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For All We Know

by Patric Quinn

“Anne, you’re such a surprise. But I knew you as soon as you walked in the door.” Dan Pettigrew turned from the restaurant bar and walked through the maze of dime-sized cocktail tables. The woman he was speaking to was tall and attractive in a character-defined way and responded to his greeting without a smile.

“Hello, Dan. How are you?” Anne didn’t offer her hand when he reached out to her. His enthusiasm sank a little. With a slight smile and just as slight a shrug, he slowed to a lower key. “It’s been such a long time.”

“Yes, ages. Years. I was thinking that as I was driving by. A different time.” Her calmness revealed no emotion as her eyes flicked over his face and noted his graying hair. Anne wore her hair natural, too. He was only a little taller than she and, for his age, looked athletic with a fading summer tan. “I have a summer place near here but don’t roam the shore much. And, when I saw this old nightclub still standing, I wondered if it was still the same old place.”

“The one we knew? It is and it isn’t. Things change, Anne. Local rock bands play at night now. Night is rock all over.”

“I know that.”

“But in the afternoon, they’ve brought back Henry James and his old upright piano.”

“Is that who I hear in the next room?”


“Does he play the songs we knew? The songs we danced to?” Anne looked as if she was sorry she spoke.

Dan seemed to notice and just nodded. “He mixes in a little soft do-wop and easy rock, some older ballads. But mostly plays contemporary stuff. Not the 40s and 50s songs, he played those just for us.”

“Like always.”

“And the room’s the same, that same soft light, even in the daytime. Like now.” Anne had a knack for making anything she wore stylish. Even just standing listening. Tall, slender and attractive. Even with her neatly cut, graying hair she was captivating. He grinned. “I guess we’re the only things that have changed.”

“Henry James must be as old as we are.” She tilted her head toward the music. “But his piano sounds like him. I always was amazed at how he could make that old upright sound like a small band for dancing. He made it sound so... big... full.”

“And we were on our feet. Like we are now. Come to the bar with me and I’ll buy you a drink. Then we can go in and say hello to Henry James. You do have a little time, don’t you?”

“You sound like you know each other.”

“We do, a little. I come here pretty often. And he remembers. He plays more current stuff though.”

“I don’t come here, Dan, as you probably know. I’m not down here anymore except in summer. And I like the fall here. It’s quiet. Stopping was just an impulse. I don’t try to figure out my impulses anymore.”

“Well, let me order our drinks and we’ll go in. The room is the same. All these years, the strange dim lighting in the afternoon, polished dark wood tables and dance floor, the candles. And now Henry James is back.”

* * *

Anne stopped when they walked into the room. “You’re right, Dan, that misty light. And the same piano sound. It’s like stepping into a memory.”

“A good memory. Let me put these drinks down, and you can come over and say hello to Henry James.”

“Look at that curly white hair. Shows a lot of time gone by. He won’t know me anymore.”

“Let’s say hello anyway.”

“What are you smiling at?”

“I’ll re-introduce you. Come on. We’ll rebuild a memory, maybe.”

They walked across to the old upright and leaned on the top like they used to, watching Henry James doodling up and down the keyboard and coming up with a melody.

“Hi, Henry James. How’s today? You sound good.”

“I always sound the same. That’s my sound. I see you’re not alone today.” Henry James kept playing slow and easy.

“I want you to meet an old friend. We used to come here together a lot.”

“I know, I know. You liked the old songs. Then they were the old songs. The 40s. The 50s.” He chuckled. “Now they’re the old ‘old songs’.”

“He remembers the songs, Dan?”

“Yes, I remember the songs, and I remember you, too. So slim and beautiful, the two of you dancing. When you two were on the floor, you danced to my music. But you didn’t know I was alive. Just the two of you in the whole world. Anne and Dan.”

Dan looked at Anne. “Will you play some for us today, Henry James?”

“I’ll play.”

“Let’s sit down and have our drinks, Anne, and listen.”

“Drinks are still good. This Old Fashioned.” Anne hesitated and then frowned. “Dan, I stopped in here on a whim. You understand? I don’t want to start up some old thing. This is one of those strange little accidents.”

“We lived the memory, Anne. It happened to us.”

“Dan, you’re still a great-looking guy...”

“And you’re still lithe and spectacular and have those green eyes.”

“And look how gray your hair has gotten. And how gray mine has gotten. We’re living in a different age now.”

“And are you still sentimental and smart?”

“And are you still impulsive and jumping into vacuums?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“For one, getting elected president of Student Government when we were in college was typical.”

“That’s because the student activity fees weren’t being distributed fairly.”

“True. But why you?”

“Because it was unfair and a problem.”

“So, why you?”

“Everybody was looking at it but no one was doing anything.”


“So, yeah, I stepped in and gave it a try.”

“And that was typical of you. ‘Yeah’ and stepping in when no one did anything.”

“And you didn’t like that.”

“I was proud of you, but you were tough to keep up with.”

“You loved me, Anne.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about. How many times, since I knew you, have you stepped in or stepped up or plain grasped situations and shaken them up?”

Dan looked down at his glass and shook his head. “Well, when I think over the zig-zag trails of my life since I knew you, I’d have to say—”

“Say honestly, Dan.”

“A lot, I guess.”

“Yes, a lot, a very lot.”

“But you loved me, Anne.”

“Yes, Daniel, I loved you... then. I loved being with you, dancing with you, feeling your cheek against mine. While Henry James played our songs. Our bodies together touching, living. Loving.”


“And then you went to war. I tried to understand, and the first two years I did it well. I loved you and worked on and waited for you. Jungles, helicopters, Da Nang, Saigon. But then you said you had to stay. I wanted you, but you had to stay. That was too much for me.”

“All those young guys coming over, they didn’t know, they didn’t know anything, and—”

“You couldn’t leave them facing the same things you did.”

“Yes, without knowing something that just might save their life?”

“And it had to be you, stepping into the vacuum.”

“Well, it was me.”

“And that broke the handle on my favorite teacup.”

“When I came back it was all over. Us. You were here, but gone out of my life.”

“I lived a different life from then on. Dan was behind me, but it took a while. But I made it work.”

“I did, too, after I gave up trying to get to you. Did you do all right all this time?”

“New technology and the country club life. Tennis, golf, paddle and parties and bridge. Down here for the summer fun.” She said it quietly and watched him. “How about you?”

They loved tennis and were reasonably good. He recalled a match he lost to her, her long legs and controlled mastery of her game... and the backhand she whipped across the net that finished him off. Anne liked to win but did it gracefully. They pecked and shook hands and the lovely Anne smile came on. “Dan, Dan, you play with touches of genius.” There was grace in everything she did.

“About me? Seems like I’ve had a couple of careers, mostly one though.” He leaned back in his captain’s chair with a wistful smile. “Did well until they got boring. Then just packed them in and packed the money up, and now I float around. Do a good deed once in a while.”

“The good deeds sound like you. No vacuums?”

“Not lately. Anne. And this conversation is getting to be just chit-chat. Look, I’m alone and free, but not lonely alone, and I’d... well... anyway... Do you want to dance?”

“No thanks. Drink your drink.”

“Do you hear the song Henry James is playing?”

“Yes, and I remember it, and I remember all about us, Dan. I remember how I loved the feel of your hand taking mine, that contact, that blending. Of us. But right now, Dan, please let my hand go.” She slid her hand lightly out of his. “Those are memories. Of a nice life. But still memories, Dan. Gone.”

“You’re still so beautiful, Anne. The sound of your voice. The way you look, the way you walk and move, the way you used to smile. The way you dress that beauty. Sixty isn’t old anymore, you know. We still have lots of room to live in. To love...”

“You have a vacuum in your life, Dan?”


“It’s time for me to go, Dan.”

“I’ll walk you out.”

“No, stay.” Anne stood and slipped her hands into her pockets.

“Are you saying goodbye?”

“Yes. Meeting you has been an interesting... accident, but it is goodbye.”

“To us, Anne, to all these memories?”

“I have a broken teacup in mine, Dan. My favorite teacup. When you didn’t come back, you broke the handle off it. In fact, you put a lot of cracks in it. Did you ever repair a fine China teacup, Dan? No matter how well you cement it together, you always wonder. If I fill it again with hot tea, will the cement hold, will the repair be solid? Or will the cracks give way and the cup fall to pieces in my hand... and spill the fresh tea? For a long time I kept that cup on a mantel and looked at it, gazed at its time. Then, one day, I noticed how dusty it was and put it away.”

Dan stood and stretched his hand out. “Anne—”

“I’ll find my way out okay. Goodbye, Dan.”

He watched her walk away.

* * *

Dan picked up his drink, walked to the only window at the end of the room and watched the leaves falling and twirling in the breeze, all their color left in Indian summer. The marina below was mostly empty, the few working boats still afloat moving slightly in their slips, the brown leaves skidding along the walks and floating onto the dark water.

He ambled back to the piano and leaned on the top, watching Henry James’ fingers caress the keys.

“The lady left, Dan?”

“She’s gone, Henry James.”

“Don’t spill your drink on the piano.”

“I won’t. Your wonderful old instrument.”

“Do you like the music I’m playing?”

“I like it fine.”

“Want me to play anything special?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“And that would be?”

“Something that makes me cry, Henry James, Maybe something that’ll fix a broken teacup.”

“Teacup?” The pianist stopped, looked up at him and waited.

“Sorry. Not a teacup, Henry James, a broken heart.”

“I’ll play, Mr. Dan. I’ll play.”

Copyright © 2019 by Patric Quinn

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