Val walked outside into the sunshine. Roger stood under a magnolia tree, its pink petals fallen on the grass and also onto his thinning gray hair. What an odd man, she thought.
No sooner had the thought occurred, than he took off running. Running around the grounds like a school boy. While his sister was fumbling through college, he’d gotten a PhD in entomology, the study of bugs. Afterwards, his brain buzzed with noise like a bee. And then he was finished. Through. His life twisted sideways by schizoaffective disorder, a disease marked by frenzied energy and delusions.
“Roger,” she said after he returned, panting. “I’d like your phone number, if I may.”
He told her in his thin raspy voice. Was he trying to sound like a bug? A fly? A lady bug? He barely made eye contact, but she was set on getting to know him better.
Valerie shared a house with her father and had the entire second floor for herself. She looked out the huge bay window of the house. A fine day for Roger to visit. She wondered if he could find the place. The grandfather clock on the wall began its mournful chime. Twelve dongs.
And there he was. Parking on the street in a small light-blue car. She never remembered the names of cars. She watched him getting out and didn’t realize a little smile turned up the corners of her mouth.
She stepped out onto the porch. White birch trees created a canopy of leaves on a small hill. She trotted down it, bending her knees so she wouldn’t fall. Roger waved up at her and then dashed up the hill. He wore khaki shorts and black Nikes with the logo that looked like rudders on a sled. He ran up the hill past her and then down again.
“Roger, please come in. My dad’s not home so we have the whole place to ourselves.”
He followed her into the living room and stared around in wonder. The grandfather clock on the wall ticked loudly. Roger moved around the room peering at everything, raising up his eye glasses to take a closer look at the clock.
Then he began to laugh. Softly at first but then getting a bit louder. What a strange sound.
“Roger, you sound like a donkey. Are you?” Val snapped.
“No,” he said, “I’m a horse’s ass.”
“Would you like to see my bedroom?” she asked.
He said nothing so she took his hand and led him upstairs. Her room, like everything else in the house, was immaculate. She was her father’s cook, maid, and companion.
Val sat on the flowered bedspread and patted the place next to her. Roger took off his glasses, cleaned them on his shirt and sat down.
She took his face in her hands and kissed him on the lips. My, they were soft. And full. She’d never noticed before.
She felt him tremble. But he did know how to kiss. Yes, she thought, she would take him as her lover. They kissed more. She wanted to pull him down on the bed — no chaste woman, she – but thought better of it.
“I want to know everything about you,” she said, as she held his quivering hand.
“What’s your fondest dream?” she asked.
“To win,” he said.
“Win? Win what?”
“The race, silly. The race.”
She dismissed what he said as idiotic nonsense. He would soon prove otherwise.
Ruth Z. Deming, a psychotherapist, has had her work published in lit mags including The Legendary, Literary Yard, Mad Swirl and Writing Disorder. She lives in Willow Grove, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. She runs New Directions Support Group for people with depression, bipolar disorder and their loved ones. Her blog is http://www.ruthzdeming.blogspot.com/.