Branches had been scratching the side of the house for hours. John was resting on the recliner, two fingers through the hole on the armrest, just as he liked it, anchoring his arm as he inhabited the twilight between alertness and rest.
Maeve was visiting with her sister’s family who lived 2 miles up the road. She had left three hours earlier- their oven was out and Maeve had cooked them a meatloaf.
Rationally, Maeve would be back soon. Rationally, he wasn’t hungry- he had made eggs right after she left and had a good late lunch. And, rationally, the branches scratching at the side of the house were just that.
But nothing was rational. His hair, thinning yet still present in wiry, whispy, whiteness had a few pieces standing at attention. His hand could barely control the shakes that his heart produced.
Bernard, the dog, started barking on the porch. John stepped outside to find Bernard, tail wagging, a kitten whimpering in the corner. He took a piece of jerky from the jar he kept between the chairs, and threaded it. Bernard was all attention, but he sent him off into the yard with a snap and a point.
The kitten was smitten with the piece of jerky and John picked her up to his own amazement. He started singing a lullaby that he had sung each of his three children. Once inside, still holding her, he poured the gristle from the frying pan where the eggs had been into a bottle and attached a nipple.
Feeding it to the kitten, whose teeth pirced the nipple, he said, “Just a little.”
Maeve opened the door, closed it, and removed her jacket before she saw him.
“What do you have there?” she asked, voice weary.
“A little friend Bernard made.”
“It’s cute. Beth loved the meatloaf.”
“I’m glad.” He replied. Then his eyes focused on the window darkened by the night sky.
“I do wish Paulie, Georgia and Maggie-” He paused and swallowed. “Would visit again.”
“I do too.” She said, with more than a bit of glimmer in her eye.