It Happened One Morning
A Short Story by B. B. Wright
Black coffee is my elixir for the morning blahs. Definitely not a morning person, I am quite happy to hermit myself away in the den to suck on my over-sized mug of coffee and to read the morning newspaper quietly. It’s not that I’m a growly bear or anything close to it because I think of myself as being quite amiable and pleasant to be with during this time. I just don’t engage in conversation other than the pleasantry of an occasional grunt or nod. You see, in order for conversation to be even remotely considered by me, the cobwebs layering my brain must be fully dissolved and my body must be working more or less on all cylinders. Generally, this occurs after I have finished my third mug of coffee. I say “more or less” because conversation is often hindered by feelings of exhaustion brought about by the number of times I have had to pee. But, nevertheless, at precisely that point in the morning, I am ready, willing and able to gleefully meet the world head-on.
I had poured my first mug of coffee and picked up the morning paper from the hall table when I was distracted by a knock at the door. The bucked tooth Cheshire cat smile of Molly Beaverbottom beamed back at me through the leaded glass window of the front door. Unable to hide, I half-heartedly smiled back and opened the door.
Dressed in an undersized rainbow-colored tracksuit that did nothing to flatter her figure, she said: “Good morning, John. Where’s Julie?”
Juggling my coffee mug and paper with one arm, I used the other to thumb over my shoulder toward the kitchen.
Molly was someone I never relished talking to no matter the time of day. Her voice reminded me of nails scratching on a chalkboard and her chatter had the unpleasant sound of a very pissed off squirrel. Okay! Okay! I’ve exaggerated somewhat. But, I think you get my point.
As I watched Molly waddle down the hallway toward the kitchen, her thighs made the strangest flapping sound, almost like farts, which caused me to giggle. And, for the first time, I thought her surname was well claimed.
I had barely stepped into the den and shut the door when there was another knock at the front door. At first I ignored it until its persistence beckoned me to do otherwise. Slamming my morning paper down on the table beside my LAZ-Y-BOY chair, me and my Marvin the Martian mug exited the den.
Six boisterous and rather intimating women, whom I have never met before, barreled through the open front door causing my coffee to splash over my new shirt, down my pants and onto the floor. Without salutations and blind to the spillage, my mug initially had somehow captivated their attention. Uncomfortable to say the least and feeling like a stranger in my own home I was about to thumb them in what I thought would be the correct direction, when Molly, playing the part of The Pied Piper, whistled this herd toward the kitchen.
“JULIE!” I shouted, not making any attempt to hide my displeasure.
Julie’s cherub-like face appeared around the door of the kitchen: “Yes, dear?”
Oh how I sometimes hated her sweet angelic face and her lilting melodious tone. Especially now.
“May we talk for a moment?” I asked.
Stiffening my resolve, I had every intention of giving her a piece of my mind.
She glanced behind her, said a few words to whoever was nearby and came down the hall to me.
“Ummm…” I stammered.
As always, my resolve turned to mush when she looked up at me with those damn hazel eyes of hers.
“There’s paper towel under the sink in the guest bathroom,” she began. “I’d suggest you change your clothes. Bring them directly to the laundry room and give them a good scrubbing before putting them in the washing machine.”
“Julie? What’s going on?”
“You mean the girls? It’s my new yoga club. We’ve decided to meet here in the mornings, Monday to Friday. It would mean, though, that you would have to give up the den.”
“Yes. It’s the only room large enough to lay out our mats? And, I couldn’t very well ask them to do that in our dirty and dusty unfinished basement. Now could I?”
Julie’s logic per usual was impeccable. She had a way of blending in touchy history with a stinging remark without actually coming right out and saying it. But her point was crystal clear to me.The history in this case was my misplaced promise to her to build a games/family room in the basement.
Guilty as charged and without any further thought, I gracefully relinquished the den.
“Later we’re going for a run along the path you and I used to run in the mornings. You know the one that…”
“That leads into the woods and comes out along the Port Credit River. Yes I know the one,” I interjected.
“Do you think you might want to come along?” she asked.
“I’m not in the greatest shape, Julie.”
“None of us are. That’s why we’re doing it. Who knows? Maybe your example will draw out their husbands.”
“M-a-y-be. Let me think about it. In the meantime I’d better clean up this mess and get dry clothes.”
“Before you do that, would you mind getting some dishes down from the cupboard over the fridge?”
Prying my way into the kitchen through the jocular squeals gathered at the fruit bowl table, I poured myself some coffee and looked around for the antique step-up Julie and I had bought over thirty years ago. I remembered that she often stored it in the pantry cupboard and, finding it there, I pulled it out and I set it up in front of the fridge and began to climb. When the top step disintegrated under my weight everything went into slow motion, from my fall, to Marvin the Martian smashing on the floor, to the startled look on the women’s faces.
Real time hurt began the moment I crashed onto the floor. Before passing out, I remembered the weirdly contorted configuration of my leg still stuck through the top step.
A quick call to 9-1-1 and eight hours later I reentered our home in a leg cast and on crutches with Julie’s help. I was told by the doctor that I had broken my leg in three places and that I was to keep my leg elevated as much as possible. It was going to take several months of healing and rehabilitation once the cast was off before I would walk properly again.
Since the television was in the den along with my LAZ-Y-BOY chair, I had, without trying, recaptured the peace and quiet of my enclave.
Julie’s care for me during this period was nothing short of exemplary.
Two weeks into my convalescence, I had found a reputable company to build the room Julie had designed for the basement. “Her dream basement,” as she often called it was now underway.
As for the yoga club, well…somehow that had died as quickly as it all started. Maybe it all had to do with me keeping a promise to her and to myself? I’ll never know. But, I will not engage in hypotheticals.
I now get up two hours earlier to have my three cups of coffee and read the morning paper. Thanks to Molly Beaverbottom, I have another Marvin the Martian mug which she bought while vacationing in Florida and sent to me. Maybe I’ll make a strong effort to have her and her husband over for supper once they return. Who would ever have ‘thunk’ I would have entertained such an idea. Life’s funny in a strange sort of way, isn’t it?
Why get up two hours earlier, you may ask? Because rain or shine now, once Julie wakes up, she and I go for our run every morning on the path into the woods and along the Port Credit River. She has even got me into yoga. And to my surprise I like it. I even feel and look better for it.
The days pass by too quickly now. Our pace has slowed down and is more carefully measured. But when all is said and done, what is important to me is that Julie and I are together helping each other achieve their best in life.