By Jael Strong
“Lavendar can sit here, away from the draft,” Birdie mumbled to herself as she straightened the chairs in her tiny kitchen. “And I’ll sit across from her.”
Birdie made twenty trips to the oven to check on the pie. She compulsively checked her phone to be sure she missed no calls. She even traveled countless times to the mailbox to affirm that she hadn’t overlooked a note cancelling this afternoon’s gathering.
Between the pie, the phone, and the mailbox, Birdie managed to squeeze in the other important preparations. The table had to be set just so. The perfect music had to be selected. Each water glass had to be rewashed and then re-dried repeatedly. She pulled a deck of cards from the game drawer in case they wanted to stay afterward for a game and a drink.
“Viola will want just a small piece,” she said as she put a small plate in front of Viola’s seat. Birdie leaned on Viola’s chair and contemplated the table. She was getting older, nearing seventy, and this lunch party had been a challenge to arrange. But it had been so long since the girls had come over to see her. She couldn’t say no. She shook with exhaustion, but trembled primarily from excitement.
“No, I’d better give her the same plate as the others.” Birdie exchanged the small plate for a larger one. “She’ll think I’m being funny. And what is it Malinda always says? No ice? Or extra ice? I don’t remember.”
Birdie picked up the telephone to ring up Malinda, but quickly put it back in place. Malinda would have left by now. They all must be on their way to Birdie’s for pie by now.
Yes, the oven would beep in six and a half minutes. Birdie would then fly over and pluck the pie from oven and put it on the shelf to cool. Just then, the door bell would ring and Birdie would flit to her front door to let in her first guest. As if on cue, the others would arrive just as Birdie was seeing in this first arrival. Birdie, Malinda, Viola, and Lavendar would laugh and tell stories as the pie cooled on the shelf and the years would slip off of Birdie like a loose dress.
This would be a new beginning for Birdie. She could have weekly gatherings with her old chums. She could telephone a few others and introduce new friends to old friends. The fervor of regular company filling the small house, generating loads of jocularity, dousing the house with the odor of sweets and treats, made Birdie giddy.
Birdie sat on her sofa and stared at the door, waiting for the oven to beep and the company to enter on their mark. “What will I talk about? They may be bored!” Birdie look around for inspiration. “I’ll tell them about my dreams. They’ll like that! I’ll tell them about my dream of being on a professional soccer team. I was a good player. I always made the goal, even when I played against the boys. I was going to move to England. I was going to get a spot on a good team. I would be famous, being so good and a woman to boot! I was going to be on television and in papers and everybody would know of me! They‘ll like that!”
It was then that the phone rang. Birdie made her way slowly to the telephone and saw immediately that it was Lavendar calling. The girls were not able to come. Something had come up unexpectedly. “Yes, I understand…Oh, sure, we can do it again any time…In a few weeks, maybe?… Well, you give me a call when you and the girls have the time…Thank you dear for letting me know.”
The oven beeped as Birdie gathered the plates from the table and put up the water glasses. She switched off the music and lights, and sat on the sofa as the smell of burnt pie wafted through the house.