a weekly series of fiction to enjoy with your bowl of cereal
Igor and Spank by Kel Rohlf
What was I thinking? I should have said we could order pizza. I hate this grill. If Jack were here, he’d have it the right temperature. Oh, crap, there’s the doorbell. It can’t be 6:30 already. I’m coming.
“Hello everyone! Come in, dinner’s sort of ready. The chicken is going to have to cook a little longer; I couldn’t get the grill hot enough. Where’s Georgie?”
“Oh, I left him with a sitter,” explained Elena, “very busy, that one.”
“You could have brought him. I would have enjoyed his energy.”
“Perhaps, but, I needed a break,” sighed Elena.
“Igor, why so quiet?” asked Gail.
“I dunno know.”
“He’s missing his papa.”
“Where is he?” inquired Gail.
“Gone.” Igor simply explained.
“Never mind,” Elena said, “I’ll tell you later. For now let’s check the chicken.”
“Oh, yes, the chicken, I almost forgot,” Gail said with a frown. “Come this way, the grill is out back. The table is all set and ready, out on the patio.”
Igor went directly to the table and started munching on some carrots from the veggie tray.
“Igor, wait, for our hostess. You’re not being very polite today.”
“It’s fine, let him eat. This is a casual evening. I may have to resort to PBJ sandwiches, if this chicken, doesn’t hurry up. I’m not much of a grill person, my husband, Jack used to do all the grilling.”
Elena’s expression made me think she wanted to ask where he was, but we had already fumbled over the whereabouts of her husband. Maybe she would ask later. I pulled the lid off the grill, smoke poured out, and then the some flames burst up over the chicken. “Well, now it’s cooking.”
Elena took a seat next to Igor and I invited them to pour lemonade for themselves. Igor told me that he had spent the day at the local water park with a neighbor. Elena had worked a shift at the Custom Clippers that morning. I cut thru a piece of chicken on the grill and it was done. After we finished eating Elena offered to help clean up, and I sent Igor to play on the swing set in my side yard.
As we rinsed the dishes, and put them in the dishwasher, Elena cleared her throat, “Um, Gail, if you tell me where your husband is, I’ll tell you where mine went.”
“Oh, Jack, he’s in New York City. We are separated. We were having difficulties. And that’s that.”
“Are you sure? You seemed very upset that day at Dairy Queen. I noticed, you know.”
“I’m just trying to get on with life, Elena, things are getting better. For months, I couldn’t function. I stayed in bed all day and night. I just want my life to get back to normal.”
“Normal? I don’t know what normal is, my dear, but pretending it will go away is no better than hiding from it. I know.”
“How would you know?”
“My husband is gone as well, he is dead.”
“Oh, I’m sorry… I didn’t know…”
“Of course, you didn’t know, we’ve just met.”
The screen door slammed as Igor skipped into the kitchen.
“You seem happier,” Gail inquired.
“Yep! That old swing helped me swing my cares away. What are you two doing?”
“What does it look like, Silly?” Elena teased.
“I’m not silly.”
“Yes you are,” Elena said as she grabbed Igor and gave him a tickle hug. Igor squealed with delight.
“I have ice cream cake for dessert! Anyone interested?”
I served up the ice cream cake with some milk for Igor and decaf coffee for me and Elena. “Let’s sit on the porch,” I offered.
Our group settled on the porch. I rocked in my wicker rocker, while Elena and Igor enjoyed the double glider.
“Momma, I was thinking, since we’re eating cake, and this would have been Papa’s birthday, could we sing him a song.”
“I guess so if Gail doesn’t mind.”
“No go right, ahead. What will you sing?”
“It’s a song from our country.”
“Where are you from?”
“We are from Bosnia.”
As Igor sang the lilting melody in his language, tears rolled down both Elena’s face and mine.
“What do the words mean?” I asked.
Elena explained that is was an ancient blessing from the Hebrew people. It goes like this in English,
“The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
With a sad smile on her face Elena continued, “I’d like to tell you more about my husband, but my heart is too heavy this time. Soon, Igor returns to school. You will come to our house this time, yes?”
I wiped the tears from my face, “Yes, of course. Let me give you my phone number. Wait here while I get paper and a pen.” Elena smiled at Gail, as she hugged Igor to herself.
Gail returned with the number, and Elena rose to receive the paper, “Come, Igor, we must rescue the babysitter from Georgie.”
“Yes, momma.” Igor replied. He reached for my hand and gave it a squeeze. I swallowed the lump in my throat, and whispered, “Good-bye, Igor.”
Elena directed Igor to the street. They rumbled off in their dream car. As I watched them leave, I smiled to myself, humming the new melody.