The writing prompt at Ann Linquist's site"
The top shelf in the corner kitchen cabinet, the one that’s hard to reach.
A small, glitter-covered, red and yellow bird
A blank check mistakenly thrown into the trash.
A step ladder with no third step.
And what happened after the muse chewed on it for a while:
Emma fetched the step ladder from the garage and carried it up the half flight of stairs to the kitchen level.
“That Chester,” she said. “He’s never around when I need him. Wonder where he’s off to now.”
She set the ladder down on the kitchen floor, turned it so the legs would open parallel with the counter, then opened the legs, watching carefully so they didn’t bang the kitchen cabinets.
Once the ladder was in place, Emma walked over to the door that led to the basement and opened it. “Chester?” she yelled. “Chester, are you down there?” Silence floated up the stairs and filled the kitchen, wrapping Emma in its shroud.
“Where is that man? I swear. He can disappear faster than a cat with its tail on fire. Oh, my. Now that’s terrible image. Poor cat. I wonder if that Hendricks boy set the cat’s tail on fire. Bet he did. He’s always getting into some trouble or ‘nother.”
She gave the ladder a shake to test its sturdiness, took a deep breath, and set her foot on the first step. With one hand on the ladder and the other on the kitchen counter, Emma lifted her weight off her other foot and put it on the first step, too. She had to bend a little to keep her hand on the counter when she stepped up to the second step.
The third step was the hardest. There wasn’t one. She had that on Chester’s Honey-Do list. “Replace the missing step on the stepladder.”
If he doesn’t get to it pretty soon, I’m going to buy a new ladder, she thought.
She moved a leg to kneel on the counter and brought her other leg over to do the same. Hanging onto the ladder with one hand and pushing up on the counter with the other, Emma rose to an upright, though precarious, position.
“Yes!’ she exclaimed, “Now where did I put that…. That whatchamacallit. Where are you, little whatzit?
“Em! Hello, Em?” came a voice from outside. Emma leaned down to peek out the kitchen window.
“Oh, drat. It’s that nosy woman again. Maybe I’ll just hide here beside the window and she’ll go away.”
“Em? Hello, Em… Oh, my God! Em! Don’t move! I’ll be right there. Don’t move, Em!”
“Busted,” muttered Emma. “I should just start locking my doors, ‘cept Chester would be banging on them constantly when he gets back from wherever he goes all the time. Ol’ fool would just forget to take a key.”
Madeline Stover hurried into the kitchen, tossing her bag with the glittery silk-screened red and yellow parrot print onto the kitchen table. “Em, what are you doing? Here, let me help you down.”
“Well, what does it look like I’m doing? I’m getting ready to…to…ummm…change a light bulb, that’s what I’m doing. That ol Chester is never around when I need him to do these things. Beginning to wonder what good he is anyway. Now, don’t be pulling on me like that. You’ll knock me clean off the counter and then what? Maybe break a hip? Have to go live in some old folks home where they sit around and talk about how sick they are. Compare surgery scars and the like. Not me. I’m fit as a fiddle at 67 and I intend to stay that way. Now, I know there’s a light bulb up here somewhere. Maybe in that cabinet above the refrigerator, which is a stupid place to put a cabinet, if you ask me. Nobody I know can reach that cabinet without getting out a ladder and climbing up to it. Stupid place for a cabinet.”
“Em. Please come down. I’ll get the bulb for you. Here, take my hand and come over to the ladder. Now, OH MY GOD! There’s a step missing! How did you..? Oh, never mind. Just sit down and I’ll help you slide off the counter. Come on, now, Em. Em? Come on, please. I’ll have to call the Fire Department otherwise. That means Adult Protective Services will get involved again, and I know you don’t like that.”
“I’m not going anywhere. I am going to check that cabinet for a bug strip.”
“Bug strip? I thought you were after a light bulb?”
“What do I need a light bulb for, missy? No light burned out here. No, sir. Chester keeps after that, you can be sure. And just who are you anyway?”
“Hello, Betty? This is Madeline Stover with Good’s In-Home Care. I think it’s time we set up a care coordination meeting for Emma McFarleigh. I came over today for my daily visit and she was up on the kitchen countertop looking for something. I had to call the fire department to get her down. What’s that? No, she’s 93 but still thinks she 67. And she continues to believe her late husband is alive. He died 15 years ago.
“Yes, the Aricept helped for a while, but she’s experiencing a swift decline. It's getting dangerous for her to live alone now. She has matches and lighters all over the house. Plus, she’s been signing blank checks and leaving them everywhere. I found one in the kitchen trash can, several in the mail box at the curb, a few in the garage, and two more sticking out from under a potted plant on the front porch. Oh, and another in the bird feeder.
“Okay, tomorrow at 2. I’ll see you there. I’ve called for a sitter from Good’s In-Home to stay with her tonight. Fine. Okay, tomorrow, then.”