Years after handing her heart to a boy who had died in The Battle of the Somme, Mildred still felt the loss of a life’s companion.
Driven by the thought that ‘time and tides wait for no man,’ she wrote a short advertisement and pinned it to a church notice board in the next village.
Her ad read: “Spinster, 62, wishes to meet a mature, tender man who loves books and doesn’t mind cat hair. Phone 372- 3037.”
The following Sunday, standing at the back of the church, the collection plate in his hands, Malcolm read the notice.
He noted her use of the word “spinster” and the bit about the cat hair. He liked the fact that she was forthright. Already he could see cat hair on his trousers and a stray cat hair in the broccoli.
Despite worries that someone might listen-in on the party-line, Malcolm phoned. “Hello. My name is Malcolm. I saw your note… on the bulletin board… at St. Anne’s.”
The following week, sitting in a teashop, Malcolm asked Millie if she would like a cream cake with her tea.
Millie said, “Yes.”
In May, Malcolm asked Millie if she would brave the wagging tongues and join him at Sunday service.
Millie said, “Yes.”
In July, Malcolm asked Millie if she would like to take the train to Brighton.
Millie said, “Yes.”
After dark on the shingle shore, Malcolm slowly unbuttoned Millie’s blouse. There was no need to ask: the surf was whispering, “Yes!”
Category Archives: Doris Dembosky
Brutus stretched his neck turning it first to the right and then the left. Then he rolled his shoulders, and finally he worked his back- stretching his spine disc by disc.
He licked his lips, sighed, and closed his eyes. Life was good. He wished he had taken a drink before going to bed, but he was too tired to get up and remedy his mistake.
He’d had a good day. Other than his brief encounter with that pesky squirrel, he’d had a good day. Granted, the squirrel was good looking- especially when the sun backlit his tail… gold-plating each fine hair. And yet, aside from the fact that the squirrel was a fine specimen of his kind, Brutus despaired of the squirrel’s behavior.
If the squirrel wasn’t digging in the garden, he was emptying the bird feeder. Sunflower seeds chock-a-blocked his cheeks. And if that wasn’t enough, Brutus could have sworn that the squirrel had winked at him. Talk about adding insult to injury! The squirrel was too smug… too full of himself.
As Brutus fell into sleep, his dreams took a sinister turn.
If you had seen Brutus, curled up on his doggie bed, his legs twitching, his lower lip a-tremble, you never would have guessed that in his dream, he was calling a meeting. All the other dogs on the block were coming. The squirrel’s days of winking were numbered.
Somewhere in India or possibly Botswana a phone was ringing. It took Claire six or seven rings to swim to the surface of her deep sleep and realize that the phone was hers. Reaching out to her bedside table, she lifted the receiver and fumbled the phone. She picked it up off the floor. “Hello?”
“Is this Claire Donovan?”
“You are never going to believe this, but my name is Ian Donovan, and I am your second cousin twice removed!”
There was a long pause while Claire yawned. Why would I want to talk to my second cousin twice removed when I don’t talk to my first cousins?
“Are you there, Claire?”
Claire plumped up her pillows. “I’m here, but to tell you the truth, I’m running late for work. I was just about out the door. This isn’t a good time.”
“Well, this will just take a minute. I don’t want you to think I’m some sort of nut case.” And then Ian took a deep breath and spit out sentence after sentence at breakneck speed. Cousin Claire was, after all, late for work. “My mother found your name on Ancestry.Com. She’s the one who found your name, but I Googled your address! Can you believe it? We live only five blocks apart! You’re on Willow and I’m on Chestnut! Isn’t that amazing?!”
Claire shut her eyes better to see her long lost cousin. It was a loose connection. She hung up.
At 6-foot 2-inches in her stocking feet, Mildred was noticeably tall. In her stacked heel Oxfords, she was taller yet. By the time I met her, Mildred was angular, hard-edged, and in her late 40s. She wasn’t one for friendships, but as her next door neighbor, I knew her better than most.
Mildred was not much of a drinker. Maybe she’d have a sip of sherry before lunch just to stimulate her appetite. Maybe she’d have a tot of whisky before bed to help her sleep. Maybe she’d have a social drink over the holidays, but as she often said, “I really don’t drink.”
When Mildred did drink, she was a lot more fun. Her flushed face seemed friendlier; her judgmental eyes kinder; her brittle self… softer.
Just one sip and Mildred was ready to shrug off her ever-constant cardigan and smooth her dress down over her hips.
A second drink would see her reaching out to strangers, drawing them close and confidentially cooing, “Call me Millie.” Her tight, beauty parlor curls seemed to have more bounce. Her blunt hands appeared more girlish.
At two drinks, anything was possible. Kneeling at the altar rail, she was liable to wink at the priest as he served communion. Later in the church fellowship hall, she’d be quoting the New Testament instead of the Old.
Dancing by herself to music only she could hear, Mildred seemed to grow shorter as she floated away in a haze of soft and pretty.
Inga’s lips were a thin grim line. Only hair-line wrinkles on her upper lip and deeper crevices at the corners of her mouth indicated where her lips may have been. Inga sat at the kitchen table. She held her fork in her right hand, and the knife in her left. Like a warrior ready for battle, she held them upright in her closed fists. Her eyes were flat and icy.
If Inga been a stranger and not his wife, Otto would have frozen on the spot. But, having lived with Inga for nearly 50 years, Otto was not fazed. “Inga… Honey… talk to me.”
Dropping her eyes, Inga speared a few peas with her fork and put them in her mouth. She chewed with the diligence that most people reserve for chewing beef.
“Inga, I don’t know what to say because I don’t know what I’ve done. Have I offended you?”
Inga helped herself to more peas.
Otto repressed an audible sigh. He slumped smaller in his chair. Silence reigned.
Silence reigned until Otto died. Otto was not surprised, but Inga was. Otto had gone to bed as usual, but he never came down for breakfast. Only after Otto’s egg had solidified and his coffee had grown cold did Inga climb the stairs to Otto’s bedroom.
Otto appeared to be sleeping, but when Inga shook his shoulder, he didn’t respond. When the paramedics arrived, they pronounced him dead.
At which point, a primal cry escaped Inga’s thin lips.
Mary had dressed carefully. No curls, no lipstick, no eye shadow. Her skirt fell below her knees. She remembered not cross her legs.
The Mother Superior scanned her application. “I see you were raised Lutheran, and you are a recent convert to Catholicism. What attracted you to our faith?”
“No Catholics lived in our town. Everyone was Lutheran. We had this little clapboard church. In the winter, the church was cold. We had only six or seven in the choir. None of them could sing, and very hymn had six verses. There was no joy… no mystery. And then several years ago, I saw The Nun’s Story on TV and realized that I should have been born Catholic.
Mother Superior’s face registered no response. “You would like to be a novitiate, but what draws you to the vocation?
Mary had known this question was coming. There was the expected answer (living a life of faith, devotion, and service) and there was the real answer.
The real answer had to do with the isolation of living on a farm in North Dakota. Mary wanted to move to the city. She wanted a Gothic church and a professional choir. She wanted incense, confession, kneelers, dusky light, and priestly celibacy. She dreamed of a costume romance: the seductiveness of a nun’s habit.
When Mary answered, “I want to live in the city and serve the poor,” Mother Superior rose. Crossing herself, she said, “Good luck and good day.”
The grandmother, square and solid as a tank (dressed entirely in black as befitted a Spanish Civil War widow) scrunched up her hooded eyes. The mother, widowed or abandoned (in those days, divorce was not an option), hardened her lips. The eldest of the three daughters raised her eyebrows. The middle daughter’s mouth formed a perfect O. And the youngest daughter looked on with delight: she could hardly wait to see what would happen next.
The foreign exchange student stalled. If her university Spanish had been more fluent, this would have been a good time to make small talk. Alice didn’t know the people with whom she was boarding. She should have engaged them in conversation… told them about life in the States. But her tongue was tied.
Instead, she looked at her unfinished bowl of bacalao. She had eaten the salt cod. Only an eyeball remained. The eyeball floated- a bit of glutinous flotsam in the broth. Alice imagined that it would be rubbery. She would have to swallow it whole.
Had the cook, an impoverished peasant from the mountains north of Madrid, served her the eyeball with no forethought? Or had the grandmother purposefully served the eyeball as some sort of test? Maybe Marcella, the youngest, had added the eyeball as a joke?
¿Quieres mas sopa? Do you want more soup?
Lifting her head, Alice replied, No, estoy lleno. I am full.
Little did Alice know that she had just announced her pregnancy.