“What are you doing now?” he said.
“Well cut it out. The floor’s vibrating.”
She stuck her tongue out at him, then grimaced. He picked up his tweezers and rotated the model of the Flying Cloud about a quarter-turn clockwise. “Honest-to-god,” he muttered, picking up a tiny section of yardarm.
“Honest to Pete,” she murmured, “honest Abe, no honestly, honesty’s not even a policy,” she chanted.
He put the piece of yardarm and tweezers down on the table and pushed the green visor back off his forehead. “I’ll bet it didn’t take them this long to build the real one,” he said.
She sat on her heels beside his table and looked up into his face. “They didn’t have me,” she purred. “No one has me except you.”
“What luck,” he said. He stood shakily and stretched. “Ouch,” he said, and limped toward the kitchen. “Wanna beer?” He reached up into the cupboard.
She stood up too, and conquered a reluctant knee, then followed him. “I do,” she said. “I do, I do, and pretzels too.”
“Bibbity-bobbity-boo,” he said as he popped two naked bottles free of their caps and held one out to her.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“Just taste it.”
“It’s very dark.”
“Like my soul.”
“Oh bullshit,” and she sipped. “Very nice,” she said. “Cold fermented, no hops to speak of, not too much ‘lasses.” She sipped again. “Maybe eight percent?”
“Yummy,” she said, “even better. Quickly shit-faced, and so to bed.” She took a longer sip.
“Never on beer, m’dear.”
“I happen to know we have no madeira, m’dear,” she said. They laughed together.
The wheezing woke her, even from down the hall, even through the doors he’d closed. Her robe was not quite on when she reached the little bedroom he’d used as a study since their son grew up. She stood in the hall, listening through the closed door for a moment. Then she opened the door and said, “This time it’s 911 for sure.”
He looked up but didn’t move his forearms from his knees, stayed bent double, leaning far forward, just his butt resting in the big stuffed chair. He shook his head. “-t’s ok,” he whispered, “it’ll pass.”
“So’ll you,” she said softly, “and soon if you don’t take care of that.”
“-s nothing,” he whispered. “I’m ok.”
A few hours later she looked up as the young doctor came through the door carrying a folder and papers. “Is he ok?”
“No, he’s not,” said the doctor, “but he will be. This time. How long has he been like this?”
She looked down. “A couple of years; … maybe five.”
“And he’s…” the doctor looked at the chart, “seventy-two?”
“Just,” she said.
The doctor nodded and scribbled on a sheet of paper. He looked at his watch, then looked at her. “Well it won’t kill him in a hurry,” he said, “but it’ll surely take a lot of the fun out of his life. He’s lucky he has you. You can go in.” And the doctor stepped away toward the nurse’s station.
She stood still, alone, looking down the corridor toward the swinging doors. “What luck,” she whispered, and started toward them.
copyright 2018 Dean Quarrell
This story appeared on Rue Scribe, Underwood Press’s Flash imprint, on 17 November 2018