Give It a Few Days
by Molly Allman
Cheryl sat up in bed and wiggled her feet into her slippers. Yawning and stretching, she looked over her shoulder and noticed Hoyt was still sleeping. “That’s odd,” she said under her breath. “It’s not like Hoyt to sleep in, but maybe he’s not feeling well. That nasty flu bug has been making its rounds.”
She made the usual breakfast of two eggs over easy and a slice of whole wheat toast, lightly buttered with a smidgen of strawberry jam. Setting the plate on the table she hollered, “Hoyt! Are you up?”
She stomped to the bedroom, annoyed that he didn’t answer. “Hoyt!” She stared at him and stood in a daze for a moment. “Hoyt Eugene Lawson, you better wake up!”
She stared at his face. Did he blink? Did his lips just move. He must be mumbling something, but she couldn’t make out what it was. She put her ear near his mouth. “Oh, why didn’t you tell me? Okay, tea and toast for you then, since you’re not feeling well. I’ll be back.”
After caring for her sick husband, she went outside to do a few chores, since Hoyt was in no shape to mow the lawn. Cheryl dragged the old Lawnboy out of the shed and tried several quick pulls to get it going, with no luck.
Jim, the neighbor on the right, noticed Cheryl’s small body struggling with the mower. “You need some help over there?” he called over the fence.
She waved him over. “Sure, this darn thing is giving me fits. I don’t know how he does it.”
“Where’s Hoyt? He’s usually got half the lawn mowed by now.” Jim checked the gas and primed the machine.
“He’s been hit with that nasty flu bug. I’m sure he’ll be up and around in a few days.”
“Sorry to hear that. Why don’t I just do this for you?” Jim asked.
“That would be great, if you’re sure. Like I said, this darn machine just doesn’t like me.” She smiled. “Just let me know what I owe you for the work.”
“No charge. You don’t have to pay me. Hoyt just helped me put up my new shed last month. He was a big help, too, ’cause he’s quite strong for a man his age.”
“Yeah, he’s always been my big strong man.” She winked at Jim.
Cheryl spent all morning weeding her begonias. She watched Jim mowing the lawn, making good time. “Must be a job for a tall lanky man,” she said to herself. Stopping to give her stiff back a little rest, she saw Jim walked past and wondered why he was still alone. His divorce was years ago. He seemed to be a nice fellow. Maybe if he’d cut his hair and cut the beard down, some nice woman might give him a second look. “Oh, how lonely that young guy must be in the house alone.”
Before an afternoon of raking the pesky weeds taking over the tomatoes, Cheryl crept inside to check on her husband. She held the screen door handle, closing the door slowly to prevent it from smacking a against the door frame. The house was so quiet, so she tip-toed into the bedroom and took a peek at Hoyt.
He hadn’t moved. She stood in the doorway, but decided it best not to disturb him.
Cheryl jumped at a knock at the door. “Oh! My old heart!” she whispered.
“I’m all done!” Jim called out through the screen door.
“Thank you,” Cheryl answered as she opened the door and stepped out on the porch.
Jim sprinted home and Cheryl got her hoe to start on the overgrown weeds.
“Shew! It’s hot out there today! I’m turning up the old AC!” she called out as she stepped inside. “Hoyt! You hear me?” She tiptoed into the room. “You haven’t touched your tea and toast!” She felt his forehead. “You’re not feverish, but you feel a little cold. I think you could use an extra blanket.”
She pulled one down from the top shelf of the closet. “How’s that, dear?” She leaned down to hear his reply. His voice was still weak. “You’ll be fine in a few days. I’m sure of it.” She tucked the blankets tight around him. “And don’t you worry about the lawn. Jim took care of it. Just rest.” She bent to kiss his forehead but patted his chest instead. “No sense in me catching it,” she told him.
Cheryl showered and spent a quiet evening watching television. She didn’t want to disturb her sick husband, so she stretched out on the sofa and drifted off while watching a movie.
“Oh, goodness. This couch is not good for the old back.”
She yelled to Hoyt, “I’m coming to check on you. Give me a minute to get moving.” She shuffled into the bedroom, but he didn’t stir or make a noise. She rubbed his head. “My poor dear. Never sick a day in your life, but this bug’s really got you down. Tea and toast again this morning, huh?” She placed her ear next to his lips. “What’s that? You’re not hungry! Well, you should at least try to have some broth.”
Cheryl had her breakfast, cleaned up, and took Hoyt a steaming cup of vegetable broth. “Going to church now. See you in a bit. “
Cheryl looked so tiny and frail, sitting in the second pew all alone. Everyone stopped by and asked about Hoyt.
“Tell him to get well soon. He must really be sick, he never misses a service,” they’d reply.
“I know, but this bug has got him down. I’ve never seen in this state. He’s not eating and just sleeps.” She paused, wringing her hand, and closed her eyes a second. “I’m sure he’ll be fine in a day or two.”
“If you want, I can come by later and check up on him.” Dr. Walters offered.
“Oh no, he may even be feeling better by the time I get home. It’s Sunday. Enjoy your time with your family.” She patted he arm. “Thank you. I’ll call if I need you.”
After service, Cheryl spent a quiet Sunday working on her knitting and asking God if he’d be so kind as to see that Hoyt made a full recovery soon. “You see, Lord, It’s been a lonely couple of days with him sick and all. Please, if it be your will, heal him soon. “
His recliner sat empty. The couple usually spent Sunday evenings together: Hoyt watching his westerns and eating popcorn, and Cheryl relaxing on the sofa doing a crossword or knitting.
“Coming to check on you, dear!” she called out walking toward the bedroom door. “Oh my! You’re looking a little green around the gills!” She felt his head. “Still cool, so no fever, but goodness, you’re pale.” She lifted his head and fluffed his pillow. “That’s it. I’m calling Dr. Walters tomorrow.” She shook her finger at him. “No arguments! He said he’d be happy to come by see how you are doing.”
She took her pillow and blanket. “Looks like another night on the couch for me. You need your rest. Who knows, maybe by morning, you’ll be up and about at sunrise, waking me up!” She chuckled.
Cheryl woke to a terrible smell stinging her nose. “Oh, Hoyt! I think we got a dead critter in the basement or attic.” She picked up the phone. “I’ll call Dr. Walters and then open up the windows to air out the house a bit.
She made her phone calls and went through the house opening every window and letting fresh air in. “I won’t bother you this morning, Hoyt,” she yelled. “The doc will be here soon and you’ll get poked and prodded enough then. So, just rest.”
Cheryl went outside and plopped down on the porch swing. “That smell,” she whispered to herself.
Jim saw her and walked over. “Hoyt still under the weather?”
“Yeah, but the doc’s coming, and I’m sure he can fix him up, good as new. Yeah, I’m just sure he will.” She smiled.
“What’s that smell?” Jim gagged, covering his nose.
“I think we got a dead critter in the basement, or maybe the attic.”
“I don’t know, Cheryl. That’s a strong...” Jim looked in the front door. “You sure Hoyt’s okay?”
She stared up at the sky. “He’s sick, but the doc’s going to fix him up good as new, just like I said.”
Jim excused himself and sprinted next door. “If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but if not, it’s better not to take chances.” He dialed 911 and reported the smell of a dead body coming from the house next door.
Dr. Walters arrived and a police car pulled in behind him.
Two officers hurried up to the door, covering their noses as they made their way inside.
Cheryl jumped up and ran to the door. “Doctor, go on in and fix him up. Please hurry!”
Dr. Walters saw panic in Cheryl’s eyes and recognized the stench of death blowing in the breeze.
Cheryl screamed at him, shaking her fist in the air. “He just has that nasty old flu bug. That’s all. Please! Dr. Walters, go in and tell them. He’ll be fine in a day or two. It’s too lonely without him.”
She fell to her knees and wept. “He’ll be fine in a day or two,” she repeated, again and again.
Copyright © 2019 by Molly Allman