Thursday, December 28, 2006

Coffee with Cream

Men hate to hear a woman say, "There's something we need to talk about."

Beulah knew that when she asked Henry to come by the next morning, but she did it anyway. It was important. They were thinking about getting married.

Really, getting married at our age! Beulah thought, shaking her head from side to side. I like black coffee. Henry wants cream and sugar, which means I have to find the sugar bowl and wash the creamer each time he comes over. At first it was fun to have company. I was eager to tend to him, but do I want to do it forever? Oh, cream for coffee isn't what matters, I know. But there'll be so much more. I've grown accustomed to living by myself, going and coming as I please. And I don't like having to say everything twice. Besides, my name is already engraved on a headstone by Fred's grave. Oh, so many things to think about.

Henry pulls on his pipe, savoring the sweet tobacco aroma, knowing Beulah's allergies won't allow him to smoke in the house. His hand idles over the firm bowl of the pipe as he considers the choice he's required to make. Beulah plays that darn piano, and her voice isn't what it used to be, if it ever was. I'm 75 years old. If I live to be 100, I'll be married to Beulah only half as long as I was to Dorothy. And now Beulah is talking about where we'll be buried! God amighty! Which game's on TV tonight?

As Beulah opened the door for Henry the next day, he smelled fresh coffee. They sat facing each other in the wicker chairs on the sun porch. Henry glanced at the headlines of the newspaper, then sat it aside. Beulah pointed to a mockingbird singing at the bird feeder. Just don't start singing with it, Henry thought.

He cleared his throat, then spoke, "Beulah, I watched two pro football teams wear each other out in a long game last night, and I don't intend to engage in battle with you. We've both had a lot of questions pop up, but, at our age, it's a waste of time to let any of these questions get in our way. Let's get married."

"Is your good suit clean?" asked Beulah as she passed him the cream.


Jennie Helderman ( ) has published two novelty books, Christmas Trivia and Hanukkah Trivia, and many magazine profiles and features. Her first flash fiction story has been nominated for the 2007 Pushcart Prize, and another short story was a finalist for the 2004 Gival Press Short Story Award. She is midway through a nonfiction book and has a historical novel waiting on the back burner. Jennie has held lots of jobs and a few titles but now she is a writer and a new grandmother. She lives in Florence, Alabama.