One Day At A Time
Carl paused, his liver-spotted right hand firmly grasping the two-step stair rail leading to his front porch. The two mile walk from Hanchels Grocery seemed to take his wind more than it used to. In a moment he would yank the door open and slip inside before the mosquitoes on the screen took notice, and fix a bowl of Cheerios for supper. He might even slice a ripe tomato.
If his sweet Hallie was alive he would smell something hot and good waiting for him to eat. Maybe even a pecan pie or cherry cobbler, not that he ate sweets or much of anything anymore. A better cook than Hallie never lived. It was hard to believe she had died a week after their fiftieth wedding anniversary fifteen years ago. Hallie and little John and Sarah, they were waiting for him in heaven. He was sure of that.
He wished he could forget the fire that took his children. He had come running from the field after the lightning bolt struck their farm house and the thunder clap came booming across the parched corn. But he had been too far away and the flames too hot. There was nothing he or Hallie could do except hold each other and cry.
Oh, Hallie, I wish I could have done you better. We were always going to take that trip to Galveston, buy us some bathing suits and have a splashing good time in the surf. But we never did. Hallie never complained, though. She was the best wife any man could have asked for.
Squeezing the rail hard, he forced himself to concentrate. His bones were too brittle to hang a toe on a step. A three pointer with chin and knees on the deck and his prepaid plan with Herman, the undertaker, would likely be cashed.
The folks at Hanchels were sure good to him. They let him come in every other day to sweep the floor and restock the shelves he could reach. Hanchels still had a loyal following, mostly older folks that traded there instead of with the big new store on the other side of town. Maybe putting their groceries on a tab until payday had something to do with it. He enjoyed visiting with the customers; even carrying out a bag for a widow lady when he could be of help.
Bert Hanchel had put an old swivel-rocking chair and foot stool in the stock room. “Use it whenever you feel like it, Carl. I’ll know where to find you when I need you.” Truth be known, he spent more time in the chair than pushing the broom. He almost hated to take the little pay Hanchel gave him every Friday, but it would disappoint him bad if he didn’t. Hanchel was strange that way. Said he never could pay enough for helping his dad through a tough time; it kept their family together. Truth be known, he hadn’t done anything one good friend wouldn’t do for another.
Anybody that said they could do everything at eighty they could do at forty sure didn’t do much at forty, he thought. At eighty-five, they did even less.
“Get back, Dog!” Carl shouted, waving a stout bamboo walking-cane at the mixed breed hound sniffing his pant leg. Carl liked John Wayne movies. If John could call his dog, Dog, so could he. “I’ll feed you in a minute. Go lie down over there and get some rest.”
Carl carefully negotiated the steps and crossed the porch. Entering quickly, he angled towards the worn recliner and eased into it. Wiggling to a comfortable spot he tilted the chair back and looked out the window. The sun was sinking behind a distant hill. In the darkening shadows beneath the sweet gum tree, green jays darted in and out of the bird feeder getting a last morsel of sunflower seed. He reached for the Cheerio box on the end table beneath the lamp.
Tomorrow, Carl thought, I’ve got to refill the bird bath.
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