The Civil War Statue Who Cried

The Civil War Statue Who Cried

A Story by Chelle
"

This is a short story I wrote inspired by the controversy surrounding the Civil War statue at my university's campus that serves as a memorial for soldiers who were students that died in the war.

"

 

Old Man Jimmy was the university’s groundskeeper for over a decade, and his work was one of the most praised in the nation - though often, it was uncredited.  Throughout his years of work, the university received widespread recognition for its beautiful campus.  This encouraged many visitors from prospective students to curious travelers to tour the grounds and admire the aesthetic foliage that decorated the campus on every corner.  The dean never hesitated to showcase Old Man Jimmy’s work at every opportunity, and rewarded the groundskeeper well for every year the university was recognized for having one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. 


            No one would ever expect that one of the best salaries in the university (and possibly the state) belonged to the position of the head groundskeeper.  Those who knew were Old Man Jimmy, the dean, and the rest of the groundskeeping crew who kept quiet about the opportunity as they eagerly awaited Old Man Jimmy’s retirement in hopes of being promoted to his position.  These gardening veterans knew that when the time came, it would be none other than Old Man Jimmy who would choose which crew member would be promoted to take his place.  And so forth, the crew members toiled away each year to perfect their craft in order to appease Old Man Jimmy’s expectations. 


            To everyone’s surprise, it seemed Old Man Jimmy never wanted to retire.  One would think that at seventy-six years old, the head groundskeeper would be more than happy to spend his remaining years living in the comfort of wealth and relaxation.  However, Old Man Jimmy was no ordinary man.  Ever since he was young, he always prided himself in his gardening skills and always had a green thumb.  He relished dedicating his time to sow the seeds, nurture the buds, and watch his plants grow and bloom.  Transforming the university’s campus into a haven of trees, shrubbery, and flowers from around the world was his life’s work.  He was passionate about how he designed and arranged the flora of the gardens - and he knew very few shared his enthusiasm.


            Another predicament the grounds crew faced was the sparks of controversy that was amidst the university and its Southern history - specifically its affiliation with the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Throughout the last few years, the university made changes to provide a more accommodating environment for diversity and inclusion: changing the school mascot, altering the names of academic buildings, and even initiating ideas to change the state flag that flew over the campus.  Old Man Jimmy never minded the changes as he felt his ancestors, who endured slavery in plantations centuries ago, would find comfort in the progression.  However, he felt differently when it came to the most recent proposal to tear down an old Confederate soldier memorial statue that stood at the center of campus. 


            Everyone associated with Old Man Jimmy was puzzled as can be.  The grounds crew could hardly understand why their leader would ever want to keep it around, let alone intact.  But no argument would sway Old Man Jimmy, whether it regarded the statue’s racist history, dark representation of Southern heritage, or placeholder for white supremacy - he would merely shake his head at his bewildered comrades.  While many students, staff, and town residents called for the statues’ removal or destruction, Old Man Jimmy disagreed - leaving everyone flabbergasted at how a black man his age could ever support the statue.  After all, they reasoned, surely he must have experienced the full force of discrimination during the Civil Rights era; surely, his ancestors must have endured enslavement at the hands of the Confederacy. 


            Regardless of Old Man Jimmy’s skin color or family history, he had his reasons for wanting to preserve the monument - though no one would ever be able to guess or figure it out. 


            It all started years ago during the university’s off-season where all the students were home for the holidays and the staff also took their leave to prepare for the upcoming curriculum.  While everyone was away, Old Man Jimmy used this time to spruce up the main portions of campus that were normally populated.  Without anyone in his way, the head groundskeeper could finally perform his work and maintain the garden in peace.  However, there was another challenge to overcome: working around the squirrels who scurried about rapidly, dropping acorns on his head and digging holes in the ground where the caretaker would be trying to plant new flowers.  Old Man Jimmy sighed at the predicament and scratched his head while thinking of how he could temporarily scare them off.


            He was contemplating about possibly bringing his musket to thwart off the squirrels, when he heard a shot blast into the air from behind him!  Old Man Jimmy spun around, alarmed at the sound, to find the squirrels scattering about in a panic.  Another shot rang into the air - and Old Man Jimmy could not believe his eyes as he witnessed the source: The Confederate statue, which normally stood at attention, was now aiming his musket into the trees above him.  Acorns rained from the high branches and bounced off of the stone man’s head.  In response, the statue growled and pulled the trigger which pelted stone pebbles into the leaves and created the chaos that ensued amongst the squirrels who screeched as they bolted as far away from the statue as possible. 


            To Old Man Jimmy, the event was both shocking to witness but also a relief since his earlier predicament with the squirrels were finally resolved.  He wiped the sweat from his brow and gazed at the statue, who still stood at the ready with his musket aimed at the trees in case other squirrels decided to disturb him.


            “Nice shot.” Old Man Jimmy commented.


            The stone soldier rested his musket back at his side and nodded at the gardener, “Thank you.”


            Old Man Jimmy smiled and slowly approached the monument, “I should be thanking you.  Those critters had been giving me trouble all morning, and now I can finally work in peace!”


            The statue dusted off leaves and bits of acorn as he responded, “Well those damn pests agitate me all-year round.  It’s only this time of year when everyone’s gone that I can finally do something about it.”


            “No kidding,” Old Man Jimmy chuckled, “What’s your name, son?”


            The statue stood at attention and saluted the groundskeeper, “Private Charles Theodore Davis, sir.  Though most just call me Charlie.”


            “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Charlie.” The caretaker replied with a grin, “I’m James Emmett Goodman.  Though Jimmy will do just fine.”


            And with that began the most extraordinary friendship that would go unnoticed by everyone except Old Man Jimmy, the university groundskeeper, and Charlie, the university’s Civil War statue.



            “So, what’s your story, Charlie?” Old Man Jimmy inquired as he sat on a bench having lunch.  The campus was still fairly empty save for a few students having summer classes, and Old Man Jimmy was careful to make sure they were occupied with lectures before engaging with his new friend.


            “I was a student here many years ago.” Charlie responded with a forlorn expression, “I was here to study engineering because I always enjoyed tinkering with things.  Most of my time was spent indoors from either studying or fixing something.  I didn’t keep up with politics much because it never interested me - all I wanted was to become an inventor and create machines.”


            “Sounds like you were pretty brilliant.” Jimmy added.


            The statue chuckled, “Can’t say I didn’t try.  My tinkering was a success most of the time, but I nearly started a fire in my dormitory once by accident.  Had my roommate not been there to put it out, the whole building would have gone up in flames!”


            “No kidding!” The gardener exclaimed as he shook his head with a grin.


            “Yeah, it didn’t go well with the director of the dormitory either.  He threatened to have me expelled that very day.  I was desperate to continue being a student here because I knew if I continued to learn, I could improve my craft and become a great inventor!  I begged for him to let me stay and promised it would never happen again.  He took his time to stare me down while pondering what to do with me - all while I was a blubbering mess apologizing over and over.  Finally, he told me he’d let me stay but first I had to repay him by fixing a machine in his home.  Apparently, he’d heard of me from other students about how I was really good at fixing broken machinery - from bicycles to sewing machines - and needed help with a cotton gin.  I’d never seen one in person but I’d been studying plenty of diagrams about it and knew how it worked, so I accepted the offer without hesitation.”


            “You’d never seen a cotton gin?  So, you’d never seen a plantation either before then?” Jimmy asked with a puzzled look.


            “No, sir, I didn’t.” Charlie replied, “I lived downtown because my parents owned two businesses.  My father was a toymaker and owned the local toy shop where he’d sell all of his works.  I learned the basics of inventing from helping him, but I wanted to go further by building machines.  My mother was a dressmaker and owned a boutique that was connected to my father’s store.  Every time her sewing machine broke, I was always there to fix it for her.”


            “Sounds like you were always busy, huh?”


            “Always.  And I was blessed my family could afford sending me to the university to study engineering.  I didn’t want to let them down so when I took the director’s offer to fix the cotton gin, I didn’t think twice.  It was only a machine after all.”


            “History would tell you differently.” Old Man Jimmy replied, his eyes glistening over his brown skin as he reminisced the stories of his ancestors who endured the suffering of enslavement. 


            “I would only realize that much too late.” The stone soldier said with a sorrowful glance towards the gardener before continuing, “I arrived at the director’s plantation the next day, with my tool box in hand.  He gave me a tour of his home and of the grounds, which were gorgeous as the bulbs of cotton blossomed in the sunlight.  He also introduced me to his servants, who were all very friendly and cheerful it seemed.  Most of them weren’t working that day because with the cotton gin down, there wasn’t much to do.  A good number of them were in their quarters and I could hear them singing gospel songs - I remember thinking how hopeful their songs sounded and it was very pleasant to hear.  But before I could continue listening, the director guided me to a shed where the cotton gin was located and told me to get to work.”


            “The servants were cheerful, you say?” Old Man Jimmy questioned.


            “At least, that’s what I saw when he introduced me to them.  They smiled, welcomed me, and carried on like they were having another joyful day at the plantation.  That’s what I saw at least until I was alone with her.


            “Her?”


            Charlie nodded slowly before elaborating, “I got to work on the cotton gin like the director ordered me to.  It was a little harder than I thought because the problem appeared to be more than just a simple machine malfunction - it looked like it was sabotaged as two parts had been switched to the wrong places.  Once I figured it out, it was an easy fix - though the parts I tinkered with were smeared with what looked like blood.  Before I could look further into it, I suddenly noticed a woman staring at me from the other side of the machine.  It was one of the director’s servants and she had this angry look on her face that terrified me!  She spoke some sort of language I didn’t understand and I remember feeling this rush of cold air chilling me to the bone.  By the time she stopped, I felt like I was frozen in place because I couldn’t move - I couldn’t even breathe.  Then, she finally explained to me in English what was happening:


            You’re a wretched man and you’ve fallen into my trap.  By restoring life to the machine that continues to bind our people in chains, you have awakened a curse.  Just like we have suffered under the tyranny of our owner whose heart is cold as stone, so shall your soul. 


            She stormed out of the shed and as soon as I was able to move, I ran.  I ran as fast and as far away as I could from that plantation.  I didn’t even bother testing the machine or bidding farewell to the director - I was just frightened out of my wits.  By the time I made it back to campus, I was covered with sweat and my muscles ached terribly.  Only then did I realize the possibility of the job not being done properly and I may have foiled my chances of saving myself from expulsion.  But at the same time, I was fearful of what would happen to me if the machine did work.”


            Old Man Jimmy stared at the statue in disbelief, knowing that based on what he was seeing, the curse was fulfilled.  “And then you became this, right?”


            The statue shook his head, “Not right away, no.  In fact, as days passed by without anything happening, I figured that maybe the curse was just hogwash.  I had nearly forgotten about it until the very end during the war.”


            “How did you wind up as a Private in the Confederate Army?” Old Man Jimmy inquired.


            “Not by choice.” Charlie answered sadly, “Like I said before, I was never one for politics because my passions involved machinery.  I never touched a cotton gin again, but neither would I handle any other machine except for cannons or guns.  We received news that our university would be under attack during the war, so just about all of us students were enlisted.  We were told how other towns had been destroyed by the Union and burned to the ground, and that the same would happen to our campus and our homes if we didn’t fight.  I was afraid: for myself, for the university, and most of all for my family downtown who could be killed if we didn’t keep the enemy soldiers away.”


            “So, you were fighting to protect yourself from the Union.” Old Man Jimmy concluded.


            “We all were, honestly.  I knew other classmates who had families who had to flee their homes.  I know now that the main focus on the war was slavery - but that’s not what everyone fought for.  Most of us who enlisted didn’t even own a plantation, let alone slaves.  Those that did, like the director, didn’t even enlist - that b*****d must have fled after hearing news that the Union soldiers were coming.  But we knew it wasn’t just the plantations they were after, and if we didn’t defend ourselves, everything would be destroyed.”


            “War brings out the worst in both sides.” Old Man Jimmy added, “Those in power call the shots, while those who lack power are the ones who actually fight.  It’s cruel especially for those like you who were directly involved in the fight but not in the politics that started it.”


            “I never imagined myself as a soldier but found myself as one nonetheless.” Charlie responded, “I was mainly involved with maintaining weapons and ensuring everything we had worked properly.  Even so, it wasn’t enough.  When we received news that our soldiers had been defeated, and that the Union was coming straight for downtown, there was a panic.  A large group of my classmates felt that the best strategy was to join General Robert E. Lee, believing his direction would better their odds of survival.  But those like myself who had family downtown stayed behind hoping to prevent the town and the university from being destroyed.”


            “From what I hear, this campus stayed in one piece for the most part.” Old Man Jimmy recalled.


            “Not the town.” Charlie replied sorrowfully, “We couldn’t keep the soldiers away.  I was outside my family’s shops which was also our home when the Union came storming in.  It was beyond chaos.  They tore through every building that stood and ransacked every store in sight.  I had my gun raised at the ready while I shouted at the soldiers to stay away from my family’s shop.  The last thing I remember was hearing my mother’s screams after my heart was pierced by a bullet.  By then, half of downtown was in flames.  I fell to the ground and felt cold as death drifted over me, and it was in that moment when I saw her again standing at a distance with a wicked smile.  As my vision grew dark, I knew my fate was sealed by her curse as my body became hardened and cold.  Then, just as sudden as I experienced death, I awoke as this form: a stone statue.  I’ve been here ever since, for decades watching the world go by and progress while I can only observe.”


            Old Man Jimmy was saddened by the statue’s experience, and pitied the soul that inhabited the stone structure.  “You’ve suffered greatly.  Such is the pain of war, son.  Everyone suffers one way or another.  But in your case, it goes beyond.  Though, I have to ask how is it that you can speak and move?  Surely that must be a good sign.”


            Charlie shrugged, “Over the years, I’ve slowly gained some control of my current form.  Of course, I would never move in front of students or others who were around because I know it would frighten them and they’d have me destroyed - and I’m afraid I’d be stuck as a pile of dust afterward.”


            “Well I certainly won’t let anything like that happen, that much I swear.” Old Man Jimmy said.


            “Thank you, sir.” Charlie responded, “I’m sorry for startling you when we first met.  I know you work very hard to maintain the grounds and I was unnerved to see those rodents pestering you the way they did.”


            “No need for the formalities, Charlie.” Said the groundskeeper, “I’m grateful for your help.  It certainly made things better for me.  I just wish there was something I could do to make things better for you.”


            The statue shook his head, “There’s no need, Jimmy.  You’ve already made things better for me by listening to me.  It’s been ages since I’ve spoken with someone, and you’ve been nothing but kind to me.”


            Old Man Jimmy smiled, “Well I’m glad there’s something I can do.  And don’t you worry, I’ll be around to keep you company more often.  I’m here all the time.”


            The old man extended his right hand towards the stone statue, who also reached out.  They shook hands in agreement of their newfound friendship and a blossoming sense of hope.



            Throughout the years, Old Man Jimmy regularly paid a visit to Charlie.  While it was difficult for him to interact with the statue during the semesters, the groundskeeper would still make time to visit during early morning hours when the school was mostly empty.  The dean never minded the gardener coming to work early as he knew it only got more done before the campus would be flooded with people.


            It was only during holidays when Old Man Jimmy could actually engage in quality time with the statue.  When Charlie was able to freely sit and stand on his platform, the gardener would bring a small picnic table and a folding chair with him during his visits so the two could play board or card games together. 


Old Man Jimmy prided himself with his skills at chess, and was always eager to show the statue different strategies to have the upper hand.


“Come on, Charlie, I know you’re brilliant enough to know that move won’t fool me!” the gardener scolded playfully, as he played his turn.


“Oh, I’m aware.  After all, you’ve shown me time and time again that it’s better to think three moves ahead.” The statue responded as he played his next move.


“And it looks like you still have a lot to learn, son, because you just left yourself vulnerable.  Check.” Old Man Jimmy responded with a smug expression.


“Well sir, I’m afraid you taught me a little too well.  Check mate.” Charlie played his finishing move that left the old man dumbfounded.


The squirrels would scurry and occasionally observe their games momentarily, but they dared not cause any mischief with acorns knowing Charlie had his stone musket at the ready.  The only negative consequence of this was that the squirrels grew frustrated from resisting their urges to engage in an acorn battle with the two friends, and often took that frustration out on the returning students who would be pelted relentlessly. 



Old Man Jimmy kept to his promise regarding the statue.  Despite the controversy, he refused to have the memorial torn down or destroyed.  But as the debate got more heated, so did the pressure on the university to do away with the memorial.  As the gardener grew weaker with age, he knew his retirement was inevitable and worried about the statue’s fate should he step down as head groundskeeper.


“Are you sure there’s no way for you to leave this pedestal?” The gardener asked the statue during an early morning visit.


Charlie shook his head, “It’s like a force holds my body here one way or another.  I can’t jump.  If I lift one foot, the other is firmly solidified to the platform.  Even if I sit and attempt to slide off, it feels like I’m stuck.”


“Well we’ve got to figure something out soon, son.  I’m doing everything I can to protect you but with the university trying to do away with its Confederate history, it’s only a matter of time.” Old Man Jimmy replied.


“I’m aware, sir.  And I can’t say I blame them.”


“Charlie, I know you never supported slavery and you fought to protect yourself and the town from being destroyed.  You’re nothing like what they accuse you of representing!  You’re a memorial for students who died during the Civil War.”


“But sadly, that’s not what’s remembered.” The statue responded, “Despite the good intentions for me standing here, it’s faded away.  I used to provide a source of healing for grieving families who lost their loved ones to the war.  At one point, even my father looked upon me and wept.  He was so old and fragile that I barely recognized him.  If I remember correctly, my longing to comfort him gave me the strength to speak for the first time - just enough to tell him it’s alright.  He must have thought he was imagining things, but he managed to feel better before leaving.”


Old Man Jimmy looked at the statue in surprise, “That was the first time you saw your father after you had died.  Goodness, Charlie, I can’t even imagine how that felt.  You died while protecting him, and you still managed to help him afterward.  Maybe that’s the key to breaking the curse!”


“What do you mean?” Charlie asked.


“Well let’s think about it.  You wanted to help your father by providing comfort, right?  Then you were able to speak.  When was the first time you moved?”


“Let’s see…I think it was during a tailgating event for a home football game.  During those, this area gets crowded with people and tents.  I remember during that day, I saw a little girl wandering near me looking like she was struggling to breathe.  The place was so loud with chants, music, and the marching band that no one noticed her.  She looked like she was in danger.  I wanted to draw attention to the girl so badly, I was able to move by aiming my musket upwards and shooting into the air.  The shot was so loud that the noise got quiet and everyone around looked in my direction, but then they immediately noticed the girl.  She was able to get help and the paramedics were called just in time to save her.  It turns out she was having an allergic reaction after getting stung by a wasp.  I remember hearing the medics say had she been left alone any longer, she could have died.”


“You saved her life.  That’s incredible, Charlie!” Old Man Jimmy exclaimed proudly. “It sounds like there is a way to break the curse slowly but surely.  If you’ve provided help before, there’s no doubt you can do it again.”


The statue shook his head once again, “I’m afraid not.  As I said, there used to be a time where I was able to help heal people’s grief.  But now, I don’t provide that same relief anymore.  Racists have used me repeatedly as a message to further their own agenda, despite not having any connection to the students who fought in the war.  Because of this, my presence has not been good ever since.  Now, students look upon me with either scorn, worry, fear, or mischief.  Most of the time, those who see me want to either destroy me or use me for the wrong purpose.  Occasionally, I see students who are just curious about the history and mean no harm - but they’re far outnumbered by those driven by dark intentions and negative emotions.”


“Then maybe the solution is to help them see you for what you really are - the way I see you for who you are.” Old Man Jimmy suggested.


“It’s unlikely to happen at this point.  Once people have made up their minds about who you are, it’s hard to make it change.  Besides, I feel I’ve long outlived my original purpose.  Those who grieved have long moved on over generations to where I’m not needed to help them cope. And I don’t want to stay here if it means I’m a representation of hate. That’s never something I harbored in life and I’m not about to let that happen now.”


“I understand, son.  But I can’t let you be destroyed - not before we figure out how to set you free first.  If you’re broken while your soul is still stuck, it may be impossible to free you.” The gardener pleaded with the stone statue, “There must be a way to at least buy some time for you to be free of this platform.  Afterward, we can try to figure out a way to reverse this curse you got on you.”


“Well if it isn’t that crazy old groundskeeper who supports the Confederacy!” A voice rang out nearby.  Charlie froze immediately in place on his platform before five students emerged on to the paved walkway of the garden.


“What’s your deal, old man?” One of them jeered at the gardener, “We’ve been petitioning for months to have this monument of hate removed from our campus.  But every time we tried to push our bill forward to the Dean, we would be denied.”


“Over half of the student body signed the petition!” Another student snarled while holding up a tablet bearing the webpage showing the thousands of signatures as evidence, “We even had support from faculty and administrators!”


One of the students pulled out a smartphone and activated the camera function to record video footage with the lens focused closely on Old Man Jimmy, “What do you have to say for yourself?”


Old Man Jimmy shook his head and stood his ground, “Please back up.  Ya’ll are getting a bit too close and I’ve got work to do.  If ya’ll want a discussion, it’ll have to be civil.  Confronting me like this won’t do any good.”


The group continued to swarm the groundskeeper while bombarding him with criticism, “You’ve thwarted all our efforts to allow our university to progress towards a hate-free environment!”


“I did no such thing!” Jimmy exclaimed, not moving an inch despite the students clustering around him, “I never stopped the mascot change, the renaming of buildings, or anything else you kids have done in the name of progress.  But this is getting ridiculous!”


“The Confederacy supported slavery and fought for it!  They wanted to uphold white supremacy!  They don’t deserve a memorial!”


“You don’t get to make decisions for us, old man!  You’re not even part of the student body!”


“You’re a disgrace to your people!  What would your ancestors think?”


The students relentlessly surrounded Old Man Jimmy, their outrage and cries drowning out any defense he had to say.  The gardener’s vision started to blur as he felt the air thicken.  His heart started pounding violently as he struggled to breathe.


But still, the students had no sympathy as they continued to mock him while keeping the camera device locked onto his face, which was starting to bead with sweat.  He started to back away but the group persisted in their swarm.  When he felt the cold stone of the statue’s platform against the back of his shoulders, he knew there was no escape as they continued to close in.


“Please…stop.” Old Man Jimmy pleaded to no avail.  The students’ anger was too great for them to hear him over their yelling, nor did they have any desire to listen.  As they continued to corner and ridicule him, his panic heightened.


Suddenly, a shot rang out into the air and startled everyone into jumping back save for the groundskeeper, who was frozen yet relieved.  The blast frightened one student into dropping the phone he was using to film the event, cracking the screen and damaging the camera - he cursed as he picked up his ruined device. The students turned their heads to each other and the gardener, afraid one of them had been shot.


Before they had time to figure it out, a stone figure launched himself into the air and landed firmly on his feet between the students and Old Man Jimmy.  The ground nearly shook as he hit the pavement, and the students gazed at him with both awe and terror. 


“Leave him alone.” The statue commanded, holding his weapon at the ready but not aimed at the group.  They continued to gawk for a moment before jumping in fright as the statue stomped another foot on the ground and shot another blast into the air, sending the squirrels above into a panic and causing acorns to rain down.


“I SAID GO!” Charlie bellowed, at which the students fled in a hurry, too frightened from what they had just witnessed.


Once he knew they were gone, Charlie turned towards the old man and approached him in a hurry.  Old Man Jimmy was catching his breath, but his heart rate had slowed to a healthier pace as his panic attack dissipated.


“Sir!  Sir, are you alright?” Charlie asked.


“Charlie…how many times do I got to tell you…to lose the formalities.” The gardener replied with a sly grin as he continued to catch his breath.


Charlie let out a sigh of relief before putting one of the groundskeeper’s arms around his shoulder to support him, “Well you don’t look too good.  Maybe you should get some rest.  Let me help.”


The old man nodded, “Thanks, Charlie.  You’ve done me a lot of help and I’m blessed you were there when you were.  I admit, I used to be more tough back in my day but my age has caught up to me.”


“No, Jimmy, I should be thanking you.  You risked a lot to protect me, and I couldn’t stand still and watch you be in danger because of me.  I’m not out of the woods yet, but at least I’m free from this platform.” Charlie replied.


Old Man Jimmy patted Charlie’s shoulder weakly, “Well at least that’s a start.  Now, let’s get out of here before those kids come back.  I’ll show you the way, and you keep me from falling over like the silly old man I am.”


“Sounds good to me.” Charlie responded before helping the old man make their way off campus for good.



Old Man Jimmy eagerly welcomed the statue into his home.  His house was quaint and humble, despite his riches - but his private garden was absolutely extravagant.  The home was rather remote and located on a large plot of land Old Man Jimmy used specifically to build the garden he always wanted.  Whatever he couldn’t grow in the natural Southern climate, he grew in a large greenhouse that accommodated exotic flowers, plants, and trees from around the world.


Charlie was amazed at the old man’s work and was grateful for the hospitality.  Old Man Jimmy only asked one favor of the statue: help with maintaining the garden, which Charlie gladly accepted. 


“There’s a lot I’ll have to show you but that can wait until later.  I’ve actually got something I want to show you.” Old Man Jimmy said before opening the door to a newly constructed work shed.


Inside were various tools of many shapes and sizes along with plentiful amounts of material and parts of machinery that were fit for any tinkerer’s dream.


“Don’t you worry, I made sure the place is fireproof.” The old man winked before making his way to the other end of the space and turning on a light to reveal the contents more clearly.


There stood on fine tables a single antique sewing machine on one, and various handmade wooden toys on the other.  Charlie couldn’t believe his eyes but as he slowly approached the relics and recognized them immediately.


“It’s…” Charlie stammered as he struggled to find words, “m-my family’s…b-but how?”


“It wasn’t easy but I did some digging shortly after you told me your story.  Turns out not everything was destroyed when the Union raided downtown.  Your father found a way to continue his work elsewhere and dedicated a lot of the toys he made in your name.  Your mother’s sewing machine was stolen and made its way through pawnshops and antique stores all over the country.  I knew a guy who knew a guy who was good with antiques and tracking them down, and after one trip over to Georgia, I managed to get it for a fair price.”


Charlie brushed a stone hand gently over the sewing machine, remembering all the times he fixed it for his mother.  His eyes glanced over his father’s work - including wooden airplanes, model trains, and even figurines of himself and his family.  He carefully gathered a small figurines in his stone hands and studied their details: a woman presenting a new dress she made, a man painting a small toy figurine, and a young man with a wrench and a toolbox in his hands.  All of them looked happy and proud of their work, just like Charlie remembered before he attended the university.


Being able to hold the remnants of his past that held some of his happiest memories brought tears to well in the statue’s eyes.  They streamed down his face as he wept in both sorrow and joy, coming to terms with losing and finding his family for the first time in decades.


Old Man Jimmy struggled to hold back his own tears as he laid a hand on the statue’s shoulder to comfort him.


“It’s alright, Charlie.  You’re home now.”

 

© 2019 Chelle


Author's Note

Chelle
I hope you enjoyed reading this story. Feel free to leave some feedback and constructive criticism! I was unsure about the ending but decided to go with something more heartfelt and open for a potential sequel.

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Added on February 7, 2019
Last Updated on February 7, 2019
Tags: civil war, history, confederate, union, confederacy, short story, story, historical fiction, fantasy, statue, drama, historical drama, university, south, southern culture, race, compassion, empathy

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Chelle
Chelle

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You could say I'm an amateur writer and artist. I enjoy writing as a hobby and occasionally I like to share my work. I hope you enjoy them. Some of my work is serious, while others can be a bit mor.. more..

Writing
The Words The Words

A Poem by Chelle


Dear Dear

A Poem by Chelle


Lucid Lucid

A Story by Chelle