Home > The Notebook (The Notebook #1)(5)

The Notebook (The Notebook #1)(5)
Nicholas Sparks

But in the end they couldn’t. By early September the tobacco had been harvested and she had no choice but to return with her family to Winston-Salem. “Only the summer is over, Allie, not us,” he’d said the morning she left. “We’ll never be over.” But they were. For a reason he didn’t understand, the letters he wrote went unanswered.

He decided to leave New Bern to help get her off his mind, and also because the Depression made earning a living in New Bern almost impossible. He went first to Norfolk and worked at a shipyard for six months before he was laid off, then moved to New Jersey because he’d heard the economy wasn’t so bad there.

He found a job in a scrap yard, separating scrap metal from everything else. The owner, a Jewish man named Morris Goldman, was intent on collecting as much scrap metal as he could, convinced that a war was going to start in Europe and that America would be dragged in again. Noah didn’t care. He was just happy to have a job.

He worked hard. Not only did it help him keep his mind off Allie during the day, but it was something he felt he had to do. His daddy had always said: “Give a day’s work for a day’s pay. Anything less is stealing.” That attitude pleased his boss. “It’s a shame you aren’t Jewish,” Goldman would say, “you’re such a fine boy in so many other ways.” It was the best compliment Goldman could give.

He continued to think about Allie at night. He wrote to her once a month but never received a reply. Eventually he wrote one final letter and forced himself to accept the fact that the summer they’d spent with one another was the only thing they’d ever share.

Still, though, she stayed with him. Three years after the last letter, he went to Winston-Salem in the hope of finding her. He went to her house, discovered that she had moved and, after talking to some neighbours, finally called her father’s firm. The girl who answered was new and didn’t recognize the name, but she poked around the personnel files for him. She found out that Allie’s father had left the company and that no forwarding address was listed. That was the first and last time he ever looked for her.

For the next eight years he worked for Goldman. As the years dragged on, the company grew and he was promoted. By 1940 he had mastered the business and was running the entire operation, brokering the deals and managing a staff of thirty. The yard had become the largest scrap-metal dealer on the east coast.

During that time he dated a few different women. He became serious with one, a waitress from the local diner with deep blue eyes and silky black hair. Although they dated for two years and had many good times together, he never came to feel the same way about her as he did about Allie. She was a few years older than he was, and it was she who taught him the ways to please a woman, the places to touch and kiss, the things to whisper.

Towards the end of their relationship she’d told him once, “I wish I could give you what you’re looking for, but I don’t know what it is. There’s a part of you that you keep closed off from everyone, including me. It’s as if your’ mind is on someone else. It’s like you keep waiting for her to pop out of thin air to take you away from all this…” A month later she visited him at work and told him she’d met someone else. He understood. They parted as friends, and the following year he received a postcard from her saying she was married. He hadn’t heard from her since.

In December 1941, when he was twenty-six, the war began, just as Goldman had predicted. Noah walked into his office the following month and informed Goldman of his intent to enlist, then returned to New Bern to say goodbye to his father. Five weeks later he found himself in training camp. While there, he received a letter from Goldman thanking him for his work, together with a copy of a certificate entitling him to a small percentage of the scrap yard if it was ever sold. “I couldn’t have done it without you,” the letter said. “You’re the finest young man who ever worked for me, even if you aren’t Jewish.”

He spent his next three years with Patton’s Third Army, tramping through deserts in North Africa and forests in Europe with thirty pounds on his back, his infantry unit never far from action.

He watched his friends die around him; watched as some of them were buried thousands of miles from home.

He remembered the war ending in Europe, then a few months later in Japan. Just before he was discharged he received a letter from a lawyer in New Jersey representing Morris Goldman. Upon meeting the lawyer he found out that Goldman had died a year earlier and his estate had been liquidated. The business had been sold, and Noah was given a cheque for almost seventy thousand dollars.

The following week he returned to New Bern and bought the house. He remembered bringing his father around later, pointing out the changes he intended to make. His father seemed weak as he walked, coughing and wheezing. Noah was concerned, but his father told him not to worry, assuring him that he had the flu.

Less than one month later his father died of pneumonia and was buried next to his wife in the local cemetery. Noah tried to stop by regularly to leave some flowers; occasionally he left a note. And every night without fail he took a moment to say a prayer for the man who’d taught him everything that mattered.

AFTER REELING in the line, he put the gear away and went back to the house. His neighbour, Martha Shaw, was there to thank him, bringing three loaves of homemade bread in appreciation for what he’d done. Her husband had been killed in the war, leaving her with three children and a shack to raise them in. Winter was coming, and he’d spent a few days at her place last week repairing her roof, replacing broken windows and sealing the others, and fixing her wood stove. He hoped it would be enough to get them through.

Once she’d left, he got into his battered Dodge truck and went to see Gus. He always stopped there when he was going to the store, because Gus’s family didn’t have a car. One of the daughters hopped up and rode with him, and they did their shopping at Capers General Store.

When he got home he didn’t unpack the groceries right away. Instead he showered, found a Budweiser and a book by Dylan Thomas, and went to sit on the porch.

SHE STILL had trouble believing it, even as she held the proof in her hands. It had been in the newspaper at her parents’ house three Sundays ago. She had gone to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee, and when she’d returned to the table her father had smiled and pointed at a small picture. “Remember this?”

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