It was Evie who wanted the kids, Orville remembers. Orville would have been content drinking coffee with his Evie in the mornings, looking out the window, watching the birds at the bird feeder, quietly listening to her go on about this and that.
“When does the school bus come, Ollie?” Evie asks.
“About 3:30,” Orville replies for the third time.
“I want to make some cookies for the girls. How about oatmeal raisin?” Evie suggests, her eyes look hopeful, full of purpose.
Orville covers his wife’s tiny hand with his big calloused one. Farming takes its toll on the body.
“We can go down to Walmart to buy some cookies,” Orville suggests. He will not let her near the oven or the stove anymore. Not after last time.
“Or snickerdoodles! Janey likes snickerdoodles. You can help me roll out the dough,” Evie jumps up from the table at the idea of something to do. She heads over to the spice cabinet, full of tiny tins of seasonings and spices that have long lost their flavor.
No one cooks in the house anymore.
“I’ll mix up the cinnamon sugar to dip the cookies in,” Evie says, searching in vain for a bowl. She opens and closes cabinets. Sometimes the same ones.
She’s lost in this room, Orville thinks. Her kitchen. Even though she has spent the better part of fifty years cooking for their family—the best home cooking he’s ever had. Evie had been a better cook than even his own mother, Orville admits almost blasphemously. But no one made better pies than Evie did, cutting out ornate flowers and swirls of decorations in her pie crusts for the fruit juices to bubble out through.
He watches her find a colander in a lower cabinet. She takes it out and dumps in a half tin of spice.
“Evie, that’s cumin,” Orville patiently explains.
“Are you sure it’s not cinnamon? Janey likes cinnamon. I want to make cookies for the girls before they come home from school,” Evie says pleadingly.
“The girls don’t go to school anymore,” Orville says.
“Where do they go?” Evie whispers to Orville as her eyes grow wide.
“The girls are all grown up. They live in different cities with their own families. But Maggie is coming to visit us tomorrow.”
“Is Janey coming?”
“No, Janey is not coming this time,” Orville replies slowly. Janey, their eldest daughter. Too full of grudges from days past.
“Maggie is nice,” Evie says half-heartedly. Maggie the middle child. Evie looks down at the cumin leaking through the holes in the colander. “Maybe we can buy some cookies at the store for her.”
“All right then,” Orville smiles and helps his wife wipe up the mess.
🜋 🜋 🜋
Orville watches Maggie’s car drive up the long unpaved road. She drives like she lives: reckless, impatient, loud.
Although Orville cares deeply for all of his daughters, Maggie has a certain way about her. Unlikeable, Orville shocks himself by admitting the truth about Maggie that he has suppressed since her childhood. Unlikeable. At this point, what does it matter if he is completely honest with himself? He is the only person he has to talk to. He can love his daughter and still admit the truth to himself. Unlikeable.
“DAA-AD,” Maggie enters, her voice always grating. Drawing out the syllables in her words. Taking over people. Interrupting and interjecting her views, welcomed or not.
“Hello little dear,” Orville holds the door open and offers to help with her bags. She bustles in without a proper greeting with far too much luggage for her short visit.
“Where is Moo-om? How are things going? Is she still losing it? I was reading up on Alzheimer’s and there are some new treatments we should talk about,” Maggie says.
Orville looks at his feet.
“MOO-OM,” she bleats, walking through the house. She circles back around to Orville. “Is she lost, Daa-ad? Do you even know where she is?”
“Your mother is resting. She takes naps during the day,” he says.
“She’s losing it, isn’t she?”
“Your mother has good days and bad days,” Orville replies.
Evie wakes up a little later and joins them in the living room. A game show on the television bleeps and buzzes as contestants answer trivia questions.
“MOO-OM? Are you up finally?” Maggie stands to hug Evie.
“Is Janey here?” Evie asks.
“No, Moo-om. Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s just me,” Maggie sulks, gathering her tiny mother into her arms.
“Maggie! Did you just have a baby?” Evie wonders aloud.
“Janey has all the babies, Moo-om. I decided not to have any children,” Maggie states firmly.
“Are Janey’s children home from school?” Evie looks from Maggie to Orville, looking for some sort of confirmation.
“I don’t know, Moo-om. Janey lives in Tennessee. Dad said you want to go to Walmart,” Maggie says. “Do you want to go buy cookies? We can buy some ginkgo biloba. It will help with your memory.” Maggie points at her own head.
“What’s wrong with my memory,” Evie looks at Orville. Orville shoots a look at Maggie. A warning shot.
“It’ll just help,” Maggie replies, noting her father’s lips, pressing firmly into a thin line.
🜋 🜋 🜋
The checkout lines at Walmart are longer than usual. Evie clutches two packages of Great Value oatmeal raisin cookies. Orville nods to his neighbors in the aisles, having known most of them his entire life.
Maggie’s impatience with this errand is obvious, as she makes disparaging remarks about the products, the store, the town, the cashier.
“All right then,” he says firmly, letting Maggie know that her opinion on the quality of Walmart’s merchandise is unwarranted.
The locals look at Orville’s middle daughter with a healthy dose of suspicion. Even Maggie is self-aware enough to feel the townspeople’s eyes on her.
Is she the one that caused Ollie and Evie all that trouble?
I think their middle child got in the family way by the Sampson boy in middle school. They sent her away to have the baby and put it up for adoption. At least, that’s what I heard.
Ollie tracked her down in Dallas when she ran away in high school. She met an older man at the roadhouse outside Lubbock.
After eating take out barbecue for dinner, Evie opens up the packages of cookies for dessert.
Maggie is unusually quiet.
“I miss your apple pie, Moo-om,” she finally says.
“I can make you a pie right now, Janey!” Evie hops up from the table, eyes alight, but she manages to spill the plate of remaining cookies.
Orville quickly bends to pick them up from off the hardwood floor.
“I’m not Janey, Moo-om,” Maggie whispers, leaving the table with her hands over her eyes.
Orville says nothing.
🜋 🜋 🜋
Maggie would leave in the morning, cutting her visit short.
“It’s getting dark out, Ollie.”
“It is, Evie.”
“Don’t you think the girls should be home by now? What time does the school bus come, anyway?” Evie asks her husband, eyes wide with complete trust, a light smile on her still-beautiful mouth.
“It’ll be by soon enough,” Ollie says, covering her hand with his.
“I’m too tired to make anything for dessert tonight. Is that all right?” she asks.
“All right then,” he replies, leaning over to kiss her soft cheek.