Finding a pen and a pad of yellow paper, he writes 'bread.'

Again, he leans back. "Old Nam," he says, sounding proud. "Not like the Second World War, but close enough! Those trenches weren't good enough for all of the explosions happening! I was a little late trying for the Korean one, anyway," he remembers, stroking his chin. His train of thought suddenly derails when he hears the mew, sitting back up. "Oh no, not you!" he gripes, eying the cat as it claims the other end of the counter. "You! You shouldn't be here!" Shoo, cat, shoo!

She wonders if the bomb shelter mindset had been left over from the McCarthy years where the greatest fear was being bombed by the reds in the 50s. Elena cradles the hot chocolate in her hands and taking a quiet sip, savoring the simple drink and watching the old man as he moves about behind the counter. "Which branch of the armed forces did you serve, if you don't mind me asking?" she asks. "Army? Navy? Air force? ….black ops?" Like he'll talk about the latter if he had been. But she does set her own mug on the counter, folding her arms on it and suppressing the urge to cough, biting down on the scarf that half-covered her face. "I've…actually never talked to a vet before about his war experiences. I used to volunteer at this homeless shelter for veterans in high school for community service stuff and…usually they didn't want to talk about it."

She would say more, but the 'mew' catches her attention. Oh hello, ninja kitty! Her eyes fall on the orange cat. "…does it come around here often?" she asks. "Here, kitty," she murmurs, stretching out her fingers to try and coax the cat to coming to her.

The cat completely ignores Frank's attempts to chase it off. This likely is nothing new. Head tilting at the new person here, the cat walks along the counter, always on the look out for potential scritchies.

"He come in here again..?" comes a voice from the doorway, a lanky figure ducking into the shop, momentarily distracted by the tangle of bells hanging there. He bats away the things from his hat before peering into the darker recesses of the old shop, waiting for his vision to adjust to the lighting. "…'ey Frank," the young man greets, lifting a hand in an unenthusiastic greeting before he slides it into his coat pockets again. Days like these he wishes his gloves had full fingers.

By then the cat has found its way to Elena, pausing just out of reach of her fingers so it can paw at them.

"Unfortunately," Frank grumps, not even bothering to get up out of his chair. Too much trouble. "Actually, he just started showing up recently. Three times last week, twice the week before that! Don't call it over, you're encouraging him to stay!" Like this will sway Elena from coaxing the kitty.

Gnawing on his lower lip, he retraced his thoughts. The cat is left there. For now. "Where was I…oh yeah. Basic Army unit, got to see everything happening on the ground. Too close for comfort." He looks back at the girl. "Figures. With vets, some are worse off than others. And that whole draft thing didn't make it better." Draft. Yes, he is talking about the right thing, isn't he? "Lots of terrible stuff. It's something….yes, he's here again, Fenton. You should stick him in a box!" Frank's good at interrupting himself, too. With Fenton's arrival, things take another turn. "You want some cocoa?"

"Someone could've lost him," Elena protests to Frank, and when the kitty starts sniffing at her fingers, she moves to pet it gently. "If he's been here three times already maybe his owner lives around here…" Well, she has nothing better to do. Maybe she could track down the owner. It doesn't look like she has to go far though, because the door opens and a young man who looks about her age steps inside. She blinks at the newcomer, who seems to know Mr. Wright. But she doesn't say anything yet. She waits for the two to converse. Meanwhile, she's content to pet the kitty.

The other kid has an accent. British?

She looks up when Frank continues on his story. "Yeah…I know the protests got pretty bad. I know there were a lot of people who protested the war. It must've been rough in homecoming." Veterans were disrespected, egged, or worse. But she didn't really want to bring up the rougher parts of the older man's life. She just wanted to converse, but he seems free to talk about his life. She glances over at the pictures on his wall. He seems the lonely sort, given how he chats.

Though whenever Fenton glances at her, she smiles. He can't really see it through her scarf, but she does lift a bit of a wave. As always she's friendly. But she does take a sip of her own cocoa. "It's good. Mr. Wright makes 'em pretty well," she offers to the new guy.

The cat has given up attacking Elena's fingers, surrendering to being petted. Yes. Mission objective completed.

"You should write a book, Frank," Fenton offers, catching the last bit of what's said. It isn't too hard to guess what the subject's been about, and he knows how much Frank tends to bring up the past. He steps over towards where Elena and his cat are, tossing a glance at the shopowner with a sharp quirk of his brow. "A box? That's cruel." He leans an elbow across the countertop, poking at the cat's tail with a finger after reluctantly prying his hand out of his pocket again.

"Hope Mr. Pibbs isn't being a bother," he says with a small grin returned Elena's way. His accent's not too obvious unless you were listening for it, but now and then he lets it slip out completely. Casting a glance back Frank's way, Fenton nods. "Sure, I'll take cup."

Frank snorts, getting up. Curse his knees. "That I will, if I can ever get around to writing it," he replies, shuffling back down to the kitchen. Here comes more yelling. "And yes - those protests and the ones now aren't really helpful, but can't go around it! Free speech and craziness! Sometimes, you gotta wonder if they ever stop to think!" More milk goes into the washed saucepan, the gas oven clicking and giving off its warmth. "Can't tell people what to do when they have their own minds, you know? It only works when you're suppose to work in a unit under a superior. Of course, everyone starts flipping out when someone decides to rock the boat!"

…What exactly is he talking about now?

A new mug is set on the side, the milk pouring into it without any messes. The saucepan went back into the sink, and more cocoa powder was used. After stirring, Frank walks back out with the cocoa, handing it over to Fenton. "Here," he says, sounding a little tired.

She keeps scritching Mr. Pibbs, a faint smile on Elena's face as she does. When Fenton gets to the counter near her, dark, gold-flecked eyes lift to look at him. Half her face is covered by the multi-colored scarf bunched up around her neck, and she seems….pretty bundled up. Even more so. It's not even that cold outside, though there's a distinct chill. Maybe she's just a real wussy when it comes to the weather? Her baseball cap is pulled low over her head to boot. "He's no bother, he's so cute," she assures Fenton, scritching the cat with thick-gloved fingers under the chin. "How old is he?" Mr. Pibbs? Yeah. Definitely British. Though when Fenton suggests that Frank write a book, she looks up and smiles. "Might not be a bad idea. People write memoirs all the time, and you seem to have lived through the more interesting times in recent history," she offers.

When Frank starts ranting, she can't help but eyeshift a little on the side. Fenton might catch the expression, but she hides this by burying her face into her mug, adjusting her scarf again so she could drink from it. She adjusts the scarf again when she puts it back on. "…I guess…they're two different worlds," she offers to Frank. "Different requirements. In a unit, a hierarchy is required to keep other members safe and facilitates how orders are passed. Out here….there are more options. Marketplace of ideas and all that. Different problems."

The weather had been pretty nice a week ago, and then look what happens. Fenton's just glad he listened to his aunt's suggestion to pack his thicker coat… which really isn't all that thick. Maybe he should ask them to send his snow jacket this way. It's something to think about, but they'd just sent him his guitar not too long ago and postage rates aren't a thing to laugh at now a days. "He's an attention hog," he smirks, shifting his attention to his cat, catching the lazily swishing tail in hand before releasing it again. "I think he's about…several months? Was a scrawny thing when I found him."

Grey-green eyes watch as Frank vanishes into the back, and he glances back at Elena in time to catch the passing look. Heh. "…it's only natural… everytime there's change, there's always some sort of reaction and it ranges depending on the people," he says, capping it off with a quiet thanks as Frank re-emerges with the mug of cocoa. He watches the man reseat himself, then picks up the mug in his hands to warm up his cold fingers.

To both of their opinions, Frank nods while settling back down in his chair. Unlike most people his age, he's kept his mind pretty open to everything as it explodes. He retakes his own mug, finishing up the last of its contents in one swig. He was never really one to drink, after all. "That, too. Nam was different. The U.S. is always changing. Sparks always flying, of course. Sort of boring if nothing's happening, in my opinion, but nothing wrong with a little peace and quiet. Now, if only there were more reasonable people like you two," he coughs, clearing his throat. "See, I can handle this. If it's someone else who decides to be noisy, then it gets harder. That's when I have to get out some more reason and maybe Resolve."

Resolve sat quietly underneath the counter, shiny and clean.

A hand folds over the mug's top, Frank now staring off at his memorabilia shelf. "…" Purple heart, photos, other little bits of useless junk. "Values," he then says, fingers flexing. "Times change too much."

"Definitely not the same as now," Elena says after a pause, watching Frank look at his Purple Heart and other items. His memories. The way he kept them so preserved in a glass case reminds her of someone else in her life who did the same for other things. Someone she won't be able to touch for a while if things go well today. She glances down at her hot chocolate, draining the rest of it. "Back then people had more of an idea as to what they should do for the greater good. The time of the guys who fought in World War II. They were called the 'Greatest Generation' for a reason. Didn't need to be drafted, most of them just actively enlisted, and when some of them were turned away because the armed forces just couldn't take them….some of them never recovered from the rejection. Some of them even took their own lives because they couldn't stand -not- to be a part of a global 'save the world' effort. Things now are so different. Not a lot of people think like that anymore."

She pushes away from the counter. "I'm not saying it's better. Just different."

She moves away from the counter, and vanishes around the aisles just for a moment until she returns with a new box of tools. A full set. She could afford it, she hasn't been spending much anyway and she's never really given her own brother anything for a while. She puts this on the counter for Frank to ring up. "I have a younger brother," she explains to Frank. "He likes cars."

To Fenton, she gives him a small smile. "I'm Elena, by the way."

Listening to someone talk about things they've seen due to experiencing first hand always beat out reading about it. That's probably one of the reasons Fenton comes by as often as he does since he really doesn't look the sort that really had any major hardware needs. He sips his hot chocolate, nodding as he listens to Frank, nodding at Elena's thoughts as she adds them in. He finds a furry head butting up against his arm and reaches over to rest a hand over Mr. Pibbs' head now that Elena's abandoned him for a tool set.

"Cars okay, but I don't think I'll invest in driving around here. Just watching people drive these streets is scary." He sets down his mug, half-emptied. "Pleasure. Name's Fenton."

A trying smile tries to stay on the man's face, but it mainly makes the corner of his mouth tick. Elena is a very bright young woman. He can tell she's up there on the education scale; knowing that much has to come from books and other live sources that are available. Sort of reminds him of his wife, but a little less on the activist side. Activist? Well.

When she returns with the tool set, Frank gives her a look. "These will work well, then," he replies, reaching over toward the ancient-looking cash register. A few buttons are pressed, and the thing noisily springs open as the price comes up. Fenton is also given a look, but this time, he laughs. Lowly. It's understandable.

Sooner or later, however, both of them and the cat are going to have to leave.

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