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She was...

She was….

He woke up with the sun streaming in the bedroom window and reached over to find the space next to him empty. Time to get up. Last one up got to make the bed so he took turns at either side pulling up the sheet and blanket, fluffing the two pillows and setting them at the head, then pulling up the bedspread finishing off with a gentle tug and smoothing of the hand. Just the way she liked it.

He grabbed his clothes from off the floor, scattered here and there as they were thrown off the previous night in a valiant attempt to crawl between the covers and the warmth they provided. A final look about, didn’t want to leave an errant sock or t-shirt hiding under the bed, that would never do, then head for the bathroom. Lift the seat, hit the pool not the rim, that really annoyed her eliciting a, “Can’t you aim a little straighter, there’s pee all over the toilet, and I’m the one who has to clean the bathroom!” He had often offered to do just that, but never passed the high standards she set for a clean rest stop. Put the lid back down.

He’d showered the night before so all he had to do this morning was take his pills, brush his teeth and splash some water on his face. He’d also shaved the night before making sure not to leave any “whisker sludge” defacing the sink bowl, or leave any “clumps of water” outside its confines. That also earned a lecture on cleanliness and how his dear mother had raised a pig with no manners. He grabbed his tooth brush, grabbed the toothpaste and squeezed out a line, and gave his molars a sound thrashing making sure not to spit the foam onto the spigot and rinsing its remainders down the drain. So many things to remember including replacing the lid on the toothpaste tube. She was famous for discarding entire tubes of toothpaste that had been left uncapped for the day as though it were a glass of milk left out for days or weeks, rancid and curdled. Only freshly preserved and capped toothpaste for his honey bunch.

He shuffled into their walk-in closet, grabbed a fresh pair of undies having placed yesterday’s in the hamper under the sink. “I can’t wash them unless they are in the hamper and I am NOT crawling under the bed to haul out your smelly undershorts, no sir!” still ringing in his ears from an earlier indiscretion. Stepping in one leg at a time, then grabbing a button down shirt, poking the white plastic buttons through the tight little slits, giving a final tug and grabbing a pair of slacks off a hangar and repeating the process one leg at a time, zip, snap, and grab a ball of socks out of the dresser drawer. Slip the socks on, reach over for a pair of penny loafers, don’t feel much like tying shoes this morning, and shutting off the light, don’t want to sign up for the, “You working for the electric company again?” lecture.

Into the kitchen, grab the coffee pot, fill it to the six-cup line, pour it in the reservoir, set the pot on the heating pad, grabbing the coffee filters peeling one off from the bottom and sticking it in the holder. Reaching down for the plastic coffee container, popping the lid to find the tiny scoop ready for its daily duty, counting out six scoops, being ever so careful not to spill a single grain of ground beans on the appliance or heaven forbid the counter. Somehow the sound of the portable hand-vac at this early hour was similar to fingernails on a slate blackboard. Susie spotless was not one to leave an errant crumb of coffee bean on her clean counters, hell no.

He noticed a piece of paper on the floor, a post-it note with a phone number on it from the previous day, bent down and picked it up. Better him than her, just a common courtesy. The call had already been made, so in the trash making sure to close the cabinet door under the sink where the trash was concealed. Leaving cabinet doors open was another no-no, and the familiar, “Why do you think cabinets HAVE doors” dissertation. He pulled open the bread drawer, grabbed a loaf of bread already opened, gave the twist tie a clockwise twist. She was right handed but never graduated school with the “Righty tighty, Lefty Loosey” lesson intact, so he had long ago learned to reverse the rule with the bread fastener, freeing two slices from the assembly and returning the tie to the bag giving it a few left turns to tighten. Back in the bread drawer and off to the toaster.

By this time the coffee was gurgling and nearly ready to sneak a quick cup hoping the safety valve was still in operation cutting off the flow of hot liquid just long enough to fill a cup. One time it failed to work as designed, and the coffee spilled all over the heating pad and onto the counter. He had to grab a half roll of paper towels to stop the brown tide before she captured the action and lit into him once again. He lived in fear. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her to death, or that her rules were unreasonable, it was just that there were just so many of them, he had to constantly be on his toes, cleaning up his messes before she caught him. While nobody is perfect, he was a bit on the clumsy side and often tripped the crisis alarm without intending to. He really wanted to please her, to keep her happy, but it was hard at times , really hard.

He opened the fridge and grabbed some milk for his coffee and some butter and strawberry preserves for his toast, the toast popped and he liked to apply the butter when it was still hot. She did not like margarine, even though it went on much easier than that hard stick of yellow peril, so it was prudent to work fast. While the butter was melting, he would grab the coffee, fill his mug and add a dash of milk, and put both butter and milk back in the fridge the same time. She was always reminding him to be efficient, and not be opening the fridge more than he had to. Time for the jelly, and put the knife in the dishwasher for its run later in the week.

He grabbed the morning paper from the front stoop, his paper boy was good at saving him from having to walk across the lawn for it, closed the front door with a resounding click and sat down at the kitchen table with his toast and coffee at the ready. Not much in the news, just the usual car chases, hostage situations, and World War Three ready to commence. Glancing up at the clock, time to wrap it up and head off to work, placing the coffee cup and toast plate in the dishwasher. Grab his coat from the hall closet and out the door to the car waiting in the driveway.

Work was uneventful, it was, after all work. He was known to remind people, “Why do you think they call it “work” instead of “play”? You know it does require some effort after all.” He got bored around noon, and picked up the phone dialing her number. A few rings, it went to voicemail and he listened to her message, “You have reached the phone of Maria Carson. I happen to be a very busy lady, but if I like you, I might even return your call. Don’t forget to leave your number silly. Bye” He loved listening to her voice. It really fit her personality well, light, airy, and full of passion and humor. He left his usual message, “Love you honey,” and went back to the drudgery of the job.

On his way home he stopped off to pick up some groceries and an evening paper, and some flowers. He drove through town, turned onto the quiet lane, got out, and set the flowers on her grave.

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