Note: We've had so much fun with serialized stories that I'm trying my hand at one again! Here's the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, and 3 scroll to the bottom of the blog post and click on OLDER POST.
Carrying the cage was awkward, but MJ and I managed. By the time we got it situated in the store, near the big display window, Honora had discovered her friend. She and Helen chatted amiably while Kookie looked on.
Next we hauled in the large perch. It looked like wrought iron and felt just as heavy. Admittedly, it was beautiful with a sculpted border on the stand and rich wooden arms. While MJ positioned it, I went back to the Cadillac and grabbed a large bag filled with bird food, treats, and vitamins. After carrying all those accoutrements in, I watched as Helen walked over and encouraged Kookie to step onto one of the arms of the perch. For the first time, I could see that Kookie was actually wearing a harness that clipped to a leash. Since the bird was snowy white, and the harness was too, you really couldn't tell that Kookie was restrained. Helen snapped the leash to the perch.
"Now, dear friend, it's time for us to part," said Helen, stroking the bird's breast. "I love you. I will love you until I go to my grave, and we'll never be parted in spirit. If I could take you with me to the assisted living facility, I would, dear Kookie. Give me one last kiss."
The bird had been watching her curiously, his head tilted as he regarded Helen. At the word "kiss," he leaned toward her and extended his beak to touch her lips lightly. With an almost human sigh, he said, "Helen, Kookie loves you."
A tear dribbled down Helen's face, leaving a wet mark where it journeyed over her skin. "And I love you, Kookie."
Without another word, she turned quickly, in an about-face movement, and walked out of the store.
Despite how I feel about birds, a lump had formed in my throat. Grabbing a tissue from the cash station, I dabbed my eyes. Honora followed suite. MJ swallowed repeatedly.
"I feel so bad for Helen," I managed.
Honora nodded. "She lost Jeb twenty years ago. That's when she adopted Kookie. I thought I'd never see her smile again after her husband died. They were devoted to each other. But she and Kookie formed a bond that's obviously kept Helen going."
Pausing to wipe her eyes, Honora added, "She's been hoping not to go to the assisted living facility, but she needs more and more skilled nursing care, and they have a room that's open. It's that new place not far from Cove Road. If Helen takes residence now, she won't have to move when the...when she...when hospice is called in. She has no family, so it's for the best, really."
Since my own mother died of cancer, I understood what Honora meant. Most likely Helen's last weeks would be grueling. She would need heavy-duty painkillers and around the clock care.
"Is it nice?" asked MJ in a quiet voice. "That facility?"
"I drove past it," said Honora. "I would describe it as bleak. The original developers went bankrupt halfway through the building process. A new company bought it, finished the work, and opened it, but the takeover was costly. There's no landscaping."
"I remember." MJ sighed. "It was supposed to be a state-of-the-art building. A real showplace."
"Yes. Now it's functional, or so I've been told." Honora's hand trembled as she wadded up the tissue. "Growing old in America is a real nightmare."
~ To Be Continued ~
Okay, kids! Show me some love! If you are liking this serialized short story, go to my Facebook page and hit "Like" the little blue thumb in a tiny white box under the big picture of me. (My toes point to the right. There are three boxes. "Like" is the second box.) Or tell a friend about the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series. Here are the links: Tear Down and Die http://tinyurl.com/TearDD and Kicked to the Curb http://tinyurl.com/KickedTTCurb