Tue 7 Dec, 2004 09:01 pm
Death came with gentle jaws to steal away the life of Billy Delaney. The time was minus by a few moments half past three. The arthritic old patchwork dog on the floor stirred an instant, but did not wake up. The Mrs. Delaney - Margie - snored ever more loudly, cunningly erecting a palpable wall of sound between herself and the visitor near the bed.
Death's presence in the room magnified the importance of the clock, in the kitchen ticking, remorselessly, fixing the bigger hand on the six, then toiling on with endless pointless purpose. Billy gently sighed, and was no more. The air that stirred a moment was still.
In that perfectly punctuated instant even Mrs. Delaney's snoring subsided. Almost at once a dream opened within her like a luminescent flower conjured out of the night mist. In it, Billy Delaney, once again young, thin and hail, came riding on his bicycle into her yard, pausing, doffing his hat. He rode circles around her, sitting backwards on the handlebars, while Margie sat smiling with a lap full of roses, some pink, some red. The dream folded into the darkness and Margie turned a bit but slept on.
She would awaken by about six, needing a bladder empty, but she would not discover her husband's disposition for at least another hour afterward. Rising would be slow. She would first sit for a time along the edge of the hard mattress. Then she would slip carefully to the floor and work her feet into some loose old house shoes. She would inch glacially across the carpeting, her shoes scarcely clearing the nap at each step; finally she would hike up her gown and plop herself down backward onto the commode.
Peeing, she would be taking stock of the coming morning's tribulations: She would insist that Billy call Dr. Foster about the strange sensations he'd been experiencing, though she expected the request to be met with stubbornness. Such a man, Billy was: a thorn in her side anymore, always with the corrosive remarks, the wheedling, the whining.
On other topics: She would hope the repairman would finally come to fix the television. Three days since it went out.
She needed also to try to compose a letter to her son. That would be a chore. She should demand a reason why he never answered her back.
She would negligently leave the bathroom without washing her hands. And put a battered aluminum pan filled with water on to heat in the kitchen. Then take down two oversize cups from the lower right cupboard. She'd take a jar of coffee crystals from the pantry. Remembering the sugar and going back to the pantry to get it. Remembering the spoon and opening the drawer to take it. Closing the drawer only part way. Then in the living room she would absently turn on the television set and be reminded it was broken. Say a disappointed "Oh."
Shortly, the water would boil and she would get up to make her coffee. It always took Margie a very long time to transfer the water from the pan to the cup, creating as she did a flow scarcely more than a drip. Then it just took half a spoonful of the crystals and half a spoonful of sugar to make the coffee the way she liked it. Briskly she'd stir and, after, she'd carefully lay the forty year old spoon on the saucer beside the cup.
The raggedy hair dog, still groggy from sleeping, would stand yawning before her as Margie carefully made her way into the living room and the couch, bringing in the steaming brew and the spoon out of which to sip it. The dog would follow and lie at her feet to sleep some more.
She would first blow gently on the coffee, then sip it gradually from each spoonful, industriously spooning and blowing and sipping until she'd finished all of it. She would arise immediately and take the utensiles into the kitchen to wash them out in the sink and lay them out to dry on a dish towel.
Margie would next look in on the great manatee-like form, beached, covered by a blanket, and contemplate dragging Billy out of his sleep. She would be sorry she had been critical of the poor man a while earlier. "Must be nice and fix his coffee and a toast, with margerine and apple butter," would flit through her mind. She would look at the top of his head, poking out of the closely tucked cover, picturing him fiercely animated as he so often became when discussing trivial subjects he nevertheless held so dear, and she would be taken back to times of whirlwind romance and exciting trips of discovery; a time when Margie was so young and naïve, when Billy taught her so much. The night on the porch when he offered her a ring and proposal, when she cried and said, "Yes! Oh, yes."
Despite the trials and travails, looking back on over fifty years of being in love and working together, it had all been worth it. She so would want to kiss Billy and to hug him.
Edgar, as you know, I really love this piece. It captures so well what each couple must face when those jaws, gentle or no, remind us of our finiteness.
I would suggest a closing paragraph on the discovery.
Hi, letty. Thanks for the suggestion.