“Say hi to Lorraine for me,” said Julie, a friend from church.
Frank turned back slowly with a sly smile and put on his fedora. Mishearing the young lady, he replied, “Oh she’s as mean as ever.”
“Who? That sweet woman?”
“I knew you’d take her side! ” he replied, chuckling and waving goodbye.
Frank shuffled his way out of the bookstore and to his 1962 Plymouth Savoy, newspaper tucked under his arm, new book in hand. He’d only just retired a month before after 52 years in medicine. He saw the fancy gadgets that the other patrons at the bookstore cafe were playing with and wondered how long he would be able to buy an actual honest-to-goodness newspaper anymore. Maybe I oughtta buy one of those thingies to just set out on the table so these kids will think I’m up-to-date? But he wouldn’t, and he knew it. He was perfectly content with what he had. He really just liked to tease himself from time to time.
Lorraine would be fixing him a sandwich by the time he got home; tuna on toasted whole wheat bread, light mayo. He sometimes found himself daydreaming about white bread and real mayonaise, Not that light stuff that she’s been trying to kill me with. Mayonnaise is made of fat! I can’t even imagine what this stuff is made of! It was nearly always served to him on a TV tray, cut in half, low-sodium pickle spear on the side, and a glass of iced tea, Unsweetened, tastes like tree bark or something. That woman wants me to die unhappy, I swear to God she does!
“Lorraine? I’m home!” he called as he hung his hat on the hat tree by the front door.
“In the kitchen, darling!” she called back.
He walked to the kitchen door and peaked in. Wearing a 30-year-old apron, her back to him, humming to herself, she was smearing tuna salad on his toast. And for a moment, he saw his wife. He saw the woman he married 58 years ago. He saw the way her hips swayed as she stepped from one foot to the other, almost dancing to the tune she hummed. It just all happened so fast, he thought. How did we get here so fast?
Like an old cat, he tip-toed up behind her, hoping to catch her by surprise, but she caught him.
“Frank, quit that foolishness and go sit down so I can bring you your lunch!”
“You call that lunch? I know what you’re trying to feed me! In the Navy, we used to call that S.O.S.; shit on a shingle!”
Feigning irritation, she slammed his sandwich down on the plate and handed it to him to carry back to the den himself, but as he turned to shuffle out of the kitchen, she smiled and shook her head remembering the way he used to walk before he shuffled.