The snow had not stopped falling. The first day of Spring and the snow had been falling all week. Marjorie had put the shoveling off for days, but she had to work today, and the driveway had at least a foot of snow covering it. John had insisted on doing it for her. On and on the snow kept falling like a giant teddy bear that had been pulled apart in the sky. Its stuffing was endless as it poured over their little house on May Avenue. And poor John was out there shoveling away.
Marjorie didn’t love or hate the snow. What she DID hate was the monotonous sound of it gently crisping to the ground and the brightness that sprung up underneath. Too much white, too much light, hurts my eyes, she thought to herself as got up from her chair by the window; uncramping her legs.
She looked around her, staring over the wooden floors and the fire that crackled every few moments. The house was small but cozy. She had lived here now for forty years and had no intention of ever leaving. Her John had built this place for them to live, grow old, die together and that’s exactly what she intended to do. She had just turned seventy-eight last month and John would be eighty in June. Marjorie laughed to herself as she thought of John being an “old man.” No-she had never saw him that way. She had always seen him as the handsome Marine who had whisked her away at barely eighteen. Her parents had been furious, but she had been head-over-heels in love with him. He had brought her flowers religiously, sent letters nearly every day when he was deployed overseas and helped her raise two wonderful children. When he retired, he had built this house and they had called it their forever home.
Marjorie smiled and went to the window again to watch John struggling with the shovel. She wondered why he bothered when the damned snow continued to recover the asphalt. Perhaps she would make some coffee and tell him to come inside. What business did a near eighty-year-old man have shoveling the driveway to begin with? Still, he looked so young and determined out there. She watched the white flakes fall on his olive-green coat and gently graze the bottom of his earlobes that were poking out from beneath his red stocking cap. He must be freezing. Yes, she would go make some coffee and tell John to come inside.
She scurried into the kitchen and began to boil water. She listened to it pop-pop-pop and scooped instant coffee into two mugs. There was no business fiddling with that coffee machine their daughter, Janice had bought them. Marjorie hated that thing but only because she didn’t have a clue how to use it. She could remember Janice plugging it and in and saying, “Now, Mom, watch; this is really easy…”
“Of course, it’s so easy!” Marjorie had retorted. “Everything is supposed to be so easy nowadays. Your father and I don’t mind working a little harder to avoid spending money on all these modern conveniences. Out right ridiculous some of them…” she had trailed off; her point being made.
Janice had just stared at her said, “Well its there if you ever want to use it.”
“I doubt I will and I’m sure your father won’t either.”
Janice had left the house without even a goodbye and that was the last time anyone had ever so much as touched the coffee machine.
Marjorie took the boiling water off the stove and started to move it to counter where she had set the mugs. Her hands were shaking like they always seemed to do and there was water sloshing onto the floor.
“What are you doing!?”
She jumped, startled to see John standing there is his olive coat. He had taken his hat off and used it to grab the hot pot away from her. He placed it on the counter with the mugs.
“I just wanted to make us some coffee,” she said feebly.
John said nothing but smoothly poured the water into the mugs.
“Go get your coat off and stand by the fireplace. I’ll bring the coffee out.” Marjorie said, regaining her composure.
“Why don’t you just fix it in here and I’ll carry the mugs into the living room.” He smiled at her and she felt her heart begin to soar. She had always said that smile would be the end of her. In a sense it had been. From the day she met John, her heart and life had become his.
She added two scoops of sugar to her coffee and three to John’s. Neither of them cared for cream much. They agreed that cream took away from real coffee flavor, but John always liked a little extra sweetness in his. She smiled as John, coat-free carried the two mugs to the living room.
They sat down and John took a sip of coffee.
And he spit it back out.
Marjorie perched on the edge of her seat, a frown creeping across her face. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Jesus, Mom, why do you put so much sugar in here?”
Marjorie stared at John curiously. “What are you talking about? That’s the same way I’ve made your coffee for the last sixty years.”
“Mom, please don’t do this again…” John’s voice trailed off.
“I don’t understand what I did wrong.” Marjorie said slowly, feeling the sobs rising in her chest. She knew she was going to cry at any moment.
“Mom, please just calm down. It’s ok.”
John was bent down beside her, clasping both of her hands in his. “Just take a deep breath, Mom.”
But Marjorie didn’t want to take a deep breath. She wanted to cry because John had gotten upset with her and he hadn’t gotten upset with her in sixty years of marriage. She was in full blown tears now.
“I just don’t understand why you’re so upset with me, John,” she sobbed. “All I did was…”
“Mom, I’m not upset. It’s ok.”
“STOP CALLING ME THAT!” Marjorie jumped up from her chair. “Why do you keep calling me that? I’m your wife!” She was so frustrated, and the tears were gushing so fast.
“It’s alright,” John Jr. whispered as he held his mother’s hands and thought about his wonderful father who had passed away three years ago-on the snowy first day of Spring.
Marjorie sat back in her chair, sobbing as she held her son’s hands tight. “Will you still have the driveway shoveled so I can drive the car in to work today?” She sniffled.
John clasped her hands a little tighter. “Sure, Mom. Whatever you need.” He smiled weakly and they sat there together, watching the snow fall.