Speak of the Spring and Plenty

Jojay By Jojay, 2nd Nov 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

Two older women, who are best friends, sit outside a posh waterfront restaurant. As they discuss what they might have for dinner, their conversation takes a turn for the worst and they began to plan their last supper.

Sometimes I feel like a child who is put to bed before he's tired

The old woman brought the car to a halt in the parking lot of the restaurant, turned off the ignition, and sat staring out at the shimmering water. There were alabaster sea gulls perched on the dock posts that jutted out of the water and the smell that wafted in the open window was of dock grease and wet sand.

Something startled the birds and they took flight, rising into the air like scattered confetti. In their movement, the woman Rena felt relief. "They didn't look real," she said to her companion.

Alma Garnett opened her purse and withdrew a cigarette. "Reminds me of the driftwood novelties..."

The women talked in much the same way as they thought. Disjointed sentences, random words that served only to emphasize an already unspoken sentiment: subjects conspicuously missing from the body of the language; they would soon have no need for words at all. It didn't matter, Alma said to herself. Why bother with the conventions that apply to the young people who have a physical direction for their thoughts?

Why get out of the car this Indian summer afternoon and go inside the posh restaurant on the water. They couldn't afford it. What they got each month in social security was barely enough to get by, let alone treat themselves to an expensive dinner.

"Sea gulls are really a rather vicious bird," her voice sounded stilted to her ears, as it must have sounded to her fifth grade history class 25 years before. "Unlike the pigeon, though odious to many, which is kindly toward man." Alma coughed the cigarette smoke from her lungs. "Well, an attempt at brightness, "What should we celebrate? Our approaching eightieth birthdays, or the coming of the shorter days?"

"Widowhood," Rena contributed as she nervously fingered her necklace, or pop beards as her grandchildren used to call them. Rena began to say something else, but as fast as the thought came to her it disappeared again, and she did not care to pursue it.

She would resurrect her grandchildren. That would make her feel useful again. She had only to concentrate very hard, as on a fixed object and they would be there. Yes...now she had them. They were sitting on her expansive lap, squirming their way into comfort, grabbing at the pink plastic beads. Pop! off her neck and into their moist little hands. They pull again, breaking the chain into separate beads. Pop, pop! until they lay in her lap like bright pink pills. And Florence, her daughter-in-law smiling condescendingly at the "mess they made in grandma's lap."

"Kids love em'," Florence says in reference to Rena's penchant for cheap costume jewelry.

It seemed like only yesterday that the children were fighting for attention as they begged to put the beads together. "Please Grandma let me," Jenny says as she nearly ousts Karla from her sideways perch. "Me too! me too," Karla says as she gives Jenny a playful shove, and sends her toppling to the floor. Rena picks her up, and hugs the girls to her big breasts. "Don't fight girls," she says, "there’s plenty of grandma to go around. My darlings, my precious darlings!"

She would give her very life to just get a glimpse as they were then. They were different people now: grown up with kids of their own. Rena rarely saw them.

The raucous cough of her friend cut sharply into her thoughts. "You really shouldn't smoke, Alma. Not at your age."

Alma's turned and her lower lip where the cigarette had been bore a trace of tobacco. Her mouth was pursed in a pout, and there were tiny vertical lines around the corners where the bite was not "right."

"Oh, dear, don't take all my pleasures from me."

"I'm not taking anything away from you." Her voice, sharp: censuring. "It's just that you're mortgaging the few good years you have left indulging in that vile habit."

The sigh at the other side of the car was barely audible. Perhaps it was only a breeze skirting the water. Rena supposed she should apologize. Far be it from her to deny you pleasure. It really made no difference to me one way or the other, but.... No, she would say nothing. Let it pass, it would soon be forgotten. No need to draw undue attention..it would just make Alma more uncomfortable.

"Well." Rena smoothed the front of her summer print with wrinkled hands. The day would go from sunny to cloudy, back to sunny again. The clouds moved across the sun's face in a seemingly willful conspiracy to leave them nothing but the suggestion of a beautiful day. The water a few short minutes ago, glittering turquoise, now lay in front of them: taunting them with gray swellings that threatened to burst into angry whitecaps in the blink of a eye.

Alma searched the crinkled package for another cigarette. Finding none, she crimped the cellophane wrapper and threw it on the floor. "It used to be such a joy doing my spring house cleaning," she said, as if discarding the package had been some kind of probe into the past. "Now with just me, there seems no point in tidiness."

"Who's around to see it, eh?" Rena said flatly.

"I suppose we should go in. You called for reservations, didn't you?"

"This morning. I made them for an early dinner. You can see by the cars on the pier that there are not many dining at this hour."

Alma took out a small hand mirror. The back of the mirror had tiny cluster of hand-painted violets. She applied lipstick to her dry mouth. "You saw the gift my daughter-in-law gave me for Christmas." Alma knew that Rena was watching her. She could see her in the corner of the mirror. "Son James just doesn't have the time to buy gifts these days. He's so busy at the office. Opal does all his shopping for him. It's nice though, don't you think?" She replaced the mirror in her purse and clicked the purse shut.

"Yes very pretty. Did you ever notice, Alma, that just about everything you can buy for women our age has violets on it, or else carry their smell? Scented cologne, dusting powder, room fresheners: violets come on our combs, and mirrors, vases, plates and china. The flower gives our dresses their pattern; they’re stenciled on our purses, embroidered on our handkerchiefs, and appliquéd on our pillowcases!” Rena could hear her voice rise dangerously close to hysteria. She checked herself. "I hate violets,” Rena concluded with an honesty that surprised her.

Warm laughter came from the woman Rena spent so much of her loneliness with, "I must confess to a slight aversion to the flower, myself."

"You did call...."

"Yes, early this morning. Before breakfast." Rena thought that breakfast seemed like a million light years away. The days. The never-ending days.

"Sometimes I feel like a child who is put to bed before he's tired. I stare at the walls in that small, boxy apartment and wonder what I can do to make time pass? Count the ceiling tiles? Make myself another pot of tea? or shall I go to the window and see if anyone is coming down the sidewalk. I then say, as if making a decision, "I'll wait until something good comes on t.v." Rena began to roll up the window.

"No! Not all the way. Leave room to breathe."

Rena stopped rolling the window at about an inch from the top. What had she been saying? She tried to backtrack her thoughts to their inception, but couldn't remember what she had started out with. It was a feeling not unlike leaving the house without your purse. You knew it was something you needed to have with you, it was something you were to carry but for the life of you didn't know why.

"Do you find, Dear, that as we get up in years that the good becomes almost anything with audio and visual intact?"

Rena nodded her head. Anything that speaks. Anything that moves.

"Look the sun is out again. See how the water sparkles in the sun's rays. If you stare directly into its brilliant glare, it almost blinds you."

As Rena reached into her purse for her compact, she hesitated. Water. Strange she should think of this now. She was sitting on a wooden bench inside the country church. The dress she wore was long and hot. She felt she would be sick if she were to sit still another minute. She twisted in her chair, and moved her legs.

Later she would discover the ugly yellow and red bruise on her thigh where her mother had pinched her squirming body; "Be still child!" her mother had hissed into her ear. "He sees into your soul!" It was her thirst, however, and not her mother's dire warning that made her remember the minister's words that long ago summer. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of life freely.

She was thirsty again. "When I was twenty-five," she said in a voice uncomfortably loud, "there was so much to fill my day. My children were so active, always pulling and tugging. I could not go out of a room without their kicking up the biggest fuss."

"You spoiled them Rena," Alma looked at her watch as if she were concerned with time. Habit, she guessed.

"Of course I did. What else was there to do?" Rena sighed again. "There really isn't too much difference between the filet mignon and seafood plate. "Perhaps I'll order the seafood plate," she said as if she were already in the restaurant, "Steak is so hard to chew with my...."

"Dentures," Alma said as she completed the sentence. The sea gulls did not return. A cooling breeze had come up.

Rena pulled her sweater around her shoulders. "It's tough to be old."

Alma felt her stomach knot in despair. She had gotten used to the inconvenience of old age, but she would never get accustomed to the chilly reality of it. To be a seventeen-year old girl trapped in an eighty-year-old body was too much to bear.

She remembered her dream last night. She was running through a field of wild strawberries with a basket in her hand. The wind was blowing her hair, and she would smell the cool, lovely dark woods by the edge of the berry patch. But it came too quickly, the shadowed area, and she found herself in the forest, the sun and berries forever beyond her reach. "Do you ever dream, Rena? I mean of your youth?"

"It's not that I'm afraid of dying," Rena replied with the confidence of one answering a direct question. "It's just that I no longer care about living. I'm tired of eating food I cannot taste, or digest. I'm weary of fighting the losing battle of a decaying body and aged mind.

I used to take such pleasure in recalling some buried fact that most people had forgotten. Like who was the first United States marshal of Oregon Territory. Oh! look at the whitecaps! It's going to get cold after all! Such unpredictable weather."

Rena fingered the handle of her purse, nervously. "Yesterday I knew the answer."

"Yesterday I would have asked you the question," Alma said.

"Let's go for a drive."

Something in Rena's voice made Alma turn her head sharply to the left. For the first time that afternoon, she looked directly at her companion. Rena's eyes glowed with a peculiar brilliance. Why her eyes, Alma thought incredulously, are so blue they're almost violet in color!

"If we leave now, we'll be able to see the spring's wild growth. Spring has always been my favorite month."

"Spring!" Alma said, had she gone pure loco? Alma saw that Rena's jaw was pulled forward and she was staring straight into the water. She put one hand on the wheel and with the other reached down toward the ignition.

Alma looked at her hands. They were cool and dry. Tomorrow morning they would be so stiff and painful that she would not be able to support the weight of a teapot. Her doctor had suggested aspirin for the "discomfort” and eventually Corticosteroids should the muscles continue to stiffen.

He explained that her form of arthritis (Rheumatoid) affects all the connective tissues in the body. "It's not exactly known what causes it," he said as he rubbed the blue marbleized Mt. Blanc fountain pen between index finger and thumb, "but there is a theory that its a virus that causes the body to develop an allergy to its own tissues. Alma had no problem believing that theory. She smiled at the thought that old age was the virus that her body tissues were rejecting.

Alma noted that she hadn't unfastened her seat belt. Good. There was nothing else to attend to. It would go quickly. Their hearts would not be able to withstand the impact. "We needn't worry about canceling our reservations---not this time of year. I dare say we won't even be noticed."

"Are you ready, Dear?" Rena slowly released the emergency brake and moved the level to "Drive". The dusky twilight made her features appear soft, vulnerable. What a tender young woman she must have been!

Alma felt no need to answer. "It's too early for berries," she heard herself say through closed eyes. The car's engine hummed expectantly. "But the blossoms will be out." A forward jerk and then the giving way of a flimsy wooden railing. The soft splash of metal sliding into water. Yes...yes...she could see them now in the distance. Snow-white strawberry blooms in an open field of sun. Blossoms as far as the eye could see, and she was going down to meet them...


Depression, Depressive Disorders, Elderly, Elderly Lady, Elderly People, Suicide Among The Aged

Meet the author

author avatar Jojay
I am a published and produced playwright. I enjoy writing about anything that strikes my fancy as well as engages my passion for a lifetime of learning.
Also find my
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