Meeting Gretchen…


   [Obviously, this will be a short story…a very short one, but a true one, no poetic license whatsoever intruding…]


      It was seven years ago, and no one but I observed her rising from her table…

   (“More” will require your passing through the DOOR which, incidentally, Gretchen herself is about to do.)






She moved to cash register to pay her bill. She was certainly old enough for her cane that leaned next to her against the counter. She fished in her purse for a smaller purse and, finding it, paid what was was owed and returned to her table with her tip. She pulled up her collar against her gray hair and headed past a table of men, all breakfast regulars, for the door. I recalled my nearly treacherous entry that morning. It was icy beyond belief, a jump ahead of the season.

   The only car I could see through window that had to be hers was at least thirty feet away. I wished I knew her name. The table of men was lost in conversation.

   I stood and sprinted to the door ahead of her. Moving outside, I stood there motioning her to follow me as I held the door open.

   She paused and studied my face.

   “Look,” I said. “I’m going to hold this door open until you come through it.”

   She studied me further, glanced down at the ice, and raised her collar higher.

   “Please realize that I’m not leaving until I’ve helped you get to your car. Here…” I held out my hand. “It’s really slippery here.” It was my turn to study her face. Two could play that game. She ventured a couple of steps forward.

   “How do I know you’re not a stalker?” she asked resolutely.

   I made myself hold my tongue for at least five seconds while the door shut behind us. I could gaze at her just as seriously.

   “You don’t,” I returned.

   Then she blew it and laughed.

   I so did I, but a bit louder. “I’m John,” I said. “Besides, you don’t want to spend anymore time with those old fogeys in there. And your name is…”

   “Gretchen,” she said.

   We’ve been occasional breakfast friends, good friends, ever since¹.


   ¹ Since these posts beg for some kind of notation, here goes. Gretchen turned ninety a couple of weeks ago. Nearly a year earlier–after my wife and I had left for the season–the time had come for her, as a widow, to leave her home and go live with her daughter and family. But today, as I looked up from my regular spot, there she was again, a couple of tables away, back for a visit with some of her family. “Yes!” I announced, heading for her table. Once again, we reported our first encounter, providing a moment of free local entertainment.

   (The “table of men” nearby, however, were still lost in conversation.)