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Jennifer Lundin

Jennifer Lundin reading© 2007


Searching for a nut, washer and bolt to fit her new bird feeder, Ethel Anderson trodded into the local Hardware Hank. She took a class at the local community education to pass time this spring, and came home with a cobbled together bird feeder. Tom, the store manager, greets her with his red smock, a smile and firm handshake. Ethel looks him square in the eye and gets right to the point. She never did like dawdlers.

“Hey Tom, I want to put up my new birdfeeder, can ya help me?” She inquires in her throaty alto.

“Sure Ethel. How big is it?”

“I don’t know about this big,” she spreads her weathered hands about three feet wide and about two feet tall.

“Geez Ethel, that’s a big ‘un. Where did ya get it?”

“I made the damn thing at that community ed this spring. It was a chore to get it home on my motorbike, but I made it.” Tom could see the impish pride in her aging eyes.

“Um, so do you have a post for your feeder or are you plannin’ on hangin’ it in the Oak tree out front?” Tom asks as he leads Ethel toward the nut bins in the back of the store.

“Well, I guess the tree. I’m plannin’ on using it as bait for those damn squirrels. They’ve figured out how to get around the electric tin collar I made for it, so I’ll be practicing my aim with the old bee bee gun,” Ethel chuckles at the image. Tom joins her with a short,

“Ha, I’ve got just the thing, follow me,” he directs her to the next aisle over, “So how is Roy doing these days?”

“Well, he’s getting along better than this spring. He’s up and walking with the aid of a walker. He can get out into his recliner.”


“The one across from the picture window? You know how he loves to watch the wrens and finches,” Ethel’s voice trails off as her thoughts go to her husband.

“Yeah, he sure does. I loved his classes at the community ed on bird watching. He certainly knows a lot about those flighty animals,” Tom reminisces as he grabs a couple items for Ethel.

“Yep.” Her grunt of a response singled Tom to wrap it up. Ethel is a strong woman, but talk of Roy in recent days has shown Tom her softer side.

“Well, here we are Ethel. I’m going to give you some rope, and an eyehook to screw into the top of your feeder. Can you put the seed in from the side?”

“Yep, but hopefully not too often.” Ethel smiles and Tom returns the gesture.

“Well, then you should be set. Do you want me to stop over after my shift and help you put it up?” Tom heads up to the counter at the front of the store.

“Na, I think I can handle it. I have that extension ladder in the garage,” with a wink, Ethel digs out her leather coin bag, “and I can still shimmy down a branch.”

“Well, maybe I’ll stop by anyway just in case. That’ll be $3.32.”

“Sure, Roy would love to chat. You can watch the “crazy bird” in the tree. Thanks Tom.” She smiles, takes her bag and steps out the heavy oak door of the hardware store. 

Ethel put her purchase in the saddle- bags of her motorbike, an old sportster from her days working on the ranch back in Montana. As she pulls down her 1950’s aviation goggles and kick starts the engine, her thoughts drift to Roy. That spring he had given her a good scare. His fall from the ladder while cleaning the gutters had done more than just put a fright into her. It had broke his hip and left collarbone. While Roy lay seemingly lifeless on the ground, Ethel stood frozen. She had never felt her age of 63 years as harshly as in those seconds. Looking upon her husband and thinking of life without him, she somehow called for the ambulance, and then rushed through the front door to Roy’s side. His eyes were open and she could see the pain. Grabbing her husband of 30 years, Ethel told him how stupid he was and then shaking from fear, embraced him.  She was relieved that phase was over. It had been a longer spring than she had anticipated.

Ethel and Roy lived in an old colonial farmstead, three miles out of town, across the tracks. They fought the city to keep the 40 acre farm intact through the surge of developments going up around them. As far as she was concerned they could take those damn split- levels and set a match to ‘em. She never had liked the idea of cookie cutter neighborhoods; how are you supposed to make it your own when you can look at your neighbor’s and know exactly where the bathroom is. Her distaste stemmed from her childhood in a pre-fab post World War two home in Seattle. Every cul-de-sac looked the same, and her pale yellow home matched that of the one across the street.

The sportster roared into the quarter mile drive of the Anderson home, and Ethel idled the last 200 feet, in case Roy was asleep; she wanted him to rest. As she was getting off her motorbike, she noticed Roy was out on the back porch in his swing. She greeted her husband with a wave.

“Roy, what in the Sam hill are you doing out here?”

“Well, ‘hello’ to you too honey. I just thought I would get some fresh air on this summer solstice.” Roy had always been an outdoorsman that is what drew Ethel to him. She didn’t blame him for wanting to be out, but the doctor had said to take it easy.

“It is a beaut, I’ll give you that Roy Roy, but don’t over do it.” Ethel pecked her husband on his cheek. His skin delicate under her rough lips and thinner than it once was.  “Did you see the letter from Duke?” Their only son lived back in Seattle. He fell in love with the West coast during his summer visits to his grandparent’s home. As a computer software engineer, it was a fitting home.

“Sure did. When is that boy going to settle down? I can’t believe he is considering moving to Japan? Can’t he find a better job here?” Roy questions, arms raised at the elbow for emphasis.

“He said he was only going to be there a year for some training, besides you did always tell him to go for the gusto,” Ethel retorted. She took the small outburst as a good sign. Her husband had opinions, and when it came to their son, they tended to flare up. It had been too long since she had heard him talk in such a manner. She smiled.

“Oh well, he is your son I guess.”

“What do you mean by that? You had just as much participation as I did in the act,” she points out as she takes a quick seat next to him on the swing. “By the way, Tom might be stopping by after his shift.” Ethel gently pats her husband’s knee and rubs his shoulder as she gets up to head inside. “I have the stuff to hang my birdfeeder, so you stay put while I go fix those squirrels. Do you need anything before I get started?” she asked while she rummaged for her work gloves in the hall closet.

“No, I‘ll be fine. You just watch out for that fourth ladder rung, it’s a doozie.” Roy chuckled at his allusion to his fall. Ethel, however, not amused ruffled his silver hair with her found gloves.

“Very funny.” She headed to the garden shed for her birdfeeder, maneuvered it onto the rack of the Honda Rancher ATV and headed to the Oak in the front yard. 

To be continued…