Me and Harry had the flu.
I can’t remember who gave it to who, but we both felt like crap.
Low grade fevers, clogged sinuses and chests full of mucus, we were a sight and sound to be hold. Between Harry’s constant throat clearing and my gagging, we sounded like an old folks home for former smokers, hacking and coughing away, trash buckets full of used tissues and empty aspirin and cough syrup bottles.
There’s nothing worse than being sick and not being able to have anyone cook for you. Back home in NY, whenever somebody got the runs or the sniffles, you could be sure that there would be a parade of frozen dinners. I don’t mean the kind you put in the microwave, either. I’m talking about giant home made pans of lasagna and ziti, buckets full of chicken and meatball soup, and pounds of pasta salad. A box of wine usually made it into the carton of goodies too; red for Harry and blush for me.
Here in Idaho Falls, people sent those damn funeral potatoes.
“Hey!” I wanted to scream, “I ain’t dead yet.” But, like my mom used to say, it’s the thought that counts. I really missed her in times like these.
Anyway, the surrounding neighbors who usually spent their time trying to catch a glimpse through the windows as they walked by on their way to services were smart enough to know that they could get inside the house if they brought us food. Luckily, we were able to meet them at the door at one time or another, genuinely grateful for the Tupperware bins full of green jello, cheesy potatoes and tuna noodle casseroles.
As luck would have it, Harry was out at the mailbox one day, mailing letters to our contacts at headquarters, when he saw one of our neighbors. He had just heard the plop of the envelopes which had been rubber banded together hit the bottom of the mailbox, when he spotted Melinda Lotts walking towards him on the sidewalk, children in tow. She was pushing a stroller securely holding her newborn son, Jacob. Her other sons, 5 year old twins Malachi and Isham walked on either side of her, and her 3 year old daughter, Kinsey, walked in front of her.
They were all bundled up in snow suits, hats and scarves; the only thing showing was their eyes. The baby was hidden under a pile of blankets. Melinda deftly maneuvered the stroller between the piles of snow that had been shoveled on either side of the sidewalk, creating a path barely discernible.
Sister Melinda found her way towards him, since she wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to speak to the stranger who had moved onto Felice Street earlier that summer. We had seen her at services and she seemed pretty harmless. Her husband, Jasper, always seemed preoccupied with the prophet’s wife, Miranda. Melinda didn’t seem to notice, except she developed a nervous giggle every time the prophet was around them.
“Beautiful day, isn’t it Brother Harry?” she said sweetly, sans the giggle. It was a nice day, even for the middle of winter. Her gaze went passed him towards the mountains, wondering if her husband had made it safely to their cabin. The members of the ski club had called him and he quickly gathered his equipment and ran out the door, leaving Melinda to fend with the kids herself. It was not a surprise or something she wasn’t used to. It happened a lot.
“Yes, nice day” Harry answered as he followed her gaze towards the horizon. Looking at her face in the sunlight, he realized how young she really was. Twenty or twenty two years old, tops.
Harry sneezed into the red bandana handkerchief he constantly carried, a reminder of the injury he had received as a kid.
Melinda stopped in her tracks, not coming any closer, her face frozen in a slight smile. She certainly didn’t want to infect the little ones with whatever her neighbor had. God knows she didn’t want to start that ball of germs bouncing from one child to the other. She might never get out of the house.
The caravan wasn’t able to step into the street because the stroller would have gotten stuck in the snow. The fact the town did not plow the streets of the neighborhood was something Harry and Marge couldn’t get used to. They only plowed the main roads here; but how, Harry wondered, were they supposed to get to the main street if they couldn’t back out of the driveway?
Harry watched as the young mother struggled with turning the stroller around in the small space between them. Melinda and crew decided to just back up and go back the way they came.
Suddenly, a muffled sweet voice emanated from behind one of the scarves. Little Kinsey has turned around to face him as her mother quickly grabbed her gloved hand to turn her back to where they were heading.
“Bye Mr. Harry” she said, her little blue eyes crinkling under the pink cap that hid all her blonde hair.
“I hope you feel better real soon.” Her voice was sincere and genuine, a light in the darkness of this long, awful winter.
The dawn had brought the remnants of a snow storm, dumping about 6 inches of fresh snow on the street of our little neighborhood. The skiers in town were happy, driving SUV’s and other recreational vehicles packed with skis and snowmobiles in tow, all heading towards the mountains. Our little street became somewhat of a ghost town as the majority of the residents had cabins and condos located along the base of the Grand Tetons. That was okay with us.
Harry and I had just huddled together during the night as we listened to the winds, blowing the snow against our sliding glass door in the kitchen and wondering when the hell we could get the hell out of here. Harry always fell asleep before I did, and I listened to him snore slightly, his mouth open and his chest rising up and down, in tandem with my heartbeat. It was lonely times like these that we were glad we had each other.
I really wanted to go home.