Rudy’s Fruit Market is unusually crowded today. No wonder. It is a gorgeous Florida day that will peak at 70 degrees, according to channel 8. Mrs. Ames slowly picks through her favorite Apples, which happen to be Gala apples, chooses 4 big, round ones, then heads toward the tangerines and Oranges.
“Good morning, Mrs. Ames, beautiful day, isn’t it?” A thirtyish-something medium man walks toward her. His bright red short hair stands straight up. He is separating tomatoes into two brown barrels after a swift glance at them. His hair never moves; it is standing straight up, like a salute.
“These tomatoes that are a little soft would be great for soup or spaghetti. Truly is whipping up some homemade spaghetti sauce for tonight. Then she freezes what is left and Bingo, dinner is ready.”
Her mind immediately conjures up three redheaded and freckly little boys, happily eating spaghetti and when no one is looking, sucking each noodle in separately. There mouths are framed with red sauce and the floor is prickled with spaghetti that spilled from their forks, as they would reach their mouths.
She remembers so vividly those spaghetti days. Jenna and Jess would ask for “paschetti” at least two times a week. It was great because she didn’t have to coax the little girls to eat. Their little hands would guide the overloaded fork as quick as they could chew up the noodles and return to fork to the small blue bowls.
“I guess you remember how kids just love spaghetti. By the way, how are Jenna and Jess?”
“Well, they have both been very busy lately. Jenna travels pretty often for Sister & Company. I’m not even sure where she is today….guess with all this phone technology I could get her if I really needed her.”
“Oh, you mean texting?
“Well, yes, I think I could do that. Well, I mean, you know, she showed me how but I don’t really have one of those keypads on my phone. I used to e-mail her a lot but I think with this texting thing that is probably the way to go now. I don’t know…I try to keep up with things. I have forgotten how it is to be that busy. Enough about me, Rudy. How is your mother?”
“She’s Ok, except for her arthritis. I call her every day. That’s the least I can do. I mean…even ET calls home, doesn’t he?” His mouth curved and he let a half-giggle escape at his own words.
She tries to remember the last time Jenna and Jess had telephoned her. She feels her throat began to tighten and takes a deep breath. She runs her finger over the navel orange that she has located one aisle away from the gala apples. Her throat doesn’t obey her command and is even tighter and begins to burn.
Not here, not now. I don’t want any pity from Rudy; Anyway, I am not absolutely sure I am losing my memory. It was just that one day, today. I didn’t remember exactly where the exit was to highway 54. I’m sure it is nothing….nothing at all. I’m not really alone, anyway. Anytime I feel afraid, I could come here…there would be people around…..I….
Rudy continued, ” I love that movie. I rented it for the boys just last week. Imagine, now, Mrs. Ames, if it was a true story, just bear with me a minute….imagine. ET is afraid; he is totally alone and 3 million years away from home. Wouldn’t that be so sad? Of course, in the movie, if you remember, Elliot had to build some kind of communication device so that ET could call home. At least he did call home. That would be so awful if you couldn’t talk on the telephone to your family. Don’t you think?”
She counts and waits for the panic attack to ease. The waves of fear pass through her and her face feels like it is draining. Her sweaty hands now hold tightly to the navel orange, as if it is a life preserver. There is a fog between her and Rudy’s face but she again takes a deep breath and calls for all the wit and energy she could muster.
Her own voice sounds far away. “Yes, Rudy, it would be an awful thing without the telephone.”
“Mrs. Ames, are you OK? Uh…you might not want to squeeze that orange quite that hard. Mrs. Ames….Mrs. Ames….Mrs……Can you hear me?”
“Mrs. Ames, can you hear me? Mrs Ames? Your daughter, Jenna is waiting to see you. If you can hear me, squeeze my hand.
Oh no, now I know for sure that I must have that Alzheimer’s, that memory disease…I don’t know where I am..How did I get here? Who is this?
“Mother, are you OK? I’ve been trying to reach you for days.”
Jenna hugs her mother softly and wipes tears from both their faces.
“Jenna, what happened? Where am I?
“Mother, you are in the hospital. They thought you were having a heart attack, but everything checks out fine. You fainted and Rudy called 911. I am so sorry it took me so long to get here, but the exit sign for 54 had been knocked down by a highway accident, so I missed my turn. For a minute there, I thought I was losing my memory.”
Before Mrs. Ames could even answer, Jenna continued, “They gave me your cell phone because you can’t have it while you are in the hospital. That’s another thing that I need to show you, Mother. You have like a zillion calls on your messages and most of them are from me. Look how many calls I have made. When you are feeling better, we will have a class about your cell phone.”