by Dawn DeBraal
gingerbread latte, recycled
Carrie peeked out her front window through a small opening she’d made by pulling the curtain back. She was searching for the where-a-bouts of her neighbor Mrs. Grady. Though Mrs. Grady was a lovely woman, she never seemed to leave Carrie and her daughter alone. Carrie’s hope was to make it to the mailbox and get her mail today, undetected.
It started out innocently. Mrs. Grady asked for a cup of sugar or wanted to warn her about her dog Skippy crossing the road again, and how the wayward beagle could be hit by a car. It didn’t help that Mrs. Grady would be standing there with biscuits in her hand. Skippy couldn’t turn down a biscuit.
One time Mrs. Grady made pumpkin pies from the pumpkins Carrie had tossed out, setting them in garbage cans for pickup. When her daughter asked for a piece of the pumpkin pie Carrie threw the whole pie in the trash explaining that Mrs. Grady got the moldy pumpkins from the garbage, that the pie wasn’t safe. Sometime Mrs. Grady bought too much meat, pie, cheese, insert food item here, whatever and would bring it over in a rinsed-out jar because she was a recycling addict. Everything was used and reused one hundred times before it ended up being recycled again. She had lived through the Great Depression and her parents taught her to throw out nothing.
Mrs. Grady brought over a blouse for Carrie once. She used to wear it when she was around Carrie’s age. It was an antique.
“Thank you,” Carrie told her, but now every time she saw Carrie, she’d ask if she’d worn it yet. There was no way Carrie could have worn that blouse out in public.
Carrie pulled the curtain out further. No Mrs. Grady in the front yard, looking left and looking right. She sighed a big sigh of relief. She was going to get her mail by trotting out to the box as fast as she could. Slowly Carrie opened the door feeling the warm sunshine on her head and shoulders. Carrie quietly walked down the sidewalk with Skippy at her heels. She opened the mailbox, and there was the check she’d been expecting. Relieved, she quietly closed the box and made it halfway up the sidewalk when she heard the familiar.
“Yoo-hoo!” Mrs. Grady stood at her mailbox waving at Carrie. Carrie waved and quickly turned around heading for the house. “Carrie! Carrie dear, I have something to tell you.” Carrie stopped in her tracks and closed her eyes mouthing a cuss word before she turned around trying to get across the street to Mrs. Grady’s lawn before Mrs. Grady crossed the street into Carrie’s yard. If she didn’t catch Mrs. Grady in her own yard, a good half hour would be taken from Carries’ day trying to extricate herself from the well-meaning woman. Carrie crossed the street with Skippy at her heels.
“Hi, Mrs. Grady, what did you want to talk to me about?” Carrie smiled politely.
“Well, you know Skippy was close to the road this morning. I had to shoo him back into the yard. I worry about something happening to him and how your daughter would take it.”
“I appreciate how you look after us, Mrs. Grady. Skippy should know better. But now that he knows you have biscuits, it’s hard for him to stay on our side of the street.” Carrie smiled again trying to be patient.
“I hadn’t thought about that, ” said Mrs. Grady. She clucked her tongue a few times. “I promise not to give him any more biscuits!”
“I would appreciate that. If you will excuse me, I have a cake in the oven.” (She didn’t, but any port in the storm.)
“I love cake!” hinted Mrs. Grady.
“I’ll bring a piece by later!” offered Carrie and now she prayed she had a cake mix with frosting in her pantry.
“Dear, did you get a chance to wear that blouse yet?” Carrie hated to lie but she needed to get going, so she lied.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Grady, I have to go now. It’s that cake in the oven.”
“Certainly dear!” Mrs. Grady let her go. Carrie and Skippy ran across the street. Carrie pulled open her pantry. Thank goodness! She found cake and frosting mix. She was glad Mrs. Grady didn’t ask what kind of cake she had. She pulled the eggs out of the refrigerator and started to mix the batter. She was resentful when she punched in the oven temperature. In less than an hour, the cake was cooling, waiting for frosting. When it was cool Carrie frosted the cake and then told her daughter she would be back in a minute; she needed to bring a piece of cake to Mrs. Grady.
Across the street, Carrie went with the cake on a paper plate No sense in giving Mrs. Grady an excuse to bring back the emptied dish. She knocked on the door waiting impatiently for Mrs. Grady to answer. There was no answer. Again, Carrie knocked on the door, perhaps she’d fallen asleep in the chair again. She looked through the picture window, seeing Mrs. Grady in the chair front the television which played in an overly loud fashion. Carrie went back to the front porch and opened the door.
“Mrs. Grady? It’s me! Carrie! I have your cake!” There was something strangely different. Carrie went over and turned the television off, kneeling in front of Mrs. Grady. She touched her arm.
“Mrs. Grady? Are you alright?” By mere touch, Carrie realized that Mrs. Grady was no longer in the land of the living. She grabbed the phone and dialed 9-1-1. The EMTs checked Mrs. Grady’s vitals, she was gone. She was 93 years old. They called the coroner who interviewed Carrie. Carrie was ashamed when she realized she didn’t know much about Mrs. Grady. They’d been neighbors for years. Carrie remembered she had a son, but also believed he died of a heart attack last year. He was a bachelor; he never married.
“She called him Butch. I think his name might have been. Ummmm, Richard! Richard that’s it!” The Coroner called Goodhue’s Funeral Home. They came out and picked up Mrs. Grady.
“What about her cat?” asked Carrie. The coroner said he didn’t have anything to do with that. Carrie looked in the cupboards and found the cat food. She opened a can and put it on the plate in the kitchen. She told the policeman she would look after the cat until they found Mrs. Grady’s next of kin.
Carrie looked in on Chester every day. The cat was so lonely. She cleaned the litter box and took Mrs. Grady’s garbage out to the curb on pick-up day. She felt sorry for Chester, so she put him in the cat carrier and brought him to her house, came back over for the litter box and food. A week later Carrie got a call from Mrs. Grady’s lawyer. She let him know she was caring for Chester and would do so until someone claimed him. She had to admit that she was falling for the big orange tabby. Chester was clumsy and friendly. He snuggled up with her on the couch along with Skippy every evening and slept with her daughter at night. Sometime during the week of care, she decided she had fallen for Chester and the place he’d made in their family.
Two weeks went by. Mrs. Grady’s attorney called her again. He’d found a distant relative, but they were not interested in taking Mrs. Grady’s cat. Carrie let the attorney know that she had bonded with Chester and she would love to have him live with her from now on. The attorney seemed very pleased with that decision.
Another week went by when the attorney asked if he could stop by Carrie’s home. He’d like the extra key to Mrs. Grady’s house. Carrie agreed to meet with him and relinquish the key. It was given to her in case of an emergency many years ago. The attorney arranged the time for their appointment. On Monday Mr. Kirkland, Mrs. Grady’s attorney, arrived at Carrie’s house at the agreed upon time. Carrie had the key laying out on the table to give to the attorney. He thanked her for caring for the house. The attorney accepted the key letting her know that Mrs. Grady’s great-nephew had inherited the house and would be selling it soon. He then asked to sit down and drew out additional paperwork, directing Carrie to sit down.
“Mrs. Grady had no one. She barely knew her great-nephew but felt he should have her house. Chester was her only family, and you, as her neighbor.” Carrie cringed a little. She thought of all the times she grudgingly gave a little time to Mrs. Grady. “Mrs. Grady put a stipulation in her will, that whoever accepted the care of Chester, would get all of her money.” Chester took that moment to jump into Carrie’s lap and lay down.
“Money?” Carrie said uncertainly as she stroked the cat.
“Yes, Mrs. Grady was quite a wealthy woman. She has left you over $750,000 dollars!” Carrie was in shock.
“But her great-nephew,” She started to protest.
“The will was very clear. Someone had to come forward out of the kindness of their heart to adopt Chester without the knowledge of the money. You did that. You had no knowledge of the will, you agreed to watch Chester until someone could be found to adopt him. The great nephew did not want Chester but wanted the house. So, you inherit her money.”
Carrie closed the door after Mr. Kirkland left. Still in shock. She didn’t feel worthy of accepting Mrs. Grady’s generosity. She did come to love the cat though.
A for-sale sign went up on Mrs. Grady’s house. It sold rather quickly. Carrie was outside with Skippy and Chester planting flowers when the moving van pulled up. A short time later a group of motorcyclists pulled up, at least twenty of them. They started to carry the stuff out of the moving van and into the house. A pickup truck pulled up with a keg of beer in the back. Someone turned up the radio. Carrie rolled her eyes sighing. She dialed the number on the sign across the street.
“Hello, Landford Realty? I’d like to put my house up for sale, you just sold one across the street. Tomorrow would be great.” Carrie waved at the new neighbors who lifted their red cups to her. What did she care? She had $750,000 coming in any day now.
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