Dancing to the Silence

About the book

Macy can’t change the past. Does she have the courage to change the future?

A heart-wrenching incident on her sixtieth birthday stuns Macy Eldridge into realizing life has passed he by.  She can hide out in her comfort zone where she feels safe or she can put on her big girl boots and find out why the love of her life betrayed her. And decide what to do about it. 

Read the first chapter

Chapter 1 - Mr. Pib
Florence, Oregon - May 28, 1997

Macy Eldridge knew something was terribly wrong even before she opened her eyes and saw Mr. Pib stone cold dead on the pillow beside her.

She had been aroused from a deep sleep by a sense of cold foreboding that crawled over her skin a snail leaving a slime trail of uncertainty and dread. Whatever the trouble was, Macy didn’t want to know. What she really wanted was to pull the Pendleton blankets over her head, sleep another hour, and hope that when she awakened again this awful feeling of dread and whatever was causing it, would be gone.   

Not a chance. The peculiar feeling kept niggling at her, so she lay very still with heart hammering and every muscle tensed, listening… for what?

Fear curled a little tighter around her heart. Lori Kay? Julie Anne? Chad? Grandkids? No. No phone calls.

Surely it couldn’t be the fact that it was her sixtieth birthday and she would spend it alone. That was nothing new. She had spent it alone even when sitting across the table from David watching him read the morning paper with the date right there, in black and white, at the top of the page.

Leave David alone. Remember what he did for you.

He never let me forget.

Stop the drama. It’s probably nothing.

Okay. Probably.

What was she doing… not only talking to herself, but answering, too? Bad habit, one she needed to break… but then, why should she? Who would care?

Oh, for crying out loud, Macy, stop the pity party and get on with it.

She inhaled deeply and slowly opened her eyes to see Mr. Pib’s green eyes frozen open in a blank stare.  The breath hissed out of Macy’s chest like air out of a fat balloon and her heart withered into a hard little fist, barely beating. She curled onto her side facing him, lay her palm on the side of his head, and let the flash flood of tears sweep away all thoughts except that Mr. Pib was gone.

Finally, she wiped her eyes and her drippy nose on her pajama sleeve. It’s just a damn cat, she told herself and burst into tears again.

But he wasn’t just a cat. Mr. Pib—short for Pain in the Butt—first let Macy touch him thirteen years ago, on a sunny May day when the wild rhododendrons were in riotous bloom. 

They were still living in the big house south of town with a view of Woahink Lake when Macy first saw the scrawny grey-striped tabby. He wasn’t much of a cat when he crawled from under the back deck. His fur was patchy, half an ear was missing and a yellowish pus filmed over one eye. Macy couldn’t tell how old he was for sure, but he was definitely feral.

Seduced by a three-month daily supply of premium cat food and treats, Mr Pib finally let Macy pet him. Then, a few days later, he rubbed against Macy’s leg and didn’t fuss when she picked him up. It was the day David was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and it was as if Mr. Pib knew Macy would need a friend.

The cat had been her constant companion ever since, a source of comfort during those long years of David’s decline. First, Parkinson’s, then a diagnosis of dementia, then congestive heart failure, and in the last year, colon cancer. It had taken David a long time to die.

But Mr. Pib was gone in an instant, without warning. Of course, he was old and he had been slowing down for quite some time, but somehow, his death was a shock. Macy wiped her eyes again as a nasty little thought sneaked out and sucker punched her right where it would do the most damage. You didn’t cry this much when David died.

No, she hadn’t. But then, zombies don’t cry. All the long years of David’s dying had, day by day, shriveled her humanity until, at the end, she was an empty shell of self-control and sheer will, doing what had to be done. 

Otherwise, she would have been sucked under the surface of his suffering, herself drowning in his slow death. So his death was a relief. That is what she tells no one.

Macy took a deep breath, threw back the covers and jumped out of bed, slipping her feet into a pair of fur-lined slippers.  She went to the bathroom, then dressed in jeans, a plaid flannel shirt and a pair of rain boots. She took Mr. Pib’s favorite blanket off the end of the sofa, carried it into the bedroom and carefully wrapped him in it.

The rain had settled into a light drizzle when Macy took a shovel from the storage shed and began digging a hole at the far end of the backyard. Was a backyard cat burial against association rules? She didn’t know, but her yard was totally shielded by a mandatory natural greenbelt between the lots. Although her neighbors were only a few feet away, the screen of wild rhododendrons, huckleberries, azaleas, wax myrtle and other foliage was so effective she could only see the neighbor across the street from her front window, so who would know about the cat grave? Nobody but her.

The sandy soil was wet and heavy. Macy was perspiring under her rain jacket by the time she judged the hole to be the right size. She found a red metal tool box in the shed, dumped the tools on a work table and carried the container into the house. After padding the bottom with a towel, she gently lay Mr. Pib inside, covering his blanket-wrapped body with another small towel. Macy carefully put the tool box in a large black plastic garbage bag, wrapped it snugly, then repeated it again with another garbage bag. The little metal coffin was as waterproof as she could make it.

Macy put the makeshift coffin into the hole, shoveled the sand back in and tamped it down. In a day or two she would visit Woodsman’s Native Nursery and buy a rhododendron to plant on his grave. Yellow for all the happiness he had given her.

She sat on the wet ground and lay her palm on the small mound of sand. How could she leave him there, in that damp, dark hole, alone? Goodbye, cat, my good friend. Goodbye, Mr. Pib. Macy’s eyes stung from crying, and her throbbing nose delivered a dull drum-beat headache to the middle of her forehead. The rain dripped off her hat and ran down her jacket, pooling in a small lake under her bottom. Still she didn’t move until her legs cramped into pretzels under her. Bracing herself with the shovel, Macy stood and stamped her feet several times before trudging slowly back into the house.

After hanging her dripping rain coat and hat on a hook by the door, Macy turned up the heat in the pellet stove in the corner. Standing in its warmth, she quickly stripped down and changed into a pair of old sweats and her slippers. Warm and dry, and fortified with a cup of coffee, she dropped heavily into a chair at the small table in front of the bay window. She gazed out at the asphalt street, glistening in the rain, dark and empty. Just like her.

Even while still lying in bed earlier, the crushing pain of losing Mr. Pib almost squeezing the life out of her, Macy had known as surely as she knew her name that trouble was not through with her this day. Her hand trembled as she lifted the cup and took a sip of coffee, willing the hot liquid to warm her insides and push away the foreboding she still felt.

Maybe it was because all her life, her time and energy had been consumed doing what had to be done, but now there was nothing and no one that absolutely demanded her care or attention. Had that sudden vacancy of responsibility busted the secure padlock deep inside, opening the door to the shadowy chasm where she had locked away all the pain and hurt so many years ago?

Macy thought she had taken care of that business for good way back then, putting it away from her heart and mind so she could live out her life in relative peace. But now the cage door was rattling and she could hear the old fear and hurt calling her name.

 

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