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The Last Odd Day
Even if the phone hadn't rung at all, the date itself is memorable because Peter Jennings on ABC World News Tonight had said it was the last completely odd day until the year 3111. Month, day, and year, all odd numbers, and it wouldn't happen again for another millennium.
Maude, the neighbor across the street, however, was the one who figured out things weren't right. She was the one who saw the unusual chain of events beginning to take shape; and even though she couldn't name what was coming, she certainly warned me that something out of the ordinary was on its way. She did that hours before ABC reported it, hours before the call.
She met me outside at the driveway when I went out to pick up the morning paper. She's usually up long before I am anyway since I'm accustomed to second-shift hours; and she always comes out to greet me even though she knows I'm not a morning person. That day she ran all the way out to her mailbox, her hair already combed and sprayed.
"I had one of my dreams," she said, all breathless and excited.
"What's that?" I asked, trying to pull my robe together to keep out the chill and Maude's unwanted comments about still being in my pajamas.
"My dreams," she said, walking across the street to meet me. "I had a water dream and you were in it." She looked at me, and I knew she was thinking I stayed in the bed much too long. "It's about you. Your water was troubled."
Now most people consider Maude slightly irregular. She lets homeless people stay in her house. She wanted to invite a psychic woman who read tarot cards to speak to the women's circle at her church. She has seven cats, all yellow and white. And she claims she can predict disorder and upcoming unlikely events based upon dreams she has that consist of bodies of water. I don't know how she knows where the chaos will be or who it will affect, something about seeing the stirred water at a particular identifying location. Regardless of her process of interpretation, she never hesitates to announce what it is she believes is coming in your direction.
"It was green and brown. Definitely troubled," she added with a dramatic touch.
I rolled my eyes and bent down to pick up the paper. "Good morning, Maude."
"Are you up to date on your insurance policy?" Now she was standing right in front of me. She smelled like pine.
"You burning leaves?" I asked and glanced over in her yard.
"No." We had turned around and were walking together toward my house. I guessed she would be coming in for coffee. "It's an old remedy for sinus problems -- boiling pine straw, then sticking them in the foot of an old pair of hose and tying it onto the water faucet in the bathtub."
Maude had lots of recipes for ailments and treatments.
"You got sinus problems?"
"Always this time of year. It's the goldenrod. Mr. Thaler has it growing at the fence. I try to get him to pull it, but I think he enjoys seeing me suffer." She is short and has to walk twice as fast to keep up with me, even in the morning.
"Then maybe you need to make sure your policy is up to date." I opened the door and she walked in.
"Oh, no need to worry for me. I took out an extra policy, even with what I got from Arrow. I got coverage for everything." She went right over to the cabinet and pulled out a mug, the one with the cow in the middle, and poured herself a cup of coffee. She had worked at the local rubber factory most of her life.
"You got any milk?"
I pointed over to the refrigerator with my chin and poured myself a cup and sat down at the table.
"You know, you really should clean out these drawers down here at the bottom. You can get poison from the mold that grows on this cheese." She found the milk, checked the date on the side of the carton, and poured almost half a cup in her coffee. "Clarence Tupper had to be hospitalized because of something he ate that had been in his refrigerator too long," she added.
"Clarence Tupper was in the hospital because he weighs four hundred pounds. There ain't nothing that stays in his refrigerator too long." I unfolded the paper and began poring over the news.
Maude moved near the table and sat down next to me.
"I'm serious, Jean," she said, and she pulled the paper away from my face. "Something grave is about to happen."
I glared at her, then snapped the paper back so that I could finish reading the front-page headlines and the temperature and weather forecast in the top right corner.
"Cold front's moving across the Piedmont." I thought I could change the subject. "You already brought your porch plants in?"
"Did that three weeks ago when the first frost came. Cats eat the leaves off my geraniums every year; they'd probably last longer outside."
I took a sip and kept reading. There had been a fire in an apartment on the other side of town.
"Maybe it's O.T."
I heard a chair being pulled out across from me, but I didn't move the paper to see exactly where she was sitting.
"He has been in there a long time."
I still didn't say anything.
"Jean Witherspoon, are you listening to me?"
I dropped the paper and sighed. "Yes, Maude, I am listening to you. You had a water dream and it's about me and you think O.T. could be dying."
"Well?" She wrapped the coffee mug with both hands and bowed her head while she kept her eyes on me.Continues...
Excerpted from The Last Odd Day by Hinton, J. Lynne Excerpted by permission.
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