What’s for Dinner?
All published excerpts from Apostate: Life after Death in Exile:
From Part 1, Episodes 6: What’s for dinner?
Janice wanted to stop at the grocery store on the way home. She sent me to get the wine – not pick it out; just get it. She told me exactly what to get so that it would complement the meal that she would prepare later for the deputy and his girlfriend. Meanwhile, she dropped off her pain medication prescription at the pharmacy counter and headed to the produce aisle. Janice prefers to buy her vegetables from local farmers, but this was short notice.
I found the bottle with the right label and name and color – everything that Janice told me to check – and started looking for her. As I turned the corner on the cookie aisle, I almost ran into someone.
“Excuse me,” I said without looking at the man.
“It’s okay, buddy,” the man replied. I immediately recognized his voice. He was the pastor of the local church.
“Hello, Ralph,” I smiled offering him my hand. “Why am I always nicer to him, since he seemed to enjoy asking us not to come back to his church?” I wondered to myself. “And, why do I get such joy at calling him by his first name?”
“Well, hello there,” the pastor replied. Returning my smile, and obviously searching his memory trying to come up with a name. “How are you? How’s the family?” he asked and started walking away.
“Good,” I answered, watching his retreat.
“I have to run. Marge is waiting on me.” He gave me a little wave, turned, and kept walking.
I did not dislike Ralph McIntyre. Not at all. He actually seemed like a nice guy. He was busy, certainly, and he was set in his ways when it came to certain things. But, I’ve also seen him be very kind to people. So, why did we not get along?
I found Janice sifting through the tomatoes. She picked up a few more vegetables, stopped by to get her prescription, and we headed toward the registers. I followed along like a puppy, occasionally walking ahead when I failed to realize that she had stopped to peruse an item or two.
Janice spotted her friend Edna working as a cashier and made a bee line to her register, even though the line was longer. We stopped at the back of the line just as Ralph McIntyre reached the front.
“Hey, Pastor Ralph!” the cashier exclaimed with a huge grin.
“Hello, Edna,” the pastor replied with dignity. “I missed you Sunday.”
Edna’s smile faded. She looked down and started scanning items from the man’s cart. “I know,” she replied. “Roger had that stomach bug that’s been going around.”
“Well, next time, make sure you pick up a tape of my sermon. There should be some on the table out front.” He swiped his card, grabbed his bags, and headed for the sliding doors at the front of the store. “See you Sunday, Edna,” he called back as he walked out.
When it was our turn to check out, Janice walked around the register and surprised Edna with a big hug – her signature welcome. “Hey, Edna,” she half whispered into her ear. “How’s it going?”
The woman’s eyes began to glisten at my wife’s touch and the concern in her voice. “It’s been okay, Janice. Tough. But, we’re surviving.” She started scanning our produce. I got the debit card out of my wallet, as Janice walked back to my side of the register.
“Is Roger still drinking alot?” Janice asked even more quietly, her question easily covered by the noise around us.
Edna simply nodded in return, and Janice touched her arm. “Hang in there,” she said as the woman continued checking our items. “Do you think I can come see you tomorrow? When does your shift start?” my wife asked.
“I don’t have to come in until noon,” Edna said smiling again.
“Good. So I’ll stop by after breakfast, if that’s okay?” Janice asked.
I smiled at Janice. Edna and Roger Thomas lived on the other side of town from us. There was no “stopping by” when Janice went to the Thomas’ house. But, she tried to spend time with Edna at least once a week, often more, depending on Roger’s work and travel schedule.
“That would be great!” the cashier replied. “Roger is out of town for a couple of days.” She said the last line almost too enthusiastically. Janice hugged her again, I paid for our groceries, and we walked out of the store.
By the time we arrived back home, Janice was tired again. She decided to take a nap and headed upstairs after giving me instructions about preparing dinner. It was relatively simple; just a salad. But, I never would have considered mixing those vegetables together. What happened to a salad being lettuce, tomato, and a little cheese?
To be honest, I was a little worried and also a little angry. The conversation that I had overheard between the sheriff and one of his deputies continued to replay in my mind. Did Wellers have that new virus? Is that what caused him to act so strangely? Did he give the virus to Janice when he bit her? Is that why she’s been tired today?
But, I was also upset. Janice had invited Deputy Powell and his girlfriend… hmmm… I couldn’t remember her name. Anyway, Janice had invited them to dinner, and now she had left me with the responsibility to preparing the salad. I know that I should not be angry with her. She has every right to be tired after what she had been through. Plus, she might be getting a dangerous virus. But, I was still upset.
Just as I finished mixing the ingredients for the dressing, Janice came back downstairs looking refreshed. She hugged me and thanked me for making dinner. I mumbled that I was glad to do it without mentioning that I had been angry. That was my problem, not hers, and I knew it. She tossed the salad and set the table just in time to answer the doorbell.
We had a pleasant, but short, dinner with Deputy Mark and his girlfriend, Sherry – yes, that’s her name! Within minutes, Janice was treating Sherry like a little sister, and they even made plans to go shopping together that weekend. I could tell that Janice was concerned that the two of them were living together, but I don’t think Mark or Sherry noticed. She was the perfect hostess – welcoming, hospitable, gracious, and serving.
It turns out that Mark was older than I thought, but still younger than either Janice or me. He had been out of high school for a few years, and had been a deputy sheriff for just under a year. Sherry was younger, only out of high school for a year. Janice indiscreetly put away the wine when she learned that Sherry was underage and began serving everyone water.
“So, how is your shoulder?” I asked Mark, trying to take part in the conversation.
“It hurts, but I think it will be okay,” he replied as Sherry patted his uninjured arm. “The pain meds seem to be working. It was throbbing earlier, but now it’s just a dull ache.”
“He was very tired earlier,” Sherry jumped in. “He even took a nap. He woke up just before we came here.” She added, making him visibly embarrassed.
“Oh, Janice, too!” I tried to relieve some of the deputy’s embarrassment. “She’s taken two naps since the accident.”
“Yes, I just can’t seem to keep my energy level up,” Janice replied, ending her statement with a yawn.
“Did the sheriff say anything to you about the virus?” I asked the deputy.
“The virus? What virus? I guess not. Why?” he looked at me perplexed.
“It’s probably nothing,” I answered, and changed the subject.
After a few more minutes of small talk, Mark apologized and said that they had to leave. I could tell that he was getting tired, and I could also tell that Janice was winding down as well. We all hugged and said goodbye, and Janice and I waved at them as they backed down the driveway over the bloodstain that could still be seen in the moonlight.
We turned and walked back into the house. Janice began to pick up the dishes from dinner, and I could immediately tell that she was more tired than she said earlier. She had probably been using every ounce of energy to make it through dinner.
“Why don’t you go to bed?” I requested of Janice as I took a plate from her.
“No,” she countered. “I’m fine. I need to do the dishes.”
“Please, I’m worried about you. I can do the dishes. You should take your pain medicine and get some rest.”
Taking her arm, I helped her to the bottom of the stairs; I knew she was tired when she didn’t resist. After she took the first step, I turned her around so we were face to face. We touched noses briefly; then kissed.
“I am getting tired,” she finally admitted.
“I know. Now go to bed. I’ll take care of things down here.”
I could hear her shuffling around upstairs for a few minutes while I put the dishes in the dishwasher, and stored the remainder of the salad in the refrigerator for lunch the next day. Soon, I was finished cleaning up, and it was quiet upstairs.
Grabbing my laptop, I found a comfortable spot on one of the rocking chairs on the front porch. The moon was still bright enough that I could see the dark spot on the driveway. I opened the laptop and surfed to Google.
I thought for a moment, then typed “Bangkok virus” into the search engine.
All published excerpts from Apostate: Life after Death in Exile: