The Last Trumpet
by K. D. Miller

0

Alex Colville, “Kiss with Honda” (1989) Copyright A.C.Fine Art Inc.

Len Sparks has started to look forward to the advice column in the Sackville Tribune-Post. Reading about the situations people get themselves into charges him up in the morning. “Idiot!” he will all but snort over his cereal. “How and why?” Crackling the paper, shaking his head, while Sister watches him with her worried beagle eyes. “How and why?

This morning, what he reads makes him go so still and quiet that Sister comes close, needing his palm on her head to forestall a whine. A woman has written in about her impending death. Specifically, her burial. She wants to be placed in her late husband’s coffin, turned on her side to face him, so that when the last trumpet sounds and they wake to the Resurrection, they will embrace each other with joy and rise together.

Len has to read the letter a second time to be sure the writer is serious. She must be very old, he thinks, then reminds himself that he’s eighty-six. But still. Are there people today who actually believe that kind of thing? Take it literally?

The advice columnist’s name is Fran, and she gets it right most of the time. With this poor soul she is gentle. Tactful. She suggests that the woman talk to her pastor, then perhaps discuss the matter with an undertaker. Len feels a stab of pity, imagining each man wondering whether to laugh or cry.

Sister is resting her chin on his knee. He starts in on a good scratch, neck to tail, that makes her close her eyes and sigh deep in her throat. “That’s enough now,” he says after a minute. “Go lie down. Go.” Sister obeys, padding to her wicker bed lined with the cushion whose plaid is dim under a layer of shed hair. Len supposes he should have the thing cleaned. Did Joan ever send it out to be cleaned? He can’t remember.

He stirs the coffee he poured before he sat down so it would be cool enough to drink when he got to it after his cereal and canned peaches. He can’t stop thinking about that letter. What would it be like to have a rock-solid belief in something like the resurrection of the body? To be able to put aside all logic, quiet all questions and doubts, simply not see images of putrefaction and protruding bone?

He sips his coffee. Puts more milk in from the small pitcher, his shaking hand making it slop a little into the saucer. It used to drive Joan nuts, the way he drank his coffee almost cold. “I can pour it the night before and leave it in the fridge for you if you like,” she said more than once.

He’ll visit her this afternoon. It’s the first of the month. October. Might not be able to do it again till spring. For years after she died, he kept his monthly appointment at her grave regardless of the weather. But the last few winters have been fierce – deep snow and ice storms. Last year he actually got one of those pronged attachments for the tip of his cane. He’ll have to look it out soon. He hates it, the way it resembles the claws of some strange beast.

“I’ve become a strange beast, Sister,” he says aloud. The dog hears her name and raises her head, looking at him hopefully. “No, not yet. Just settle down. We’ll go for a you-know-what in a little while.” Even now, in her twelfth year, she goes all puppyish if she hears walk.

He wonders if she still misses Brother, or even remembers him. Brother was always the more rambunctious of the two, and one day when he was barely a year old he ran into the street and was hit. Len insisted on letting Sister see and sniff the body so that she would understand that Brother was dead. But it didn’t seem to work. She took on a puzzled air, poking into every corner of the house, searching the face of each visitor as if to say, “Do you know where Brother went?” Or at least, that’s how it seemed to Len. Joan was more prosaic. “She’s not all that bright. Just give it time. She’ll forget he ever existed.” She never said so, but Len knew that of the two Joan would have preferred to lose Sister. Brother was definitely her dog. Their personalities matched – curious, adventurous, demanding.

The dogs got their names by default. It was how the woman at the kennel referred to them as puppies – Sister and Brother. “Whatever you do,” she said, “don’t get two males from the same litter. They’ll be like Tom and Jerry – egging each other on and wrecking the house. Two females are better, even though they can get a little territorial sometimes. But a sister and a brother? Bingo.”

They couldn’t decide on names. Fred and Ginger? George and Gracie? Beatrice and Benedict? One day they realized the dogs had decided for themselves, the female turning her head if she heard Sister, the male thumping his tail to the sound of Brother.

Len folds the last section of the paper. Places it on top of the other sections and squares the pile. Then he stacks his breakfast dishes – plate, saucer, cereal bowl, fruit bowl, coffee cup. Readies himself to get up. He still refuses to bring his cane to the table. The cane is for outside. Its place is in the brass umbrella stand by the front door. The day he’d allow himself to hobble around with it in the kitchen –

He pushes his chair back and gets carefully to his feet, thinking through the distance from table to sink. So far, so good. None of that sickening light-headedness he’s had of late, forcing him to sit right back down. Now. Dishes to the counter. Then. Papers to the recycle bin under the sink. Two trips.

Is the stack of dishes rattling more than it did yesterday? Would a tray help? He could maybe assemble his breakfast things the night before on a tray. It’s the turning around that’s a bugger. Well, he could set his place at the other end of the table. Facing the sink. Six steps. There. Set the pile on the counter with a minimum of clatter and slide. Now do the whole thing over again to get the newspapers into the box. Jesus.

A tray. Does he even have a tray? Joan used to bring drinks out to guests. He tries to picture her. Would she have used a tray for that? She’d never let him help, that was for sure. His job was to entertain, be all chuckly and urbane in the living room. If there was ever a crash and a whispered “Shit!” from the kitchen, he would rise and go, saying, “My lady wife hath need of me.” Then, when she hissed at him to just keep out of her way, he would re-emerge, give the company a seraphic smile and say, “Every day a honeymoon.”

Company. Joan did love a party, for all her fussing. Probably loved the fussing too. Mostly couples they’d have over, back in the day. Neighbours. His colleagues from the school. Hers from all her volunteer jobs. A few singles. Men, usually. Joan was a man’s woman. No doubt about that.

Len pauses in the middle of gathering up the papers. There was that one guy. Tall. Balding. On the arts festival committee with Joan. Was he the one with the silver Honda? Would he have come to the house? Taken a drink? Shaken Len’s hand?

No way to know. And no point dwelling on it now. It’s in the past. He’s made it to the sink for the second time. The papers are in the box. He’ll wash the dishes, sit for a bit, then take Sister for her walk.

It’s cold for early October. He should have worn his heavier coat. His November coat, as he thinks of it. The windbreaker that got him through September is just light enough this morning to leave him chilled. He could have used gloves, too.

How do animals manage the temperature extremes, he wonders, watching Sister meander and sniff, seeking the perfect place to squat. All this one has is the same short pelt all year round. True, he does tie her coat on her in the winter, and puts booties on her feet for the salt. But still. He doesn’t know much about beagles, where they originated, why they were bred to be the way they are. Something to do this afternoon. Google beagles.

Sister has finished, and watches apologetically as Len plants his cane, bracing himself with it to go down on one knee and pick up the mess with the hand already inside the plastic bag. It’s all about preparation, he thinks, hoisting himself back up onto his feet.

He stashes the plastic bag in the first waste container he finds, then heads south on Bridge to Main. He and Sister always enter the waterfowl park near St. Ann’s, where Joan was rector’s warden the two years before she was killed. Her funeral was huge. Crowd spilling out the door. People he barely knew coming close to take his hand or squeeze his shoulder and murmur something. None of them the face he kept looking for, in spite of himself. Surely the guy wouldn’t have the gall. Or would he? Slip in the back at the last minute. Slip out again just before the end. Take off in his silver Honda.

They pass St. Ann’s, then step onto the boardwalk. They’re a bit late this morning, so the mist has mostly lifted off the water. Still, there is that point on the near horizon where everything dissolves into grey – no distinction between water and sky. The sight always cheers Len, for some reason.

Cattails knocking against the handrails on either side are crisping already, and most of the songbirds have left. But there’s still plenty of chatter and chirp to distract Sister from her sniffing. She woofs at a squawking raven overhead, then gets so fixated on some gum underfoot that Len has to pull her away.

When they come to their usual first resting spot, one of the little lookouts built off to the side and ringed with benches, they find it occupied. A young couple. Both smoking. Both wearing dark glasses on this cold grey morning. As Len passes by, pulling Sister back to his side and already trying to sight the next lookout, he hears the young woman say, “There are other. Issues. Besides. That.”

One of those conversations, from the sound of it. Remember them? Joan pelting him with words. Him just waiting for it to be over. Do all women do that? Stir things up just when they’ve gotten settled and calm? Insist there is some other issue whose existence was always news to him, yet for which he was somehow always to blame?

He never repaid her in kind. Could have. Could have pointed a finger. Said a few words of his own. Would it have changed anything, if he had? Or would she have found some way to turn it around and, as usual, blame him?

Sister whines softly at his side and he realizes he’s been tightening up on the leash. “Sorry, old girl. Let’s have a bit of a rest.” They’ve come to the next lookout, which is vacant, thank God. Len sits stiffly down on the bench, feeling pain transfer from his feet to his knees. It never leaves now, just moves around.

The fog has lifted. He can see where the boardwalk zigzags out into the marsh, then back around to solid ground. The surface of the water is pocked with single raindrops. Nothing to worry about. A muskrat noses open a seam, then submerges again.

This is usually when the simplicity of the place, its birds and animals living so completely in the present, settles him down and cheers him up. But he’s morbid this morning. Brooding on things best left buried. Must be the effect of that letter to the advice columnist. Damn fool woman wanting to wake from the dead in her husband’s arms. Beats opening her eyes alone inside her own coffin, he supposes. Having to heave against the lid, lift all that weight of dirt, claw her way to the surface in answer to the last trumpet sounding. Except he doubts she sees it that way. Probably imagines things being all lovely and easy and miraculous. Likely hasn’t occurred to her that when her husband opens his own eyes and sees his wife again – this time for all eternity – his reaction might be something less than unmitigated joy.

Len hasn’t a clue what happens after death, and isn’t sure he cares. He stayed away from the church for a year after Joan’s funeral. Kept telling himself he’d never go back. But he did. In time, he did. And now he’s there most Sunday mornings. It’s an outing. A chance to see people.

When Joan was alive he only went because she was so involved with the place. She ran it the way she ran the arts festival committee and the library board. Hustled him into his tie and out the door every Sunday morning so as to have time to perch on the kneeler in front of their pew to pray – eyes shut, slightly smiling lips moving. Len himself just sat. He had been raised a Presbyterian, and his parents had looked little and lost at the Anglican mass Joan had insisted on for their wedding.

Joan knew how to insist. It was her gift. How she got things done. They never talked about her habit of praying prior to a Sunday service – what she prayed for, what she believed in. Besides herself, that is. Yes, Joan Sparks definitely believed in Joan Sparks.

A pair of mallards glide past. Perfectly in sync, they upend to feed. Do they mate for life, Len wonders. Something else to look up. Imagine how serene that would be. This is your mate. There will be no other. So just paddle your feet and don’t even think about it.

But what if one of them dies? When the police came to the door with the news that Joan had been hit by a van while jaywalking across Main, Len’s first thought was, Just like Brother. His second was, I never told her. She’ll never know that I knew.

It had been close at times, over the years. Oddly enough, the day he found out, it was easy. Maybe he was in shock. He got through dinner with the usual small talk about work. Had no problem leaving out the part about getting a headache after lunch, asking another teacher to supervise his spare, knocking off early. Walking home as usual, wondering if Joan would be there, or off doing one of her projects. Then, from half a block away, seeing a silver Honda just pulling out of their driveway. Joan on the porch watching it. Suddenly running down the steps. The car pausing. The driver leaning out. Joan bending to kiss him.

Len seemed to know exactly what to do – step quickly back behind a tall hedge and watch as the Honda passed him by, the driver invisible through the sunlit windshield. He felt as if he was in a play, performing a role he had been rehearsing all his life. Next the script directed him to turn and walk to that little café around the corner. Sit over one cooling cup of coffee until his usual coming-home time.

That night he lay in the dark beside Joan, aware of the inches between them. Feeling words crowding the back of his throat. Why? How long –? What does he –? It had been weeks since she’d wanted him to touch her. But she had always been temperamental that way. And he’d always just ridden it out, relieved and grateful to have her back when she came back.

So that was what he did. And when, in time, she did come back, did slide those few inches to press up against him, all he felt was the usual gratitude and relief. And though he never stopped looking for it, he never saw the silver Honda again.

Although beagle-type dogs have existed for 2500 years, the modern breed was developed in Great Britain around the 1830s from several breeds …

Len resisted getting a computer at first. Held out as long as he could against Joan, who started agitating for one in the early nineties.

Beagles are scent hounds, developed primarily for tracking hare, rabbit, deer and other small game. They have a great sense of smell and tracking instinct that sees them employed as detection dogs for prohibited agricultural imports and foodstuffs in quarantine …

He gave in, of course, thinking that would be the end of it and discovering it was only the beginning. Updates all the time and always the latest gizmo Joan just had to have. Then the desktop/laptop debate, which Len conceded almost before it began. Then, within months of acquiring the machine he is using now and will likely take to the grave, Joan went her own way with an iPad and iPhone, claiming she needed to be free of anything plugged in at home. Does she mean me? Len remembers musing at the time.

Joan’s phone became a third presence, their electronic child, never asleep, forever interrupting. She claimed it consolidated and streamlined things for her, but it seemed to Len that it complicated her life, harassing and obsessing her. She was in the middle of texting someone when she stepped off the curb and was hit.

Beagles are intelligent but single- minded, and popular pets because of their size, even temper, and lack of inherited health problems.

What if human beings were bred for specific tasks, the way domesticated animals are? Not for the first time, Len fantasizes some extraterrestrial race, whose intelligence compares to that of homo sapiens the way his does to Sister’s, arriving one day on Earth and taking over. In just a few generations, humans would be sorted into functional breeds – some to do menial work, some to invent or create, others to organize and keep records. Len is aware that he finds something attractive in the notion. Knowing one’s role, one’s nature, and being unwilling, even unable, to deviate from it.

But what if it had actually happened in his lifetime? Where would he have fit, in the scheme of things? He was fifteen when the Second World War ended. His father had fought in the Great War, and never stopped talking about it. Unlike other boys his age, Len did not chafe at being just too young to join up. He felt secretly relieved, as if he’d gotten off scot-free.

He took a general bachelor’s degree and became a high school teacher in Sackville, New Brunswick. He was good enough in the classroom to keep order and impart his subject, which was geography. An inoffensive discipline, neither soft art nor hard science, offering a smorgasbord of topics from tariffs on trade goods to tectonic forces shifting the ground beneath his students’ feet.

Somewhat to his surprise, he married a strikingly beautiful woman who got more so with age, her white hair contrasting dramatically with her dark brows. A woman, however, who was not unlike one of those tectonic forces – never resting, never satisfied, incapable of engaging with an individual or a group without pushing them around.

Joan was scornful of Sackville, for all she practically ran its cultural and spiritual life. She was furious with Len for refusing a vice-principalship in Moncton – A real city, at least! This place is a village! But Len for once put his foot down and refused to move. He had found his place. Sackville was a city, albeit a cosy one, with its ivy-clad university and fall fair. It was small enough that he could walk back and forth to work each day. Walk to church each Sunday morning. Afford a big old house with a wraparound porch that never failed to move him when he turned the corner at the end of the day and sighted it. He was used to his life. Even the discomforts of his marriage were accustomed discomforts. He never cheated on Joan. Not for lack of opportunity. A high school teacher in a small place like Sackville gets a certain number of eyes turning his way. But it stopped with the eyes. Sometimes Joan would even have to tell him (Didn’t you see Trish Bromley just throwing herself at you?) after some gathering or other. All he would remember would be the woman’s upturned face, her expression interested. Well, all right. Maybe a bit more than just interested. But such occurrences always left him mystified. He knew he was not unattractive. He just felt so thoroughly married. He had been made to be married. To Joan. He felt safe in his life. Out of harm’s way. And there was nothing wrong with that.

He may have spent all his political capital as breadwinner when he refused to move for that promotion. And it’s possible Joan was paying him back when she had that affair – if that’s what it was – with the guy in the silver Honda. He doesn’t know. He never will. It’s in the past, he reminds himself, shutting down the computer.

The cemetery gates always strike him as a bit pretentious – two big gothic wings wafting him in. But here he is, as usual. First of the month. A little later in the day than he would have liked. The dark comes down early, and they shut the place up at five.

He almost didn’t make it out the door. That damned light-headedness again when he tried to get up out of his desk chair. It dropped him right back down with a whump. All he could do was sit and wait for the room to stop spinning. He thought about just staying home, leaving the visit till tomorrow or the next day. But no. That would be the start of something. Something he does not want to start.

Sister was so sound asleep that he decided not to wake her for a second walk. She’s sleeping more and more these days. He supposes the time is coming. But not just yet. She can still get around. Still likes her food. Makes it out the door in time. And she’s a presence in the house. Sometimes he’ll lower his paper or look away from the TV and see her eyes upon him. He’ll wonder how long she has been quietly studying him, and why. Maybe she knows he’s all she’s got. Maybe she senses that he will one day decide she has lived long enough. Oh for God’s sake, Len, he can just hear Joan, she’s a dog. They don’t think beyond their next bowl of kibble.

Joan’s grave is not far in, but it is up a bit of a rise. Len has to stop halfway and catch his breath. When she died, there was actually a sale on cemetery plots and he got a two-for-one deal. He paid a little extra even so, because there was a bench facing where their headstones would be. At the time, he didn’t care all that much, but now he’s glad of a place to sit during these monthly visits.

He leans on his cane and looks around at the acres of graves. Generations upon generations. Taking up land. Would the day ever come when the needs of the living shredded the last notion of what is sacred? He imagines graveyards being excavated for condominium foundations. Earth movers lifting jaws dripping with dry and notso- dry bones. Shards of mahogany. Crisping bouquets. All of it loaded onto trucks trundling up out of the deepening pit and taking it –

“Hey, you got a light?”

Where did he come from? A boy. Maybe fifteen. Wearing jeans and one of those hoodie things or whatever they’re called.

“I’m sorry?”

“I said. Do. You. Got. A light.”

Rude young – “No. I haven’t.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Len says, stumping past. “I don’t smoke. And neither should you.” Honestly.

The bench is just a few steps around a bend in the cemetery path. When he reaches it he grabs onto the armrest, braces with his cane and sits gingerly. Even through his heavier coat, the seat is hard and cold.

Joan’s headstone is a plain white marble tablet. Name and dates. No Beloved Wife Of or any other sentiment. He did want to make the right decision. Searched his memory for any hint she might have given about preferring to be cremated. Except Joan didn’t hint, and she didn’t prefer. If she wanted something, she opened her mouth and –

“You just out takin’ a walk or somethin’?”

Damn. He didn’t hear the kid following him. Len tightens up on the handle of his cane. Draws a calming breath. “I’m visiting my late wife.” He nods toward Joan’s grave.

“Oh yeah?” The boy sits down beside him. “How long she been dead?” His face is a pale oval, the eyes darklashed, the lips fleshy, curled in a smirk. There is a pink constellation of pimples on his chin.

Len moves his left hand into his lap. He’s wearing his good watch – the one he got at retirement. And his wallet – cash and credit card – is in his lapel pocket. But he has his cane. One good crack across the bridge of the nose –

Oh, calm down. The boy hasn’t done anything wrong. As a teacher, Len learned to focus on the question asked and filter out any attitude. It usually worked. “As you can see from the date on the stone, my wife passed away eight years ago,” he says firmly, then faces front.

“What she die of?”

Is he being baited? The way the young sometimes bait the old? He wants to say, You’ll be like me some day. I know you don’t believe it, but it’s true. Unless you die young in some damned fool way. Racing a car. Putting some garbage into your veins or up your nose or whatever your type does. Keeping his voice steady, he says, “It was an accident. She was hit crossing the street. Now if you don’t mind, I would like to be quiet.”

“Sure. No problem. Quiet as you want.”

Len tries to ignore the boy after that, but he must have a slight cold because his breath snuffles. He wants to focus the way he usually does, calling up memories of Joan. Just fifteen minutes or so of acknowledgement. It’s what he does. Once a month. He was her husband. She was his wife. All the difficulties and disappointments notwithstanding.

Len sucks up all the integrity in the room. Did Joan ever actually say that? Or can he just imagine her saying it?

No matter. Focus. Try. But his mind throws up a picture of how she – her body – must be now. Why didn’t he just go ahead and have her cremated? Scatter the ashes wherever? Except he wouldn’t have scattered her, would he? No, he’d have kept her in a box or an urn somewhere in the living room. Ridiculous. Superstitious. Still, he did want her to be in a specific place. That was another odd thought he had right after she died. At least now I’ll know where she is. What she’s –

“You come here a lot?”

Len sighs. “I come here once per month. For just a few minutes. Of quiet reflection.”

“You and her married for long?”

“Forty-eight years.”

“Wow. All that time. Just you two. What’s that like?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Like, didn’t you get sick of each other?”

Len says nothing, just looks steadily ahead at Joan’s grave, thinking he might as well leave but unwilling to let the boy force him out.

“Like, didn’t you fight or nothin’? My folks, they fight all the time.”

Maybe, Len thinks resignedly, this could be a teaching moment. “There are always tensions in a marriage,” he says. “Especially a long one. But you adjust to each other. And if there is a foundation of respect – ”

“You ever give her a little tap?”

“What?”

“You know. Just a swat now and then. Keep her in line.”

What kind of home does this boy come from? “Absolutely not.” Then, quoting his father, “When a man raises his hand to a woman, he ceases to be a man.”

“She pretty good, then?”

“Excuse me?”

“You know.”

“I’m sure I don’t.”

“You get what you want? When you wanted it?”

“Look, I don’t know what you’re – ”

“Or did you have to beg for it?” The boy’s adenoidal breath is almost in his ear. “Did you have to say, Pleease, Honey! Pleease! Pleease?”

Len plants his cane. Pulls himself to his feet. Feels the blood drain sickeningly from his head. Lands back down. “Oooff!” One slat of the bench bruises his tailbone. His cane clatters to the ground beside him.

“Hey! Geez. You all right?” The boy is crouched in front of him, peering into his face. Grinning. “You know what? You should put your head down. Between your knees. Yeah. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

And that is what Len does, because the boy puts his hands on his shoulders and pushes him down hard until he is bent double. “I can’t breathe!” he squeaks, and the pressure eases a bit.

“Now, you just stay that way,” the boy says tenderly. “You hear me?” When Len does not respond, he presses down hard again.

“Yes!” Len even nods – wags his head between his knees. He can see the end of his cane, where it fell. Could he reach it if –

“Good. That’s good.” A pale hand picks the cane up. Pulls it out of his line of vision. He hears a whoosh of air. Another. Is the boy swinging his cane around? Revving up? Len braces for the impact. He’ll be found beaten to death in front of his wife’s grave. Because he always visits his wife, doesn’t he? Every bloody month. His wife with her prayers and her good works. His wife who cheated on him. Opened her legs. Took him for a bloody –

Whump!

He winces at the sound. Dares to look up. The boy raises the cane. Brings it down again. On Joan’s grave.

Whump!

“Bitch!”

Whump!

“Cunt!”

Whump!

Len jerks with every blow. Right. Wear yourself out. Take it out on her. Give it to her. Give it to her.

The boy stops and stands, breathing heavily. Len quickly looks down again. Hears the sound of a zipper. A splashing. “Drink it, bitch!”

Drink it, bitch.

A clatter. Running footsteps. Getting fainter.

After a long moment, Len looks up. There, a few feet in front of him on the path, is his cane. No sign of the boy. He listens. Hard. Nothing.

Carefully, he half-rolls off the bench onto his knees. Feels cold gravel through the fabric of his pants. Crawls to his cane. Braces with it. Pulls himself to his feet. Hobbles to Joan’s grave and leans on the stone. “I’m sorry,” he wheezes. “I’m sorry.” He is tired to death. He could lie down right here and now with Joan and fall asleep. But if he does that, Sister will die slowly inside the house of hunger and thirst. She won’t howl or bark at a window the way Brother would have. And even if she does, who will hear? No one comes to the door. There’s no mail delivery any more, just that bloody community box he has to walk to. He should have asked a neighbour to look in on him every other day or so. But that’s how it starts. The exchanged looks. The being talked about. Poor old Len…

He’s getting his breath back. Patting the headstone now, saying, “All right then? All right.” He checks his watch. It’s not yet five. If he starts back now, he’ll make it to the gates before they lock them.

Once he’s home, should he call the authorities? Report the boy? He did get a good look at him. But his mind veers from the thought of a young officer, perhaps even a woman, sitting in his living room and listening to his tale of what happened. What was done to him. And to Joan. Then asking questions. Forcing him to reveal more and more detail. It would be like having to describe a humiliating but deserved punishment.

So the boy will get off scot-free. Maybe Len will even encounter him one day when he’s out walking Sister.

Sister. She’ll be waking up. Wondering where he is. Making that worried little whine in her throat. He starts toward the gates. Is he actually hungry? What does he have in the house?

He should start getting his groceries delivered. He hasn’t been eating well, because he can only carry one bag home at a time from the store and he doesn’t want to be seen trundling one of those old-lady bundle buggies. So yes. Delivery. He’ll set that up. Tomorrow. Nothing wrong with it, either. Not as if he’s getting meals on bloody wheels.

And what was he thinking about this morning? Setting his breakfast things out on a tray the night before. At the other end of the table, facing the sink. He must have a tray somewhere. He’ll take a look tonight. Pick one up tomorrow from the hardware in town, if necessary.

It’s all about preparation, he reminds himself, stumping down the hill. Catching sight of the gates.

 

—From CNQ 98 (Winter 2017)

 

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