Of the old-timers I visited once a month, Dulcie Marie was one of my favorites. There was something life giving that spread over her face every time her wrinkles stretched and brightened, to remind the world that a girl would forever live in her soul. The thought of her smile curved my lips. I was grinning like a lunatic when my feet crunched across her winter-kissed yard. I took off one glove, and knocked on the doorframe.
“Jack Frost has been having a royal blast on the glass of your front door,” I said, when Dulcie Marie invited me in. “Is your boiler working properly?”
“The heater’s fine,” she said, “just keeping it low. Last month’s power bill nearly killed me.”
“Your old bones can’t take this cold, Dulcie Marie. And I bet your lungs aren’t happy either.”
“Nonsense,” she said, “my bones are old, but my will is stubborn.”
I grabbed a small notepad and a pen out of my coat packet.
“Stop your scribbling,” she told me. “I don’t need that woman visiting more than she has to.”
“If your electric bill is too high,” I said, walking towards Dulcie Marie’s kitchen to make some tea, “that woman might be able to find a way to lower it.”
“Not without asking what color skivvies I wore last month first.” She had followed me to the kitchen, and was glaring at me. “Why can’t you be my social worker anymore?”
I sighed. “You know I’m too sick to do the work. Besides, if you were my client, we wouldn’t be allowed to spend entire afternoons trying to figure out if the truth is truly out there.”
When my attempt at X-Files humor didn’t lighten the mood, I started the kettle and walked back to the living room. “Want to restart the last episode?” I shouted at Dulcie Marie, who had remained in the kitchen. “We only watched fifteen minutes of the…” My voice trailed off. I had noticed the remote control sitting on top of the radiator. I picked it up. It was cold, so very cold. “Dulcie?”
She walked into the living room, leaning heavily on her walking stick. “I need to save my pennies. Times will get hard when they do away with Social Security.”
Her eyes got shiny, and my heart broke a little.
“Change that face,” she said. “The heat’s on at night. That’s enough.”
“It’s not enough,” I said.
“If that reckless man gets his way, then it will have to be. I might as well be ready for it.”
The kettle hissed. I walked back to the kitchen, teeth clenched, anger spilling out of my eyes.
the wee notes…
– I borrowed the phrase “My bones are old, but my will is stubborn” from Lorianna Feenstra. The story was inspired by an old, old, old… (wonderfully bullheaded) friend.
– Skivvies: Marine Corps lingo for underwear.
– Linked to The Twiglet #5 (“a cold radiator”).