stories from home
By Lana Book
Tears rolled down Helen's face as she chopped the
big purple onion. When the phone rang, she knew it was Sophie. Sophie
called every Sunday morning after reading the obituaries.
"Helen, have you read the obits yet?"
"Yes, Louise Kemper, God rest her soul,"
Helen answered as she stirred the chopped onion and minced garlic
into the hot olive oil.
"Survived by her loving husband, Theodore Kemper. I'm making
chicken in red wine sauce for this one, Helen. Pick you up at two-thirty."
Helen got out her blue china casserole dish. A disposable
foil would be more convenient but then there would be no need for
its return. It was an important strategy she learned from Sophie.
She taped labels with her name, address, and phone number on the
bottom of the blue dish and inside the lid then put the spaghetti
casserole in the oven to stay warm until Sophie arrived.
Sophie knocked on her door at exactly two-thirty.
"Timing is crucial, Helen. One day too early and you're too
aggressive. One day too late and you're beat out by the competition."
"Sophie, I've been widowed by two husbands.
I'm not looking for another one."
"Nonsense. What are you going to do with
the rest of your life? Play bridge once a week and sit alone in
this big house waiting for your children to make their token visits
twice a year? We're still young, Helen, barely sixty-five. We've
paid our dues over the years. Life owes us a little fun and companionship
toward the end."
Helen put her spaghetti casserole in the styrofoam
chest in the back seat next to Sophie's chicken with wine sauce.
Sophie checked the address in the paper before starting the car.
"It's on the other side of town. We'll
have to use the freeway," said Sophie.
"Maybe we should take the streets through
"The traffic is even worse down town,"
Sophie said as she backed out the driveway.
"Sophie, doesn't this seem a little premeditated?
I mean, aren't we taking advantage of a man when he's most vulnerable?
When he's still grieving for his wife? We hardly knew Louise Kemper."
"It isn't premeditated. It's planned.
There's a difference. For Christ's sake, Helen. We aren't the CIA
on a covert mission. We're just two old ladies paying our respects.
Delivering casseroles and condolences. Besides, he may be grieving
now but give him six months and he'll have a sweet thing half his
age on his arm. How many times have you seen that happen?"
"A few I guess."
"More than a few I'd say. Look at Murry
Gletz. Doris wasn't in her grave a year when
he married that red head. She can't be more than forty. Now she's
eating off Doris' china, sleeping in Doris' bed and he's had two
heart attacks. The old fool."
Sophie slowly eased into the traffic of the freeway
as cars backed up and honked behind her.
"I told you we should have driven through
down town," said Helen.
"I know how to drive, Helen. I didn't
spend two hours making that casserole to have it end up all over
my back seat because some jerk is in a hurry. Just watch for our
They drove in silence until they reached the Windsor
Blvd. exit. Sophie pulled off the exit ramp and turned right. "It
shouldn't be much further," she said.
"Don't you think it's funny, Sophie, when
a man dies and leaves a spouse she is suddenly a threat to the wives
of couples she has known for years. The invitations stop and she
becomes socially isolated. But when a woman dies and leaves a spouse
he immediately becomes fair game, available, desired at every social
function in town. It seems to me, society supports the widower and
pities the widow. It isn't fair. Aren't we just promoting that behavior?"
Sophie stopped the car in front of a red brick house.
The sign above the mailbox read, 621 Windsor Blvd., The Kempers.
"I can't believe you're this age and still
expect life to be fair. We aren't perpetuating anything. We didn't
make the rules, Helen. The way I see it, we're just adding balance
to the scale."
Helen and Sophie walked toward the house carrying
"I don't know why I keep coming with you," said Helen.
"You keep coming with me because you know
I'm right. Because, like me, you're tired of being alone. Because
the silence makes you crazy. Because you lie in your bed alone and
can't remember what it feels like to be touched. Now, how do I look?"
"Lose the smile, Sophie. It doesn't look
sincere," Helen said as she rang the doorbell.
"This story arose when I told my mother-in-law
that there was a sophisticated elderly gentleman who had recently
been widowed that I wanted to introduce her to-since she is a single
sophisticated senior lady herself. She told me I better hurry up before
the casserole ladies got to him and told me that they do not waste
any time zeroing in on the new widows in the community.
I wrote my first story when I was twelve years old.
I have been in three anthologies and have had essays published in
the Kerrville Daily Times and the San Antonio Express
News. I enjoy hosting writing workshops and literary readings
at my home, The Hill Country Sculpture and Meditation Garden in
the Texas Hill Country. Most of my writing comes from life experiences,
people I have met and things I just overhear. I enjoy humor as I
feel most people just take life too seriously. I am a Hospice nurse,
have a great husband and three grown daughters. I was raised in
the country and near a very small town rich in literary resources."