(I’m still working on this story, so this is just a rough draft. I’ll keep working on it throughout the month before I start writing my next short story. Happy reading!)
“What’cha workin’ on Mr. Peterson?”
“I told you, call me Henry. I’m not your dad and I ain’t your boss, so Henry’s fine.”
“Why don’t you just get a new one?”
“That’s exactly what I’d expect your generation to say. You shouldn’t just throw something away because it’s broken. Some things can be fixed in time; you just need the right parts.”
“You smell that? Smells like Judy’s baking some dessert. I’ll tell her to bring some over after dinner.”
“Ah, you don’t have to do that.”
“Of course we do! That’s what good neighbors are for. I’ll see you later, kiddo.”
When I finally opened my eyes, I was already adjusted to the brightness of the room. I laid there in the mid-morning Sun, absorbing the heat, as waves of sunlight splashed against my face. As I rolled my arm over the bed, I landed on a warm patch of covers and stared at the light passing beneath the door. There was a flush, a pause, and then the flow and stop of water from the faucet.
As the door started to open, I quickly shut my eyes and laid there; still breathing but lying still. I could feel her eyes watching me, making me uncomfortable in bed. She inhaled slowly and sighed as she walked out of the bedroom, down the hall. I listened to the weight of her footsteps for traces of anger, but her carpet cushioned feet were hard to read.
I guess it’s time to get up.
I opened my eyes again and stared into the empty, sunlit bathroom. As I sat up, I slid my legs off the bed and stretched my back concave. With a few more pops, I locked hands and crumpled my crackling fingers.
First thing’s first, I thought: a quick shower, a clean change, and then some—
“Ugh… damn it.”
Two steps into the bathroom, and I was already wading sock-deep in a pool of drip water. As I followed the tiny puddle path back from the commode to the shower, I noticed the fog-smeared mirror above the sink. She must have woke up early. Again.
As a token, she left the toilet seat comfortably warm and the air still reeked of cinnamon aerosol. It made me think back to when she first moved in and how she would use the guest bathroom down the hall. A couple months later, the guest toilet started to clog so then she started using my bathroom. Now it’s our bathroom and every other morning I walk into a potpourri forest. But I can’t blame her for trying. It’s all part of the newlywed game. He flushed.
“I guess I’m doing the dishes, then”, she announced to herself sarcastically as she began unloading the sink. While working quickly, she slid her hand under a plate and felt something sharp slide across her ring finger. With a quick wince, her hand retracted with force and fear, pulling her fingers close for inspection. With her thumb and index, she palpated the wound for blood. But there was none. Her finger had narrowly grazed the edge of a butterknife, but the cluttered water hid the dull truth.
There was a ringing from the other room as the house phone called for attention. It rang three more times before she could wipe the grease from her hands, and hurry to the living room.
As she picked up, there was a short pause and then a simultaneous
“Oh, hey dear! It’s Judy. I hope I didn’t wake you two. I just want to call and ask if you were feeling any better.”
“Oh, hi Judy! I’m glad you called. Don’t worry, I’ve been up for a little while and I think he’s taking a shower now. But I am feeling better, thanks for asking. How are you?”
She walked back into the kitchen. Holding the phone between her cheek and her shoulder, she poured some “just add water” pancake mix into a bowl and mixed it before pouring into a pan.
“Well, I’m still here.” They both laughed.
“I woke up around five or so and watched tv until about eight. Then I took a nap and thought I’d give you a call. Are you busy dear? I can call back later if—
“No, I can talk. Is everything okay, Judy?”
A crescent omelet was forming at the bottom of one of the pans. She stirred the omelet with a fork and scrambled the yellow mess.
“Well, nothing’s wrong. I just miss Henry, that’s all. It’ll be a year next Sunday. Some nights I still wake up thinking he’s downstairs watching TV. But I know he’s not. I just…” Her words tapered off softly to a small silence and she took another breathe. “I’m just happy I have someone to talk to.”
Her hand had stopped stirring and she readjusted the phone with her ear. “Well you know we’re always here if you need anything. We’re just right across the street.” She turned down the burner.
“I know you are dear, and thank you. But that’s enough of that. What time would you like me to come over? I baked something sweet for dessert if you want me to bring it over.”
“Oh, that sounds great! What is it?”
“It’s a homemade cinnamon pie. I know it’s more of a holiday dish, but I saw this recipe the other day and thought I’d give it a try.”
“Mhmm… I know he’ll love that. I think I’ll be done in another fifteen minutes or so, how’s that sound?”
“Sounds good dear, I’ll see you then.” They hang up and she sets the phone on the counter.
There was a knock at the doorframe and she turned her head to answer. He stood at the kitchen entrance, dressed and awake.
“Well you look nice.”
“You don’t look so bad yourself, but being handsome isn’t going to get you out of dishes.”
He smiled and chuckled, “Well I didn’t mean to forget. You went to bed early and I stayed up watching sitcoms all night. By the time I remembered, I was already in bed.”
He walked toward the stove and kissed her on the cheek and neck while hugging her from behind. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll do dishes tonight and tomorrow, does that sound fair?”
“Aww… You’re just saying that because you’re going to order pizza”. They both laughed and he started pouring a cup of coffee. She hardly drank the stuff. Even less now, now that I think about it.
“Well, is she coming over again today?”
“Of course she is. You know she loves seeing us. And you should be happy; she’s bring a pie over.”
He perked up, “Oh, what kind?”
“Cinnamon. I think it’s a Christmas dish,” She replied.
“Mhmm… that does sounds good.”
He walked from the kitchen back into the living room and stared out the glass door which separated him from the unseasonably warm spring morning. While sipping on his cup of coffee, he again thought back to when she first moved and the week before Henry passed.
I never talked to Henry much before that day. Really, I wasn’t even the mood to talk to him then. But I had just finished running some errands when he waved me over to his yard.
“Hey kiddo, do you have flathead screwdriver a neighbor could borrow? I just need it for a bit. Judy’s got me putting together this damned patio set and I can’t find a fit.” I guess she heard him from the yard because she yelled, “Henry, watch your mouth! You’re in public.”
He looked at me in disbelief and replied, “Alright dear”.
“So are you going to help me or not? Because if not, I need to head to the hardware store before it gets dark.”
Without really saying anything, I nodded and walked back in the house. I grabbed the flathead from the cluttered kitchen draw and walked out the door, across the street.
(Work in Progress)
(Work in progress.)