I just returned from a regular weekly breakfast that I share with between four and eight old friends from my former neighborhood. This morning there were only four of us: the four “originals.” There were Rick, Bob, Dave (the one who instituted the ritual nearly a decade ago), and me—and I was late. I hadn’t meant to be, it just kind of happened.

I never use an alarm clock, but this day, I should have. I fell asleep last night in my recliner in front of the TV (who wouldn’t, considering the dearth of entertaining shows available these days?), and that’s where I spent the night. My wife covered me with a blanket and let me be—and that was just fine. I was exhausted from spending the day fly fishing, and my right thigh was sore as hell from a hard fall I had taken while climbing up a bank alongside the river. The last thing on my mind as I drifted off to dreamland was setting an alarm—or the weekly breakfast, which I’d totally forgotten about.

I awoke with a start at 8:20 AM, and immediately realized what day it was. For the record, we meet for breakfast every week on our “special day” at precisely 8:30 AM, so there was no time to waste—I was late! As good fortune would have it, I was already dressed (I had slept in my jeans and a tee shirt), so all I had to do was put on my shoes, slap on a baseball cap, and I was ready to go. Whoops! Not so fast. My pills! I had to take my pills before I could leave the house. There’s “the Avalide” for my blood pressure, “the Prilosec” for my acid reflux, “the Flomax” for my prostate, and, oh yes, the Ritalin for my—what is it?—oh yeah, the ADHD. They are all generics; I’m the geriatric! I grabbed the juice container from the refrigerator, popped the bevy of pills into my mouth, and washed them down with a swallow of Nature’s Choice (or whatever brand of Florida’s best OJ was on sale last week). My two cats sat quietly at their bowls, staring at me with eyes that engendered more guilt in me than a man ought to suffer. “Sorry, girls,” I said. “Mommy’ll feed you.” I slipped out the door, into the car, and out the driveway—headed for the Dutch Cupboard. I arrived there at exactly 8:43! Not bad—twenty three minutes, door-to-door (if you included the time it took to take the pills).

The reception I received from my friends varied from, “Oh, nice of you to drop by” to “We’ve already finished. Hope you don’t mind eating alone.” I conceded that I’d “slept in” (a rarity for me, and they all know it) and apologized profusely. “Our” waitress (we’ve all but adopted the young lady who serves us breakfast each week) arrived promptly, took my order, and delivered same within eight minutes. Then, we began the small talk, which ranged from “Anybody seen a good movie lately? (Dave) to “Did you see where Obama’s approval rating is actually up to 44 percent?” (Rick). Other hot topics of conversation were: air traffic controllers, the recent primary election, pro hockey (“I can never follow the damned puck!” said Dave), the You-Tube video about the cat that attacked a dog, and our waitress’s upcoming wedding and what we should give her as a gift.

At 9:30 AM, Bob announced (as usual), “Well, ’bout time to get going,” and that was that—breakfast was finished. We each threw a dollar onto the table (we always leave a buck apiece as a tip, even if we’ve only had a cup of tea) and proceeded to the check out. A minute or two later, it was “See ya, bye!” and we were all headed home.

Now, as I sit at my computer, it’s raining—not a pounding, plant-crushing rain, but a soft, gentle drizzle, the kind that greens our lawns and helps grows our tomatoes and cucumbers. But there’s another kind of rain, one that doesn’t fall on the ground, but, instead, on people. It’s the rain of friendship that nourishes and rejuvenates the human spirit. And, Lord knows we can all use that from time to time—especially as we grow older. This morning, I almost missed out on my weekly sprinkle.

Now where did I put that alarm clock?

NOTE: Joe Perrone Jr is the author of the highly-successful Matt Davis Mystery Series: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day, Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises (an Indie B.R.A.G. medallion winner, along with Opening Day).  All four are available in paperback and E-book from Amazon.com.  As the Twig is Bent and Opening Day are also available in audiobook from Audible.com, with Twice Bitten and Broken Promises soon to follow.

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