Some birds chirp cheerfully, just outside the small one bedroom house. Morning reaches in the blinds of the bedroom and across Opal’s face, weathered with her eighty years. It pulls on her eyelids and she gladly greets its warmth. She sits up, yawning a moment, and glances over at the clock, 7:30. Opal has a way of waking at the same time each morning. She has never needed an alarm clock.
Opal lives alone in her house, which is set apart from the rest of town by a small group of trees. She never married and has no children, so she rarely has visitors. Today, however, is Tuesday, and July. She hires a boy from town each year to cut the grass and he will be at Opal’s around noon. Every week he comes at the same time. Each week Opal looks forward to these visits.
Still in her housecoat, Opal goes into her kitchen, and fixes herself a cup of coffee. She reaches into a plastic container on the counter and retrieves a croissant. She made the croissant a few days ago, and it is still moist. Opal often reaches in and finds a dry one. This one is not dry though, and it smells sweet, having been warmed by the sun. Opal makes sure the plastic container is always in the sun’s path. That way, each morning her breakfast will be warm. She places the croissant and coffee beside each other on a saucer and carries them onto the porch in front of her house. As she eats her breakfast, she watches some bird bathe in the early morning dew on the high grass. That boy will be here today, and its about time, she thinks to herself. Opal picks up the cup and saucer and carries them back into the kitchen. She sets them in the sink and runs water in the cup. She will get to it later.
The boy will be here around noon, Opal thinks, and decides to get dressed. To her, it is important that a lady present herself well whenever she has company. She finds her favorite yellow dress. The color is barely visible in the dress, but Opal remembers its brilliance. It is still her favorite. She fixes her hair, which she still keeps long, though it is rather thin now. She puts much of it into a bun, leaving two locks to hang down on either side, in front of her ears.
Opal rarely wore make-up throughout her life, but today the boy is coming to cut the grass, and she wants to look nice for him. She puts on her lipstick deliberately making sure her lips received the color within each wrinkle. She tries as she goes to not put the make-up on too heavily, as she had read in her magazines for mothers.
By eleven o’clock, Opal is ready. She sprays a bit of perfume on herself, sniffs it, just to be sure it is enough, and goes into the living room to wait. The living room is barely big enough for her sofa and chair with their coffee tables. She sits in and lets the late morning sun light and warm the room.
The boy will need something to drink, she thinks to herself and goes into the kitchen again. She retrieves her glass pitcher, which she only uses on Tuesday afternoons. She makes a full pitcher of tea and places it in her old refrigerator. I will put ice in it when the boy gets here, she thinks. She goes back into the living room.
Opal glances over at an old clock hanging on the wall, 11:53. She smiles, realizing that the boy will arrive soon. He has been late only twice, she thinks. Once when he came at 2:00, and once when he came by just to say he would not be able to cut the grass that week. She hopes he will not be late. She picks up her photo album. She only has one since she has no family. She has various pictures of friends in it. She even has a picture of the boy who will come today to cut her grass. He is a handsome young man, she thinks as she pauses at his picture. She glances at the clock, 12:20. She decides to take the tea outside, so it will be ready when the boy does arrive. He must be running late, she thinks.
Opal has no telephone, so her contact with the world is through visits from people. The boy coming today was her closest friend. There was also a lady who came from the Methodist church in town. Opal had grown too old to attend services at her congregation, so the Methodist lady took over. Opal is always polite to the lady; she doesn’t have the heart to tell the woman to leave her alone. She looks at the clock as she carries the tea outside, 12:34. She sits out on the porch with the tea and two glasses. She made some sandwiches yesterday, but she decides they will be best if left in the refrigerator.
Opal sits on the porch until 1:30. Well, I better take the tea in; it is warm now, she thinks. She carries the tea back into the kitchen. She decides to eat one of those sandwiches. It is too hot to sit in the sun all day, so I better stay here in the living room, she finally decides. Besides, the boy will be here to cut the grass. If he waits too long it will be too hot.
Opal decides to take a nap while she waits for the boy to come. She is anxious and worried about the boy. At four o’clock, A knocking at Opal’s door startles her. Oh! The boy is here to cut the grass, she thinks. She is excited and gets up as quickly as she can. Her knees try to protest, but she persists. Walking across the living room, she looks outside. No familiar truck with lawnmower sits in front of her house and she wonders where the boy parked. She stands a moment at the door, straightening her dress. Excitedly, she opens the door.
“Oh! Hi Opal… well, you certainly do look beautiful this afternoon… how are you?” the woman on the other side of the screen begins. It is the Methodist woman. “May I come in?”
“Miss… I am sorry, but I am waiting for the boy to come cut the grass” Opal begins. “It is pretty high and he needs to do it as soon as he arrives,” she says as she points to the tall grass.
“Ma’am, I thought that boy came on Tuesdays…”
“That is why I must be ready when he gets here… I don’t want to wait another week.”
“But Opal… it is Saturday.”
“Well, leave me be then,” Opal says shutting the door on the woman. She is upset and sits down in the living room. Well, she thinks, he will be here on Tuesday then. She goes back into the bedroom. She is tired and it is just after four o’clock. She removes her make-up, and prepares herself for bed, as she always does. She lies down in her bed. I think I will sleep in, she thinks, I just don’t feel like getting up. Opal falls asleep, thinking of the boy who will come to cut her grass.
Brian Fuchs 5.5.1998
Featured image art: James Ensor, “Vrouw Met Blauwe Halsdoek (Old Lady with Blue Shawl)”