Mr. Wiley waddled up our stone path, walking to the fractured beat of his walking stick. He is a man who can be heard long before he is ever seen.
“Weeds,” he gasped when I opened the door. He has the corrugated voice of a lifelong smoker. Laura’s biggest fear is that he’ll collapse in her arms. Smothered by an old man in overalls, she predicts.
This is not where he wants to be, this Florida, this Miami, this crowded pool. Better to be back in Montreal, hip-deep in February snow, trudging to work. But this is where he is, drowning in a sea of white-haired, half-blind sun bathers. Some wage a battle against old age, as if the heavy makeup, the scarves, the sunglasses can disguise their defeated skin. They babble in English, Yiddish, Polish. Some knit two or three languages into a single sentence. Some have heavy accents. A few have tattoos on their wrists. They are old, old, old. This is not where he wants to be.
David steps into the kitchen, sweat beading his arms, lifts his new workboots and gives them a good shake. Sawdust powders the tiles. I rarely see him dressed this way, straight out of a hardware catalogue. Throw in a yellow hardhat and sturdy lunchpail and the costume’s complete. The truth of the matter is, I’m better with a hammer and nails than he is. But I’m due in three weeks and he isn’t, so I decide to sit this one out. My mother sits across the table, knitting pink booties. My father – who taught me how to handle a plane – is outside, measuring and sawing, happy as a child in a sandbox. He and David are building an extension to the back porch, where we plan to spend a lot of time with the baby.
Large lumps float in the batter, thick lumps that won’t move. I prod them with a fork but they just sit there, indifferent. I want to call Judith again. I phoned an hour ago. The recipe called for an eight by ten inch pan; all I have is a nine by thirteen. Relax, Jeremy. That’s what Judith always says. Relax. Still, those lumps in the batter are worrisome. Not to mention the trip to the zoo.