Major Chadwick

By Mary Bok | Dec 23, 2010
Photo by: Lynda Clancy

This writing is to introduce you to Major Chadwick, once upon a time a neighbor of my daughter, Shannon, on Sea Street, here in Camden.  Major retired from the U.S. Armed Forces and moved into a little second floor apartment right across the street from where Shannon and her husband lived.  He was a friendly, loquacious, elderly man who entertained anyone he met with stories and lessons he had learned in his travels, and he was not averse to pulling anyone's leg, if the opportunity arose.

Shannon grew very fond of the old man, and every once in a while, if she was cooking a big pot of soup, she would take a quart over to Major's place for his supper. This is what she was doing when the following monologue took place, close enough for her to hear every word. She had just climbed the stairs to his apartment and was standing in the open door way when she heard his telephone ringing and then saw Major hurrying across his kitchen to reach for the receiver. He glanced at the caller ID window, and grumbled aloud mostly to himself but loud enough for her to hear,  "Goddamned telemarketers.... I can't stand 'em...." but he lifted the receiver to his ear and waited a moment before he said, "Major Chadwick here, who might be calling me on such a fine day?" and then he listened for a breathless moment.

Then Shannon heard him sigh and croon, "Amy? Ohhhh, my dear!! Amy? Is that really you? I am so happy to hear your voice again I could just about croak! How've you been, my dear? What's going on? I want to hear all your news. I am so happy you are calling me!! This is great! By the way, how is your darling mother? I haven't laid my aging eyes on her since you graduated from eighth grade into high school all those many years ago. Do you remember that visit? No? Well, bless my soul. I should go look her up one of these days. Perhaps she has forgotten me now, and such a visit would fizzle. Oh my dear, what to do? What to do? Well, anyway, how are you, my dear? You must be all grown up by now and moving ahead in your adult life? Thinking about getting married, are you? Raising a family? What does take up your time these days?  Do you have a beau? Do you have a job? Do you have a dream that thrills your heart and raises your pulse? Tell me, tell me, tell me all about it! Give me a break here. Entertain a tired old man's fancy with your story. Let me imagine your sweet face while I listen to the ripple of your voice.... Tell me, what are you doing today, for instance, right now?”

And here there was a rather long silence broken by a sudden gasp. "You are ...what?  You are helping who raise money, for what, did you say? The Paralyzed Veterans of Foreign Wars? Who the hell are they?  Oh, sure, I see. Yes, well, that is surely very noble of you to lend these people your kind attention and time. I am sure they are all most grateful, if you know what I mean. Good for you!  Good for you!  What? What did you say now? You want me to.... what?  Why?

"Send me some literature on the subject, and I'll give it some serious thought, can you do that for me, Sweetie? I live on kind of a tight budget these days, and don't have much loose change left over at the end of any particular week. You know what I'm saying here? But I don't want to disappoint an old friend such as yourself, or discourage your natural born enthusiasm for helping those who are down on their luck. You get my drift here?  So send me the goods, baby, and I'll see what I can do for you. Be sure to tell me your address,  or else I won't know where to send my reply. Oh yes, and one of those postage paid envelopes; that would be nice.

“OK, darling. You take care of yourself now, and call me again sometime, just to let me know how you are doing. I'd love to keep in touch.  Oh, and please give my best regards to your sweet mother.  Tell her I think of her often and hope she is surviving this rat race, heh-heh-heh, you know what I mean, don't you?

“Now, you take care of yourself, look both ways before crossing the street, don't cavort with strangers, beware of mad dogs and don't ever step on a banana peel. Just kick it out of your way, you hear me?  Oh, and don't go falling in love with any one of those broken down soldier boys you are working for. Young girls your age get all moony and mushy in the head over those guys, just because they seem to be so damned near helpless. You sweet young things get loopy in the head from feeling needed by someone. You know what I'm saying here?  You think you're being loved, when, in fact, you are only being used. All your good will backfires and you get all covered in soot! You know what I mean?  Well, you take care now. It's been real nice talking to you, Darling.

"Bye-bye now .Over and out.”

And with that he replaced the telephone receiver in its cradle and turned to greet his young neighbor with the jar of soup in her hands. She looked at him, somewhat astonished, and asked, " My God, Major, who was that?"

"Oh, just one of those telephone fundraisers. They call me all the time, wanting me to donate to this cause or that one. I got tired of just turning them down, so I started giving them a  little of my gift for the old gab. You know what I mean? Entertaining."

And I guess that was his lesson for the day.


Mary Bok lives in Camden.

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