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Time and Temperature.

The kitchen table. There she sat, completely alone before it, envisioning the bountiful feasts that it once displayed for the people she loved. The shadow of a smile tip-toed over her lips as she stared blankly, hoping that if she listened hard enough, she could hear the tinkling laughter of her children and bemused sigh of the man who had sworn to love her forever.

Her children were gone, but not because they had grown and left the nest. No. They hadn’t been that lucky. Their drunk school bus driver had made sure of that, one morning years ago, when she had decided she was too drunk to drive about halfway through her route and pulled over. On the train tracks.

“Why on the train tracks?” MaryAnn had wondered hundreds of maddening times. Perhaps if she had wondered a few times less, her husband wouldn’t have packed up his things three nights ago and left.

“I need some time to think,  Mary,” he had said, exhaustion in his voice and on his face. His shoulders had been permanently slumped ever since that fateful day with the bus, having had to bear the weight of both his and her grief.

“Think about what?” she’d asked, her voice small, revealing her inner terror at his departure. The thought of losing him, in any way, after having lost so much else that mattered to her was simply too devastating to comprehend. Worst of all, she hadn’t even seen this coming.

Turning to open the front door, with his bags in tow, he murmured, “Everything.” Carrying his bags across the threshold with a catch in his voice, all she could think about was how he had once carried her over that same threshold with complete triumph in his eyes.

His eyes were empty these days.

At the thought of his empty, defeated eyes turning away from her, as they had so many times since the accident because he simply didn’t know how to handle the enormity of her sorrow on top of his own, anger began to simmer within her.

Why does he get to walk away? Why does he get to just start a new life without me? Each of these questions had crossed her mind multiple times since he’d left but it wasn’t until now that she was getting angry about it. Each brought her closer to becoming enraged.

Slowly, mechanically, she rose to her feet and crossed the room to the telephone. With a shaking hand, she picked it up and dialed seven digits that she’d had memorized since she was a silly love-struck girl.

Her breaths deliberately even, she put the phone to her ear and listened as it rang, waiting to hear that familiar voice on the other end…the only voice that could soothe her when it seemed as if her world had turned upside down yet another time.

“Are you going through something that no one else seems to understand,” the voice asked melodically. She nodded as it continued, “Do you feel as if no one can answer the questions you need answers to most?”

“I thought we loved each other,” she said, her voice breaking in a sob halfway through.

“Help is only a phone call away. Call Dr. Andersen at Allied Mental Health and Associates today for your free consultation.”

Funny how they don’t give you a phone number to call, she mused bitterly. If they really wanted to help, they would make it easier.

“And now, the time and temperature. The time is 4:46 p.m. The current temperature is 47 degrees.”

Click.

The setting fall sun casted a warm glow over the kitchen and dining room through the bay window her husband had proudly installed for her years ago. Admiring the view, as much as she was able to admire anything these days, she stood next to the telephone, redialing time and time again, listening to time pass and the seasons change.

She would go to bed alone that night, vowing to get a dog the next day if she could gather the courage to leave the house, because she couldn’t stand the thought of sleeping alone one more night. Then, she would say her prayers. She would thank God for getting her through one more day, ask for protection for the husband that deserted her, and ask that He say hi to her beloved lost children.

She would ask nothing for herself, with the exception of continued sponsorship of the Time and Temperature program by companies that needed advertising. All she asked for was a little stability in her life. Neither the passage of time nor the turning of the seasons change, but then again, she had never thought her husband’s love for her would change either.

Perhaps one day God would bless her with a telephone number that she could call to be reassured of that again. For now, it seems as if her husband didn’t want to be found. He’d left his phone on the bed stand when he left that day.
-C.F. Boehlke

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