Monday, October 22, 2012

The Last Leaf

Today, as I observed the last leaf struggling to hold onto a twig
in my yard,

a story came to mind;
one I read in childhood
and never forgot...

a short story by O. Henry, called
The Last Leaf.

Two young girls, striving to create a life of art in New York City,
lived together in a cold, upstairs apartment.

It is late fall and Johnsy gets very sick with pneumonia.

She lay in bed looking out her window, everyday,
watching leaves on a vine, against the brick of a neighboring building,
falling and falling,

one at a time.

She soon becomes saddened
and discouraged, thinking

that when the last leaf falls,                

she will surely die.

Susan tries to encourage her, but Johnsy's cough worsens and
she refuses to eat.

Meanwhile an aging, frustrated artist named Behrman, who lives downstairs and has always
been protective of the young girls,

gets word of Johnsy's illness.

A decrepit old man, he has claimed for years he will someday

paint a masterpiece (though he had never even attempted a start).

One night a horrific storm with   howling winds and pounding
rain beats on the young girl's window.

Susan closes the curtain, and gently asks
Johnsy to get some sleep.

There were only four leaves left on the vine.

Morning comes, and Johnsy asks the curtains be pulled, fully expecting to see all the leaves

blown away, and fully expecting to breathe her last breath.

But there is still one leaf left.

One leaf refusing to be blown away.

In the days that follow, a doctor tells Susan that old Mr. Behrman had too developed pneumonia,
and nothing could be done for him.

A janitor found him helpless with pain,
and his shoes and clothes were wet and icy cold.

Found with him were a lit lantern, a ladder that had been moved, and
a palette of green and yellow paint.

"Look out the window at the last leaf on the wall," he tells Susan.

"Didn't you wonder why it never fluttered in the storm?"

"Behrman painted it on the wall during the night, after the last leaf fell."

Johnsy kept her gaze on the leaf, and soon thereafter began to eat.
Her cough died down, and a light of hope began to fill her eyes.

In time, Johnsy fully recovers, never knowing of her kind neighbor's first,

and final, masterpiece.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, gullible. So glad to see you have recovered from your mechanical mishaps! I'm looking forward to your posts from Antarctica.

  2. What a wonderful story of hope and renewal. I'll be thinking of it as I watch the leaves blow off the trees around me. Your pictures are lovely, too.

  3. Thank you, Susan. The natural world never fails to deliver such joy...

  4. This is so beautiful!! A wonderfully inspiring story of hope...Thank-you for sharing!!

  5. Thank you for stopping by, Marcie.

  6. thank you; having a roaring Halloween, Kim!

  7. This story is one that was included in a film from the 1950's that was a compilation of O'Henry stories. As a result of this film I became a big fan of O Henry when I was a child.

    A Faraway View

    1. Perfect! I found O. Henry's Full House on Netflix, which is a compilation of his stories; all in his signature short story format using a dramatic or comedic irony at the very end. Thank you, Lee.

  8. I haven't heard this story by O Henry and loved it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. This is the only O. Henry story I've ever read, but now I'm going to look at his other works.
      The Last Leaf had quite an impact when I was a kid; some things you never forget.

  9. THis was lovely. An O. Henry story I haven't read. ANd your blog is lovely. As a fellow writer, glad to have discovered you. You might want to join my FB writing workshop community, especially if you're at all interested in fiction writing...

  10. Thank you, Sandra. As a matter of fact, I am currently writing adult fiction after spending early writerly years on children's books. Time for a new challenge!

  11. So good to meet you, and your wonderful work....Click!