The Leaning Cow

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Story from the Peanut Butter Cafe & Roadhouse

March 18th, 2008 ·No Comments

This goes back some years, but it sticks with me. I think I was sitting at one of the tables writing with a pencil; I’m sure I didn’t have a laptop then. It was common for me to make myself comfortable in the booth at the northwest window and pull some sheets of legal pad out of my pocket. There were always quite a few pencils lying around; I’d grab one and just start jotting down some thoughts. It wasn’t that easy, though, for I was never one to do a rough draft – it was kind of write it once and be done with it.

That would leave me sitting there just thinking a lot of the time or reading over what I had written in my head, listening for the rhythm of it. Or I would read the brand name on the pencils; mostly they were Ticonderogas and I would start thinking about Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. I was always fond of them – I think because they were rugged New Englanders. Or maybe the scenery had been attractive in the history book pictures. Once I came upon a Wallace Invader . . . took me years to realize it was named for William Wallace of Scottish fame (Braveheart).

This one day in the early fall – it was warm enough only the screen door separated the inside from the porch  – a lady I’d seen just enough to exchange pleasantries with at the local secondhand bookstore, came up and put her packages down by one of the rockers.

She was probably around 70, actually, probably on the plus side of it. I think the warmth of the day had caught her a little unawares and she went over to the chest pop machine that would eventually be hunkered down for winter, but still had plenty of sodas hanging by the neck in the slots that ran above the ice.

I got up and went out, got myself a drink and sat down in the chair next to hers. Started asking her about books and this and that and then I don’t know what happened but we were talking about the night her husband died. He had been working late and got home after the kids were asleep. He went into their room to kiss them goodnight and she said, “I heard something make a thud.”

She went in and there he was on the floor. It was before 911 – the time of her memory, not our talk – and I don’t remember who she called – an ambulance service . . . or maybe she called their doctor and he sent an ambulance. Yes, I think that was it. This has been a long time and I realize I have forgotten a lot of the details. They were overshadowed, I will tell you, by my memory of what she then told me.

She was in the waiting room at the ER and she heard someone say “DOA” and she knew. I can see her face telling me that.  Her minister came and drove her home and I guess he left. The kids were old enough they could stay alone; when she got home, they were waiting and she said she told him their dad was dead. She said to me, “We sat there on the sofa waiting for it to get light so we could call people.”

My God, to wait alone like that with two children – just the three of you in the night. I would have been calling everyone; I would not have cared who I awoke. I would have needed. I suppose a lot of things could be the predicate in that sentence. but it would have been the verb that cut. Yes, I would have needed. I would not have had the steel in my backbone.

We got off the subject somehow and talked a little more. She got up to leave and then came back and said, “I don’t know why I told you all that. I’m sorry.” I’m certain I assured her it was all right. I remember her smiling gently. I thought we would talk many times more, but I had to go away for awhile and then it was cold and I didn’t get out and I never saw her again.

I’m certain I could have asked around and discovered no doubt that she had taken a friend up on the offer to spend a couple of months – or three – staying in the home and  keeping it “lived in” while he/she  was gone somewhere. That was not an uncommon thing there . . . at that time. I didn’t make any inquiries. There had been that hour on the porch that fall day, and I left it at that. But, when I wake in the middle of the night, when I’m walking through a dark house, I sometimes remember her – sitting on a sofa with her children, waiting for the dawn.

Tags: This and That at The Peanut Butter Cafe & Roadhouse

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