She sat in the chair, a cigarette, and bourbon, he thought, in one hand and the phone in the other. She was immersed in a conversation with her aunt. She didn’t hear him come in. After the full effect of her appearance lambasted him he was immobilized. It took a few seconds for her condition to register. “Marion.” When she looked up, he took the receiver out of her hand and hung it up. He saw nothing but skin against the kitchen chair. His parallel mind questioned the comfort of lolling bare-ass naked against the hard spindle back. “Marion, what are you doing?” “Really Henry, what am I doing? What are you doing? You just hung up on Aunt Elizabeth. We were having a conversation. What makes you so goddamned rude?” She got up and wobbled around the room. There was no other way to describe it; she wobbled, oblivious to her contest with gravity and balance. “Marion, where are your clothes?” “I don’t know and frankly, I don’t care. Why do you have to ask so many questions?” Something was alarmingly wrong.
It hadn’t been more than a few years since she’d taken the fall that put her in a coma. He called the ambulance. Marion did not behave the way she was behaving. He was afraid. He threw a sheet from the linen closet over her shoulders while he waited for the ambulance to arrive. She protested. He insisted that she sit down. His parallel mind begged the ambulance to hurry.
She wasn’t herself. His 70 year old wife of 50 years did not drink and smoke cigarettes, naked, in the middle of the afternoon. She’d never smoked in front of him. He knew she was a closet smoker. It was an unspoken truth. For years they’d had a pact. She had one drink and a cigarette before he came home from the office. They each had a drink or two while she prepared dinner and he organized the plans he’d brought from the firm. He didn’t add to the drawings. He reviewed them and made notes for changes. It took months to design the homes his clients wanted. It was an exercise in adaptability as much as a challenge to his ability.