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The Picture

by Jack Coey



            Silas sat up in bed and looked at the illuminated hands: 6:37. He was an old man and widower for eighteen months. He was white – haired, and reached for his wire – rimmed glasses on the night – stand. There was one picture in the room above the headboard of a white –haired, handsome woman with a gentle smile. The pillow next to Silas was positioned vertically not horizontally. Silas blinked his eyes after putting on his glasses.

            “It’s Tuesday,” he announced. He put one foot on the floor, then, the second.

            “Good morning, Wilma,” he said. He cautiously pushed himself upright, and walked stiff – legged to the bathroom. He wore Sears and Roebuck style pajamas. After sometime, he came out of the bathroom, and walked back into the bedroom, and stood looking at the picture.

            “It’s Tuesday.” He nodded his head. He was a thin man and changed out of his Sears and Roebuck style pajamas to khaki pants and white shirt. He pulled the covers of the bed, and left the second pillow in its vertical position. He walked into the kitchen, and took out a wooden bowl from the cupboard. From another cupboard, he took out a box of Cheerios. He sat at the Formica table, and poured the cereal into the bowl. He heard Wilma’s voice: Drink your orange juice – it’s good for vitamin C.

            He stood up, and went to the refrigerator for milk. When he opened the refrigerator door, memories flooded out at him. He was a teenager when he met Wilma in high school, and she was accepted at the state school, and got her degree, and taught fourth grade for forty years. He vividly remembered the morning she told him about the hardness on her breast. He remembered too the day Evelyn was born in 1965. He worked for years at Carl’s Liquor Mart until computers came in, and he couldn’t keep up. He worked for a few years after that as a greens keeper at the Lewis County Country Club. He walked back to the Formica table, and stood while he poured milk on his Cheerios. He heard a noise.

            “Hello?” he asked.

            “Dad?”

            “In the kitchen.” 

            Evelyn came into the kitchen. She was average height, and somewhat plump with graying hair. She gently smiled like her mother.

            “I’m going to the supermarket, and I thought I would shop for the both of us.”

            “You think like your mother.”

             Evelyn started looking into the cupboards. Silas watched.

            “You need soup?”

            “Chicken and Rice.”

            “Anything else?”

            “No. Chicken and Rice – not chicken noodle. If you bring me chicken noodle, I won’t eat it.”

            Evelyn turned her head and looked at her father.

            “I think I can handle that.”

            “Chicken and Rice. Your mother wouldn’t get me anything else.”

Evelyn studied her father.

            “Dad, I saw a notice in the paper that the Senior Center is offering chess instruction. I thought you might like to try it.”

            “What? What’s that?”

            “Chess instruction at the Senior Center.”

            “Chicken and Rice, I said.”

            “You can hear me perfectly fine,” she said, “you’re just being obstinate.”

            “What do I want to learn chess for? I’ve no one to play it with.”

            “What are you saying? There’s people at the Senior Center.”

            “Your mother never liked those people. They thought they were better than everyone else.”

             Evelyn studied her father before she spoke.

            “Dad, we need to frankly speak about this.”

            “About what?”

            “Mom’s been dead going on two years now.”

            “I miss her everyday.”

            “I know Dad, but at the same time, you have your life to live. You have to try new things, and meet new people.”

            “Not interested.”

            “It’s what Mom would want for you.”

            “I’m doing great.”

            “When’s the last time you watched a ballgame at the club?”

            “Off-season.”

            “But still, you enjoyed playing cards…”

            “Cereal, I need Cheerios…”

             Evelyn retreated but didn’t surrender.

            “I’ll be back with your groceries in about an hour,” she informed.

            After Evelyn left, Silas sat for awhile, before standing up, and walking into the bedroom. He stared at the picture.

            “Wilma, forgive me, but I had no idea it would be this hard. All the things you did for me that I wasn’t even aware of now seem insurmountable. I don’t want to go anywhere or see anybody, and when I hear a noise, and look up; I’m hoping it’s you. But, of course, that’s silly, but I can’t talk myself out of it. Evelyn’s starting to catch on that something’s not right. She’s going to start to meddle, and I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I don’t see how I can avoid it.” He paused and blinked his eyes. He clasped his hands together as if in prayer.

            “What should I do, Wilma? Oh, what should I do?” He stopped talking and stared at the picture. Evelyn momentarily appeared in the doorway behind him.

            About an hour later, she returned with several cans of Chicken and Rice soup and a box of Cheerios. She stayed about twenty minutes.      

            The illuminated hands read: 2:37 when Silas was awakened by the creak of a floorboard. He lay in the night, and was apprehensive there was a presence with him.         

            “Wilma?” he spoke into the black. He listened in the silence until he fell asleep. The next morning, coming back into the bedroom, was when he saw the nail in the wall.


 
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