By C.L. Bluestein
She lived in the ivy-covered house at the end of the lane that was built by her grandfather. It had been her home for her whole life. Every nook and cranny reminded her of someone, something, or some time.
It made her feel timeless. One foot in the now and the other in the before. Time telescoped and expanded, making it meaningless. She was everywhere and nowhere.
This morning she was up by six. She’d showered and put on her favorite dress and slipped on flip-flops. She walked from the bedroom, down the hall, through the living room, into the kitchen.
Pulling the stepstool from its hiding place between the refrigerator and the wall, she carried it to the cabinets by the back door. Using it, she reached into the top cabinet’s far corner. Her fingers floated over jars and cartons of all sizes and shapes until they touched the still sealed cardboard box.
With the box in one hand, she put the stepstool back, located the small snack tray and put it on the counter. She placed the mustard colored box with red lettering, a rat silhouette, and a skull and bones on the tray, along with a sugar bowl, a soup spoon, and a large bore straw. Opening a drawer, she pulled out a cloth napkin, snapped it open. She covered the items and carried the tray into the dining area, where she placed it in the center of the table.
She returned to the kitchen and made a light breakfast, and carried it back to the dining table. Sitting in her chair, she bit into the one piece of gently butter browned toast done in her grandmother’s skillet and sipped coffee from the chipped cup her daughter had given her the Mother’s Day her husband planted the rosebush that ruled the front garden.
From where she sat, on a wooden chair built by her uncle when he came home from the war, she could see the back yard. She remembered her four-year-old self chasing her sister and two brothers through the wood, the paths sometimes muddy and other times packed with orange, red, and gold leaves sprinkled with acorns.
By the time she turned eight, the wood had been chopped down by her father to make way for a grassy yard with swings, sandbox, and jungle gym. There were two younger siblings by then. Her father and uncle built it all during the hottest July ever. She knew that because he said it. After she became too old to play outside, opting for a lounge chair and a stack of books, her children played in the yard as she had.
It all seemed a lifetime away.
Gone were the children and the playground. Back came the wood. She didn’t mind. It brought the birds and wildlife within arm’s reach and triggered memories of carefree youth, laughing amid the rays of sunlight, swimming naked in the pond beyond, and lying in wild grass.
She took another bite and another until the toast disappeared. Holding the cup in both hands she stared out the front windows. The Mother’s-day-rose-bush obscured the once prolific victory garden, planted and cared for by her grandmother. Her mother had told stories of huge squash, foot long pole beans, four kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, and three different colored potatoes along with the salad greens and marigolds, which kept the pests away.
Her mother had reorganized the garden layout and planted more flowers than vegetables. Later, when the garden became hers, it went to seed until she had the time to resurrect it. In its heyday, it was the talk of the neighborhood.
She no longer cared for it as she once did. Perennials found a way through the unturned ground and the roses bloomed with abandon. She like to think her husband was now caring for the bush and the flowers said, “Never forget I love you.”
Fingers wiped away a tear.
The photographs hanging on the walls told the family story. Soldiers. Factory workers. Teachers.
Large gatherings marking holidays from before she was born until they stopped. Black and white prints hung under dusty, moldy glass. Color photos in varying states of desaturation hung among them. Her idea began as a family tree but space dictated placement. The newest one was of her two great-grandchildren starting school a continent away. She’d already forgotten their names.
She was the matriarch. The survivor. She’d nursed many through their final days, finding a way to love them as she cleaned up their various bodily fluids and catered to their demands. She wouldn’t change a thing.
Endings were special.
Now, at eighty-seven, there was no one left to take care of her. She looked in the kitchen. Taped to the cabinet door, she saw the note she’d scribbled when the doctor called — node biopsy-positive. Cancer.
With a tightened jaw and lips set, this ending would also be up to her.
She looked at the box of poison. Maybe today is not the day. There were things to be done. Roof tiles had come loose. The upper screen door hinge needed to be replaced. The meager lawn needed to be mowed. And, there was Buddy. The sixty-pound pit-bull mix she had rescued from a kill shelter twelve years ago had been her last best friend and protector.
She had laid him to rest in the shallow grave in the wood by the pond, near the grove of pines. After a small prayer, she’d tossed a packet of wild-flower seeds over the fresh turned earth. In time, Buddy’s spirit would smell their perfume every spring and watch the bees and butterflies until summer’s end.
She pulled the tray towards her. All she had to do add two tablespoons of rat poison and two table spoons of sugar to her coffee. Mix and drink with a straw. She’d read it in a book somewhere and didn’t know if it were true or not.
Still, it was rat poison. It had to work.
She looked in her coffee cup. The liquid was almost gone. She refilled it and added milk to coat her stomach and minimize the burn. She thought about that and decided it wouldn’t be a bad thing if she were also drugged. She returned to the dining room, set the cup on the table, went into the bathroom, and pulled her sleeping pills from the medicine cabinet.
Returning to the table, she slid into her seat, and set the pill container next to the chipped coffee cup. Curious, she retrieved it and looked inside. More than enough to do the job.
Damn. A decision.
Sounds from outside distracted her. A car. Doors opening. Closing. Children laughing. “Grandma, we’re here. Surprise! We’re back for good.”
Eyes widened as her heart skipped a beat. She grabbed the pills and put them in her pocket. She stood, snatched the napkin covered box of rat poison, jammed it into the corner of top shelf in the hall closet, and slammed the door shut. She made it back to the living room in time to see her family rush in.
While receiving them with open arms, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
She did both.
Carol Bluestein lives in Slingerlands, NY and, as C.L. Bluestein, is the author of three published fiction/thriller novels in the Seduction Series: #1 Seduction, #2 Perception, and #3 Isolation — available on Amazon: softcover, Kindle, and Audible – and You Want Me To DoWhat?, a FREE contemporary presentation of the Exodus story (for use at the Passsover Seder as well as general learning) which, through a series of interfaith play-lets, lets participants walk in the sandals of our ancestors. FREE download at http://www.CarolBluestein.com
In addition to her written work, Bluestein’s expressed her entrepreneurial skills in Arts Management, Computer and Business Consulting, Teaching, Public Speaking, and Professional Photography. Her hobbies include #RESIST, gardening, improv, designing and executing functional and decorative projects in wood, metal, cement, and mixed media. She is surrounded by family and two rescued schnoodles.
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