I’d like for you to meet the characters I’ve been living with (in my head) for a few years now. The manuscript, The Doll House Secrets, is close to being complete, and these ladies are about to leave the nest they’ve built behind the screen of my comuter for the wild, wild world of editors and reviewers. No spoiler alert necessary for this short excerpt. I know how to keep a secret.
(When four 80 year old women inherit a big house from their friends, Leonard and Eileen, do they sell or move in together? They decide to take a week and try the house on for size and comfort. But first, they need to deal with the “stuff” left behind. What do you think they should do? What would you do?)
From what is currently Chapter 11:
Charlotte sat on a barstool at the end of the kitchen island where she had piles and stacks of journals, photo albums and loose papers.
“Why don’t you do that on the dining room table?” Sharon said. “The chairs are safer and more comfortable. Plus, Birdie will be back with groceries in a few minutes.”
“The lighting is better here.” Charlotte didn’t bother looking up. “Why don’t you go back to helping Alice clear out Leonard’s underwear drawer?”
“You may not realize it, but you’ve been at this for over an hour.” Sharon feigned interest and read a few lines from an open journal. “It took me all of five minutes to bag up underwear, tee-shirts and socks. Leonard’s dresser drawers are empty and wiped down. Between me and Alice, his closet is half empty. We used all six of our boxes. The rest of the stuff for the church’s clothes closet will need go in bags.”
Charlotte still doesn’t look up. “You’ve got the bedside tables and the bathroom to do, and we’ve got to decide about Leonard’s coins. They aren’t exactly a collection, but how do we carry them to the bank and lift them on the counter? I think they need to be sorted first.”
Sharon pulled a carton of milk from the refrigerator and sniffed. “We’ve got to clean out this fridge.” She pinched her nostrils, held the container as far away from her face as possible and poured the contents into the sink. “The drain is clogged. The drain won’t drain!”
Charlotte picked up another journal. “Pull the plug.”
“I can’t put my hand in there. I’ll gag.”
“Use some tongs.”
“The same tongs that will touch my food?”
“Never mind.” The stool tipped and screeched against the tile floor when Charlotte shifted her weight to step down.
“I tried to tell you.”
Charlotte reached into the sink and released the seal of the strainer basket. She pumped a spot of soap and washed her hands with the vigor of a surgeon, then spun the roll of paper towels until she had about four. “And that’s how that is done.”
Sharon paid no attention to Charlotte’s theater. Instead, she began emptying the shelves of the refrigerator onto the kitchen counter.
Charlotte looked up for the first time since Sharon entered the room. “Where will Birdie unpack groceries?”
Sharon opened the cabinet door where the trash bin was hidden and pulled it out. Condiments, cheese, eggs, juices and a box of baking soda were removed along with sticks and tubs of butter and a canning jar labeled “Bacon Grease.” Dates of trusted use were examined and made quick work of determining what would be tossed and what could be saved. “And that’s how that is done.” said Sharon.
Charlotte chuckled and turned a page.
Big yellow gloves were found in the right spot under the sink, but Sharon had to stoop and stretch for the spray bottle of disinfectant. She scrubbed. She rinsed. After a long swirl of dish soap into the sink and a short squirt for perfection, she turned on the water. She didn’t wait for the sink to fill before she started wiping the walls and shelves of the refrigerator.
A fly on the window might have wondered why she would make every movement of her hands and feet so noisy, but Charlotte knew. The same fly would not care that Sharon put so much muscle into cleaning the inside of a refrigerator. But Charlotte did.
Charlotte stepped off the barstool with grace this time and slid the barstool into position under the counter. As the last of the stacks and piles was gathered from the island and placed on the dining room table, she mumbled to herself. “We won’t be eating in here for quite some time.”