Gary had put quite a bit of thought into his last meal. He considered steak and lobster or some fancy four course feast. In the end, he requested blueberry waffles.
A tiny old woman came in with a covered tray. She was dressed in a ragged gray cloak, with a hood that shadowed her face. She placed the tray on the table in front of him.
“I told them I didn’t want a priest,” he said. He wasn’t sorry for his crimes. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. He just wanted to eat his waffles and be done.
The woman made a low, crackling sound that he thought might be a laugh. “I’m no priest.”
“What are you doing here, then?”
“I’m here to make you an offer.”
Gary took the lid off of his tray and the smell of blueberry waffles filled the tiny room. “I’m not interested.”
“As things stand, when you are gone, you will leave nothing good behind.”
He shrugged. “That’s not really my problem.”
“I understand that you are tired,” she said. “I understand that you want your suffering to end. But no one wants to fade from history without a ripple.”
Gary took a bite of his waffle. “I’m sure I’ll be on a list somewhere. Maybe be a cautionary tale.”
“That is not a legacy.”
“And what legacy do you suggest in the hour I have left?”
“There is good in you, as there is in all people. I could take it from you and share it with the world.”
They’d also given him orange juice and milk and coffee. He poured himself a glass of each. “If I just ignore you, will you go away?”
She reached out and touched his wrist. Her fingers were long and bone-thin, but warm against his skin. He looked up at her. Her eyes were deep summer green in her shadowed face, and her body looked like a thorn bush forced into rough human form.
She drew her fingers away, and pulled a clear crystal prism out of his flesh.
Its facets reflected pieces of an almost-forgotten memory. A fishing trip with his grandfather. The smell of the water, the feel of worms wriggling between his fingers. The silver flash of scales in the cloudy water. His grandfather’s calloused hand, showing him how to hold the pole.
Gary dropped his fork. “What are you?”
“There are a thousand tiny happy memories lost in the darkness of your soul. If you are willing, I will take them from you so that they do not end here.”
“They’re my memories. How could they exist without me?”
The woman shrugged. “I have made my offer. Now, if you want to refuse, I will go. If you accept, I will get to work.”
“What will you do with them?”
She shrugged again. “Do you have any requests? Anyone you’d like to benefit?”
“I have a sister, Lisa. I think she has a son.”
“Give me your hand.”
Gary wondered if he was dreaming. It was the only thing that made sense.
He held out his hand.
She drew the memories out, one by one. His first kiss, under the slide at the local park. Watching a falling star on a hike in the desert. His father teaching him how to swim. His mother making blueberry waffles on Sunday morning. The time he skipped a rock and it bounced ten times.
“There are more than I expected,” Gary said, his voice sounding distant and thin in his ears.
The woman smiled at him, and pulled memory after memory after memory.
Finally she released his hand. She reached down and picked up his forgotten fork. “I will take good care of these. You enjoy your waffles.”
And then she was gone.
The waffles were still hot, and steam rose from his coffee.
Gary ate slowly, savoring each bite.
Lisa walked her son to the bus stop, where they stood beneath a lamppost and waited, hand in hand. She heard a sound like crystals chiming in the faint breeze, and a tiny rainbow danced across the pavement.
It was beautiful, in a tiny, everyday way, and reminded her of a morning she’d spent with her mother and her brother, when she was very young and things had been good. She squeezed her son’s hand. “How do you feel about waffles for dinner tonight?”