Minnie pushed the faucet handle, her skin taut and papery from age, but still didn't have enough strength to stop the dripping. Each drop struck the side of a copper kettle which lay in the sink, echoing like a child's toy drum. She let out a grunt, steadied herself, and shuffled across faded linoleum. Her left hand on the counter, Minnie clutched two tarnished napkin rings in the other. At the doorway she paused, gripped the avocado-green door jamb, then entered the dining room.
Now at the antique table—an heirloom from her maternal great-great-grandmother—she picked up embroidered cloth napkins which matched the gold tablecloth and proceeded to fold them into an accordion pattern. Minnie completed the first napkin with a great deal of effort and slipped it into one of the silver rings. Setting it aside, she took up the second napkin. Her hands trembled as she concentrated, causing her folds to be uneven. She flattened the cloth and folded again. When she finally pushed the stubborn napkin through the second ring, she paused, listening.
“Minnie, that sink is dripping.”
She circled to the other side of the table and set the napkin in its place. As she did so, she noticed a silver hair which rested across the forks, touching the china plate.
“Oh, dear.” Minnie tried several times to grab the strand without any luck. She adjusted her finger-print smeared glasses, then reached with a finger and thumb. Satisfied that she had the offending hair in her grasp, she moved as if to go to the kitchen. But then something caught her eye. In the middle of the table, her magnificent lace doily had a bubble on one side. She bent forward and smoothed it out.
“There. It wouldn't do for George to eat at a messy table.”
She returned to the kitchen in the same manner she had left it—holding onto the door frame as she went. At the stove, she glanced at the digital clock. “Minnie, you need to hurry. He'll be here any moment.”
The drawer where her towels were stored was still open. “Ah!” she said.
Minnie rummaged through the drawer, from front to back, and then to the front again. “Now where in the blazes did I put those napkin rings?” She spent another five minutes looking, but found nothing. Frustrated, she shut the drawer.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
Drawn to the sound at the sink, she turned on the water. She turned it off again, pushing hard on the handle.
Minnie returned to the stove and took up two hot-pads. She lifted the small crock by the handles taking care not to move the clear lid from its place. She could see the steaming chunk of turkey breast inside next to the stuffing she'd spent the entire morning on. This wasn't the recipe which had made her famous with friends and neighbors as a young woman, but rather the kind of stuffing which comes in a box. And she'd had a devil of a time trying to decipher the instructions on the side panel. She hoped she had gotten it right.
Once back at the table, she placed a hot-pad, then used the other hot-pad to maneuver the crock into position. She surveyed her work. A silver hair lay on the tablecloth near the doily. “Oh, dear!” she said once again. Minnie used a butter knife from her own place setting and scooted the hair to the floor.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
By the time she went to the kitchen, turned on the water, shut it off, checked the towel drawer for napkin rings, then returned to her seat, Minnie was near exhaustion. She collapsed into her chair and pulled out her napkin. She dabbed at her upper lip.
“Oh, there it is.” Minnie slipped the napkin into its ring and sat back.
Her gaze fell on the artwork above the fireplace mantle. It was a winter scene. As always, her eyes were drawn to the breath from the horse, not too far from the kneeling man's head. She shivered. The snow reminded her of the weather outside. She continued to study the painting of the handsome man in prayer.
“The trim on the saddle blanket is almost the same color as the table cloth,” Minnie declared, smiling.
Certainly George would appreciate that. She'd have to point it out to him.
“I wonder if he'll wear his tricorn hat?”