I won't post the very last bit that I wrote in the hospital because I don't want to give away the actual one-two punch ending. I wrote the raw ending of the entire story (I promise, I'll get back around to picking up at the party. There's lots more fun in store there).
This section takes place the day following Lydia's party. Without further ado, here it is:
* * *
The Party Line Hospital Section
The musty scent of walnut husks hung in the crisp morning air as Carey walked Timmy.
“You’re mighty perky this morning, old Tim.” The gray-muzzled ___breed___ trotted from one leaf pile to the next, sniffing and pawing, his stubby tail beating (keeping?) time with his heart. The deeper into a stack Timmy nosed, the faster his little tail wagged. Dogs are such simple, pleasant creatures, Carey mused. Not a day goes by that Tim’s not at the door waiting for me with a wag and a happy handshake. He guided the __breed__ toward home.
Once inside the Glunger’s sunny kitchen, Carey wiped Timmy’s muddy paws with a rag. He heard Lila unevenly shuffling around in the upstairs hallway.
“Do you need help getting down the stairs, sweetheart?”
“Yes, Carey, please. I feel a little woozy this morning.”
Carey reached the top of the stairs just as Lila tottered into the bathroom. She slammed the door and moments later, flushed the toilet four times in rapid succession. Lila hollered through the door, “Carey, I need to breath my teeth and I’ll be right out. Just you wait until you hear the crazy dream I had last night!”
* * *
When Lila stepped out of the bathroom, she stopped in a puddle of pure sunshine in the upstairs hallway. Her chestnut hair blazed in the light streaming through the big bay window.
“When was the last time you wore your hair down, Lila? I’d almost forgotten how it shimmers like burnished copper in the sunlight.”
“Why, Carey Glunger, when was the last time you spoke such blarney?”
Carey tilted his head and grinned like a mischievous boy. Arm in arm the couple made their way down the stairs. Carey felt more protection of Lila than he had since Lydia was tiny. Lila was amazed at the effect her hair held after all these years of marriage.
“Why don’t you sit down, Lila, and I’ll fix us both some tea?” Carey suggested, guiding his unsteady wife to the breakfast table.
“Tea sounds good; I don’t feel like eating this morning.” Lila sat and traced the ruffled paprika border of her placemat with her finger while Carey filled the teapot with water and turned up the heat on the stove.
“Carey, I feel ashamed that I missed Lydia’s party.” Tears fell onto the placemat, leaving deep orange circlets where each landed.
Carey set the kettle on the burner. Sitting down, he slid around the bench until his hip met hers.
“You have nothing to be ashamed of, wife of mine. We’re going to have some tea and then you’re going to regale me with the details of that wild dream of yours.”
Lila leaned over and kissed his cheek.
“You’re something else; did you know that?”
“Yes, and the world remains unsure what else it is that I am; did you know that?” He laid his hand over Lila’s and stroked her left ring finger until he reached her wedding band. He was relieved that Lila initiated their familiar ritual. Carey knew he’d been forgiven for “the situation.”
The kettle whistled. Carey slid out of the booth and sang while he filled their cups. “Tea for you time, then me for you time.”
Lila giggled. “Hand me my tea and let me tell you this dream before I forget it.
“It all started with me lying in bed. I was asleep and a noise outside my window woke me up. I stepped into my slippers and slipped my robe on and I noticed you weren’t in bed. In my dream I wondered why you weren’t there, and I felt confused.
“I opened the shutters and peeked outside. It was nighttime, and I saw dozens of cars leaving the house. They were going down the driveway and down the street. As far as I could see there was a red line of taillights that twinkled until it disappeared over the horizon.
“There was a commotion in the front yard and I looked away from the cars. When I looked down to see what the noise was I could just make out what looked like two women in long party dresses, rolling around, wrestling each other. They were pulling each other’s hair and screaming. It was terrible!
“I ran back to the bedside stand and put my glasses on to try and see who they were. I could just make out Dottie Jennings’ face, and then I realized the bony woman in the fight was Sylvia Landry! Their beautiful dresses were ripped and soiled, and they were rolling around down there in the ivy bed like two angry little boys.
“I was shocked at their conduct and I called out, ‘Ladies, please! What are you two fighting about?’ and Sylvia raised her head – her hair was a terrible mess – and she blubbered, “Dotty’s been spreading terrible rumors about me!’”
“What happened next, sweetie?” Carey stirred a spoonful of sugar into his tea.
“I leaned out the window and told her, ‘Good; it serves you both right,’ and I slammed the window shut and closed the shutters, and then I woke up.”
Fifi barked as the letter carrier let the brass mailbox door clank shut.
“Shush, Momma’s darling girl Fifi,” Sylvia crooned as she limped to the door to collect the day’s mail.
Fifi continued barking fervently. If she could just escape from her grotesque body, the wooden wagon and Sylvia, she’d exact a severe punishment on the invisible beast who left his droppings on Fifi’s property six days a week.
On her way back to the chair, Sylvia stopped to inspect her battered face in the foyer mirror. Her split lip had an ugly black line where it had begun to heal. Her left eye was still swollen closed and surrounded with bruising despite the comfrey compresses and ice pack she’d applied all day Sunday. She’d missed church – heck, she could barely drag herself to the bathroom in time. A random thought crossed her mind and she wondered if Marvin would have to build a wagon to transport her to the bathroom.
(Sorry to have to leave you hanging...Thanks for reading. ~~ GHC)