The top shelf in the corner kitchen cabinet, the one that’s hard to reach.
A small, glitter-covered, red and yellow bird
A blank check mistakenly thrown into the trash.
A step ladder with no third step.
Emma fetched the step ladder from the garage and carried it up the half flight of stairs to the kitchen level.
“That Chester,” she said. “He’s never around when I need him. Wonder where he’s off to now.”
She set the ladder down on the kitchen floor, turned it so the legs would open parallel with the counter, then opened the legs, watching carefully so they didn’t bang the kitchen cabinets.
Once the ladder was set, Emma walked over to the door that led to the basement and opened it. “Chester?” she yelled. “Chester, are you down there?” Silence floated up the stairs and filled the kitchen, wrapping Emma in its shroud.
“Where is that man? I swear. He can disappear faster than a cat with its tail on fire. Oh, my. Now that’s terrible image. Poor cat. I wonder if that Hendricks boy set the cat’s tail on fire. Bet he did. He’s always getting into some trouble or ‘nother.”
She gave the ladder a shake to test its sturdiness, took a deep breath, and set her foot on the first step. With one hand on the ladder and the other on the kitchen counter, Emma lifted her weight off her other foot and put it on the first step, too. She had to bend a little to keep her hand on the counter when she stepped up to the second step.
The third step was the hardest. There wasn’t one. She had that on Chester’s Honey-Do list. “Replace the missing step on the stepladder.”
If he doesn’t get to it pretty soon, I’m going to buy a new ladder, she thought.
She moved a leg to kneel on the counter and brought her other leg over to do the same. Hanging onto the ladder with one hand and pushing up on the counter with the other, Emma rose to an upright, though precarious, position.
“Yes!’ she exclaimed, “Now where did I put that…. That whatchamacallit. Where are you, little whatzit?
“Em! Hello, Em?” came a voice from outside. Emma leaned down to peek out the kitchen window.
“Oh, drat. It’s that nosy woman again. Maybe I’ll just hide here beside the window and she’ll go away.”
“Em? Hello, Em… Oh, my God! Em! Don’t move! I’ll be right there. Don’t move, Em!”
“Busted,” muttered Emma. “I should just start locking my doors, ‘cept Chester would be banging on them constantly when he gets back from wherever he goes all the time. Ol’ fool would just forget to take a key.”
Madeline Stover hurried into the kitchen, tossing her bag with the glittery silk-screened red and yellow parrot print onto the kitchen table. “Em, what are you doing? Here, let me help you down.”
“Well, what does it look like I’m doing? I’m getting ready to…to…ummm…change a light bulb, that’s what I’m doing. That ol Chester is never around when I need him to do these things. Beginning to wonder what good he is anyway. Now, don’t be pulling on me like that. You’ll knock me clean off the counter and then what? Maybe break a hip? Have to go live in some old folks home where they sit around and talk about how sick they are. Compare surgery scars and the like. Not me. I’m fit as a fiddle at 67 and I intend to stay that way. Now, I know there’s a light bulb up here somewhere. Maybe in that cabinet above the refrigerator, which is a stupid place to put a cabinet, if you ask me. Nobody I know can reach that cabinet without getting out a ladder and climbing up to it. Stupid place for a cabinet.”
“Em. Please come down. I’ll get the bulb for you. Here, take my hand and come over to the ladder. Now, OH MY GOD! There’s a step missing! How did you..? Oh, never mind. Just sit down and I’ll help you slide off the counter. Come on, now, Em. Em? Come on, please. I’ll have to call the Fire Department otherwise. That means Adult Protective Services will get involved again, and I know you don’t like that.”
“I’m not going anywhere. I am going to check that cabinet for a bug strip.”
“Bug strip? I thought you were after a light bulb?”
“What do I need a light bulb for, missy? No light burned out here. No, sir. Chester keeps after that, you can be sure. And just who are you anyway?”
“Hello, Betty? This is Madeline Stover with Good’s In-Home Care. I think it’s time we set up a care coordination meeting for Emma McFarleigh. I came over today for my daily visit and she was up on the kitchen countertop looking for something. I had to call the fire department to get her down. What’s that? No, she’s 93 but still thinks she 67. And she continues to believe her late husband is alive. He died 15 years ago.
“Yes, the Aricept helped for a while, but she’s experiencing a swift decline now. Its getting dangerous for her to live alone now. She has matches and lighters all over the house. Plus, she’s been signing blank checks and leaving them everywhere. I found one in the kitchen trash can, several in the mail box at the curb, a few in the garage, and two more sticking out from under a potted plant on the front porch. Oh, and another in the bird feeder.
“Okay, tomorrow at 2. I’ll see you there. I’ve called for a sitter from Good’s In-Home to stay with her tonight. Fine. Okay, tomorrow, then.”
Oh, dear. I’m thinking you’re remembering things from the past. Its funny and sad at the same time.
This piece actually made me cry, it was so sweet and cranky and real to that dreaded disease. My Father died from Alzheimer’s and he had moments of such sweetness followed by cruel anger. It was so very hard on my Mother especially as she was his caregiver. I pray they find a cure soon, Aricept does help a bit…but it is a long way from being very effective. Bless you for writing this heartfelt piece.
I agree with Linda/Parrot. Emma’s such an endearing character. It’s sad when you realize her situation. Nicely written.
Amazing! It has been a while since I read these ‘Shutter Island’ kind of endings – you expect something and truth is something else.
great story sad but oh os true in every way. Loved the whole idear. good read ans great wrlite.
Sounds like real life to me! It’s rather amazing that those four galumphing items suggested an aging female to you. Was your muse hiding in an upper kitchen cabinet when you were cleaning the other day?
Bella licked her paw and feigned indifference to the goings on in the kitchen. Her person was spring cleaning, and not paying the least bit of attention to the pink and white ceramic food dish that sat on the floor empty.
“Meow, now,” she tried again.
Her person turned, balancing on the top of a step ladder with no third step. She was cleaning out the top shelf of the corner kitchen cabinet, the one that was hard to reach.
“Just a minute, Bella. Can’t you see I’m busy? I don’t want to fall off this worthless piece of.. . Oh, never mind, here I come.”
After her person filled the food dish, she opened the cabinet under the sink to toss the empty can into the garbage.
“Oh no, did I do that again?” she said pulling out a piece of paper from the garbage, whacking her head with the heel of her hand.
Bella looked up, licking the remnants of tuna treat off her whiskers. That’s the second time this month she’s mistakenly thrown a blank check into the trash. No skin off my nose as long as she keeps a roof over my head and the cat food coming.
She moved to the family room to complete her post-postprandial bath, just far enough away for privacy, but close enough to keep an eye on her person. She was tottering on that step ladder again, reaching into the depths of the top cabinet.
Out of the corner of her kitty eye she saw her person produce a small glitter-covered red and yellow bird.
“Oh, look at this, Bella. It was my Aunt Beth’s,” she said stepping down and missing the third step, tumbling to the floor.
The red and yellow bird flew across the room landing several feet away.
This is more like it, thought Bella assuming the pounce position. Now you have my attention.
Once again, I have done something to my blog site so it doesn’t automatically link from my name above. It should direct you to
I’ll keep looking to see what I need to do to fix it. Sigh..
Great cat story. I love your clever way of working in the “missing third step”. Fun read and love the ending.
From the point of view of the cat! Very creative idea. I’m a great fan of cats assuming the pound position. Suspense plus!
It came around every March as sure as basketball and leprechauns, the Annual Grissom Community School System Science Fair, and this year Emily Festerbaum had her best chance ever of winning the Grand prize. Two years prior, Emily had received Honorable Mention for her invention of an office chair attached to a Flexible Flyer Snow Sled called the “Execu-Buster,” for the Boss who likes to sit on his butt and slide by. Last year, Emily won Third Place for her “Save A Hippie” Airbag Underwear that deploy during a potential hip breaking fall. She would have garnered First Place had her Grandmother, who was modeling the skivvies for the fair, not rapidly taken a seat causing the underwear to deploy thus throwing Granny clear across the Gym.
This year, Emily was confident of the win. She had invented the equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife, but this was for the Powder Room. Emily’s father, Basil Festerbaum was rotund, boisterous and devoid of social graces. Every morning, he would occupy the one bathroom in the family home for the better part of an hour. When he would finally emerge, the room reeked like bilge water left in the bottom of a fishing boat over a sultry summer. Mrs. Festerbaum tried continually to find a remedy for the aftermath of Basil’s daily constitutional, but to no avail.
One day, while Emily was helping her Mother do Spring-cleaning, she found a small, glitter covered, red and yellow ceramic bird. The bird had long ago been forgotten in the hard-to-reach cabinet above the refrigerator. Emily grasped the bird and started down the rickety stepladder, which had the third step missing. She lost her footing and dropped the ceramic figure, but it didn’t break. Instead, the little bird landed, straddling the top of a canister of Pledge Furniture Polish, causing some of the spray polish to come out of the bird’s beak. At that exact moment Emily had her vision of her Science Fair Project…”The Galumphomatic.”
After months and months of prototypes and testing, Emily had finally perfected the first ever “Galumphomatic.” … A small bird shaped appliance that sat on the back of a toilet. When the flush lever was engaged, Galumphomatic would dispense a laser beam to vaporize any solid material, which might still be in the bowl, while simultaneously spraying a powerful, but pleasant smelling, air freshener. Emily’s invention even had a Rotor Rooter attachment that would unclog any stubborn drain and an antibacterial hand sanitizer dispenser.
Emily and her Galumphomatic did win First place at the Science Fair. Emily got an offer from Popiel, makers of the salad spinner and the Rhinestone and Stud Setter, to manufacture the Galumphomatic. Popiel paid Emily $10,000.00 for her invention and a lifetime supply of Popiel products, including a Pocket Fisherman, which Emily gave to her Dad for being a “WORLD CLASS GALUMPHER” and the inspiration of her prize winning idea.
I never expected potty humor on Ann’s site. Well done. Thank goodness you’ve turned your addiction to writing. It’s wonderful to have you here.
Great imagination and funny as most of your other entries.
You are guilty of making me laugh five times as I read this. I guess I am a sucker for your humor. Loved the Execu-Buster. I’m trying to remember when galumphing got associated with bathrooms. Do you remember? Anyway, like I’ve always said, you are a constant surprise. Always a pleasure, Peanut.
Ann, someone in our BWW class (it might have been Shaddy), commented that “galumphing” sounded like something you do in the bathroom.
As for my muse, I really never know where I’ll find her hiding. She usually hides out when the housework starts. so I’m not sure about that kitchen cabinet.
Peanut: Outstanding imagination there. May you and Popiel have a long and fruitful relationship.
Linda: You’ve captured a cat perfectly.
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by Ann Linquist
Available in paperback or on Kindle