Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is “unfinished business.” Today’s tale comes to you from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series (www.corgicapers.com).
By Val Muller
It was after Christmas, that relaxing lull before going back to work but after the disasters of family gatherings had already happened. Normally, Sharon would be cooped up inside, organizing her holiday things in hope of having a better holiday next year. Like maybe her mom wouldn’t gripe about her house being un-renovated, or her dad would stop talking about grandkids. Or her aunt wouldn’t mourn her as an old maid. She was barely thirty. And besides, after the way her little nieces and nephews tore apart her home every year, what rush was she in to spawn her own?
After the family went home, Sharon kept inside. If she felt especially trapped or restless, she might venture out to tackle some post-holiday clearances. Once in a while she could find stocking stuffers for next year.
But mostly she stayed in. She would stand at her sink with her endless line of dishes to wash…the cookies relatives had brought and left all came in their own containers which were never dishwasher safe, the fancy turkey platter and silver and crystal all had to be hand washed, so she lined it up on the counter to do a couple pieces at a time. Each piece had to be hand-dried and placed in its little box. A gift from Mother, thinking Sharon ought to have grown up serving-ware by now. While she labored, she looked out at her yard at the unfinished garden that always would be done “maybe next weekend.”
It have been left by the previous owners and included a lovely birdhouse and bird bath that the owners explicitly listed in the contract as conveying with the house. The woman, her name was Martha or something like that, invited Sharon over for coffee before the house got sold. She wanted to tell her things about the house, important things. Like how important it was to feed the birds, since they had grown accustomed to it. So for the first couple years, Sharon had kept the bird feeder stocked and the bird bath full of water. But it was old, and the bird bath concrete absorbed water, which froze each winter. It started out with a few cracks until it wouldn’t hold water and then the birds went away and then the big wind storm came and snapped the birdhouse in half.
Without the birds, there was no need to weed, and the whole thing got overgrown. For the last two years it had been staring at her every time she did the dishes. It was one of those unfinished things that she never found time for since it was so dependent on the weather. But it always seemed there was something more important. The timeliness of Thanksgiving preparations or Christmas cleaning or wrapping presents.
And then when there was so much time in the winter, it was too cold or buried in snow so that there was no use thinking about it until spring. Then when spring came along, spring cleaning always seemed more important, or going for a run, or catching up on reading.
But this year, Christmas was followed by a strange warm streak. It had been off Sharon’s radar because she always assumed Christmas was followed by cold. She had her snow boots already taken out and snow shovel wind up in the garage ready to go. So when she went to take the trash out and the weather was 60 degrees and then 61, she knew it was her second chance.
She hurried inside, knowing at any moment winter weather could return. The crystal could go in the dishwasher later, for all she cared. What would it hurt? And she donned her gardening boots and work pants, clearing out weeds and dilapidated bird equipment. Several new gift cards would help provide new ones.
As she stood back to survey her handiwork, a voice cleared its throat above her. It was a neighbor, a young man she had seen a few times before, but who has time to talk to neighbors these days?
He was standing on his balcony with a pizza box and a paper plate. “Beautiful weather,” he said.
“I’m sorry. I’ve been watching you.” He blushed. “I didn’t mean it that creepy. I just meant, well…they build these houses so close together.” He chuckled. “I’m so bad at these things. I guess what I mean to say is, I have this whole pizza, and it’s just me. Would you like some?”
Sharon nodded. She had enough leftover turkey lately. Pizza sounded amazing.
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/