Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour
Minnie was born in the house where she still lived, and it was showing its age the same as she––especially in the frosty winter months. Skeletal trees tapped nervously on the wooden shingles. Flecks of paint would occasionally dance with the snowflakes when the wind pressured the timber walls. The lofty wooden pillars, placed to support an overhang that covered a wrap-around veranda, were faltering. The front door was encircled by six diamond eyes that pierced the perimeters of their view. Satin curtains clouded the picture of what might be beyond the glass.
Inside, Minnie sits in her oak rocker, rocking and humming long ago tunes. Her eyes are closed; however, it would not matter if she opened them for they had not seen the light for many years.
Dover, an old yellow lab, laid at her feet. A black cat, a stray that Minnie had never called anything other than “Cat,” lounged on the grubby couch. Walking paths, resembling a fox-and- rabbit game in the snow, meandered through the thick dust on the sitting room floor. Candle wax created various figurines on the end tables, coffee table, and dining table. A phonograph sat silent in the far corner; there was an old 45 on the turntable––it was not dusty.
Footsteps approached the door. Dover wagged his tail, a sign he sensed a friend. Minnie heard the tail thump on the floor and smelled the particles of dust as they were disturbed. A familiar voice called out: “Minnie, I’m coming in now.”
Dover’s tail beat harder. Cat opened her eyes halfway. Minnie kept rocking. The door creaked open. “I must remember to bring some oil with me tomorrow,” the voice mentioned as it entered the room. “Are you hungry Minnie? What a silly question? Of course, you must be; probably haven’t eaten yet, eh?” The voice disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.
Minnie smiled. It had been a good breakfast, but she shan’t tell––some things were best left unsaid.
“How about a nice poached egg?” The sound of the fridge door opening reached Minnie’s ears. “Hmmmmm––guess I should have stopped for groceries––I thought there were plenty of eggs here yesterday. Are you holding out on me, Minnie––you been entertaining? No, of course not; how silly of me.” The fridge door closed.
The voice entered the parlour. “I need to run to the grocer; I’ll be right back … you want anything special … of course not … you never do…”
The front door opened and closed.
Minnie stood, retrieved her cane, and tapped her way along the trail to peek through the diamond eyes––an old habit. She was comforted by the sound of her old friends tapping on the roof. Dover walked close to her. Cat didn’t move from the couch.
Minnie smiled and secured the lock in place. Ginny never asked how the door was locked and unlocked between errands, showing how much she paid attention to little details. It was just a job for her––she wasn’t like Nigel. Nigel had been Minnie’s butler for years, taking good care of her after her mother and father were killed in a horrible automobile accident. But he had up and died a couple of years ago, leaving her at the mercy of the system.
Minnie turned and took the path over to the phonograph. Dover followed. Minnie reached for the needle, placed it on the record and then turned the handle. Music filtered up and out of the horn, and she began to sway to the old jazz tune. Cat decided to join them. She meandered over and jumped up on the yellow keys of the upright piano that sat beside the phonograph. A medley of off notes soured the song that was playing. Minnie’s brow furrowed.
“Scat Cat,” she ordered.
Cat ignored her. As the echo died away, Minnie forgot about Cat and continued with her dance, taking tiny steps, her arms in waltz position, her head turned up and to the side. Dover moved out of the way and sat beside the piano bench. He and Cat had spent many hours watching this ritual.
Time was forgotten. “Yes, Nigel … not so tight Nigel … what would father say … he would not be pleased with your intimacy with me … oh, yes, you are right, mother always loved you…” Minnie laughed. “Oh, how I love it when you twirl me so … your arms are so strong … no, I cannot marry you; father wouldn’t approve … we shall just have to continue like this … promise you’ll never leave me … promise, Nigel…”
The music stopped.
Cat jumped down and returned to the couch; Dover led the way back to the rocking chair. The key turned in the door, and Ginny entered with a bag of groceries. She looked around the room; all was as it should be.
Minnie smiled. Dover thumped his tail. Cat closed her eyes.