The Mahogany Door
The Mahogany Door
I WALKED OUT ONTO A BEACH where I hadn't set foot in forty-seven years. As I felt the smooth roundness of the small, chilly grains of sand shuffle gently beneath my feet, I felt a rush of excitement shoot through my body.
The waves, just as I had remembered them, broke gently across the ebbing autumn shore. The wind, filled with the unsullied aroma of salt, blew briskly as twenty young children waited eagerly around a large crackling fire. The amber flames that shot from the center burned as bright as the early afternoon sun. My daughter's oldest son of thirty-three years, nearly the same age that I had been when I last stepped foot here, had built this fire. His uncanny ability to persuade people, especially me, had brought my old bones back to this almost forgotten beach to tell a story. As I saw my grandson through the corner of my eye helping the children get acquainted in his usual good-humored way, I caught a fleeting glimpse in the mirror of a past life.
I came closer to the burning embers. I could feel the children's small eyes widen in anticipation of the words I was about to say - words that had not seen the light of a clear, nippy afternoon outside of my private walls in decades.
I sat on an old wooden crate box that sank a bit in the sand when I plopped onto it, and the children gasped as though I might fall over. I smiled faintly as I heard the popping of the fire, and its warmth surrounded me like a soft, down blanket. I shut my eyes and took a deep breath feeling a slight tickle in the back of my throat as though I might have second thoughts about uttering these words, however; despite enduring a few panicked nervous moments and one hard swallow, I regained my wits. After almost five decades, I told my story to these wide-eyed children no more than twelve years old.
"I have never been a professional storyteller," I began, not knowing what to expect from the group of kids before me, "but with the way that times were then and are these days, and despite my ability, I feel as though I must at least tell this one." I looked at my grandson who gazed back at me with a wide smile. I had nothing to lose in this ever-taking, never-giving world. I wanted to tell this story not only for the children who came here to learn something, but also for me. I did not want my grandson or this wonderful brood, with their whole lives ahead of them, to wallow in the concerns of things they could not control. I wanted them to remember that hope always exists so that as I enter the twilight of my life, should I forget my wonderful tale, others would know it.
"There was a war going on many years ago like in so many parts of the world today," I continued. "It is true that one war at the time had many of the same characteristics you might see on TV or in the movies - there were the good guys, the bad guys, heroes and villains, good and evil, and destruction.
But there was also another war going on, and that conflict was much different."
"How different was it?" a small voice came from the circle of children.
I already felt nervous as it was and I didn't anticipate any interruptions from my young guests. I had never told a story in public before, much less answered questions - even to myself, especially about a story like this. I quickly wondered if it was worth it. Of course to my old soul, it was.
"I'm glad you asked that question, young lady, and I don't mean to be rude, but if you leave your questions until the end, I promise I will answer them all when I'm finished." She smiled and settled herself in the sand eager to hear more.
"You see, my friend Michael was dealing with that very situation. He was dealing with an inner struggle: a battle between his will and his desti