He was an old man, the kind what there ain’t much use for now, save for rocking in chairs and sighing and asking for more coffee. His old wife cooks him corn and pork for supper and pours him cornflakes in the recurring miracles of the morning. She tells their grandson with a wry grin that she ain’t heard more’n a dozen words out of the old man’s mouth save for “yep” and “eezus” since they moved into town.
Here he is now on the deck their son built for them, rocking in his chair, watching the wind, sighing and asking for more coffee. She brings it to him and pats his shoulder with a maternal grace. At their age, she figures, what else is she but his mother? Their last kiss on the mouth was last September at their 50th wedding anniversary at the Lion’s Club here in town. They were the last on the floor for the married couple’s dance marathon and their daughters requested a smooch for their picture. Roxy must have it, she figures. Well let her keep it. Lord knows Larry wouldn’t want it around anyhow. He slept in his chair that night. Said the ballgame went late and he just conked it right there. But the television weren’t on and she heard the men at the store talking about an early doubleheader that next day on.
—Mom, he hollered at her.
—I’m right here behind you, her response.
—Well it’s Danny’s birthday this Wednesday.
—Don’t your fangers work? And he goes by just Dan now.
—Not like yours can, and he took a sip of his coffee and stared off at the winded hydrangea leaves flapping in the wind like a thousand flags.
She returned to the counter and pulled from a stack of cards and their checkbook and wrote twenty five and 00/100 dollars on the check and this on the inside of the card:
Happy birthday, Dan. Windy here. Larry expects rain, but you know Larry. I’ll make lefsa for Easter. You’re such a nice boy.
Grandma & Grandpa
—You want to sign it, dad? she hollered in the deck’s direction.
A loud snore commulated his retort. She went out and took the coffee from his chest and covered it with the afghan she knitted for him when he lost his leg to a grain auger must’ve been, oh, forty years back now. He right near gave up on it all after that. Used to play kittenball in town, even coached Larry Jr.’s team two summers. When his leg went so did his fire. His wildness and passion for being a man. Hell, on their wedding night he dipped her low and laid a tongue to her throat, right there in front of the congregation. Daddy didn’t take to it much but if she’d been happier, well, she’d forgotten the time.
The bell rang for the oven and before she went to it she stood there behind the old man awhile, hand on his shoulder, looking out at the clouds greying and growing heavy.
Yep, she breathed low.