by Gary Little
John threw the covers off his portly form and sat on the edge of the bed. He looked down at the expanse of his belly, and for the thousandth time mumbled something about getting to the gym. Maybe he’d call Howard and set up a game of racquetball.
Oh yeah, that’ll be great, he thought. Coronary in court 3!
“Hey, Tip, how’s your day?” he said to the Jack Russell terrier sprawled on the foot of the bed. Stretching like all dogs do, Tippy wagged his tail, jumped down from the bed and waited for John in the doorway to the bedroom.
The morning sun pooled at John’s bare feet. A light southern California breeze, billowing the curtains she had purchased and he had hung, brought with it the acrid odor of another smoggy day. In the trees outside, sparrows and blue jays had their normal territorial squabbles. He scratched his hair, noted a thinning spot in the mirror, scratched other areas, and stood up — all sixty-six years and five feet seven inches of him. Grabbing the blanket and sheet, he pulled them into place, threw the pillows on top, and decided “bachelor made” was good enough.
Glancing in the dressing mirror always kept by the bed, he saw his nude profile and grumbled, “God damn, I look like a bowling ball on two legs. Gotta get to the gym.”
Out the bedroom door, he walked the short hallway to the bathroom and made normal male splashes, mumbles, groans, and shivers as he emptied his bladder. Grabbing the sweat shorts he had discarded in a corner of the bathroom the night before, he pulled them on and adjusted the tie around his middle. “You ready for breakfast?”
Tippy responded by bumping into John’s bare calves, doing a quick turn or two, and of course whining. “Well, let’s get’r done.” Padding barefooted to the kitchen, John picked up Tippy’s food bowl, washed and cleaned it, spooned in some canned food, added a scoop of kibble, and some warm water. “Hell, Tip. You eat better than I do. Ok, I know, just not as much.” He sat the bowl down and Tippy gave his approval by burying his snout in the bowl. John next took care of Tippy’s water.
That done, he added water to the tank of the coffee maker, put in a filter and three scoops of the new roast he had bought, and hit brew. He put two eggs in a bowl with a splash of milk, beat the hell out of them with a fork, and turned them into a buttered skillet. Ten minutes later he sat at the table, scrambled eggs, sausage, toast and coffee in front of him.
He trundled back into the bedroom to find yesterday’s T-shirt and socks. Digging in the closet, he found his (lawn-mowin’) shoes, the oldest sneakers he had, stained green with grass from ages past. Outside he sat on the front porch, put the socks and shoes on, then realized the first task for this Saturday morning was to fix that busted sprinkler head and pulled the socks and shoes off. Forty-five minutes later, he was muddy from his bare feet to his knees, and hands to elbows. A streak of mud crossed his forehead, but that sprinkler was fixed. Small yard, quick mow, and a short time later he was putting the lawn mower away and tossing the grass clippings in the green bin. So much for Saturday chores.
As John walked to the side door of his house, Tippy came bursting out of the doggie door with his favorite tennis ball. A brisk game of fetch resulted until Tippy grabbed the ball and disappeared back through the door.
My arrogant twelve pounds of terrier, John thought as the doggie door flapped shut on the disappearing tail.
The sun was climbing over the peak of the garage and the day was beginning to warm up, hiding the hills in a lovely tan haze. It was just another Saturday in the San Gabriel Valley.
John walked back into the house, turned on the swamp cooler in his bedroom, and made sure the windows were open or cracked. He stripped off the now sweaty shorts, shirt, and socks and added them to the laundry bag. He walked back to the bathroom for a shave and a shower.
The gods of hygiene assuaged, he walked through the house and into his office, a towel draped around his neck. The chair cushion whooshed as he settled his bulk into it, turned his computer on, logged in, and checked his email.
A flashing blue note popped up in the upper right corner of the monitor. Just one word: TODAY. It flashed over and over until he could no longer ignore it. John touched the flashing message and dismissed it when the menu popped up.
Fifteen minutes later, TODAY flashed again. Then again in another fifteen minutes. Each time he touched and dismissed the message. The fourth time, John told the computer to shutdown, left the office, plopped in his easy chair, and turned on the TV.
Nothing. Normal. He’d seen all the programs on the Science and Discovery channels and had the ID Channel memorized.
Ping. He looked at the TV. Another blinking blue message; TODAY. “Damn it, not now!” He dismissed the message. Fifteen minutes later, another ping.
He turned the TV off, grabbed his phone when it pinged, and held the power button until it powered down. He had programmed that alert, for this day each year, and knew there was only one place he could go where he could turn that message off.
John dressed. Walking shorts, white socks, tennis shoes, and a nice shirt — a new one he had just bought. He grabbed a soda from the fridge and walked out the back door, Tippy with him. Outside, Tippy sprinted ahead. When John got there, Tippy was lying between the two chairs sitting in the shade of the peach tree. John sat his soda on the table and looked at the garden. To the left was the peach tree. To the right was her urn, surrounded by blue hydrangeas in full bloom.
This had been her garden. It always grew so well under her care, big ripe tomatoes and beans and peas in season, flowers out of season. Hydrangeas bordered the garden and had been her favorite. This had been their place to sit in the shade of the peach with Tippy at their feet, and just talk about nothing and everything.
Five years ago, John placed her urn in her garden under the hydrangea and left it sealed. The ground seemed to mourn for the gardener. John could only weep that first year in the shade of the peach tree. He avoided the garden, raked the leaves, kept the weeds down and trimmed the hydrangeas back. The garden where sat her urn was now kept bare.
About a year later, Tippy began acting funny one evening. He came bamming through the doggy door, then sat and whined until John looked at him. He turned and ran back to the door. John ignored him. Tippy was back, barked this time, and then whined.
“Alright, alright, I’m getting up.” John huffed and puffed but got his chair down and walked towards the door.
Bam! The doggy door slammed as Tippy ran through it. John saw him at the foot of the outside stairs, sitting and whining, waiting on him. As John stepped down from the last step, Tippy was off to the garden like a shot.
“What is with this damned dog,” he mumbled as he followed that damned dog. Tippy was barking now like he saw someone he knew. John got to the end of the wall that bordered the left side of the garden and looked for that barking mutt of his. There Tippy sat, tail wagging, looking at the hydrangeas and the urn. John saw nothing but a wall of blue pompom blossoms, except for one, there in the middle, growing up and out of a crack in her urn. It was where Tippy was staring. It was an hydrangea, but it was pink. She had always tried to grow a pink one but had never succeeded.
So now John sat, Tippy beside him, and he looked at that garden that was now in full bloom. He turned his phone back on and waited for his programmed alert to pop up. TODAY, it said, and now it was flashing pink. He selected it, but this time pressed the OK button. Then he just sat with Tippy beside him, looking at that pink hydrangea, and thought of nothing but everything.