Short short to illustrate a typical day in the life of a character, characterization
| The sun was barely viewable at the horizon when the flap flap of her small bare feet could be heard on the wood floor. Nanny Kathleen was dressed for the day in an old house dress. She never wore slacks, not even for yard work or vegetable gardening. She put on the coffee and checked the weather out the window.
She checked out the shelves and opted for Special K. By the time she set the table and fixed her cereal with skim milk and half a banana, the coffee was done. She always poured some from the cup into the saucer. Then she sipped her coffee from the saucer while it cooled. When empty, she sipped from the cup.
Once breakfast was done, and she had cleaned the kitchen, she returned to her room for shoes. It had become her habit when staying home to wear the sneakers her grandchildren had outgrown. At 5’2”, she was small boned and wore a size 5 ½ shoe. So when the kids outgrew the Nike’s and Adidas, she’d wear them, even up to size 7. The kids thought it was funny seeing bluish gray haired granny in sleek jogging shoes, still almost like new. For funerals, weddings and important things, she had stylish pumps, Aigner one of her favorites. She was always sharply dressed and coiffed for things away from home.
It was still early morning when she arranged her seedlings in the sunlight in the windows on the southeast side of the house. When they were strong enough, she’d transfer them to peat pots. The next step, weeks after that, when the roots were stronger, would be to hand them off to her son who would put them in the ground in a lot between their houses. They lived on different streets, but the lot between them made for a nice size garden. He tilled the land every spring and turned it over in the fall. They watered it during the summer and harvested when ready.
By mid morning, her friend Pearl stopped in with some cut flowers. They gossiped over coffee before Pearl rushed off to work at her retail job.
Kathleen swept the front porch and sidewalk, cleaned the bird bath and replaced the water. She sat on the porch and read the obituaries. She browsed the paper for interesting headlines.
By lunch time, her daughter had called and talked a bit. When no one came in for a free lunch—they all knew she’d fix something for them if they showed up at the right time, she had a tuna salad or peanut butter sandwich. Some days, she just didn’t feel up to the effort and would just open a can of peas and eat them out of the can. Green beans she’d heat, but would eat out of the pan to save dirty dishes.
Today one of the grandchildren, Jordon, showed up. She cooked grilled cheese and heated tomato soup. Some days she’d fix a hamburger, or maybe get a pizza out of the freezer. She’d quiz them about family and jobs or something interesting that she remembered, just as she now did Jordon.
“Are you still seeing that girl from your class?”
“No, she’s been busy. But I met a new girl. She goes to a different college and only comes home on weekends. I kind of like her. I’m going to try to see her.”
She’d tell them about other family members, maybe her son the geologist. If any buttons were missing on a coat, she’d notice it. She demanded the button and sewed it on before the coat departed in its shameful state. Before the guest could finish eating, Kathleen was grabbing the dirty dishes, washing them, and cleaning the table. Today, Jordon, whose clothes were in good shape and needed no repair today, had places to go, so he hugged Kathleen good-bye and promised to visit again soon.
She loved for any of the grandkids to visit, but she especially felt useful when the girls came. Kathleen loved brushing hair. She would demand the hairbrush from the granddaughter and start brushing. She dug deep. It hurt a little. But no one corrected her. It was a ritual between them, this brushing, patting the waves down with her free hand. They all enjoyed the attention and pampering. It gave them something to laugh about as they shared how much it hurt when she was not close enough to hear and all agreed, it would hurt her feelings to object more than it hurt their scalps. She offered to do the boys, but they usually declined.
By late afternoon, some country cousins stopped by. They were shopping in town. They had to drive right past her house to get on the highway out to their part of the county. It was an old “country” way: if you were in the neighborhood, it was your obligation to visit a spell. She always had Pepsi and ice, or some of the older ones would bring a beer. They’d use the bathroom and update her on all their families. Sometimes they had little gifts for her, or some souvenir from a trip they’d taken. Sometimes they’d bring honey or homemade preserves. Today they only had gossip and hugs.
When the relatives left, she sat down in front of the TV. The aloneness felt more acute right after someone left. The phone rang before she dozed off. One of the grandchildren in college wanted to touch base with granny, to brag about something, or thank her for a letter. She hung up the phone, and then switched to a chair by a front window, where the afternoon sun was beaming. She picked up her red leather large print Bible and started reading where she left off. When she got tired, she removed her glasses, and nodded off a few minutes.
It was time to get the mail in and see if there were any bills. She loved to get greeting cards. Her family and friends knew to send them. Kathleen threw out the junk, put the bills and cards by the phone on the phone table in the dining room, and went into the kitchen.
She surveyed the refrigerator and the freezer, and opted for a TV dinner. She never ate them exactly like they were. She would mix it up with a salad or add some cheese. She didn’t eat them very often, but it was so much trouble to cook for just one person. Usually a glass of water was all she’d have to drink. It had been her habit for decades to have dinner no later than 5:30. If someone wanted to take her out for dinner, they had better call her early and be there early, too. She might hold off a little while to be treated, but she just couldn’t order a meal after 6:30.
Friday and Saturday nights were exceptions. Friday night, her daughter- in-law worked late. So she fixed dinner for her son, her first child,but she had usually eaten when he arrived. It would be a heavy meal. He’d take home a plate for later for his wife. Saturday, everyone came. Any children or grandchildren in town would come over for another heavy meal with dessert. She was always happy when they someone brought an extra friend in. Then they would watch TV. The dishes would be finished. She’d have a full house until very late, and was very happy about it. But other nights were quieter.
In the evening on weeknights, after he got home from work, her son would come by to cut the grass or make a repair, or just to check on her if no one in his family had seen her in the last 24 hours. Sometimes they’d visit. He was usually busy, so unless there was big news, his visits were short. A grandchild might stay longer, might watch TV with her. Whoever came, the story was the same. “It’s been such a long, boring day. I haven’t seen a single soul. I haven’t talked to anyone in ages.” All of them felt sorry for her, and guilty that they hadn’t been by more often. As they listened to the conversation, each one realized the house had actually been a pretty popular place that day, and she’d seen quite a few souls.
Kathleen watched the evening news. No one had been able to take Walter Cronkite’s place for her. Her favorite was Lawrence Welk, then Hee Haw. She still missed Phil Donahue, Perry Mason, and Donnie and Marie. She tolerated M.A.S.H. and Soap reruns for the kids. But she just didn’t care for modern shows. If anyone brought a pet to visit, Kathleen would sneak some table food to the animal. So all visitors understood if the dog got sick later.
By 9:30 Kathleen was in her night gown, unless she had company, of course. The older grandkids were known to show up later than that, and she’d be asleep in her nightie in front of the TV. All the doors were unlocked, and she never heard a thing. They all worried, but what could they do? She would laugh when she woke up and found one of them sitting there. And if one of them spent the night with her, she was overjoyed. They all liked it because they could raid the refrigerator, stay up as late as they liked, as long as they didn’t disturb her. It was like a children’s pj party. She’d fix a snack and find something to laugh about.
There was no company tonight. At ten. she locked the doors, and turned in for the night, usually out of boredom. That meant she would be up again, pacing the floor in the middle of the night and taking something for arthritis and plugging in the heating pad. That would knock her out in a bit, and she’d be up at the break of dawn, ready to do it all again.
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