Yes, I should be grateful, but getting a ride to see Edna and Charlie had its price. As Sylvia's lone passenger, there was no escaping her chatter:
"It gives you heebie-jeebies, to hear Olivia tell it. As for me, I believe in some weird way it answered my prayer. But then I feel guilty, like I started it from my kitchen table communing with the Lord. I suppose YOU think it's coincidence."
"Perhaps," I said.
"You've been gone, but Wednesday was gorgeous! Edna and Charlie opened all their windows facing my kitchen, and of course I opened mine, too. I was reading Psalm 136 -- the thanksgiving Psalm, for my morning devotions.
"You know Edna: with the body of a Chihuahua and the voice of a bull moose, well. . . a St. Bernard like Charlie's just no match for her. God's blessing to him is deafness, I always say -- and none too soon. His secret for survival is switching off his hearing aids when she starts bellowing. Talk, talk, talk. . . Nobody else can get a word in edgewise! And the COMPLAINING!
"I was sitting by my window -- I couldn't help but hear: 'WHY didn't you get that windshield fixed on my car?' Edna started. 'HOW do you expect me to drive with my car like that?'
"You know Charlie -- 'Yes, Dear,' was all he said.
"Then Edna goes out to the garage I guess, and when she comes back, boy is she steamed! 'You STILL haven't built those shelves for me, and I can't find a thing. Without my shelves, what good is the garage? You never think of anyone but yourself!'
"I could hear Charlie from his bedroom, 'Yes Dear, I'll get right at it.'
"Then a while later, Edna: 'I don't know why I married you, Charlie. God knows I CERTAINLY had better options! HARRY would have remodeled this kitchen by now. HE wouldn't ask me to live in this dump -- ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME, CHARLIE?'
"'Yes, Dear,' from Charlie in the bathroom.
"I swear -- I was just trying to read my Bible. It wasn't like I put a curse on them or anything; I just asked God to help Edna become more aware of her blessings. That was all: who would have guessed?"
"So how did it happen?" I asked.
"That same afternoon, a HUGE branch from their elm tree -- why, it just snapped, and down it came, crashing right through the windshield of Edna's car. Nice as you please, problem solved: no more windshield, no more car.
"Edna was wailing, and Charlie was consoling her. I rushed out to look at the damage just as their garage exploded. I guess it was the cat: Charlie had some paint thinner in a jar on the workbench, and they think she knocked it over so it puddled under the water heater. I guess it was the fumes that ignited, but who cares? Edna's stuff and the garage are gone, so no need for Charlie to build shelves.
"But the kitchen. . . that was even weirder. It had nothing to do with the garage fire; there was a short in the dishwasher, and WHOOSH! It just took off! Luckily, the fire truck was only halfway back to the station so the whole house didn't burn.
"I wasn't expecting so much traffic -- I hope we don't miss visiting hours. The clincher was Charlie crossing the street to the hardware store and getting bumped by that car. How bizarre! Good thing it's not serious. Actually, a little quiet time away from Edna will do him good -- but who'd believe she'd get a room just down the hall?
"Edna should have asked me to drive her to the hospital after they called about Charlie. But no, not Edna. It didn't matter if she was too short to see past the dashboard, she just HAD to drive Charlie's big Ford. So now Charlie's truck is wrecked, and who knows how long it will be before Edna recovers? It's a wonder she didn't kill somebody!
"But you know what gets me the most? When I went to the hospital yesterday, Edna sounded so different. 'I've been thinking,' she said, 'Do I complain too much? After all that's happened, suddenly I'm thankful just to be alive. . .with Charlie.' Can you believe that? From EDNA?"
I studied Sylvia shrewdly. I wonder what a little prayer could do for her?
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