For today’s Red Riding Hood prompt about sloth, I’m returning to the story of a young widow named Michaela. I have been using some of the prompts to create a “back story” for what I hope will someday become a novel. This piece takes place about two weeks after the Peter’s* funeral. If you’re interested in reading more you can click on the page above titled The Story of Michaela.
*In earlier pieces, Michaela’s late husband was named Barry. The name wasn’t working for me so I've change it to Peter.
A Light in the Fog
I walked into the empty house and locked the door behind me. Getting the kids onto the bus was getting harder by the day. I never had everything I needed to make lunches, there was never a matching pair of socks, and there was always a missing lunch box or homework folder. I somehow managed to get the kids off to school with full bellies and wearing matching shoes. Things should be getting easier soon, right?
In the kitchen I looked past the dishes in the sink and opened the refrigerator. It was packed with half-empty casseroles. I needed to wash them out and return the dishes to their owners. I closed the door. The pile of unopened mail on the table looked as if it was ready to topple over. I didn’t know where to start. When the kids are home I give them what they need. I feed them when they’re hungry, help them with their homework, and hold them when they’re sad. But the house doesn’t tell me what it needs the most. It just gets dirtier and dirtier.
I poured myself a cup of tepid coffee. I considered microwaving it but it seemed like too much trouble. I turned on the TV. There was a celebrity talking about the evils of gluten on one channel and a politician telling lies on another. I shut the TV off turned on my computer. I checked e-mail and Facebook. There was a lot to read, but I have no responses. I have nothing to say. Peter is still dead. I am still sad.
The sound of the doorbell startled me. Through the window I saw Laverne’s car in the driveway.
“Hey,” I said as I opened the door for her. “What are you doing here? Don’t you have to work?”
“It’s Thursday,” she said. “It’s my day off. I brought coffee.”
“Oh, thank God,” I responded. “This stuff is terrible.” I poured the remains of my coffee in the sink and tried to put the cup in the dishwasher, but it was full of clean dishes. I sighed and balanced the cup on the pile of unwashed dishes in the sink. It was one thing too many and dishes clattered across the counter. Embarrassment washed over me and tears rolled down my face.
“Laverne, I don’t even know where to start.”
“I kind of figured. That’s why I came by Michaela.” She guided me over to the table. “Start with the coffee. There’s an egg sandwich in there too. I bet you can’t remember the last time you had any protein.”
“No, that’s not true.” I insisted. “The kids and I had chicken tenders and fries last night. I couldn’t stomach another casserole.”
“Uh huh. How much chicken did you eat?”
She was right. I had just nibbled whatever was left on the kids’ plates. I didn’t feel like eating.
“You eat that sandwich skinny girl. Then you and I are going to clean this place up.”
“Oh Laverne, I can’t let you clean my house.”
“Honey, I’m not going to clean your house. But I’m going to help you. Miriam is coming by at noon with lunch.”
“Oh my God Laverne. I can’t let her see this place like this.”
Miriam was my neighbor. She was sweet, kind and absolutely dedicated to cleanliness.
“Then we better get started Sweetie. You go through that pile of mail while you eat and I’ll get started on these dishes.”
We worked for hours. When we stopped for lunch, my shoulders and knees ached and my hands were raw. I wasn’t tired, but I was hungry for the first time in weeks. My house began to look like a home again and I felt like I had taken one tiny step out of the fog.