“I had never planned to reach 55. Yet it lies just ahead,” Dahlia says.
She makes the remark as a matter a fact, no complaint in her voice. She and her friend Eddie are sitting in the narrow space between Christmas and New Year’s in her kitchen, a deck of cards and cribbage board between them.
It’s a long rectangular room with space enough for a table and two chairs rescued from down the street some years ago and set against one wall. A black counter, white-painted cupboards and a tiny double sink lit from above by a small, square, four-paned window line the other.
Eddie has shed his brown, quilted coat with its frayed sleeves placing it on a coat hook behind the door and then, sitting back, allows Dahlia to pull off his boots.
“What’s that you got there,” Eddie says, pointing with his chin toward a gallon jug of amber liquid.
“Raisin wine. My friends gave it to me. It’s the last of it.”
Eddie accepts a glass, holds it to the light, takes a sip, then another. “Passable. Might have let it clear a bit more though,” glancing Dahlia’s way.
She’s a diminutive woman, though ample in a way Eddie appreciates, with a pale heart-shaped face and brown eyes, topped with frizzy, grey-streaked hair parted down the middle. A gentle soul. And generous, in her way.
“Been taking your pills, your blue babies?” Eddie asks.
Dahlia doesn’t answer, only smiles.
“I don’t know why they call you Fast Eddie, you’re never fast with me.”
Eddie only grunts, shifts in his seat, glances down at his faded, red-tipped socks.
“You mentioned, Pinkie the other day. How’s she getting on?”
Dahlia knows Pinkie from the Saturday lunches they take together at the downtown mission. Pinkie serves and Dahlia helps as well, chatting with the old fellows, picking up the odd dish and taking the occasional swipe at a table before settling down with her friend for soup and a sandwich.
“Well as can be expected. It was hard for her, seeing her mother like that.”
“I hear they don’t have enough staff. Something about the formula, the government came up with,” Eddie says.
Pinkie had good only words for the nurses, the PSW’s and the little, fine-featured doctor who came by on occasion. She said there was lovely music downstairs, at least once a week, if not more often. Folks would even stamp their feet, join in. Even the elected parliamentarian showed up, just before Christmas. He has a passable voice, they say.”
Eddie snorts, looks to the arched, plaster doorway leading to the next room. It’s warmer in there. He hears the ancient wall furnace puff to life, and then its erratic metallic gasp. ◊