Mary's house, Rick's nightmare

She couldn’t eat the bowl of lumpy, unsatisfying oatmeal. She plopped the spoon back into the nearly full bowl, carefully pushed herself off the couch, and hobbled into the cluttered kitchen. She ran water in the bowl, and sat it in the sink along with the other dishes. She hadn’t been able to wash them this week, her arthritis was acting up. She glanced around at her cluttered kitchen, the cabinets were nearly empty, and the store wouldn’t deliver new ones for three more days. A pool of water surrounded the refrigerator; more water trailed along the wire, and joined the growing puddle. She knew she should fix that leak, but she didn’t seem to have the time.
She made her way carefully back to the living room, where Oprah laughed from the TV. More dishes sat on the coffee table, along with a few of her favorite books, snacks for later that evening, a can of cat food, the cat’s food dish, and a can opener. These days, Mary didn’t feel like getting up several times a day to feed the cat, get more food, grab a book, or put her dishes in the sink. She placed the things she would need around the couch, where they could be easily grabbed.
Before she knew what had happened, Mary ended up on the ground looking up. She convulsed against the ground, and she couldn’t catch her breath. A sharp stab of pain radiated up her leg. She cried out for help, but no one heard her besides the cat.
Thankfully, Mrs. Doddle, Mary’s neighbor, was coming up the concrete steps right as Mary crumpled to the ground. She heard a crash, and immediately rushed in to help. Mrs. Doddle cradled Mary’s head in her lap while dialing 9-1-1. The ambulance pulled in no more than seven minutes later. Mary caught a glance of her antique wheelbarrow and the car that had belonged to her father on the front lawn. She saw her Morning Glories, growing up the side of her house. They had grown so tall in the last three months; Mary stared at them blankly as the ambulance doors closed.

***

The vines grew up the side of the house, seeking the sun. They spanned over the windows, over the edge of the roof, and stopped on the top of the house. A wheelbarrow sat on its side, with its belly facing the road. A coat of rust covered the bottom. A car was propped on four cement blocks, its bare axels brown with age. The tires lay four feet away, flat and splitting apart. Several bags worth of random trash blew across the grass, and collected against the backyard fence in a large heap.
Rick rested his hands on the steering wheel, as he stared out at the house that once had great beauty. The house had belonged to his mother, but she would be spending at least a few months in the hospital. She wasn’t coming home; her next destination was the nursing home. A stroke damages a person, and it didn’t help that she had broken her hip on the fall down. Rick had no choice but to sell this house, to pay the high price of her hospital bills. First, he had to gather her stuff.
He sighed, and glanced down at the watch on his pale wrist. Enough time had been wasted. He pushed the car door opened, and climbed out. He made his way up the cracked and crumbling sidewalk, he took the key from his pocket, and allowed the door to swing open.
He gasped at what had become of the kitchen. Water seeped from under the refrigerator. The water had soaked into the floor, causing it to sag. The dishes had been stacked in the sink, several flies buzzed above them. Four of the cabinet doors stood open. A box of oatmeal, two cans of cat food, a bag of flour, three cans of green beans, two cans of corn, and one bag of potato chips sat in them. She had almost been out of food.
Rick caught a whiff of old cat food, and cat litter. Slowly, he walked through the hallway. He gagged at the overwhelming scent of the litter box. The cat had been left alone for days. He hadn’t even known Mary had a cat, let alone that it lived inside. Mrs. Doddle must have left some food out for it.
He continued into the living room. When his mom had fallen, she’d knocked the table sideways. At least 20 books lay scattered around it. A box of crackers, a bag of cookies, a bowl of popcorn, and several empty wrappers had managed to stay on the table. A can opener, a saucer, and a can of tuna-smelling cat food had been scattered across the floor. Several hundred ants were crawling on some dirty dishes that lay on the floor and on the table; they marched out of the room, down the other hallway, and disappeared into one of the back bedrooms.





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