No More Nickernackin'

Peter Obourn

When the whine of snowmobiles filled the air and the days got shorter, Bill started drifting back into his funk.

“He stares at that dang postcard like them two guys were going to start up that Chrysler and drive away,” said Roy.

We were sitting in our booth. It was late, after nine o’clock, and we were the only ones left. Molly had gone home. Walt brought us each a bowl of bean soup, and one for himself. He pulled a chair over and sat at the end of the table. Steam rose from the bowls as he dumped a pile of oyster crackers on the table.

“Finish it up, boys,” said Walt. “On the house.” A gust blew the snow so hard it sounded like sand hitting the plate glass. The soup was as thick as pudding.

Norland walked over to the cash register, came back with one of the cards, and slid in next to Bill. Roy squeezed a fistful of cracker crumbs into and around his bowl, then slurped a mouthful.

“You know,” said Norland, poking his finger at the postcard, “my uncle had a Chrysler like this one, only it was green, as I recollect. Used to drive up from Unadilla.”

“My room was in this turret here,” said Bill. “I got sick there. She kept asking who to call and I said, ‘I ain’t dyin’ yet. No need for a two-dollar phone call.’ She took care of me for a week. Played the piano for me in the evening.”

“Always had Fords myself,” said Roy. “Reliable.”

Bill looked at the card as if it were a window into Iowa. He sighed. “Actually, this is an old black-and-white photo she had colored up and made into a postcard. Clever woman—used to be a piano teacher. That there’s her house which, as I said, is now her B & B. See these two men. This one’s her first husband—with the cap—and his brother next to him, who also happens to be her second husband. They look alike but they’re not twins. Both dead now.”

We had our heads down over our warm bowls. I raised my head in time to catch Norland’s eye.

Spring finally came, as it always does in Forgeville—eventually. Wildflowers bloomed in the warm breeze. Bill’s lawn came up tall and beautiful and smelled sweet.

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