Monday, March 16, 2009

"Assisted Living" , Part Two

Lorraine drove up the next day to help with the house sale. She knew about such things, like her mother. Oziel could build a bathroom next to the kitchen, extending the water pipes so’s his new wife needn’t visit the outhouse with a fur coat and flashlight in the snow. But he never wrote a check and didn’t know how. Jean did all that. Lorraine was good with numbers and official papers like her mother. She worked for an insurance company doing something Oziel couldn’t understand. He met her at the door.

“Hey, kiddo. Good drive?”

“Sure, now that everything’s plowed.”

“Much snow in Providence?”

“Just rain.”

“It’s the ocean, you know.”


She sounded irritated. He regretted saying the obvious. It happened after a long separation. Nothing else in common but the weather.

“Some coffee?” he asked. “Still got the percolator.”

“Coffee’s fine. Black.”

He offered to take her London Fog coat, but she shrugged it off and slid it onto a wire hanger herself, and then hung it on the shower curtain rod. She kicked off her boots on the lime-colored linoleum, leaning on the vanity Oziel found in a junkyard.

“Any calls?” Lorraine asked, brushing past him to sit at the kitchen table.


“The surveyor should call later,” she replied, fingering the vinyl tablecloth. “And the septic tank guy will need to schedule a perc test. He probably can’t do it til spring, though.”

“Can’t the new people do that?” Oziel asked, opening the coffeepot.

“No way. The state won’t let you sell the house if the septic isn’t up to code. That’s why we had to install the wired smoke detectors, too, remember?”

Oziel set down two mugs. “Coulda done that myself.”

“How’s the cleaning going?” Lorraine eyed the colored glassware in the breakfront that Oziel made from discarded pallets.

“Oh, good,” he said. “The henhouse is half done. Nothin’ in the attic now, just leftovers from the yard sale.”

“Anyone helping you?”

“Just me.”

“Watch your blood pressure.”

“I’m alright.”

“Taking your pills?”

“Sure. I take it slow. Keeps me busy, now that I can’t build nothin’.” He wiggled his knotty fingers. It reminded him: “I found my old workgloves from the mill, just when I needed gloves.”

“How nice. God, look at the time,” Lorraine said, raising her Lady Rolex. “I made appointments with the realtor and the bank, too. We’ll have to go soon.”

“Fine.” Oziel decided not to show her the gloves.

“Plenty of time to change.”


“Well, you can’t go like that.”

Oziel brushed some dust and cobweb strands from his slacks. “They’re clean.”

“You have a blazer? A tie?”

“Got a tie for church. You think I need a jacket?”

Lorraine pouted. “I guess not.”

“If you think I do-“

“No, it’s fine-“


Her cell phone trilled. She looked displeased. Was it because the phone rang, or because he had no jacket? She slipped into the parlor.

John's new mystery novel, "Bleeder," will be released by Sophia Institute Press in August 2009 and will be available at as well as in bookstores.

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