Gloria Anderson Adams was used to standing tall—her five-foot-three frame in spite. Teaching demanded that of a person. Too bad I can’t wear heels with this contraption. Brakes locked, she slipped the binoculars from the zippered bag without making a sound. If she could only gain the animal’s trust.
Dame and doe scrutinized one another, neither moving, hardly breathing.
The sun, inching from behind bur oak and birch, scattered the forest floor and towering trunks with blotches and shafts of gold and light.
Gloria adjusted the focus, then lowered the device, scanning the trees, first to her left and then to the right. Where are your babies, Mommy? Are you hiding them?
She counted herself blessed. It was the third morning that she had encountered the deer at the same spot in the forest but the first time without her fawns.
Gloria plopped down on the walker-seat and inhaled deeply. The rain of the previous night had awoken the earth—she breathed the heady musk of rotting leaves and moss and mushroom. A handful of grey jays bounced from branch to branch trying their best to outdo the warbler’s song. She closed her eyes. To the staff at the nursing home, she had said she was taking a stroll in the garden—which was partially true. Alexandra, her first-born, would have a fainting spell.
Mother, you keep forgetting about your condition. Bah for Alexandra!
Sudden clanging and banging and cussing from down the forest path made the birds take flight and the doe scamper and melt away.
Gloria jumped to her feet, letting go of the binoculars around her neck and spun her wheeled chariot around. Just as well that I’ve packed pepper spray. What an idiot to make such noise. Her hand disappeared in the zippered bag.
The cause of the commotion came to a standstill ten feet away, forcing Gloria to look up.
“Top of the morning to you, ma’am!” The glint in the man’s eyes was unmistakable.
“Top of the morning, yourself. Why the ruckus?”
“I fended off a swarm of man-eating gnats.” Wiping over his shining scalp, the man regarded her with a slanted smile, tugging at his silver goatee. “Even swallowed one.”
“Poor baby.” She pushed the walker back onto the path. Her eyes narrowed. “You’ll let life pass you by. You have to be quiet in the forest.” Unhooking the binoculars, she stowed it beneath the seat. “What do you think I use these for?”
“To see where you’re going?”
Her cheeks burning, Gloria side-stepped the grinning man rooted in the middle of the path and took off. She felt a pressing urge to get back to her room. Perhaps Alex had a point.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. Please, wait!” The man had little trouble catching up to her, his limp in spite.
Gloria stopped, her eyes drilling into the fellow. She didn’t suffer fools. “I had just identified five boreal forest songbirds and had a gentle conversation with a doe when you shattered the sacred silence with your—”
“So sorry . . . Please, forgive me. I meant no harm.” Again, the lop-sided smile.
“Are you mocking me?” Gloria unclipped her dangling water bottle and tapped the man’s black walker. “What’s the reason for this? You’re much too young.”
The man eyed her matching baseball cap, tracksuit, runners, and sleek walker—all in fire engine red, before answering. “I fell. Broke my hip.” He patted his thigh. “You’re looking at a bionic man.”
Not moving, Gloria pressed. “Are you clumsy? It’s summer. There’s no ice.”
The man wiped over his shaven head. “Skateboard accident.”
Gloria released the brakes and barrelled down the path, snickering.
“It’s not funny. I also had a small brain bleeding that didn’t require surgery.”
Still laughing, she turned back. “I’m sorry about your head. Skateboard? How old are you?”
“It belongs to my grandson. My bicycle went in for a service, and I needed the exercise . . .”
“Bicycle.” Wiping away tears, Gloria put out a hand. “Gloria Adams. If you ever need a ride, I still have my driver’s license. I have to introduce you to my daughter, Alexandra. She’s a professor in psychology. She’ll be appalled that I’m alone in the forest talking to a stranger, but she’ll be fascinated by your story.”
The man shook her hand. “Martin Morris.” He held on. “May I invite you for a coffee as a token of my sincerity? To apologize for scaring away your forest creatures.”
Gloria resumed walking. “Let me think about it.”
The only sound was that of their whirring walkers and quiet breathing.
“Are you hitting on me?”
“Is this a cheap date?”
“It’s an atonement.”
Gloria chuckled and accelerated her pace.
Leaving the forest, they crossed the short bridge and paused at the traffic light. “It doesn’t seem you need your red Rolls Royce.”
“Try and tell my daughter. I had a TIA three months ago—my face drooped, and I couldn’t lift my arm for a couple hours. In her eyes, I’m quadriplegic.”
“Transient Inappropriate Adult. That’s what Alex calls me.”
“She has a point.”
“Hmph. She has no idea I walk five kilometres with this thing every day.”
The two grey heads had just shifted into comfortable positions, dark brews in hand, walkers out of the way, when a cellphone sounded from Gloria’s zippered bag.
“Aren’t you going to take it?”
“It’s from Alexandra.”
“She’s concerned about you.”
“She’s spying on me.”
Gloria rolled her eyes. “You have not met my daughter.”
Sighing, Gloria retrieved the still ringing phone, swiped across the screen and tucked it between shoulder and ear. “Alex, sweetheart, how are you?”
“Don’t sweetheart me, Mother! Where are you?” Gloria yanked the phone from her ear. It was clear Martin had heard every word.
“I’m in the Baked Bean, enjoying coffee with a friend.” She smiled at Martin.
“I’ve called the police. I’ve reported you as a missing—”
“Why ever would you do that?”
“You had a stroke.”
“A transient ischemic attack that lasted four hours, three months ago. I’m in perfect—”
“You lied to the staff at Golden Acres.”
“Pure semantics. I told the staff I was going for a walk.”
“Mother, stay there. I’m coming to take you back.”
Slipping the phone back into the zippered bag, Gloria took a generous gulp of her now lukewarm coffee. She tsk-tsked. “Children. Sorry about her behaviour. We have about five minutes.”
“She cares greatly about you.”
“She smothers me—treats me as if I have end-stage dementia.” Gloria finished her coffee, then rested a hand on Martin’s sleeve. “Do you have a fast car?”
Martin Morris smiled, patting Gloria’s hand. “Will a ’76 Mustang do?”
“Perfect!” Gloria raised her empty paper cup. “I propose a road-trip. Enough of this police-state living.”
Martin raised his cup. “I second it.”
Gloria dug into her zippered bag for a pen when the door pinged, and she recognized her daughter. She scribbled her number on a napkin and rose to her full five-foot-three. Kissing Martin on the cheek, she whispered, “Phone me.”
Martin raised his cup again and whispered. “To a fast car with room for two walkers in the trunk.”
Thank you for reading!
The Little Old Lady was also published on medium.com
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