His Song, 2024 Fourth Place

By Les Tanner

“He’s out of surgery and is doing very well,” said the man in scrubs.  “He’s a tough old bird.”

“Oh, thank you so much,” sobbed Lucille in momentary relief.  The hours that had passed since she’d learned of Dan’s accident seemed like years.

“I can’t say how long it will be before he is fully recovered,” the doctor continued, but she wasn’t listening.  She couldn’t think of anything but the words “doing very well.”

“He’ll be just fine, Mom,” said Linda.  “I’ve been a nurse here since Dr. Crowe first arrived.  He is by far the best surgeon in all of northern Idaho and eastern Washington.  Besides that, Dad’s too ornery to let something like this get in his way.  He’s still on track to beat Uncle Carl’s 87 years”

As Linda led her mother to a nearby chair, Lucille said, “I’ll be fine, Lin dear. Kenny will be here soon, and he can drive me home.”

As she sat waiting for her grandson, Lucille began to play things over in her mind again.  Was it really this morning that she and Dan had been having a leisurely breakfast when the phone rang?  It seemed so long ago now.  She’d picked up the phone from the kitchen counter, said “Reed’s residence” as she always did, and listened for a few seconds.

“It’s for you,” she had said, handing Dan the phone.  “It sounds like the guys need you again.”

“The guys” were the men at Orofino;s largest and oldest automobile repair shop.  Dan had worked there for most of his working life.  He’d finally retired five years ago at age seventy.  Or he had “officially” retired, that is.  But his expertise and knowledge, especially regarding cars built in the years when nearly all vehicles used here were manufactured in the U.S., made him one-of-a-kind resource in this day and age.

Dan had been in no hurry at all.  Maybe there had been a time when he needed to be somewhere in a hurry.  Not today, however.  The ‘63 Oldsmobile that had just been brought into the shop could wait, even if its owner felt differently.  “Right now!  I’ve got a show to go to!”  the caller had mimicked.

Not Dan’s problem.  He knew the Olds owner and it would do him good to wait for a change.   In any case, Dan would much rather be sitting here having breakfast with Lucille. That had been their habit for most of their 50-plus years of marriage.  Same kitchen, same table, too, for the last 42 of those 50 years.

“Well,” he said finally, “I guess I’d better get down there.  Don’t want the guy to have a coronary.”

He hoisted himself out of his chair—he was going to have to get back to his exercising soon—and headed to the closet where he kept his work coveralls, as well as his coat and hat.

Lucille went to help him on with his coat.

“Be back in a couple of hours, Luce, in time to make it over to Linda and John’s place before they take off.”

“Love you, Danny,” she said, giving him a quick kiss.

As he kissed her, he said “Me, too, Luce.”

She watched him stroll over to the garage, open the door, and back the old Chevy out onto the driveway.  He loved that car, and Lucille did, too.  It was a restored clone of the first car they’d had when they were first married.  Lucille waved as he headed down the street, and he waved back from the driver’s side window.


Lucille and Dan had met when they’d both been freshmen at L-C State (it was L-C Normal School back then).  He was from Orofino and she was from Cottonwood, so Lewiston was the natural place for them to start college.  They were steadies through their two years there, but Dan had plans for an engineering degree and she wished to become a nurse.  As a result, Dan spent the next two years at the U in Moscow and Lucille at Boise State.  They’d kept in touch all the time they were in college and when they both ended up with jobs in Dan’s home town, it wasn’t soon at all before they’d become Mr. and Mrs. Dan Reed.

A family eventually followed (Linda, Charlotte, and Dan Jr) with the normal collection of grandchildren and a couple of greatgrands,

Her thoughts were interrupted by the clearing of a throat.  She looked up to see Dr. Crowe.

“How are you doing, Mrs. Reed?”

“As well as I can, I guess” she replied.  “But please call me Lucille.  How is Dan?”

”Your husband—Dan—will recover completely, but it will take a while.  Besides the broken ribs and other internal injuries, he suffered a concussion.”

“Is it serious?”

“It can be without proper treatment, but he’ll get that here.  That type of injury is very common in this area: miners, loggers, careless drivers.  In fact, we have a special unit set aside for just those injuries.”

“Will it take time to heal?”

“It will, but I can’t say how long.  As much as four weeks in some cases.  Medicare and your insurance should cover all of the expenses.”

“Thank you, Dr. Crowe.  Linda says you’re the best.”

“You are quite welcome, Lucille.  And Linda is truly one of a kind.”

Lucille visited Dan as often as she could.  He was healing well, and all signs were positive, but it wasn’t until the third week that she was able to see any improvement.  Even then, it wasn’t much.

Dan had been asleep when she first went in to sit beside him.  She was holding his hand as usual when he slowly opened his eyes.  He turned to look at her.

  “It’s me dear. Lucille,” she said.  It appeared that he wanted to say something, but then he fell asleep again.

What was he going to say?  “What day is it?” “I love you, Luce.” “Is the Chevy okay?”  She knew that one was as likely as any of them.  But that was Dan.  No matter what, it was better than nothing.

By the end of the fourth week, Lucille and the family were growing quite concerned.  They were comforted somewhat by the calm displayed by Dr. Crowe.  “This isn’t common, but not too unusual, either,” he said to Lucille.  “Wait and see.  One day when you visit, you’ll see no change—and the next day, Dan will be back.”

Nothing happened the next Monday.  Or Tuesday.  Or…

It was 11:33 on Wednesday morning, according to the clock on the bedside table.  Lucille had been there since 10:00, and was getting a little sleepy.  That caused her to remember how Dan’s singing his favorite song always got to her.  And to him as well.

“Oh Danny Boy, “ she began singing softly, “The pipes, the pipes  are calling. From…”

And suddenly the room was filled with a booming baritone voice that was heard clear down in the waiting room:…”..GLEN TO GLEN AND DOWN THE MOUNTAIN SIDE.  THE SUMMER’S GONE AND ALL THE ROSES FALLING.  IT’S YOU, IT’S YOU MUST GO AND I MUST BIDE…”

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