Chapter 28 continues

So far: Elsie adds wild rice to the festivities.


I scooped the mashed potatoes into a warm bowl I had let heat in the oven. After adding serving utensils to every plate, we started to carry the food into the dining room. The fire was burning nicely, a steady low flame. I lit a couple candles and arranged the food around the flowers.

Elsie looked at the table and said, “Absolutely perfect.”

Gary was last, carrying in the turkey on the sterling silver platter. He was walking past the kitchen counter when his foot caught on the carpet and he tripped. Or that’s what I hope happened. Lucinda was awfully close to him at that moment and I wasn’t sure if she had done something or not. He never blamed her for what happened so I rather doubt she was responsible.

Trying not to drop the turkey, he lifted the platter high and tried to regain his balance.

The turkey soared off the platter — making one final effort at flight. Gary’s aim was true and the turkey had enough loft to land right in the middle of the table, the bouquet of mums softening its landing.

The turkey stood on its hind end with its drumsticks propping it up. All of us were silent, staring at the upright bird.

It looked as if it was about to say something.

Chapter 29

I had to go out and call for Cloud one more time before we sat down to eat. It was pitch dark outside. The thought of her walking out of my life made me want to weep. But I wasn’t going to cry so I just wrapped my arms around my chest and called her name.

The trees cracked in the wind and the stars snapped in the black sky. Cold seeped through my sweater.

I was just about to go into the house when car lights swept up the driveway. A red Volvo pulled up behind Gary’s Subaru, and out stepped Richard’s sister, Susan.

“Wendy, what are you doing standing in the driveway?”

“Just getting some fresh air.”

She looked at the other cars and said with hurt in her voice, “I didn’t think you were having people over for Thanksgiving.”

“I wasn’t. But they came anyway.”

“Uninvited?” she asked, then added, “Like me?”

“Yes, but it’s fine. Come in. There’s lots of food.”

Susan handed me a can. “My contribution.”

I read the label as we stepped onto the porch. “Cranberries. Perfect. We don’t have any. Oh, and the table looked nice before the turkey flew and landed in the middle of it. That’s why there are oil spots all over the tablecloth.”

“Okay,” she said as if that all made perfect sense.

Susan swept in and after handing her coat to me, said her hellos to everyone. I opened the can of cranberries and plated it. We all sat down at the table.

That was when I noticed there was still an extra place setting. I sat at one end of the table, Gary and Elsie on one side, Susan and Lucinda on the other side, and there was still an extra plate at the other end of the table.

Everyone looked at the extra place setting.

Lucinda said, “That was my fault. I guess I got carried away when I was putting more plates on the table.”

Elsie said, “That’s for the stranger who might come and need a meal.”

“Or for Rich,” Susan said and teared up. “You know, like in spirit.”

I looked down at my plate. No tears for me. I knew Richard would never show up with all these people around.

Gary stood and grabbed the carving knife. “I will do the honors of carving. I make no promises about the evenness of my slices, but there’s more than enough to go around.”


Tomorrow: Chapter 29 continues.