Jimmy's Old Friend

A short story
© 2013

This story is copyrighted by Sam Lelliott, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.

Jimmy Walters was the sort of boy who would say hello and give a cheerful smile to all of those he met in life. Local folk all knew him and gave him a cheerful wave or smile back to him. From birth he was fit and well. Then sadly when he was nine years old he started to feel unwell. Many visits to hospital and even more blood tests he was diagnosed with leukaemia. His parents stayed as calm as they could so as not to frighten Jimmy but underneath they were terrified. More and more consultations the final verdict was given. Little hope was given for his recovery but they would start a course of chemo therapy. For that they wanted Jimmy in hospital so that the therapy could be monitored properly.

So it was that Jimmy went into St Mary's hospital for children to start his long course of treatment. Day by day the chemo was given in controlled doses. Very little happened for some weeks, Jimmy lost all his hair and continued to look frail, around his eyes he got darker and he got a lot thinner, until he was almost skin on bone. He was sick a lot of the time. His parents began to despair and tears at home were a common event. After the first treatment the aggressive illness had not abated and any hope for Jimmy was lost. One day an old man came into the ward with books to give out free to any child that wanted one. Jimmy was too sick to read a book as much as he loved to read. The old man continued his rounds and came back to Jimmy.

"Hello young man." He held out his hand and said. What's your name?"

Jimmy weakly took the man's hand and said. "My name is Jimmy, I am nine years old."

"Well, hello Jimmy." He said still holding the boys slight hand in his. "My name is Sebastian but that is such a mouthful so people call me Seb for short. So Jimmy, what is wrong with you that you don't want to read."

"I feel so tired all the time Seb and I can't hold a book so easily now."

I understand Jimmy. How would you like me to read to you and if you fall asleep I will see and we can continue the story later?"

"Yes please Seb, thank you."

And so the association between Seb and Jimmy started. Every day Seb would come and read a story or part story to the young boy always holding his hand. When Jimmy fell asleep, Seb would leave and come back later and start reading again.

Jimmy ceased to weaken and it was around three weeks later that he managed to sit up for the first time in ages. He started to really look forward to his old friends visits. He could stay awake longer and managed to hear more of a long story before he fell asleep. His consultant noticed the small change in Jimmy and so did the nurses but more so his parents. They started to have hope that Jimmy might just survive. Never before being churchgoers they went to church and prayed. Two weeks later Jimmy finished a meal, pudding and all.

Seb continued to visit but was never around when doctors, nurses or Jimmy's parents were around. Another two weeks and Jimmy was sitting in a chair alongside his bed. That meant there wasn't a seat for Seb so Jimmy asked for a chair next to his for visitors. The fact that he had asked so confidently spurred the nurse to place one alongside him. Seb came less now but Jimmy still looked forward to his visits and his holding hands and reading to him. One day Seb said to Jimmy. "Fancy a walk down to the veranda at the end of the ward you can manage it if I help you?"

Jimmy was very nervous as he hadn't walked for a long time and his muscles were weak. Together they set off. To Jimmy's surprise he made it all the way with one stop Seb holding his arm as support. When they got to the veranda they found two chairs and sat for a rest. The sun was shining through the glass and felt nice and warm.

"I have a book with me Jimmy, would you like to try and read it?"

Jimmy felt so much better so he said he would like to.

Seb passed him a book entitled The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A famous American book about young boys' adventures in the south of the USA.

Jimmy started to read out loud, not to himself but to Seb who listened intently to the boy never interrupting. Jimmy read for 20minutes and then his head slumped and he nodded off to sleep. He awoke to Seb gone and a nurse nudging him to have his lunch.

How did you get down here Jimmy?"

Fearing Seb would get into trouble he told her he had seen the sun and decided to try and walk down to the veranda.

The nurse told him he had done well and she would bring his lunch to save him walking back too soon. When she had delivered his lunch she told the sister, who told the consultant, who phoned Jimmy's parents and told them the good news.

They rushed to the hospital to find it was completely true and found Jimmy sitting on the veranda.

His mum asked him how he felt and he told her honestly that he still felt bad but enjoyed his lunch and pudding without being sick. Both parents stayed awhile and then before leaving gave him a gentle hug.

Later Seb returned and Jimmy continued reading from Tom Sawyer. He lasted a bit longer this time, nearly 40 minutes before he dropped off to sleep again. This time when he woke Seb was still there ready to help him back to the chair by his bed. Seb again held Jimmy's arm as they walked, Jimmy did a little better this time but he was still very tired by the time he got back. Seb stayed a while longer and then left. Jimmy picked up the book and read some more until supper time. The nurse made him go to bed then and he slept right through until the nurse woke him in the morning for breakfast. Today was a busy morning in the ward with bedding change and doctors rounds and the cleaning men coming in so it was lunchtime before Seb turned up. Jimmy greeted him and asked if he wanted him to read to him some more but today Seb asked him just to hold his hand. Jimmy finished his lunch and did exactly that. They just sat quietly together and Jimmy felt warm and loved. He went to bed that night and awoke early the next day. He felt really well again. No pain but he was still weak. As the day progressed he waited for Seb but he never came. Jimmy was very disappointed that his old friend hadn't come to see him. The next day he felt even stronger. Days passed and within a month Jimmy was back to himself. Everyone thought it a miracle. In five weeks he was considered well enough to go home. Jimmy hadn't seen Seb for so long but he wanted to say goodbye to his old friend. Before he left he said to his mum. "Mum I must say goodbye to Seb before I go."

"Who is Seb, darling? she asked.

"He used to sit with me and read to me when I was very sick mum."

"Alright darling I will ask the nurse to get him for you before we go."

His mum went to the ward sister who had been with St Mary's quite some years and told her that Jimmy wanted to say goodbye to old Seb the man who had befriended him. The sister smiled a lovely smile and said.

"That explains it. Seb used to deliver books to all the wards at one time but sadly he had contracted cancer and he died very quickly. That was almost ten years ago now. However, Every so often a child makes a miraculous recovery when it was thought there was no hope. They have all said that an old man called Sebastian who wanted to be called Seb who sat with them and read to them, and then he disappeared. Seb was loved by all the children and he loved all of them. Seb never missed, rain or shine. Don't ask me how he has helped those victims as I have no idea, I only know it has happened and I reckon that Jimmy was one.

Two weeks later a postcard arrived for Jimmy. It showed where Seb was buried and he insisted of going to see the grave for himself. In the church yard they found the grave. It was beautifully kept and there were bunches of flowers all over. All were form children or grown up children. Virtually everyone had a card or note thanking Seb with lots of love. His parents didn't hear it but Jimmy did. Just a whisper, 'always believe Jimmy.' Then it was gone.

The end....or is it?

With thanks to Charles Bird who inspired me to write this story. "All things are possible."

Let me know your thoughts.

Sam Lelliott