Are You There, Margaret?

Are you there Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

You’ll have to excuse my handwriting, I’m cramping up something terrible today. Not much has changed here. The crows are still at it, staking claim to the feeder. And I got into with Miss Cooper again. All I was doing was stamping down the mole hills in her the yard. That woman has a way with ugly, I’ll say that. I did say it, because you weren’t there to stop me.

You’ve got all sorts of mail. Your latest Readers’ Digest has a story about finding hope in hopeless situations. I wonder who writes that stuff, anyway.

I need to get a notebook with wider lines. And I can never find my reading glasses and a pen at the same time. It’s a hopeless situation, dear.


Are you there, Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

So Lewis and I walked into the Medi-First center up there on Franklin Street. Before you go worrying, it wasn’t me. We were fishing, and Lewis sliced his hand trying to cut his line and had to get a few sutures. And get this, the Medi-First outfit is in the building that used to be Blockbuster Video—same place we took the grandkids to pick out a videocassette when we had them for a night. If I remember right, before that it was Giovani’s, that pizza joint that burned down in ’78 or ’79.

It’s all been renovated, with frosted glass and sleek furniture. Anyhow, the kid sewing up Lewis was a baby, pimples and everything. So Lewis winks at me and starts asking where the new releases are shelved. The receptionist was fresh off training wheels too and so I start in about the westerns and soon we’re going on about late fees and these kids are looking worried.

I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.


Are you there, Margaret? It’s me Vern.

I was thinking about that time your grandmother got sick. We drove down to visit, spent a week or so looking after her before your cousins came in from New York and we got some time to ourselves. You showed me around, all the places you went as a kid. We stopped for ice cream at that diner and I got the sherbert. You remember? You thought that was the silliest thing. We were strolling along the boardwalk and the water was tinted orange like it was dueling with the sky just for our attention. The breeze was in your hair when you chose the sky and said it looked like sherbert. We had some good times, Marg.

Well, yesterday Lewis and I were at Dairy Queen after that thing at the Medi-First center. I feel awful about that now, and I can hear you saying how I’m doing foolish things because I’m hanging around a fool like Lewis. And he is a fool, too. He’s got this big bandage on his thumb and it looks like a hitchhiking mishap. Anyway, we saw these teenagers and they were all taking pictures of ice cream with their little doodads. Lewis was going on about kids, but I was back at that sunset.


Are you there Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

Your church friends came by today, Marg, and I wasn’t too nice. I’d just come for a visit but you slept the whole time and I held your hand until I started feeling angry. I know it’s not your fault, dear, but you know my temper. So I was watching Wheel of Fortune when these ladies had the nerve to come in the house and sit in your empty spot on the sofa and say how they were worried about me. About me! When you’re the one in that bed. Stuck in your own head. They think I should start coming to service. Said I could pray for you.

Dear God, give Margaret her brain back.

There, I just prayed.


Are you there, Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

John wants me to come visit. Alice thinks I should stay with her family. You may not talk, Marg, but there’s a whole lot they’re not saying. I can tell you that.


Are you there, Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

Tough visit yesterday, Marg. You really gave me a scare. When I got home I drank the rest of the bourbon. That bottle I bought back when Allen passed. I tried to write but what’s the use? Now I’m not feeling so well. I don’t think I’ll make it to you today, just going to watch Wheel of Fortune.

I’d like to buy a vowel.


Are you there, Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

The words are gone, Marg…





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