46 Sorting Things Out

After a few minutes of soaking in her bath, Mrs. James soon concluded that this was definitely not going to soothe her fractured feelings. All this was doing was reminding her of another body inert in other water, albeit a considerably colder and stiffer one. Disgusted, she abandoned this as a form of relaxation. She had very much missed her exercise this morning and deprived of her laps, certainly what she needed now was something active. She looked about her, seeking inspiration or perhaps just something to sort, someplace to concentrate. When she’d lived in her house, there was always a pile of stuff begging attention, or worse, a complete jumble lurking somewhere on one of three levels or even outside, in the garage. How was it that even though she and R.T. had religiously tidied up, tossed away, and swept out each fall for nearly forty years, come spring it wanted tackling all over again?chapter 46 Sorting

There was much less scope for the imagination in her new home. Besides her sizeable yarn stash, there was just not that much left to sort. That was the whole point of moving to a condo and downsizing, to have ‘simplified’ one’s life; simplicity, that blessed consummation proclaimed by a host of self-help gurus. Frankly, she often found it a nuisance, resented not having a variety of things to hand when she wanted them. She fondly, briefly, resurrected her mother-in-law who, whenever she and R.T. had visited and ‘helpfully’ rid her, amongst other superfluous items, of many of the customary seven pairs of scissors she kept scattered throughout her apartment, presently acquired another collection. None of them ever cut anything, each pair duller than the next. Perhaps that was why there were always so many, each pair vying to be at last effective.

Mrs. James kept only the one very sharp pair of sewing scissors but of course these she wisely saved exclusively for fabrics, so the blades would never be compromised by coarser materials. The seldom used but much valued pinking shears rested in the back of her thread compartment. The kitchen scissors would do for all the rest, except the garden shears that she’d brought along for trimming up her indoor or balcony plants, and the smaller, cuticle pair she kept with the first aid items, in the bathroom. In a drawer were two pairs of kids’ scissors that the girls had left after one of their projects, though they barely cut through paper, they were so weak. In her work bag, she treasured her grandmother’s tiny, Prussian filigree silver snippers.

At this point in her inventory she halted, aware that in her new abode her own scissor count had surpassed that of her mother-in-law. She had the grace to giggle; the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. And how many more there might have been if R.T. had been there to contribute his own share of pairs. He’d always kept a pair in every room, ‘handy-like’ he’d claimed. May they both rest in peace.

And while thinking of those resting in peace, she remembered her offer to the Cabots to help them pack up some of their parents’ things. Here was a more fertile, less introspective field than scrutinizing one’s own possessions. She walked down the hall and rapped on the door. As she stood there, the elevator door opened and out stepped Sebastian.

“Hello there, Mrs. James, are you looking for me?”

“Quite the day. I’m feeling quite unsettled by everything, aren’t you?”

“I spent the morning trying to see if I could get my Realtors inside for their scheduled interviews. It’s a no-go today I’m told, though perhaps tomorrow. I’m a bit at loose ends now after planning the day around deciding about a listing. Matthew’s given up and gone to the store.”

“We’re all in the same boat, it appears. Would it suit you to have another go at some of your parents’ belongings? I’m itching to have something to do. Just sitting around is making me morbid.”

“Sure, come on in. I’d be glad of a bit of company though I think we may be getting down to the nitty-gritty on what’s left. Does everyone always leave the hardest stuff ’til last?”

“We certainly did, when my husband and I packed up to move here.” Sebastian looked puzzled. “Perhaps I never said that my husband died just before we were to move in. I had to go back and re-pack what I was bringing, all over again.”

“That must have been very hard on you.”

“It was. I had my boys to help me do some of it but it took twice as long as the first time because I was weeping most of the time. Even the things we had squabbled about made me cry.”

“It’s easier to sort out somebody else’s life, less painful. You have no memories to slow you down.”

“Indeed. Well, let’s make a start then.”

As various bags and boxes began to pile up by the door, Sebastian propped it open and started moving stuff out into the hall, preparatory to shifting it downstairs. He noticed a man standing and knocking at Mrs. James’ door so went to retrieve her from the bedroom, where she was organizing the contents of a dresser.

“You have a visitor, Mrs. James, knocking at your door.” She walked out, just in time to see Hans stepping into the elevator.

“Oh, Hans! I’m here!” The doors re-opened and Hans stepped out again.

“Came up to see how you were. I’ve just come back from away.”

“That’s very good of you, Hans. I’m okay, or just about.” Turning to include Sebastian, she introduced him to Hans. “This is Sebastian Cabot, a son of the Cabots. I’m just helping Sebastian sort out the condo before it goes on the market. Sebastian, Hans Knopupik is our association treasurer.”

“Come in, Hans, and sit down while we still have some furniture left.”

“Have you been interviewed, Hans? Is it ‘safe’ to talk to you?”

“Yes, the moment I walked in the door.”

“You probably don’t know then that I was the one who discovered the body this morning.”

“Oh, no, I didn’t. How awful for you. Did you know the cops have identified the victim?”

“No, only that it might not have been a resident.”

“It’s quite serious, I’m afraid. He’s the nephew of the developer of the project, next door.”

Milwaukee lakefront offers miles of beaches, parks and recreation, with lagoon, marina, courts, and refreshments.

Milwaukee lakefront offers miles of beaches, parks and recreation, with lagoon, marina, courts, and refreshments.

“Impossible!”

“Impossible, but true. I was thinking that we should both talk to Earnest but apparently he’s out dealing with the mudslide, as we speak. We’ll need to talk about that, too, when he gets back.”

“Mudslide?”

“Just next to us, yes, by the lighthouse. I suppose you didn’t see it from this end of the building.”

“Sebastian,” Mrs. James said. She felt quite tired. “I think I’m done helping for this afternoon. This is too much. You two will have to carry on without me.”

“Get some rest, Mrs. James.” Hans called after her, then turned to Sebastian.

“I could really use a coffee break. Want to walk down with me, to the Lake Espresso?”