A gust of chilly wind swirled crunchy, colorful leaves down the sidewalk ahead of me as I approached the quaint little building at the side of the road.
“Hey, Joe, how’s it coming?” I asked, stopping momentarily to admire the clean, freshly painted exterior.
Joe leaned out from the ladder, a spattering of white freckles dotting his leathery complexion. “Not too bad, Jim. I’ve just got this one side left to finish. Should be right pretty for Sunday morning when everybody shows up.”
“You do realize that you’re a boon to the congregation, right?” I asked Joe. “Not everyone would be willing to give up his time on a Saturday to single-handedly paint the church building. I, for one, greatly appreciate you doing this.”
Joe shrugged sheepishly and slapped paint against the old wood siding. “Glad to do it. I can’t give back in many other ways, but I want to do where I can. Sorry not to jaw with you much, but I gotta keep moving if I’m gonna get this done ‘fore the day’s over.”
“Sure, Joe. I’ll see you in the morning.” I said with a wave, and turned to crunch my way through a swirling tide of leaves to my home.
“Jim, that you?” my wife, Betty, hollered from the kitchen as I came in the door.
“Yes, dear,” I replied, poking my head around the corner, and sniffed the delicious smell of stew bubbling on the stove.
“Where’ve you been? I needed you to run some of this stew over to the Wilsons. It’s our night to help provide dinner. Poor things, been shut up all week in that dreary little house. Find out if they’re feeling any better, would you?” she said, putting two jars of stew she’d just wiped down into a basket. A plastic baggie filled with hot buttered rolls went into the basket beside the jars. “Now, here, be careful not to tip that over, and try not to smash the rolls. If you hurry, I’ll have everything on the table when you get back.”
Leaves crunched under foot in the fading afternoon light as I carried the basket up the walk to the Wilson’s door. I knocked gently on the sagging screen door, and stepped back to wait. Little Jennie Wilson peeked out the door, “Mama! It’s Mr. Jim… and he’s got a basket. It smells yummy!” She disappeared into the dark recesses of the house briefly and returned dragging a wan Mrs. Wilson by the hand.
“Evening, Mr. Jim. We really appreciate you bring this by for us.”
“Sure, ma’am. How are the husband and kiddos doing today? I see that little Jennie’s doing better. Are the rest of them perking up alright?” I asked, handing the basket over to her.
“They’re some better. I’ll be right glad when this sickness moves on and we’re all back to normal. What we’d do without you and Mrs. Betty keeping us fed this week, I don’t know.”
“We’re glad to help, Mrs. Wilson. You all get to feeling better now. I need to get going. Betty’s waiting on me at home.” I crunched my way down the walk to the car through lazily drifting snowflakes.
Hot air blasted out of the car vents and warmed my bones. I flicked on the wipers, smearing the melting snowflakes that left dots of water on the windshield. I pulled into the drive, the headlights playing across the thin layer of white coating the front lawn. I pulled the key from the ignition and headed into the warm house, where a delicious bowl of stew waited for me.
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