The Christmas Cactus

Shivering, she pulled herself up from the hearth using her cane and put the poker back on its hook. “I shouldn’t ought to have let that burn so low.” She eyed the four logs left, judging whether they’d be enough to get her through the night or not. Nope. Susie wobbled to her overcoat and went out to woodpile on the front porch in the blowing snow and retrieved four more fair-sized ones. She fretted about forgetting to do it in the daylight; she forgot so much anymore.

The fresh logs she’d just loaded in the fireplace still laid there, not wanting to burn. Working the bellows until she got a flame made her sweaty. She thought about taking the darned overcoat off because with two sweaters on it would cut off her circulation but good. Coming down with pneumonia wouldn’t be very smart, though.

Next she knew, she stood at the coatrack with her coat hung. Chilled to the bone, her hand fondled the other coat there, and she wiped the tears from her face. “Stanley, help me out here, will you please?” His camouflaged hunting coat felt so blessedly warm as she buttoned it up. “Yes, Stan, I’ll make us some tea.”

Instead of making the tea, she plopped heavily into the padded kitchen chair by the fire. Staring at the flames, she remembered how Stan would have brought in plenty of wood, and he would have banked it better. He more than once told her she didn’t have a lick of sense and she believed it. That Christmas cactus she’d insisted on getting so many years ago bloomed right on time anyhow, up until he went onward to the pearly gates. Since then, it hadn’t done its duty at all. She angrily remembered the tea and heaved up to put the kettle on the stove. The propane he’d put in heated it up quick and she fixed christmas-cactus-in-handa little pot of chamomile.

On the way back to her warm seat, she glanced over to the miserable cactus. She stopped, her tensed body falling slack. “Oh Stan, would you look at that!” She gently cradled the bright red blossom and smiled in that contained Mona Lisa way he liked. “Thank you, lover, I’m warm nose to toes now.” She sat and sipped her tea, hugging his coat tightly, feeling his embrace as they watched the fire dance. Merry Christmas.

 

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