“Mornin’ Maggie,” I call out and wave. She waves, steps out into the street without looking, of course there’s rarely any downtown traffic. It’s off season, in a few months it will be brimming with visitors. Her Birkenstocks and striped wool socks peek out under the long ‘go to town skirt’ with each step. She’s carrying a five-pound Folgers can full of sweet peas, fresh picked this morning.
“How are you doing, dear?” She says. “I’ve missed you and Douglas stopping by. I’m so sorry, he was such a sweet, big old love-bug dog.”
“Thank you, Maggie.”
She pulls two large bundles of flowers from the can and gives me a good, long, one arm hug. I tear up thinking of Dougie. It’s only been a week. We’d stop at Maggie’s front yard flower stand every morning after our walk to the beach. The Sweet Peas are a dollar a bundle. It’s honor system, cash in an old cigar box. Most mornings she was out working the garden when we came by and she’d pull two bundles out while we visited, wrap them in newspaper like babies in swaddling and hand them to me. Douglas and I came back by on our moonlight walk and slip dollar bills into the cigar box for her. I’m thinking I’ll plant some along the back fence for him.
“Are these the last of the season?” I say. She nods.
“There are a few stragglers, enough for a couple more mornings. I’m trying something new this year,” she looks up and down the street as if someone might overhear. There is no one. “Fireworks,” she whispers, then giggles.
“Fireworks?” She’s never even attended the big Fourth of July display by the town council off the end of the pier.
“My niece came up this weekend, we lost my sister a few months ago,” she says.
“I remember, I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you, Sarah. My sister left them for me, just boxes and boxes of them, filled the whole minivan. She wrote ‘Don’t Forget to have fun’ on each box, isn’t that something.”
“You’re putting them in the flower stand?”
“Only sparklers and small items, rest assured I will be there and not sell any to the kids. I must away, stop by and visit. I miss you.” Another hug, she crosses the street and goes into Dean’s Deli.
“Morning Sarah,” Paul says as I leave the street chill behind. The sleigh bells jingle. Fanny’s is warm and fragrant with gingerbread from the coffee beans he roasted and flavored this morning. He pours two coffees and brings them to my table in the corner. There are bud vases of sweet peas on all five tables. The Mayor is making good use of my usual table under the neon Friendly Fanny sign, with the Seaside Village Weekly News spread about.
“Sarah, so good to see you. My condolences on the loss of your fine dog. I always enjoyed his antics.” He says. “What’s that Magpie up to now?” He nods to Maggie across the street.
“Fireworks,” Paul says balancing two plates of glazed donuts in one hand and a creamer full of half and half in the other. He sits, puts my sweet peas in a glass of water and hands me the Weekly News.
“I put up with the wacky tobacky she’s got planted in with her tomatoes, but, hmm, fireworks…no.” The Mayor shakes his head, gathers up the newspaper and heads out to rain on Maggie’s fireworks parade.
“Are Fran and Phil still in Florida?” I say, he nods. “Honeymoon?”
“Oh, good Lord I hope not.” He says and laughs. “I have something for you, be right back.”
He comes back with a large bag and a pink cake box with a pink bow on top, and sets it on the table. “I know all the books say it’s probably not a good idea, but.”
The lid pops up. A fuzzy white puppy face greets me with a big grin and a little yap. I’m stunned. He looks like a teeny, baby version of Dougie. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It’s too soon. I want to close the lid and wish myself back home at the start of this day, and stay in bed like all last week, lost in that black hole of grief. Yap, says the puppy as he leaps from the box, grabs my donut and jumps right into my heart. Some things can’t be stopped once they’re started, charging bulls, fireworks and puppies sent from heaven. He settles under my chin gooing glazed donut down my neck.
“Oh, Paul,” I say and cry, and laugh.
“So, it was a good idea?”
“Yes,” I nod, “yes.” He hugs me and kisses my forehead, then wipes the donut off my neck.
“It just kills me to see you so sad, Sarah. You said one time the next dog will be pocket book size and we’ll dress alike, so,” he pulls a bright pink Fanny’s sweatshirt out of the bag, and a matching tiny one fashioned into doggy wear. I laugh. Then came a big purse-like doggy carrier. “There’s puppy food and stuff inside.” He says.
“Oh Paul, thank you.” I am overwhelmed by his kindness. The puppy licks the tears from my cheek, then bites at my earring, wagging the entire time.
The sleigh bells bang against the door, Maggie bounds inside.
“Wonderful, you’re both here. There’s been a change in plans. Big cookout at the beach tonight and the Mayor himself is going to set off all my fireworks! Not all at once, of course, well maybe for the grand finale. Oh, I am so pleased. Do come, dress warm, bring a pie.” She says and is gone.
“Pick you up?” He says and I nod. “It’s a date then. Bringing the little guy?”
“Jack, yeah we’ll wear matching sweatshirts.”
“Jack, huh, I like it.” He says, and kisses me. “Remember to have fun, Sarah.”