Vexations and Conundrums

By Katina Pontikes

A Knock In The Night

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My husband was out of town, and I was home alone. Our narrow street, more a lane, was private, meaning the few homeowners were responsible for its maintenance, and retaining the historical integrity of the neighborhood. There were no modern amenities on the street, such as street lights or utility poles. At night the dark was so intense that one couldn’t see to walk even steps without risk of falling.

I was doing some tidying up, around 8:30 p.m., when there was a knock at my front door, with the heavy brass lion’s head knocker, so large it could have worked on a castle. Very loud.

I froze. I expected no one. The porch light wasn’t on, so I couldn’t see who was there. Dare I question who was calling? Should I pretend no one was home? If it was a thief, the person might break in, and here I was by myself, defenseless.

The knock became more insistent, three hard, hollow raps. I opted to call out, “Who is it?”

“Dorothy,” a female responded.  I didn’t remember a Dorothy, wondered if this was a trap.  Perhaps she had male backup, and this was a ruse.

“Dorothy who?” I asked.

“Dorothy, Bob the carpenter’s girlfriend,” she clarified.

Oh, now I remembered! We had our eaves replaced a long while back. Why on earth would she be here, and at night no less? I took a chance and opened the door to her lone, slight frame. She was about fifty, and harmless looking. I invited her in, and quickly locked the door and turned on my hall light.

She began to speak in intense, soft tones. “I hope it’s not a problem that I’m interrupting you.  I’ve been wanting to come and talk to you for a while. The news is sad. Bob died a few weeks back.”

I invited her to sit and I turned on a lamp.  Her face was blank, frozen in a state I couldn’t begin to understand.

“Bob thought he had the flu.  He was admitted to the hospital, and within three days he was dead.  He had been pushing through cancer, never letting on how he must have felt.”

I told her how sorry I was that he was no longer with us. He was such a character.

She went on to tell me how important our historic home job had been to him. They would drive by some days so he could remind her how proud he was of doing the work on a home on the historic register.

“His family barred me from the private funeral,” she shared. “They erased me. As though he and I hadn’t shared seven years of life. I think it was because of his first wife.” This tidbit was the brick of her conversation.

I gave her a hug. What a mean thing to do to someone who had obviously loved this man.  I thanked her profusely for coming by personally to deliver the news and told her I’d share it with my husband when he returned.  She left as swiftly as she had arrived.

I sat and recalled Bob.  He was about seventy, always cheerful, efficient and had a meticulous work ethic. Once, at the end of a long day, I asked him about himself. “I have a lovely young lady friend, Dorothy, and we go out dancing. We love to dance!”

I asked what kind of dancing they liked. I pictured something sedate, a waltz perhaps.

 “We do country dancing, but we really like to dance the Irish jig.” Wow, what energy he had!

When I told him that Michael Flatley’s “Riverdance” show was coming to Houston, he became animated. “I would love to take my Dorothy to that show! I’ll get tickets.”

The next time I saw him I asked if he had the tickets yet. 

“We won’t be able to go,” he answered forlornly. “Those tickets cost seventy-five dollars a ticket, even sitting in the far back.”

That night I convinced my husband to buy the tickets and give them to Bob with his next payment, in gratitude for his fine work. 

Later he eagerly explained that he and Dorothy arrived three hours early to see the performance.  He said it was one of the most exciting things they had ever done.

Now I appreciate the huge significance of some of the small things in life, a gesture of thanks, knowing a person’s passion, answering that scary, unexpected knock in the inky night.

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