Ralph cocked his head, listening, then shook his newspaper straight and folded it. “Carolers coming,” he said, setting his paper aside.
Janet looked up from her knitting, turned her ear toward the door. A smile crossed her face. “Yep.” She tucked her knitting into her basket and they both rose and headed for the front door. The carolers were a very old tradition in the neighborhood, one the Millers looked forward to every year.
“Best put on a sweater, momma,” Ralph advised. “You don’t want another bout of pneumonia.”
Janet gave her husband a slight scowl, but went to the front closet and grabbed two jackets. If he was going to mother hen her, she was going to mother hen him right back. He took it without argument. By the time they were zipped up they could hear the carolers quite clearly, singing next door at the Johnson’s. They pulled the front door closed behind them as they stepped out onto the front porch.
The Johnson’s bid the singers Merry Christmas as they departed. The group made their way around to the base of the Miller’s front steps singing ‘Here We Come A-Wassailing‘ as they maneuvered along the sidewalks. After warm greetings Ralph and Janet snuggled into each other to listen to a set of five songs. They joined in on the ones they knew well. Ralph had a fine baritone — they were forever pestering him to join the group. And Janet had a sweet voice in her day. Now she sang in whispers.
They exchanged season’s greetings after a rousing round of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas‘ and the carolers moved on to the next house. Ralph hung up the jackets then resumed his seat, humming along to the songs being sung next door. Janet resumed her knitting.
“You know,” Jack mused as the sound of the carolers faded down the street, “I didn’t see Bill Praut in the group. Hope he’s OK.”
Janet looked at him with a curious expression on her face. “Bill died.”
Ralph looked at his wife in stunned disbelief.
He and Bill were not all that close, saw each other only occasionally – knew each other well enough to say hi in passing and ask about the kids. But he had always kind of liked Bill Praut, and his wife, Amy. How could he be dead? Surely he would have heard about it.
Janet set her knitting in her lap. “He had a heart attack.” Then she realized why Ralph didn’t know. “It happened in October, when you and Larry took that fishing trip. I’m sorry. I thought you knew.”
Ralph leaned back in his chair, mouth agape. Good lord, he never even sent Amy a card.
“I sent Amy a card,” Janet said as if reading his mind. “Had three masses said.”
He blinked, surprised to find moisture in his eyes. Then without warning he got up and went to the front closet.
“Where are you going?” Janet asked.
“I’m going out to join the carolers.”
He only wished he had done it sooner.
© 2010 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.