“Become an old lady. Or die,” she says out loud while looking closely at her face in the bathroom mirror. There are crosshatches under her eyes now, and other sags and wrinkles and puffs that make her look so different from what she once did. Blondi is no longer chagrined by them.
Instead she chuckles at her image and remembers what her dad always says:
“It’s better than the alternative.”
He is a practical man.
Another of his flat statements, when someone you love is dying:
“It has to happen sometime.”
It sounds like there are elves down in the kitchen.
Blondi rolls over and sighs. This is no problem. You can wash my dishes any time, she thinks with gratitude, before bending the covers back and planting her feet on the floor. The scent of freshly brewed coffee wafts up the passageway and she drifts toward its source.
Ah! Isn’t this the life o’ Riley? A sleep-in on Saturday, and a shoemaker’s elf downstairs too. There is nothing in her world to complain about, and his presence is like a gift from heaven. She must have been sleeping pretty heavily when he came in last night, using the spare key; or maybe he arrived early this morning. At any rate, her plans for the weekend include moving furniture and hanging shelves — getting comfortable again in the second-floor suite after so long away — and he is a homemaker’s dream, with his hammer and nails, his saws and drills, and all this on top of a culinary competence he doesn’t have time to show off on working days. When he’s here, she stays out of the kitchen.
Blondi loves weekends.
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Blondi believes in ghosts. She’s never seen or heard one, or smelled one or felt one, but others have, and that’s good enough for her.
On her walk to the lake this morning she stopped to take photographs of snowdrifts and saw a cat brush past, near her legs. Except there was no cat out there with her, and no place for a cat to disappear to by the time she looked back again.
It must have been the shadow of a bird she didn’t see, she thinks, knowing full well it wasn’t.
She won’t tell anyone. Maybe Dawn.
People still look at her funny since the time she saw a woman floating dead near the lakeshore. No body was ever found, and … Blondi might just have a screw loose.
They know better than that, she tells herself.
But it’s only a comfort; she doesn’t quite believe they do.
He pushes past Blondi, who is standing at the doorway to the kitchen, and marches straight into the back as if looking for someone. And he is.
Brainie’s not here? He appears bewildered, as if he hasn’t heard right and can’t quite believe it.
He doesn’t ask where she is or wait to be told, but bolts out the side door. He’s clearly been in the cafe enough to know the lay of the land. But why has Blondi never heard him mentioned?
Oh well. She’ll tell Brainie he was here.
Dawn is talking about an unfinished repair project she has just seen in a friend’s home.
“And the longer it remains undone, the harder it gets for her husband to tackle it,” she says.
“He is probably ashamed of himself.”
As far as Blondi is concerned, Marta enjoys the best of both worlds.
She travels about like a gypsy, acquainted with people everywhere she goes, and the comforts of home are with her like the shell of a turtle. Marta’s “shell” is a made-over tour bus and her business is a mobile library, but Marta has everything down to a system that suits her to a T. She is on the road and in her castle at the same time.
No surprise there, either, thinks Blondi; she’s a Gemini. Aren’t they two-sided? Multifaceted? They always figure out a way to have their cake and eat it too.
She brings along a poster this time. Marta never arrives empty-handed. She comes bearing treasures from, if not across the seas of salt, then the seas of grain and snow. There will be something picked up at a tourist booth while the bus is in its parking lot, or something exchanged with a friend, or purchased at a fundraiser. There’s one in some prairie town somewhere, every night, and Marta has a pretty good nose for them. She gets a lot of homemade meals this way, meets plenty of local people, makes her presence known to all, and doesn’t have to use her bus kitchen. Or do supper dishes.
Smart, is our Marta.
Blondi makes a breakfast special so simple it shouldn’t be this delicious: basically scrambled eggs with diced mozzarella, and lots of it. And it brings the seniors in. They like plain food and are easy to please; they are always appreciative and polite. Everyone should be old people, she thinks. They know how to treat a person.
She goes through the motions of a Monday morning, recalling the way her friend Marta describes what, as Blondi keeps thinking about it, might as well be her own daily doings:
“”My life is still my boring dusty life and I must do what I can with it.”
It’s a byproduct of time having passed. Nothing much is new. It’s hard to get excited about routines and responsibilities. They don’t shine anymore.
“How do you dust them off?” she asks, when Marta comes in and sits herself down by the window.