An Afternoon Stroll on a Late Summer Afternoon

Perched on the edge of sleep, the old woman snorts and jerks.  Her frown deepens and the lines on her face tighten as her breathing settles into a soft rhythm.  She sits in a pink recliner with her legs up and hands folded in her lap.

Steam rises from a cup of coffee on the table beside her chair.  The cup sits in front of a framed five-by-seven color photograph of the old woman and a man.  Both are near the end of middle-age in the picture, and smiling, her head resting against his shoulder, his hand resting on hers.  A tasseled lampshade hangs above the table, covering a crystal lamp.

Sunlight spills through the open windows and gives the polished wood floor a warm glow.  The smell of hot summer air and floor wax wrestles with the musty old-person smell leaking from the furniture and rugs.  Except for a clock ticking on the mantle and the old lady’s soft snores, silence fills the house like water fills an aquarium.  It touches every surface and makes its home in every secret crevice.

The old lady jerks again, sensing someone beside her chair.

“What are you doing here?” she asks.  “Did I forget to latch the door?

“Oh.  Well.

“No, I can’t go off with you today.  It just causes trouble.

“Well, the last time I went off it was with Janey, and she left me downtown without telling me where we were.  Liked to scared me to death.  If Mrs. Mamie Jackson hadn’t come by I might never have gotten home, so no, I’ll stay right here.

“I told you no.  Now, sit down and talk with me a while.  The doctor says I need to be in a special home, but what does he know?  I said how you and me built this place, and I’m not leaving.

“No, I told you.  My arthritis is acting up, and I don’t feel like going.  You just sit down and keep me company here.  Your chair’s right there where it always was.  I’ve still got your pipe, too, over in the buffet there, but I don’t have any tobacco.

“I don’t feel like going out.  It hurts me to stand up.

“Well how do you know how my arthritis feels?

“Oh, you’d say anything to get me to go out with you.  That’s one thing that hasn’t changed, anyway.

“Alright!  I’m getting up.  See, it’s….  Well, you’re right, it doesn’t hurt.  It feels pretty good.  I guess that young doctor finally got my medication right.

“Oh, okay, but I’m not going far.  Maybe just around the block, but don’t you leave me like Janey did!

“Well, you did leave me once before.  I’m still mad at you about that, you know, but I’m glad you’re here now.  Just let me lock the door.

“Of course I’ve got to lock the door!  Why are you in such a hurry?

“Oh, I don’t have my key.  Just hold your horses.

“Well, I guess you’re right, it hasn’t been locked all day.  Let’s go, then.

“This is nice.  I’ve missed you, you know.”

A cup of cold coffee sits on the table in front of a framed five by seven color photograph of the old lady and a man. Both are near the end of middle-age in the picture, and smiling, her head resting against his shoulder, his hand resting on hers.  A tasseled lampshade hangs over the table, covering a crystal lamp.

Shadows spill through the open windows and rob the wood floor of its warm glow.  The smell of cool evening air and floor polish wrestle with the musty old-person smell leaking from the furniture and rugs.  Except for a clock ticking on the mantle, silence fills the house like water fills an aquarium.  It touches every surface and makes its home in every secret crevice.

The old lady sits in her pink recliner with her legs up and her hands folded in her lap, her face smooth, wrapped in a smile.

Roy Jeffords 2012 All Rights Reserved

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