Sunday Morning

Brown and Roberta knocked at the door. It was a Sunday morning and they were at the house to pick Lucille up so they could get to church. Brown and Roberta put the bulletins out, put on a pot of coffee, and put the wine (really just Welch’s grape juice) on the communion table. Lucille would help some, but they weren’t picking her up for help, but just so she wouldn’t have to walk to church.

They had parked down by the road since there was no driveway, at Lucille’s house. They crossed the handmade wooden bridge that separated the road from the yard with a three foot deep ditch. They walked the twenty feet up the slightly downward sloping yard that had grass that was beginning to turn brown as the cold, gray weather settled into the small Missouri town. About every ten inches there was a remnant of sidewalk, not so much chipped away, but sitting below the level of the yard as it had settled and become buried by grass over time.

They stepped on the old bricks that were piled on top of each other to make a step up onto the old slanted porch. The columns on the porch were still load bearing, but they were far from straight with large flakes of white paint peeling off the bottom, and not paint at all in the middle three feet of the post. The porch wrapped around the west and south side of the house, creating a slight up and down wave where the old pine boards had warped, where the block foundation began to crumble, and where the wood of the porch was rotting as it touched the ground. There was just enough gray paint left on the porch so a person could make out what color it had once been.

There was a noise in the house that could be heard from the porch. As Brown and Roberta knocked on the old wooden screen door, there was no change in the noise, nor was there any discernable movement from inside the house. As they waited, a young cat came from around the house and rubbed herself on Brown’s legs. After being ignored, the cat sat down and started licking her paws, ignoring the world just as she herself had been snubbed a moment before.

Roberta opened the screen door and knocked on the glass of the peeling white door. The glass had some give as she knocked because most of caulking had either fallen away over time, or had shrunk from years of heat and freezing through the season. Roberta knocked again while looking at Brown. Lucille was usually hurrying to get ready right around now, yelling at them to come into the house and talking a mile a minute about activities in the church and at home. Lucille didn’t drive, and since Myron had passed away, she had to rely on others to get her around town. At least sometimes. When the weather was good, Lucille walked where she went, but on Sunday’s, not matter what the weather, she accepted rides to keep dust, mud, water, or snow from the dirt and gravel roads off her Sunday dress. The only sidewalks were around churches and around the school. Although her Sunday clothes were mostly old, she tried to keep them in good condition, in part to please the Lord, but mostly to please herself.

Brown nodded his head at the door for Roberta to go ahead and open up. Most people in towns like this didn’t bother to lock their doors when they left home, but they sometimes locked their doors at night. The door opened and Roberta stepped into the house slowly, shielding herself with door as she yelled Lucille’s name. There was the stale odor of an old house that was too big for an old lady living alone. The musty scent was combined with a smell of coffee and some sort of breakfast. Roberta softly called for Lucille again. Still no answer. She took a tentative step into the house, shuffling on the very clean wood floor, then onto the old red and gold area rug that covered the living room. A small television was on and a Kansas City preacher had his eyes closed and his hands open and upraised as he intently prayed for the souls of sick people, lonely people, and sinners.

Brown slowly followed Roberta, forcing her to step a little further into the room. He too called for Lucille. Once again there was no answer, just the preacher leading his parishioners in song as snow from poor antenna reception crossed the screen, muffling the song with temporarily with interference.

Brown and Roberta looked at each other, sensing that something was not quite right. Roberta signaled from Brown to stay put as she went forward to check the bathroom. Roberta slowly made her way through the living room, then into the kitchen where a coffee cup with just a few grounds left in it sat on the kitchen table, and a plate sat in a drying rack next to the sink.

Roberta knew the bathroom was just off a hallway next to the kitchen. She had spent the better part of two days here last spring when Myron had passed, and people from the church came to help greet mourners, and to make sure Lucille was eating and resting as she should. Roberta slowly walked toward the closed bathroom door, listening and hoping to hear some sound telling her where Lucille might be.

When Roberta got to the door of the bathroom, she gave a gentle, almost inaudible knock and quietly called Lucille’s name. There was no answer. Roberta looked down at the floor in the dark hallway and saw a light was showing at the bottom of the door. She knocked one more time, while simultaneously turning the clear glass doorknob and gently pushing the door open. There was a single light bulb with frosted white light cover over the mirror. As Roberta pushed the door open, she sensed Brown just behind her, holding back. Roberta kept pushing the door, past the toilet, to the faucet end of the bath tub. The door kept opening until finally she could just make out grey tufts of hair sticking over the edge of the tub.

Roberta knew. Rather than calling for Lucille again, she whispered for Brown. Brown stepped forward and gently slid past Roberta to look into the tub. The water wasn’t very high. People Lucille’s age were always careful to not waste water or most anything else. Raising children in poverty during the depression often kept people from waste, even when they could afford to use a little more, but waste had never been something Lucille and Myron could afford.

Her eyes were mostly open, and her mouth was too, with her tongue slightly bulging out. Her glasses were set on the sink with an old pink towel, both there in preparation for her to climb out of the tub. Her hair, her skin, and even her tongue looked gray, matching the feeling of the morning.

Slowly, Roberta, then Brown backed out of the bathroom, and for reasons neither could have explained other than perhaps to give her one more moment of privacy, they shut the door and made their way to the front door. Once again, neither had to say a thing, but they both knew that they were going to drive on to church to make their phone calls. Neither said a thing, neither shed a tear, but they both had a sense of loss. But there was also a vague feeling of relief as they drove away, hoping that Lucille and Myron were together again. Roberta looked back at the house thought she saw Myron and Lucille, sitting on front porch and holding hands and they gently rocked silently in an old porch swing, just enjoying each one’s company.

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