First significant snow of the year and I knew Mrs. McJostle was recovering from a broken hip. So when I shoveled my sidewalk and walk, I just went over and quickly shoveled hers. It was not much snow, and shucks I needed the exercise. Besides, it was a nice sunny morning. Quickly, I did her walk, her sidewalk and driveway, knowing the home nurse would come that day.

Just as I finished and started around the house, I heard a traffic cop's whistle. 'Tweet, tweet, tweet', it went.

I stopped. “You. Yes you,” I heard the old lady yell. I turned, thinking she thought me a burglar, for ever since she moved in I had spoken just once. She made a sharp caustic remark, so I had just ignored her. Yeah, I know it is, or was wrong, but I have my own problems.

“Come here young man, come here,” she yelled. She stood in a partially opened door and I could see she was holding on to her walker.

I stopped and walked toward the door. “Morning, Mrs. McJostle, nice morning isn’t it?” I did not want any arguments or any words, I just wanted to go home, make me a cup of coffee and have a piece of that devil’s food cake I had baked yesterday. A devil’s food cake in a flat pan, no icing, “Yes maam," I said as I pulled off my sock cap.

The old woman had a ten dollar bill in her hand. “Here young man. I did not ask you to do that, but I thank you. Take this for your effort.” She was a grouchy old broad.

“No ma'am, I did it because I wanted to. I knew you were sort of laid up and I didn’t want anyone slipping or falling.” I turned to walk away.

“Well, would you please come back so I can thank you,” she said.

That, to me was the voice of a lonely person, a grouch who wanted not to be; a sourpuss who wanted a friend. I turned and walked to the door.

“First off young man, I owe you an apology for what I said right after I moved in. I am not the miserable old bat I sounded like.”

“Yes ma'am,” I replied, “We all have good and bad days.”

“I would appreciate it," she said, going on, "if you would stop by for a cup of tea.”

It floored me, well not floored, but it did take me aback.

“I make a pretty good ginger snap and a flat devil’s food coffee cake,” she added.

I knew she was lonely. “Yes ma'am, will do,” I replied, thinking, ain’t no way. No way am I am going to get near that old woman.

“Would you care for a cup now?” she asked.

I started to reply, heck no, but smiled instead. “I just baked a flat cake with no icing," I said. "I will drink your tea if you will have some of my cake.”

“Best offer I have had all day. Get your cake and I will put the kettle on.” She had a big smile on her face.

I went home, put my shovel away, got my cake, which was still in the beat up old baking pan, and went back. This time, though, I went to the back door.

She opened the door as I neared it. “Come in young man, come in and take your coat off,” she said.

I went in and put the cake on the kitchen table. She was not as old and decrepit as I had thought. Shucks, she was not much older than I was.

“How you like your tea, cream, sugar or lemon?”

“A little lemon and sugar, I am not English enough to ruin tea with milk.”

She moved about quite well on her walker. I jumped up to get the cups and pot, “No sit down, I am a little slow but I can still serve a guest,” she said as she put the cups and tea pot on the table. Quickly she got the lemon, two small plates and two forks.

We sat and began to chat. We chatted about things, like the Blue Birds and the bunnies in the back yard. Matter of fact we chatted for nearly two hours. She was an intelligent and interesting woman.

Finally I looked at my watch, “Ooops, got an appointment with the dentist, better run so I can brush my teeth afore I go. Dang Doc raises heck with me for eating sweets.” I stood “But the doc is about 50 pounds overweight,” I added, laughing.

I put my coat on and went to the door. She followed and as I stepped outside, she, with a very pleasant voice and a big smile, said, "Why don’t you stop by for another cup of tea the next time you have nothing to do?”

© By Tom (

Tom has written other stories and poems.
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Winter Fields

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The music you hear is "I Believe In Love".