It was because of the coffee pots.
That was why Sarah had hung up on her to call the ambulance.
Helen had gotten up at 6:30 like always, still dark out, a little bright grey already showing on the late January horizon, had gone into to the kitchen to start the coffee.
The house creaked in the cold, but in a familiar way: it was quiet enough on her road that she could sometimes hear the dry hiss of the snow whispering against the vinyl siding when it was windy. It was pretty flat ground out there, the wind always rushing through, she thought, like it had someplace important it had to be.
The coffee pot she used every day was a silver-coloured percolator, a steady, slow machine that burped its way along until the coffee was ready. Helen took the lid off, emptied the filter basket, got ready to fill the pot with water. Then she drew a blank: couldn’t quite see where anything was supposed to go. She took all the pieces apart, even unscrewing the glass bubble from the lid.
She looked at all the pieces, tried to remember how they fit together
Then she got out the automatic coffee maker from under the sink, a Christmas present that made much weaker coffee. But at least it made coffee. That pot didn’t make sense either. The filter basket, the lid, the filters, the carafe. She lined it all up next to the disassembled percolator.
Then she walked across the kitchen to the phone to call her youngest daughter.
“Sarah, you’ve got to help me. I’ve got to get the coffee made. Tom will be up soon.”
“What? Dad? Mom, are you all right?”
“I’m just tired.” Helen felt heavy, leaned back against the wall.
“I’m calling the ambulance.”
“No. I just want …”
“Mom, are you OK? I’m calling right now.”
Helen didn’t answer. She hoped that one side of her face wasn’t hanging down slack, drool running out of one corner of her mouth. She’d seen that before, visiting relatives.
I haven’t looked in the mirror, she thought. They’re coming and I haven’t even run a brush through my hair. She wanted to shout out to Tom, to wake him up before they got there. But she was suddenly so tired.
She heard the siren on and off, the sound breaking up in the gusty wind.
She hoped they wouldn’t break the door or anything.