I awakened before my phone alarm rang and thought about the evening’s activities that brought me home too late for eight hours of sleep but feeling rejuvenated. My friends Ellen and Jerry had orchestrated my joining them at a blues lounge to hear other friends perform. This was no easy task, since I can’t drive at night and they live 30 miles or more north of the club while I live 20 miles south of it. We rendezvoused, and Ellen drove my vehicle back to my house at midnight with Jerry behind in his truck. Hugs all around, and five minutes later, I fell asleep, knowing that their friendship still cloaked me like soft cashmere on a winter’s night.
At nine this morning, I called Jabez MacLaughlin, my father-in-law and favorite curmudgeon. He reported feeling well enough for an outing and I scurried around, showering, dressing, and heading out to the car with a Dustbuster and a trashbag to make my old vehicle presentable for transport of an honored guest.
We got him, his jacket and his walker in the Saturn and made the short drive to Murray’s Tables & Taps, which serves a classic breakfast befitting of a classic man. We spent a pleasant ninety minutes drinking coffee and eating eggs prepared exactly to order. He threw all caution to the wind and spread jam on his toast. What use cancer if you can’t put aside nutrition once in a while and just enjoy yourself? I say, go for it; have ice cream for breakfast if you want, and Jay agrees. While we were on the subject of indulgence, we agreed that I would bring a healthy ration of his favorite Laura Little fudge (Penuche, in case you’re visiting) when I come next time.
I took him home, chatting all the while about how he’d like to frame a photo of his wife, the type of frame, the layout. We agree on the suitableness of his choices — I would agree with Jay on just about anything, now, but I don’t have to lie as his taste is impeccable, as usual. We kiss at the door to his kitchen and I remind him to close the garage door. Then, by a miracle, my cantankerous ignition flares on command and I head to get the flowers for Joanna’s resting place and on to the cemetery.
While I’m there, cleaning the debris from the last arrangement and applying a little of what my mother would call ‘spit polish’ to the headstone, I lose my car key. I look in vain, after arranging the roses and taking a photograph. I’m laughing as I search. I’ve delivered Jay’s special message to Joanna and talked with her a bit, and I’m reasonably sure that she’s got my key. She wants me to linger. “Okay, Joanna. What is it? An accident that might otherwise involve me, if I didn’t tarry?” I’m not surprised that she keeps her own counsel. I picture her lifting her eyebrows a bit, rolling her eyes upward and slightly to the side as though to say, “Maybe. Maybe. Who knows?” After ten minutes, I see my key, sitting on the ground a foot or so from her headstone, where I swear it had not been just seconds before I found it. I touch her resting place and thank her, for whatever calamity she’s spared me.
I drive home, then, thinking that as soon as I am there, I will start my housework. But when I get to the house, the impatiens which I just watered this morning look wilted and I know that I’ve got to water them again. I feel my mouth curl a bit in annoyance, as I turn off the alarm and enter the house. I’ve not left the air conditioning running, so I close the front door firmly behind me against the day’s heat while I go and fill the water bucket.
I’m halfway across the dining room, balancing the full can, when I hear the alarm panel talk to me: “Front door is open.” It does that, my alarm system — it tells you when a protected zone has been breached. I stand stock still, replaying in my mind the resounding “thud” that I had heard when I entered the house and closed that door. Someone had followed me; the only question remaining centered around that person’s intent.
I stepped forward and peered around the archway of the dining room just as a little breeze rose outside. A shower of flower petals from the porch plants wafted through the doorway, which otherwise held no one and nothing. At least, no one and nothing visible to the human eye.
After a few minutes, I felt the tension in my shoulders relax, and I continued with my task, secure in the knowledge that Joanna had just sent her love to me with a gesture which she knew that I would certainly recognize as coming from her.