Maggie stooped with a grimace to pick up the morning paper from under the withered rosebush beside the front steps of her house.
Stupid boy! Why can’t he ever get it on the porch? Is it so much to ask? She made a mental note to call the newspaper office to complain.
White hair straggled over the pastel floral print of her housedress as she straightened with her prize in hand. She clomped up the porch steps, trying to ignore the flaking paint, jutting nails, and loose boards and jerked the screen door open, letting it slam behind her. The sound seemed to resonate with her mood.
From the tiny gas stove, the teakettle whistled, demanding attention. Maggie tossed the paper atop the pile of unpaid bills on her kitchen table and yanked the burner dial to ‘Off’. Her tea cup sat unwashed beside three dirty plates and forks from the past two days. She carried the cup to a small uncluttered section of table and removed the lid from the plastic margarine bowl in which she stored her tea bags.
Time to get more tea. You’d think living alone, I wouldn’t run out of things so fast.
She plopped a bag into her cup and carried it to the stove. The water hissed and spat as she poured it from the kettle over the tea bag.
Maggie grunted with satisfaction and rummaged in a drawer for zwieback toast to have with her tea. The box was nearly empty. She added zwieback to the grocery list in her head. The wooden chair creaked under her as she sat down with her breakfast.
Dipping the toast into her tea, Maggie stared from her kitchen window at the unmown lawn. Memories flooded her mind and she shook her head to resist them.
No use remembering what was. I can’t change anything anyway.
From its place on the wall, the telephone jangled. An exasperated sigh escaped Maggie’s lips as she rose to answer.
“Yes?” she snapped into the receiver.
She listened for a few seconds to the voice on the other end.
“I can’t,” she said, then hung up.
Within seconds, the phone rang again. She squeezed her eyes shut and gripped the phone with white knuckles, willing it to stop ringing. It did not.
After a moment of listening, Maggie slammed the receiver down.
“Leave me alone!” she muttered. She balled her hands into fists and waited, head down, eyes shut, for the phone to ring again.
A minute or more passed before Maggie returned to her toast and tea. She glared at the phone as if commanding it to be quiet.
Raising her cup to her lips, she tried to savor the spicy cinnamon scent. The cinnamon bit her tongue with its slight bitterness. Daniel never enjoyed tea, so for years Maggie never had it in the house. Now it was one of the little things with which she could indulge herself.
Daniel’s hatred of tea was only one thing about him I never understood.
She allowed herself to think about her dead husband and found to her surprise that she could not remember what he looked like. This discovery reminded her of her first night alone in the house after his death. Relatives, children, grandchildren, and friends had ‘moved on’ with life within hours after the funeral. She had not.
In that empty, quiet house she raged against the God Daniel had spoken to daily. She found Daniel’s Bible and tore the pages out one after another. She raised her fist toward Heaven and shouted at God for taking her husband from her. The gentle rays of morning found her slumped in the kitchen chair with crumpled pages in her hand.
She had not yielded to God in this past year. She did not intend to ever soften her stand. But the phone calls and visits from Daniel’s old friends continued to taunt her.
If I get one more call from someone inviting me to a Bible study or to church ‘for my own good’, I’ll go crazy.
She opened the kitchen drawer to put away the last of the toast. A half sheet of goldenrod notepaper she had not noticed before lay in the bottom of the drawer. She examined it and gasped.
There, in her husband’s neat handwritten style were nine words: “Call on the Lord while He may be found.”
She heard a small inner voice say, “Your choice, Maggie. I’m here now.”
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