toddy time

It’s just after five and the clouds are beginning to peel back. Low and golden, the sun skates across the icy sidewalk, which has begun melting into a river of muddy slush. Three houses down, as I ring the bell, Rudy poops in the driveway, the pieces of which I pick up with a blue plastic New York Times bag. Woody answers the door.

“You want to go for a walk, Woody?”
“Nah, I just got back.”
“About time for a toddy?”
“Already got one.”
“I’m jealous.”
“Want me to make you one?”
“Okay. Sure. Why not?”

I wipe my feet and step inside as Rudy squeezes past. One cat flees while the other finishes her dinner seeming not to mind Rudy. Inside, the house is warm, filtered sunlight fanning in through the kitchen windows.

“What would you like me to make you?”
“What are you having, a Manhattan?”
“Yeah, want one?”
“Got any bourbon?”
“I got whiskey.”
“I’ve never tried that. Sure. On the rocks.”

Woody tosses a few ice cubes into a blueish glass and measures out a shot of Canadian whiskey. I jokingly say he needn't use the shot glass, just fill it up. I know he thinks I'm silly. I'm glad. We retreat into the den and sit in front of the gas stove. I ask him about the room and he tells me it used to be a shed of sorts that was made into his grandmother’s summer kitchen, that in hot weather two large windows opened out onto the garden.

As Rudy pants in front of the stove we while away the time talking about Calvin and cannabis. We talk about Michael and photography and how Woody used to take pictures, ones of sunsets, inlets and fall foliage which hang amongst photos of his handsome family. We talk about his cats while one looks on from under a chair in the next room. We talk about his split pea soup, of the salmon I’ll be making for dinner and of the storm that’s moving in. Although I've learned a lot about Woody since his wife passed three years ago, I don't ask about Korea. I don't ask about his son. I don't ask if he is lonely. Maybe I should.

We drink our last sips bemoaning the season—the snow, the ice, the boredom, the cabin fever, the sub-zero temps and the fact that the long winter makes for a short spring and summer. I glance back over my shoulder and see our boat covered in blue tarp. Woody let us store it in his back yard over the winter, and I wonder when the warmer weather will come.

I put my gear back on, say thank you and goodbye, throw in a joke, then tell him that I'll see him tomorrow. I trudge home through the mud, Rudy ambling along by my side, the sun having sunk below the trees, my belly warm, my mood mellow, and the sky removed of clouds.

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