Polly went out with hope and enthusiasm in the morning, looking into all the job possibilities she could think of, but it was discouraging. Back at the apartment mid-afternoon, the phone rang and she wondered if someone she just interviewed with wanted to see her again.
“Polly, there are still some ripe tomatoes in the garden. You’re falling down on the job.”
“I’m home, girl. Can you come up and see me?”
“I’ll be right there.”
She ran upstairs, excited to hear all of Sophie’s adventures. They sat in the parlor where Sophie watched every afternoon through the ecru lace curtains for the mailman. Polly was shocked at her aunt’s appearance. After a three-week cruise she should have been tanned and rested, but Polly only saw tiredness. Sophie’s eyes didn’t have their usual sparkle.
But she found strength enough to regale Polly for twenty minutes with her adventures, with pictures, and tales of the people she met. She raved about the food. “Every night we had a pitcher perfect dinner,” she reported, “always starting with horse’s doovers, of course.” Sophie mangled English, but she didn’t get along with French, either. “I don’t know how those cooks did it, but every meal was a grand slang home run as far as I was concerned. I really liked their special Chinese chicken. It was laminated in a little honey and soy sauce and something citrius, and talk about melt in your mouth. But don’t you know – the waiter cut it off the bone for me, as if I haven’t been doing that all my life.”
“They said you’d get personal service,” Polly smiled.
Sophie’s traveling companions, mostly acquaintances from the Senior Center, both surprised and disappointed her. “Walter’s old friend Roy has such bad artheritis, you know, in his feet, walks with a lymph, but he got around anyway, even went dancing on big band night.”
“Did you go dancing, too, Aunt Sophie?”
“Well, I got a nasty garfunkle on my foot and I thought my dancing days were over, but I put a bread and milk poultrice on it overnight, and by the time the dance began, I was back in business.”
“It’s a good thing you know those remedies.”
“Leonard was there, too and he and Roy kind of fought over me,” she admitted. “That’s the first time that’s happened since Walter and I were courting.”
“That does wonders for a girl’s ego,” Polly said. “How was the dancing?”
“Roy can’t dance but he’s more interesting to talk to, and Leonard can dance, but he just tells one boring antidote after another about selling insurance.”
But Sophie was upset, however, with Muriel, who was never pleased with anything. “I don’t know what the matter is with that woman,“ she confided. “Some of the others think she’s got Old Timers, but I think it’s DHEA.”
“You know, where you can’t pay attention. Anyway, she had me running all over that ship with her trying to find the right people to complain to, a wild goat chase if you ask me. Every time, it turned out to be just another tempest in a B-cup. I tried to tell her.”
Sophie reported going to the stage shows every night, and Polly had to smile when her aunt said for her the highlight was the magician who fascinated everyone with his “optical conclusions.”
“What did you like best about the whole trip, Aunt Sophie?”
“Mostly I liked being waited on and catered to,” Sophie smiled, her tiredness showing again.
“They really make you feel special. They turn down the bedcovers and put a chocolate on your pillow every night. And I liked taking a book out to a deck chair or up to the library, or just sitting there on my glutinous maxius for as long as I wanted, watching the water go by.”
“It sounds glorious. I think I’d like that, too.”
“But on our last night at sea, the craziest thing happened,” Sophie said, taking an envelope out of her apron pocket. “They held a drawling for another cruise, just because they want to keep your business, I’m sure, but look, Polly – I won.” She handed her the envelope. Polly opened it and pulled out two tickets for a five-day cruise.
“You’re going again?”
“I don’t know about that, but when they called my name, it was really a thrill, I tell you. I was completely ground-rounded.” Sophie’s shoulders shook as she laughed.
Polly chuckled and handed the tickets back. “I would be, too, Aunt Sophie. I would be, too.”
(This excerpt is the property of the author and may not be copied or published.)