Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kimmydonn Week 63: Waking Up


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Picture 2

Kimmydon's Choice: both

Waking Up

The last leaves fell from the trees while I slept. Sitting up slowly, I neither stretch nor scratch. I don’t want to lose any heat I don’t have to. I blink bleary-eyed into the dawn and wonder how I will face another day. Is there any way out of this downward spiral? I lost my wife. I lost our savings. And finally I lost my job.

I idly wonder who’s yard I’m trespassing in today. It takes almost all my determination to get up, but I do. I have to find a new job, before I become so mangy no one will look at me.

There’s a small scream, and I curse quietly, closing my eyes. When I open them, I see the back of a girl in a red coat, running to the house.

I can barely hear the woman on the porch step. “Jessica! What has gotten into you. Oh! Hello!” Jessica’s mother smiles and waves as she calls. Not sure it’s a good idea, I come closer.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten her,” I apologize, smiling at the girl and the woman.

“Where did you come from?” the woman asks, eyeing my heavy clothing, my tangled hair.

“Very sorry,” I murmur, turning to go.

“Wait. Where are you going?”

“I... I need to get... the Employment office...”

The woman nods. “You are off to look for a job. Come in and use our shower. Turn the odds a little more in your favor.” She holds the door open and Jessica races back out again in her red coat. “Jessica! You stay in the yard!” she yells after the girl. “My name is Grace, by the way.”

The gratitude I feel to this stranger, offering me her home, even only for a few minutes, is overwhelming. Would I have done the same? She is well named. “I’m Jim. I can’t thank you enough for this.”

“Nonsense. Just some hot water. My husband was laid off for six months. We almost lost the house. I understand what you’re going through. At least you’re still trying. Getting harder all the time, though, isn’t it? How long since ...?”

“A month,” I admit. “They repossessed the house a month ago. I managed to keep my job for a little while, but the work ran out.”

She follows me into the kitchen and I start to unwind scarf and overcoat, revealing my under coat, jacket... The clothes seem to take forever to remove and some I haven’t removed in a week. She disappears from the kitchen at a trot and comes back with a bath robe.

“Here. Wear this and I’ll wash the lot. I’ll find you something of my husband’s while you’re in the shower.”

“Thank you.” My voice breaks, and she takes further pity on me, wrapping my dirty, smelly body in a warm hug.

“Hush, Jim. Accept and pass it on. That’s all we can do. I had to accept my neighbor’s groceries and babysitting and you have to accept my laundry and shower. It all goes around.”

I hop in the shower, and sigh immediately at the hot water pouring from the head. I haven’t been truly warm in days. Looking at my feet, I cringe at the murky water gathering there as I wash. At least it drains away quickly.

I’m just grabbing the shampoo when the door opens. Through the frosted shower door, I see Grace silently lay clothes on the toilet seat and pick up my filthy underwear. She tiptoes out as quietly.

Wearing clean clothes feels... odd. They’re a little big on me, probably because I’ve lost so much weight, but Grace’s husband is close to my size. I open the bathroom door and my mouth waters.

“Are they ready, Mommy?” Jessica asks from the end of the hall, the kitchen.

“Settle down! They’re still hot. Take off those shoes before you muddy the whole kitchen,” Grace complains.

The smell of what Jessica is waiting for is unmistakable. Cookies. Hot from the oven, sugar and flour and eggs - cookies. As I round the corner, I see the chocolate that I couldn’t quite smell.

“Daddy?” the girl asks in surprise.

Grace jumps slightly at the sight of me, and I shift nervously. “He does look like Daddy, doesn’t he?” she agrees.

“I’m sorry. I’ll stay out of the way...”

“Would you like a cookie?” she asks, indicating the cooling rack on the table. Jessica kneels on a stool to grab one, dropping it immediately to shake her hand and blow on her fingers.

“I told you, they’re still hot,” Grace chides her, hugging her and tickling her ribs. “Please, Jim. Sit, have a glass of milk.” She must see how hungry I am.

“Thank you.” I sit in the chair across from Jessica who now has chocolate smeared on her top lip. I smile and she smiles back, revealing more chocolate on her square white teeth.

“Is he our new Daddy?” she asks Grace, who pales and slops the milk she is pouring.

“Jessica! No, he’s Jim, and he needs our help.”

“Oh, okay,” the girl replies, munching her cookie.

“I’m sorry about that,” Grace mumbles.

“Your husband?” I ask, afraid I know the answer.

“Three days back on the job, he was killed. The life insurance was a godsend in some ways, but I’d give every penny to have him back.” Her eyes water, and I long to hug her as she did me, but I’m afraid to — afraid of offending. Instead, I squeeze the hand on the table.

“I know. I lost my wife.” I sigh heavily. “I didn’t have insurance to give even that little help. It’s how I lost the house.”

“Can I have another?” Jessica asks, breaking the tension.

Grace chuckles lowly. “Yes, you can have another. Look, Jim why don’t you come back later tonight for supper with us.”

“I... I couldn’t... I don’t want to...”

“Accept,” she whispers, squeezing my fingers where they curled around around her hand. “Break the cycle,” she murmurs, and closes her eyes. “Please, break the cycle.”

At first, I think she was talking about the spiral I am caught in, but then wonder if she means another.

“I’ll try. Thank you, Grace.”