Patricia let out a light cough as she heaved up the trio of steps, carefully balancing the heavy dish.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Edwards.”
In his oaken rocking chair, Mr. Edwards bent his wrinkled neck in a stoic greeting. His balding head glistened like the dark frames that sat upon his sharp nose. His hands stayed firmly layered on the top of his dark and gnarled cane.
Laying at his side, Barclay lifted his head with protective curiosity. The retriever’s fading golden fur shone in the rays of warm sunlight that filtered onto the brick and planked porch. His wet nose flared. Patricia was sure he could smell her floral perfume as well as the savory aroma from the plate in her hands.
With a smile for the dog, she leaned against one of the plaster columns that held up the sloping roof and took a moment to catch her breath. She pushed aside the creaking pain in her swollen knees.
“I just wanted to bring over some cookies. Fresh out of the oven and still warm!” Patricia smiled at the withered face while the older man’s gaze remained steadily forward.
“I don’t like sweets,” said Mr. Edwards stiffly.
“Oh,” her face fell but she quickly shook off the disappointment. “Perhaps you might like these, then.”
She set the plate down on the small table next to his chair.
Barclay gave her a sniff and then gave one to the layered plate. His bushy tail wagged slowly, thudding against the porch floor.
“They’re not too sweet. Full of oatmeal and raisins.”
Mr. Edwards hand slipped off his cane top and gave the dog a brief rub on his raised head. Barclay’s nose brushed against the leathery palm before dropping down to his paws once more.
Patricia gave the dog’s large watchful brown eyes another smile as she stepped back towards her post at the porch steps.
“Didn’t you hear?” Mr. Edwards wrinkles deepened with a firm frown. “I don’t like sweets.”
“Perhaps Liza would like them.”
“She doesn’t have treats between meals.”
“No, of course not.” Patricia rested against the siding and folded her hands in her ample lap. “She’s does have a sweet tooth though, just like me.”
“You’re not like her.”
“Well, no.” Patricia had to agree with him on that point. The other woman had 30 fewer pounds, ten years and two children on her. “She’s your daughter and there’s nothing like family.”
Mr. Edwards nodded.
“It so nice that you were able to come stay with her.”
“Of course it is,” said Mr. Edwards gruffly.
“Do you know if the boys will be able to come down for the holiday?”
“She didn’t say.”
“Oh, well I hope so.” Patricia plopped herself more firmly on the porch railing and gazed out at the small stretch of manicured lawn that ended in a trim line at the concrete. “I remember those boys romping around the neighborhood. Feels like yesterday. Steven would always be on his bike and Jason would be drawing like mad on the sidewalk with those giant pieces of colored chalk.” She shook her head at the memories. “And then they were heading off on dates and then graduating and then off to college.” A broad smile spread between Patricia’s plump cheeks. “Time certainly flies.” She turned back to the stern figure with the same glowing grin. “And they always loved my cookies.”
“You won’t go unless I try one?” Mr. Edwards grumbled.
“That’s not true.” Patricia slipped off the railing and back onto her feet. “I should get back, but maybe…maybe you could just give them a chance.”
Mr. Edwards con-caved chest heaved in a heavy, resigned sigh. One of his gnarled hands reached over to the plate, tapping carefully until he found the tower of decadent mounds. His fingers arched around his lumpy choice and he brought it slowly up to his nose.
His wide nostrils gave a hearty sniff. He grunted, but Patricia couldn’t tell if it was a positive or negative evaluation. She held her breath as he took a small bite. He seemed to chew forever, but Patricia always preferred making them chewy than crispy. Liza’s boys liked them better that way.
She could see the morsel finally drop down Mr. Edwards lean throat. His mouth smacked over the crumbs that lingered on his tongue.
“Liza told me her boys liked to dunk them,” said Patricia. “I happen to like them with tea.”
He nodded and took another small nibble. Barclay’s tail flopped lethargically once more.
“Speaking of which, I might have left my pot on the stove.” Patricia glanced worriedly at her lacy curtains in her kitchen window across the tiny gap between the two houses. When she glanced back to Mr. Edwards, the cookie had vanished.
“You could bring more tomorrow. Liza would like that.”
Patricia beamed, the potential of a whistling teapot completely ignored. “Oatmeal and raisin?”
“Do you make any with walnuts? Liza likes walnuts”
“I’m sure I can!” Patricia glanced back towards the kitchen and remembered the teapot. “I best get back though.”
Mr. Edwards nodded again.
“See you tomorrow Mr. Edwards.” Patricia took the first of the porch stairs, her hand resting on the column for balance on her rickety knees.
“Don’t forget,” said Mr. Edwards sternly. “I’ll be telling Liza to expect them.”
“Good,” Mr. Edwards gave her a dismissive nod. His fingers that were curved around the head of his cane waved her off while his other hand went searching for another cookie.
Patricia turned with a smile and girlish flutter. Trundling back to her front door she scurried inside where the teapot whistled. She tossed it off the burner and started opening her flour and sauce stained cookbooks. Somewhere inside the perfect recipe for Mr. Edwards lay hidden.