Phil ducked behind the old oak next to Lyle Wannaker’s head stone. The picture atop the granite monument of Lyle’s toothless smiling face brought back memories of playing checkers at Clark Creek. He missed his old fishing buddy. He had no time for reminiscing he reminded himself. There were more pressing matters. He leaned against the rough bark and sighed silently to himself.
“ How could I have been so blind?” Phil mumbled. The signs had been there for weeks. His slippers beside his chair each evening. Monday night goulash replaced with his favorite meatloaf casserole. The smell of fresh shoe polish wafting up from the shelf where he stored his golf shoes. His wife Clara was leaving clues that something wasn’t right with the frequency of a puppy on people food.
Why could he not remember what occasion he had overlooked? It wasn’t Christmas. He knew that for certain because no college football bowl games had been played yet. He was also sure that it wasn’t Halloween. He was still in the doghouse for suggesting that it was when his wife Clara and her sister Mabel returned from the church’s “Make-Over Madness” meeting last Thursday. No, it was Friday, Phil surmised. That was the day he and his best friend Claude loaded the pick up in preparation for the game against the Montrose Panthers and his hometown Vipers. The glare from the sun beaming off of their make- up shellacked faces had blinded Claude so badly he’d staggered into the rose bushes and dropped the chicken legs they’d cooked up. Thank the good Lord for the 3 minute rule.
After resting a moment longer, Phil continued his way across the graveyard. He decided that whatever significant date he had missed, Clara was never going to know it. The main thing was that he wasn’t missing her birthday. He knew that for certain because every year on the day before her birthday, he bought a large container of fresh stink bait and as any fisherman knows, good stink bait will last a year stored properly. It was fine this morning when he went fishing.
Coming into the clearing next to the mausoleum, Phil began to walk slowly with his head lowered. He passed “Pig” Cannon, the groundskeeper and nodded. Slowing even more and peering over his shoulder to assure that “Pig” was around the maintenance shack, Phil breathed a sigh of relief. “Perfect!”, he whispered. “ “Pig” is always the last one to leave.” A part of Phil felt guilty. For fifteen years, his routine had been the same. Forget a special occasion, head to the graveyard. People said he was a miser. Cheaper than jewelry from a candy machine. He really wasn’t. He just knew the value of a dollar.
“Wealth is accumulated one penny at a time!”, his father always proclaimed. He wasn’t like his father. His father was the definition of a penny-pincher. He ate one meal a day for 43 years so that he could be married and buried in the same suit. Phil just knew what he wanted in life. His retirement was going to be one filled with the luxuries of wealth.
Phil waved to Claude as he rolled into his drive way. Claude was sunbathing on the hood of his station wagon and didn’t want to smear his lotion, so he just wiggled his big toe.
Clara met her husband at the front door with a somber face. “ What’s the matter, pumpkin?” Clara dragged her finger along the door facing and stared. “ Hey, I think I know who could use some cheering up!” Phil pulled his left hand from behind his back, revealing eight of the most beautiful lilies Clara had ever seen. “ I’ll bet you thought I’d forgotten.” Clara’s face lit up like a bag of Kingsford Matchlight charcoal. “They are just beautiful!”, she whispered through her tears.
Taking the lilies from his hand, Clara went into the kitchen to put them in a vase.
Phil meandered over to his favorite chair and melted into the soft cushions. He still didn’t know what occasion he had missed, but Clara was happy. That, in the end, is pretty much all that mattered. He said a little prayer for the family of the late Gretchen Selney. According to her head stone, she lived a long life filled with generosity. Phil was glad she had been generous one last time. The lilies saved his bacon…and his chance at true prosperity.