Ok, didn’t get to my Tale Tues this week, as I’m still vacuuming up fleas and now new-minivan shopping, plus finishing up this issue’s The Woven Tale Press…but did manage this favorite prompt even though it’s Friday and it was due out Thurs. Really, seriously: better late than never.
It was a shock to see the red imitation-velvet chair cast out at the end of Sylvia’s driveway.
The same chair Sylvia had been sitting in the last time Marge had seen her. Where it used to be, in her living room dark except for light filtered milkily through the old sheer polyester Woothworth’s curtains. Displayed behind her, in Sylvia’s china cabinet, had been her Woolworth’s porcelain owl tea set. Vintage now, but Marge remembered when the set was new, the owls, perched in bare trees, vigilant. Now chipped and faded, the once brilliant orange and green birds stared dully, their wide-eyes clouded as if by cataracts.
“I just can’t do it anymore,” Sylvia had been saying, pulling at a loose thread on the chair’s arm.
Marge had stopped in as she did most mornings after walking her equally arthritic Shihtzu around the block.
Sylvia gestured out the window, at her empty window box. “I can’t even garden anymore.”
This Marge knew saddened Sylvia probably more than the fact that small green sprigs were sprouting out of her clogged gutters. That her kitchen wallpaper was peeling off in sheets.
Sylvia had gone on about the small “patio” she would have at the retirement home, and a kitchenette. The choice of cooking or eating in the dining hall. “To think I don’t have to cook if I don’t feel like it!” she’d said, as if she were moving to a resort.
Since Sylvia had left, every time Marge walked around the block, there was something else Sylvia’s son had moved to the end of the driveway. An ancient space heater. The old worn veneer record player cabinet with slots for albums that on that last visit, Marge hadn’t realized had been clearly falling apart.
And then there was the chair. As shocking in broad daylight as had been her own husband when in late stage alzheimers, he had wandered outside naked. Married for thirty years, and she’d never realized how many brown moles crowded his backside.
Just as she hadn’t realized how that chair arm facing the window had faded to a sickly salmon pink. That the threads Sylvia had been picking at were numerous, a favorite place for her long-deceased cat to have sharpened his claws.
One leg now was twisted in on itself, the chair having been tossed there. As later she would find the china tea set – shattered in an old box. The owls in their trees, a disparate heap of broken wings and snapped branches.