Sunday, February 5, 2012
Now here's Chapter Five:
Ida Mae Harper had lived in Paskagankee her entire life. Eighty-six years and counting, all spent in the little town a few miles south of the Canadian border, and Ida Mae was still going strong. She had gotten married at age 16 to a young man by the name of Wallace Harper, eight years her senior, a laborer at the leather mill located hard by the Penobscot River. The couple spent nearly fifty years together before Wallace’s sudden death more than two decades ago turned Ida Mae into a widow.
A stroke, they had told her after Wallace buckled and fell to the floor one Sunday afternoon over boiled dinner. Ida Mae thought to herself that they could call it a stroke if they wanted to, but she knew what had really killed Wallace—too many decades of sixty hour work weeks at the mill. Regularly scheduled double shifts, the occasional triple shift, week after week of working without a day off, you name it, and Wallace did it because he wanted to provide the best life he could for his Ida Mae.
The couple had never been able to conceive children, so Wallace’s death meant Ida Mae was all alone for the first time in her life. She had moved from her parents’ home straight to Wallace’s tiny but comfortable house when they married, and in that little house she still lived. Their inability to conceive had been a blow to Ida Mae and Wallace, but they had come to terms with the heartbreak after years of trying and had been happy for the most part ever since.
After Wallace’s death, Ida Mae bought a golden retriever puppy, Butch, for company, needing a living, breathing subject upon which to lavish all her love and attention. When the first retriever passed away, Ida Mae bought another, naming him Butch II. Now, Ida Mae was on the phone to the Paskagankee Police Department, sobbing and requesting assistance immediately.
“What’s the nature of the difficulty, ma’am?” the dispatcher asked.
“It’s Butch, something’s happened to my poor Butch,” she wailed into the telephone receiver.
“Who is Butch, ma’am, and what has happened to him?”
“Just send an officer, please, and tell him to hurry,” she said, tears running down her face. She provided her address to the bewildered dispatcher and hung up.
Now the cruiser moved slowly up the long dirt driveway, sliding and lurching from one pothole to another, nearly bottoming out in spots but making steady progress, finally easing to a stop in front of the house. Ida Mae opened the front door and shivered violently as a gust of cold air blew freezing rain into her home, soaking her housecoat and plastering her silver hair to her head.
Two police officers exited the cruiser, simultaneously pulling the collars of their jackets up against the wind and rain and running clumsily on the icy ground for the shelter of Ida Mae’s small porch. She opened the door further to allow them to enter the house, then quickly slammed it shut, moving to the thermostat and cranking up the heat, despite the fact the temperature inside the house already hovered around seventy-five degrees.
She turned to see the two officers, a man and a woman, holding their wet hats in their hands and dripping water on to the hardwood floor of the foyer. “Oh,” she exclaimed. “Where are my manners? Please, come in. Have a seat on the couch, officers.”
“We’re fine, ma’am,” the male policeman said. “What seems to be the problem? The only information we were given is that something has happened to someone named Butch. Is that your husband?”
“Oh, goodness, no,” she said. “My husband was named Wallace, and he’s been gone since probably before this little thing was born,” she said, nodding at Officer Dupont, who smiled back at her. “No, Butch is my dog. It’s actually Butch II, but I just call him Butch. It’s easier for me, you know, and he doesn’t know the difference.”
“I understand,” said the man, who seemed to be in charge. It only made sense, thought Ida Mae; the young man looks to be at least ten years older than the young lady. “So, can you tell me what has happened to Butch?” he asked.
“Oh, dear,” sniffled Ida Mae. “I put Butch out to get some air and, you know, to do his doggie business, earlier this afternoon, and when he hadn’t returned within a couple of hours, I went to the back door to call him and, well . . .” The elderly woman burst into tears, leading the two officers through the kitchen to the back door. She opened it and gestured bleakly toward the yard.