A dark figure trudged slowly up the road. Head bowed, gloved hands thrust deeply into jacket pockets. He slipped on ice from last weeks’ snow, caught his balance, and moved on.
Gif stopped stringing lights on the apple tree to watch. ‘A bit late in the day to be going for a walk’ he thought. He set the rest of the string on the ground and moved down toward the road.
“Jess? Is that you?” Gif called.
The man stopped, lifted his head, and replied, “Hi Gif. Yes, it’s me. Just out for a late afternoon hike”
Gif reached the road and approached the young man. “He looks like something the cat dragged in,” Gif thought.
“Got time for a cup of coffee? It’s chilly out here and I could use a warm up” Gif said.
“That sounds good” Jess said with a faint smile on his unshaven face.
Ruby, the calico cat, who had been napping in a chair by the wood stove, jumped down, eyes wide in alarm, as the two men came through the kitchen door.
“Have a seat,” Gif said. “I’ll get this going and find those Christmas cookies Patty brought down. They are really good so I hide them in the other room.”
Jess unzipped his jacket and sat in the chair recently warmed by Ruby.
“Haven’t seen much of you lately” Gif said, returning with a Christmas tin of cookies.
The aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the kitchen. Gif poured two mugs and sat across the table.
Jess shook his head and stared into the dark, steaming brew set before him.
“Haven’t been out much,” Jess said, reaching into the tin of cookies.
“Been sick?” Gif asked.
“No. This time of year always gets me down,” was his reply.
“Ya, I know what you mean. Any of your family coming for Christmas?”
Jess looked over the rim of his cup and said, “What family? My folks are gone and I’ve never married, no kids. It’s just me and my aunt and uncle who are in Yuma. They won’t be back until spring. When I came up here, I thought getting away from the city would be different…but I was wrong.”
They sat in silence for a minute while the kitchen clock ticked and Ruby peered from the hallway.
The phone rang, breaking the quiet. Gif pushed his chair away from the table and struggled to stand. He grabbed the nearby phone from the wall.
“Ya, that’s me” He grumbled.
“Oh Patty! Didn’t recognize your voice. You got a cold or somethin’?” He listened.
“I don’t know. I have a dental appointment in the morning and Ralph and Marilue won’t be back until next week. I’ll ask around and call you back.”
Gif fell back into the chair and picked up his mug of cold coffee. “Want a warm up?” He asked, standing again and reaching for the pot. “That was Patty, you remember her from the chili supper at Ralph’s?”
Jess nodded. A smile crept across his face. ‘Yes, I remember Patty,’ he thought.
“Well,” continued Gif, “Her mother needs a ride to the writers group down at the library, tomorrow. Patty has to be in Denver all day.”
Jess wiped his hand across his face knocking cookie crumbs from his beard. “I could give her a ride. I got nothin’ else to do. Millie’s a writer?”
“I think she was a ghost writer for the Nancy Drew books awhile back. She wants to go out on her own, now, and this group is helping her.”
“Well, I’ll be….” Jess said. “I’m a writer, too….except these days I have serious thoughts about that”
Gif gave his companion a surprised look, stood and reached for the phone.
Ruby moved back into the kitchen and sat next to the stove, watching.
Jess told Gif about the novel he was trying to write, a story that grew from his experiences in the military. He told about how hard it was to relive some of those experiences and to write about them. Yet, he felt it would be a good book if he could only get over this writer’s funk.
Gif sat silently.
Ruby rubbed against Jess’s legs.
Darkness seeped into the kitchen.
The cookie tin sat empty.
The phone rang.
Gif gruffly answered, cleared his throat, and said, again, “low.”
“Oh, Millie. Yes, he’s still here. We were just talking. Tonight? Well, I could do that, let me ask Jess.”
He turned to Jess…”Want to go to Millie’s for supper tonight?
Jess rubbed his chin and said, “Oh, I’m pretty grubby to go out for dinner”
“You’ll do.” Gif said. “They’re used to me in my greasy work clothes. They won’t mind.”
Turning back to the phone Gif said, “Millie, we’ll be there. I think we have a lot to talk about. What can we bring? Yea, I got some. And if you have extras, I could use a refill on those Christmas cookies.”