By J.P. Swartelé-Wood
Eleanor knew she would have to leave out much of what she wanted Eddie to know about her after she was gone. Over the past three years she had broached the subject of vital information he would surely need—or maybe even want—if she were the first to die.
___Even thinking about Eddie on his own in the old house, oblivious as he was regarding its plumbing and heating, the quirks of odd sounds that meant nothing and would remain meaning nothing because inaudible to him as he would probably ever remain resistant to wedging his hearing aids into place—yes, Eddie on his own, at a loss even to find the toolbox—oh, it would be grim and she felt for him.
___Would she look down from heaven or up from hell and pity him? Or maybe an afterlife she might find really did exist would allow her to whisper, in ghostly fashion, “Eddie, call a repairman. Face the facts. Be glad, you have cash to pay him.”
___The first of the two suitcases was almost full. Only add the last three years of their joint tax returns, a checkbook, photocopies of Eddie’s medical records and of course, Eleanor’s life insurance policy that should serve as a big fat cushion of cash, $750,000—more than either of them had ever dreamed of possessing.
___Next, she reached for the dark blue leather suitcase, Aunt Chrissy’s from her college days. Eleanor opened it and did a quick calculation of which mementos, letters, notebooks, and diaries she could safely leave for Eddie’s eyes.
___As for easing his heart, she had already a cardboard box half-filled with her photos and letters from the boys and men—some from her long-ago youth, some from recent years—who had enraptured her and frustrated her over those years. All those engagements and attachments that, if Eddie were to learn of them, would surely break his heart. She knew herself to be at times disloyal, but she did not think herself cruel. In two hours, she would have the cardboard box full and could heft the lot out to the backyard. Newspaper, kindling, and matches were all in place. What a bonfire it would be!
A Day at a Time
The rain had stopped before dawn. Lydia had now no excuse to cancel her visit to her new neighbor a mile or so along the track to the village. An older man, maybe sixty to Lydia’s forty-six, but agreeable in a sort of Solid-Citizen way. Although these days what fit that description was becoming ever harder to describe and, Lydia had concluded, even harder to find.
___His name was George Harrison. He chuckled at the many jokes he’d been subjected to for not being the George Harrison. “No, can’t sing a note. Never learned an instrument. I can dance a bit, that’s about it. I like to dance. Do you like to dance?”
___Lydia was unaccustomed to this kind of banter with its hint of a possible invitation to spend time together on the dance floor. What came immediately to mind for her was the flash of a mirrored globe, revolving on the ceiling. Scenes from a distant disco past. This George Harrison seemed reasonable. Maybe not a solid citizen, but not a scoundrel either. She could be a casual acquaintance, invite him for coffee and cake—innocuous—and why not try out again, after seventeen months of mourning John’s cancer-ridden departure from this life, to get to know a man, just a little?
___Lydia had met George two days earlier and smiled when he waved and walked on toward his rented cabin. Then turned back and called out to her, “Do drop by. I’d like some company.”
___She had pulled from the freezer the apple cake she made every three weeks or so. It was thawing, the rain had stopped, she had argued with herself the pro’s and con’s of “dropping by” George Harrison’s cottage. Maybe he would have gone for a walk, or off to the supermarket. That would be best. He would not answer her knock or the ring of his doorbell. She could put the one-half cake, carefully wrapped in waxed paper, into the small package bin on his doorstep, tape a note to say, “Sorry I missed you, George Harrison. Cake in the bin. Enjoy. —Lydia Crouse.”
___Then she could pick up today where yesterday had left off. That would start another no-risk day.