Her arrival was unannounced. One morning the old man had opened his apartment door to walk downstairs to buy a coffee at the corner coffee shop, his one self indulgence each day and she had been in the hallway. He had heard no sound, but she must have been at work for some time as already there was an oil sheet covering the floor, and she had opened a can of white paint and was painting over the tired salmon coloured hall way wall behind which the old man lived.
She was young, perhaps no more than twenty three or twenty four, he surmised. Dressed in jeans and a long sleeve white tee shirt, her long dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, she smiled at him as he stepped through his doorway and turned, a little stunned at finding a young woman on his threshold, before edging his way around the paint can that blocked his path.
“Oh sorry,” she said, bending forward and moving the paint can out of his way.
“What are you doing?” he asked, though it was obvious that she was painting the wall.
She smiled as though she knew something he didn’t, but was quite happy for him to take his time in learning what it was. “I’m here to make a few changes; to paint the hallways, brighten the place up a little.”
“What?” He gestured towards the area that had already been painted white. “Is that the colour?” He wasn’t sure if he didn’t prefer the salmon, despite its depressing hue over the sterile hospital white.
“Not your colour of choice?” she laughed, rolling more paint on the wall. “What colour would you prefer?”
Now paint colour had not been something on his mind that day, or any of the many proceeding days for a very long time, so he had to think a moment before he replied. A long forgotten memory suddenly came back to life and provided him with an answer, “My grandfather was a beekeeper and when I was old enough to stand still and work quietly with the hives, he would take me along to collect the honey.” His words brought the smell of the smoker used to dull the fury of the bees at being robbed back to his senses and he breathed deeply as though he could indeed smell the essence of that smoke right there, in the hall way, right then. “The honey was the most delicious golden colour, it was rich and deep…it was, it was the colour of…” his voice trailed away as he sought the exact description of the smooth sweet honey that flowed at the hands of his grandfather
“Um, honey?” she supplied. Honey coloured walls; that was a new one, especially from a man. Usually they wanted red like some racing car they dreamed about owning one day, or the green of a golf course; all very pedestrian and mundane, but no, not this one, this one wanted honey. Well, at least the job was looking up at last, this one had a bit of imagination, and she guessed was a little something of the romantic too.
The old man snapped back into the moment and laughed. “Don’t listen to the ramblings of an old man,’ he said. “White is fine. I don’t suppose at my age I should worry about the colour of walls anyway, I should just be content to be live long enough to see the paint dry!” He walked to the stair landing before stopping and turning back to the girl. “I’m Ordell” he said, surprised that he wanted her to know his name.
“Hello Ordell, I’m Marigold.”
“Would you like a coffee?” he surprised himself by asking. “I was just going to go and buy one, and I could bring one back for you if you like.” He expected her to say no, only too happy to be rid of an old man, but something deep inside of him made him want to reach out to her.
“That would be lovely, thank you Ordell. I must say that a flat white is one of my earthly pleasures!”
The woman who had been making his daily cup of coffee for the past nine years couldn’t mask her surprise when Ordell not only ordered two coffees, but ordered them to take away. Why, every morning he would come in, order his mug of black coffee and then wander over to the table near the window where he would take up his position and watch the world walk by as he drank his brew. He never lingered passed the last sip and he never ordered another mug, or any food, just one coffee that he drank in silence before walking back home. Today was a stunner, two coffees and take away at that! Well, old dogs and new tricks! She wondered if this was the start of something new as she placed the two lidded cups in front of the old man.
“There you go,” she announced. “Got a hot date?” she couldn’t help teasing him.
He took a cup in each hand and made to walk to the door without answering, but he stopped and smiled, “A young woman who reminds me of honey!” His answer only mystified the woman more, but he halted any chance of further questions by walking out of the café.
When he returned to the hall way outside his apartment, Marigold had finished painting the wall with white paint and had in fact another three or four more pots of paint standing near her feet. They were smaller than the pot of white paint, but Ordell couldn’t see what colour they were. Except for one which Marigold had already popped open and was now bending over stirring with a short piece of doweling. It was the colour of honey.
“That’s the colour,” Ordell exclaimed, shaking his head in disbelief.
“What colour?” she asked as though she had no recollection of their earlier conversation.
“The colour of Grandfather’s honey!”
“Really?” she smiled, reaching out to take a cup from Ordell’s hand. She was playing with him, she had known all along exactly what colour it was. “Who would have thought?” She bent down and clamped the lid on the white paint tin with one hand, thumped it with a closed fist and then moved it to the facing wall, still salmon pink. She gestured towards it, indicating that Ordell should use it as a seat, as she sank to the floor, crossing her legs and took a sip of her coffee. “You must have loved your Grandfather very much.”
“My father died when I was a baby, so I never really knew him. My mother and I went to live with my grandparents. Mother worked as a domestic and so it was often left to Grandfather to see to me. Mostly I just followed him about as he did his chores, tended his vegetable patch, feed the chickens. I reckon he just about fed the family on what he grew in the back yard. Kept a few ducks too.” He was no longer with Marigold, for his memory had taken him back through the years to his boyhood.
She sat quietly, leaving him to his revelry as she sipped her coffee. Not the best cup of coffee she had ever had; the milk had been overheated so that it had a scalded taste. Marigold was a recent convert to coffee drinking and in a very short time had grown quite addicted to it, to the extent that she had quickly developed into somewhat of a connoisseur of the various beans and roasts, and was now quite particular about her coffee. She had found that a good cup of coffee was one of life’s little pleasures and she enjoyed it very much.
A couple of nights previously she had watched an advertisement on the television in which a well known movie star was spared a sudden death by handing over the coffee machine that he had just purchased, along with his favourite brand of coffee, and it had set Marigold to thinking if such a thing were possible. Would God bargain for a good cup of coffee?
Not this time.
Flamingo Dancer 2012