“I’ve had all I can stand from that old bastard; I’ll fix his wagon, I surely will.” She poked around the crowded kitchen counter for her wild herb book, a quarter at the Salvation Army store in town. “Of course not,” she mumbled, “don’t matter anyway. I read holes in the pages and ought to be able to find what I’m a-lookin’for.”
Betsy took her sweet time to traverse the steep gravel driveway, with tiny sideways steps on the steepest parts. She wouldn’t fix nobody’s wagon but her own if she tumbled ass over teakettle and broke her fool neck.
The woods looked a whole lot more weedy and crowded than the pictures in that little book. She could almost feel the turkey mites and spotted ticks crawling up her legs, urging her into the knee-high weeds at the edge of the great mess of sycamores. Stanley spouted off something degrading about those trees when they’d gone out to see Katie’s new baby girl – junk trees, 50 foot weeds. She didn’t care for them either, but didn’t believe it necessary to pour ugly all over every minute of every hour. He must not respect her at all to talk like that.
She waded into the weeds, and on into the forest. From the gang of sycamores, she angled around a big tangle of blackberries and headed for what seemed a likely spot. The gravel dust from a pick-up speeding up the road fell before it reached her, mostly. “With no regard for anyone,” she called after it, “Young heathens, think you own the road?”
She pulled the tablespoon from her pants pocket and dug up a Snail Flower, roots and all. She came up onto the porch, sweat pouring off her gaunt face. He sat there lounging without a care, reading some science fiction garbage, and didn’t look up. An hour later, she stepped out, clean and smiling. “Here Stanley, I made you some iced tea.”
He took it, nodded thanks, and went back to reading.
The next day, she scowled at the bookshelf where her herbal should be. What has she done wrong? Had she not steeped it enough? She was getting less confident of the book calling for leaves and stems and roots and all. Boil just the roots? She was sure sick and tired of looking for that book.
Her legs looked bad with a dozen red and intensely itchy spots on each one. She dabbed each with ointment and wrapped her legs feet to thighs in wide Ace bandages to fend off any more of them. She picked her way back down the driveway, in past the sycamores. Silverseal had to be the right one. There, behind that fallen tree. Out came the tablespoon. “Here, sweetie, I made you some iced tea.”
It rained all day the next day. She fidgeted, upset to be out of Tylenol again. Late afternoon, the showers slacked off to a drizzle. In a yellow slicker, she headed out once more. Badger Borage, right there, had to be.
“I made you some iced tea.” She held it out at arm’s length, not wanting to feel his body heat, not wanting him to detect her anticipation.
“No thanks.” He laid his open book on his lap and looked into her eyes. “What’s this sudden need you have to make me weird iced teas lately? Are you up to something?”
“Of course not. Can’t wife make her husband iced tea on a hot day without suspicion?”
He looked at the artfully arranged plate with an eyebrow raised. “Have a few with me?”
She set it down by him. “You want me to go into a diabetic coma?” She stomped away.
He walked into the kitchen about an hour later and caught her brooding at the kitchen table, an unopened National Geographic at her elbows. He waggled the plate and put it in the sink. As he passed her, she asked, “Did you eat them all?”
He pulled up a kitchen chair and leaned toward her. He moved a wisp of gray hair from her face, gently tucking it behind her ear. “You wanted me to eat them all, didn’t you?”
Her eyes started to water. “That’s why I made them.”
“Our 45th wedding anniversary is Thursday. Katie wants us to come over and have a big dinner. Will you be going?”
“What a stupid question. Why wouldn’t I go?”
“Will I be going?”
A tear fell down her cheek. More tears. He held her close and patted her back.
She leaned back from his embrace. “Let me up. I want to make me some iced tea. Then we’ll go together.”
“I put your cookies in the trash can. I want you to go to Katie’s with me Thursday and then again at our 50th anniversary.”
“Two places every five years, that’s about right.”
“I quit going places with you because you twist everything into something negative. I want to live a few more years and you make that into a negative. The last time I wanted to take you to a dinner and a movie and you said I don’t like your housekeeping and cooking. You didn’t used to be that way. Do you hate me that much?”
“No, I don’t hate you and I’m not always negative and you’re not perfect! My head hurts so bad and you don’t even know it cuz’ your head is always stuck in some book! You don’t pay attention to me anymore at all!”
He reached in his back pocket and handed her the missing herbal. “You refrain from poisoning me and I’ll get you to a doctor, okay?” He picked up her hand, kissed it and held it to his heart. “I love you and always have. I’ll not stop loving you no matter what. I want you to be well and will get you to the doctor as soon as I can. I Care. Okay?”
She blinked her wet eyes. “Okay.”