Edna watched the fly buzz around her kitchen with all the intensity of a warrior spying out the movements of the enemy. Finally, the devil’s minion dared to land on her clean counter. Ah-ha! With a victorious slap, she smashed it. Barbarian exultation surged through her.
Her phone chime, a song her father had loved, drew her attention to the living room. She scampered to her work desk and swiped up the phone, one hand still brandishing the swatter in case of any enemy retribution.
His sister’s name flashed on the screen. A groan erupted from Edna’s middle. She pressed the phone to her ear, her gut twisting. If she had to hear one more rendition of how Tabitha’s recent fling, Marvin, used her and dumped her and how men were all cheats and liars, she’d— “Yeah, honey, what’s going on?”
“Hey. Just wanted to let you know that Dave was in an accident over the weekend. Drunk driving.”
Edna’s heart stopped beating. She was sure of it. “The kids?”
“They’re fine. He was out with his buddies, and the kids were with a sitter. Actually, he picked a good one this time. Real responsible girl. She called me right away and then found Dave’s mom’s number and sent her all the info from the police. I went over, got the kids and figured I’d let Dave die on the emergency room table. He deserved it, right?”
Edna wasn’t sure if she had pulled the chair out, but she was grateful when her behind hit the firm seat, and she didn’t land on the floor. “Is he…did he—”
A strange tone entered Tabitha’s voice, one Edna had never heard before. “No, he’s just got a few scratches. But it scared the hell out of him. And it’s going on his record. His boss called and told him that he was fired. The firm can’t allow this kinda stuff.”
Edna swallowed and took a deep breath. “So what now?”
“Ya know. I hate the guy. He was always a jerk. Well, after a couple of good years…he revealed that he was a jerk.”
Edna rubbed her temple. Here it comes… She waited.
“But funny thing, he started crying. Real tears. His mom came and got him, and I went by this morning to check-in.”
Edna felt waves of turbulent water splashing about her ears. “What about letting him die on the table?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. That’s what I thought. At first. How I felt. But then, you know, turns out that Marvin has cancer…something with his pancreas. He didn’t tell me because he was afraid I’d dump him.”
A pad of paper sat squarely in her desk corner. Edna grabbed it and flicked a pen point down. If one was facing crazy, might as well doodle. She murmured, “And so…”
“So, it hit me, that perhaps, I might hate the men in my life for the wrong reason.”
The doodle became a black storm cloud. “I’m not sure I’m following.”
“Well, Dave drank like an idiot when he was with friends, but that’s not why we got a divorce. I divorced him because he was so selfish. He never thought about me…not really. He just lived his life with me in it. And then, you know, Marvin was the same. So I figured, all guys are blithering fools.”
A painful cramp seized Edna’s hand. She switched the phone to the right and continued the parade of raindrops from the storm cloud with her left. Wobbly raindrops…but she didn’t care. She exhaled. “And so?”
“So, as I watched Dave meltdown in his mom’s house and how his mom just shook her head and put her arm around him, I thought…I’d do that if it was one of my boys. I’d love him even though he acted like a complete jerk. And I thought of Marvin getting those test results and never telling me…because…you know…he figured I wouldn’t really care about him. I’d just be mad because he was sick.”
Silence stretched over the miles between Colorado and Illinois.
Edna didn’t dare breathe. Her hand froze. The raindrops had become a river at the bottom of the page.
“So, it dawned on me. Maybe, I hate ‘em because they remind me of me.”
A splash brought the river to life and blue ink flowed. Edna wiped her eyes. She swallowed the ache in her throat. “It’s hard to love like you want to be loved.”
“Yeah. That’s what I think. Kinda what dad told us before he died. Remember how he wanted that song? It irked me because I thought it was so stupid. But the words spoke to me today. Ya, know…letting go of the bad and keeping the good.”
Edna sniffed, laid the pen aside, and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “I remember.”
“Sorta like what you’ve been doing with me all along, eh?”
The river became a torrent. Edna wrapped her arm around her face and stifled a sob. After a monumental struggle, she lifted her head and found her voice. “I’ve tried. Though I haven’t always succeeded. “
“But, at least, you tried.”
After the last bit of conversation and a final, ‘talk later,’ Edna laid the phone on the table and stood. She stared at the pad of dribbled blue ink. It didn’t look like the original anymore. She ought to crumple it and toss it away.
A fly landed on the paper. Pure instinct incarnate, Edna grabbed the swatter and lifted her hand. This devil deserved to die.
But the picture didn’t.
She waved her hand and the miniature demon flew off to annoy her another day.
She laid the swatter aside, picked up the picture, and taped it to the refrigerator. It wouldn’t last forever. But it would outlast the flies.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
“There are many excellent stories in this collection.” ~McEvoy
“The collection creates an evocative set of life scenarios that explore good intentions, real-world situations, and acts of quiet love, desperation, and redemption.” ~Diane Donovan, Editor, California Bookwatch
“When I found out she had a new collection out, this volume, I grabbed it immediately and started reading it that day.” ~Steven