When it's time
By Sharon Lynch
Published April 18, 2017
Jim awoke not wanting to get out of bed. The house was nicely cool for sleeping but now it felt cold and uninviting. By contrast, the bed was like a warm mitt, soft and comforting. When he and his cousin Ralph built the place 30 years ago they had had some big plans. Eventually there was to be a fireplace and a finished basement for watching television and entertaining their hunting buddies.
Instead Jim ended up with a small bungalow, no basement finished or otherwise and a woodstove in the living room. But still the house was a true home to Jim. His cat kept him company when Ralph was not around sharing a drink or complaining about the government – any government. The place had become the starting-off point for hunting and fishing trips with men scattered around the front yard like robins in the spring.
And the house was in a great spot. Standing at his front door Jim could look out over Ralph’s cow pasture that slopped gently down to the river, lined with willows and cedars. Red-winged blackbirds frequented here and at night he often heard raccoons chattering by the water’s edge. Maples and oaks ran along his drive and down to the main road, giving a nice bit of shade in the summer heat.
Finally he hauled himself out of bed to start the day. Molly the cat rubbed against his leg, reminding him it was later than he thought and she was starving. Molly now stayed indoors at night ever since she had a run-in with the raccoons.
An hour later saw Jim outside, inspecting his vegetable garden. Actually it was still just soggy soil but he knew where he’d be putting those potatoes and beans eventually. When the time was right.
Yes, everything happened when the time was right, he thought, bending to pick up a branch blown down from the old oak. There were bits of branches all over the yard as well as mysterious bits of cardboard, plastic wrap and lumps of hardened ashes from the woodstove. Time to clean up.
He hauled the branches to his fire pit and raked up the soggy miscellany and bagged them for the dump. He knew the ashes would mostly sink into the ground with the spring rains. If only he could get his hurt feelings to disappear so predictably.
Jim hadn’t seen Ralph since the fall. They had a falling out over a deer during the hunt and Jim had taken such offence with a disparaging remark Ralph had made that his last words had been something to the effect that hell could freeze over before Ralph could set foot on Jim’s property again.
So all winter – no Ralph. Even over Christmas. Jim had bought a card and toyed with the idea of leaving it in Ralph’s door, but then decided against it. Really, he had thought, it was Ralph who should be making the first move. So no one made any moves.
Now the sun streamed down on the warm spring day and suddenly Jim decided he’d had enough of this heavy hurt and resentment he had been carrying through the long, dark months. He wanted to get life back to normal, which meant sharing some of it with Ralph.
So without any more procrastinating, he called to Molly who followed him like a dog, and the two of them set out across the field to Ralph’s place. Jim knew Ralph was always home Sunday mornings. What was the worse that could happen? he thought. Well, Ralph could slam the door in his face. Jim stopped and thought about that for a minute, then continued on.
As he and Molly drew closer to Ralph’s back door, it suddenly opened and there stood his cousin, jacket and rubber boots already on. Ralph burst out laughing but before Jim could take offence, Ralph held up his hand.
“Great minds think alike,” said Ralph as he walked toward Jim.
“Fools seldom differ,” replied Jim. The two men shook hands and that was that.