Johnson sat on the sofa in her cozy little room at the Haven of Rest Homeless Shelter in New York City. She smiled as she
put her feet up on the coffee table. How many times she had told Patrick to get his feet off the table. It was, she reasoned,
all right for her to put her feet up there if she wanted to. After all, it was her
come a long way, baby,” she said aloud, just as she heard a knock on the door. She glanced at her watch. It was a good
ten minutes before she expected Anne Douglas to show up with her morning mail. It didn’t matter if she had any mail
or not, Anne’s visits to have coffee with her had become a daily ritual.
in,” Grace called out to her visitor.
had warned her about that countless times. “There’s a reason for that little peek hole in your door,” he
told her. “You can’t just invite anybody in. You never know who it might be.”
right,” Grace had teased him in return. “It might be some old fellow pretending to be a policeman or something.”
laughed as she thought back to the time she had first gotten acquainted with Patrick O’Mally, retired cop extraordinaire,
at Central Park. If it hadn’t been for his escorting her home every day and her nosy neighbor
reporting the fact that she was obviously getting so confused that a cop had to get her back to her apartment to her daughter,
Missy, she would not be where she was now—living in a homeless shelter and happier than she’d ever been in her
Douglas, the wife of Philip Douglas, director of the homeless shelter, came in, waving a letter in the air.
know I’m early,” she said, “but I was so excited.”
is it?” Grace asked. “Did I win the Publishers’ Clearing House?”
than that,” Anne said, holding the letter where Grace couldn’t reach it.
on,” Grace said. “You’re as bad as Patrick when it comes to teasing me.”
know people don’t tease somebody unless they like them.”
people must really, really, really, really like me, because they really, really, really, really tease me.”
laughed and handed the letter to Grace. She looked at the return address. It was from Mai-Ling, a young Cambodian woman who
had spent time at the Haven of Rest. Grace had taken her under her wings and taught her English.
the first we’ve heard from her since she left,” Anne said. “You know, it’s funny. Some of the people
here come and go so fast we hardly get to know their names. Others, like Walter—may he rest in peace—and Mai-Ling
become almost like our children.”
know,” Grace agreed. “I miss them too.”
turned to look at Anne. They had gotten off on the wrong foot when Grace first arrived at the shelter. It was hard to believe
how close they had become as time wore on. A tear trickled down Anne’s cheek.
went over and put her arm around her. Anne was such a professional woman, having been a lawyer before she married Philip and
became involved in the shelter.
will be okay,” Grace said reassuringly. “I’m sure she’s fine.” Grace tore the envelope open.
Two airline tickets fell out of the envelope and onto the floor. Grace hurried to retrieve them.
are to Green Bay, Wisconsin,” Grace said. “Wonder
what that’s all about? Think she’s sending us to a Packers’ football game?”
this time of year,” Anne said, drying her eyes. “Football season is long since past.”
studied the tickets, looking for the date.
for next week,” she said, shaking her head, puzzled.
for crying out loud,” Anne said, “read the letter and you’ll probably find out!”
began to read the letter out loud.
I hope you
are well, and Mr. Patrick too. I will be hoping to see you soon. I entered a contest for a free week at a bed and breakfast place in Marinette. That
is across the river from Menominee. I think one is in Wisconsin
and one in Michigan, but I can’t
remember which one is where.
There is tickets
in here for you to fly to Green Bay. I know that one is in
because they Pack ‘er in, they say. I think I can find somebody to
come and get you, or maybe you can rent a car to drive up here. If you can afford
If you can’t, I’ll try to find some money to sent you.
wait to see you. I’ll tell you all about my life here when you get
how fun!” Anne exclaimed. “You have to call Patrick and tell him right away.”
seemed way too calm for such a trip when she said, “He will be here before long. I will tell him then.”
wrong with you?” Anne asked.
Grace said, grinning broadly.
Anne asked, getting more exasperated by the second.
just laughing at Mai-Ling’s English. Remember when she first came? She could hardly speak any English at all. Now she
could even write a letter. And she only made a couple of mistakes.”
mistakes?” Anne asked.
wrote ‘sent’ instead of ‘send’ and ‘there is tickets’ instead of ‘there are tickets.”
what?” Anne asked. “You are going to—where is it?”
Grace said. “I will have to look at a map to see if it’s in Michigan
or Wisconsin.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I guess it doesn’t
really matter. I’ve never been to either state.” She laughed again. “Seems like most of the time these days
I’m living in the state of Confusion.”
she could explain what she meant, Patrick came in. As usual, he didn’t bother to knock.
of good it does me to try to do what you say,” Grace quipped.
Patrick asked. “Did I miss something?”
You always tell me not to open the door to strangers.”
went over and gave Gracie a tender kiss on the cheek. “I’m not exactly a stranger,” he said, winking at
than most people I’ve ever known,” Grace joked. They all laughed as Patrick poured a cup of coffee and raised
the side of the little drop leaf table so there was room for him to join the two women.
for a new adventure?” Grace asked.
handed the letter and the tickets to Patrick. He smiled as he read it.
do we leave?” he asked Grace. “You’d better start packing today. I know how you are with that.”
do you mean?” Grace asked as she slugged Patrick on the arm playfully. “I am known for my packing ability.”
know,” Patrick said. “That’s what I mean. You can get what most people would need six suitcases for into
one overnight bag. You end up with way more stuff than you need. Just remember, the airlines go by weight now, not just the
number of bags you have.”
just wrong,” Grace said. “I can put it up on the shelf above our heads and it wouldn’t be in anybody’s
watched the senior duo exchange barbs. She did so enjoy them. She closed her eyes for a moment and tried to remember what
it had been like when she was defending people in a courtroom. She wouldn’t exchange that life with what she had now
for any amount of money in the world. Especially since Philip went with the deal.
least it sounds like it will be a real vacation for you,” Anne said when she came back to the moment. “You sure
deserve it. You’ve gotten yourselves mixed up in so many things, trying to figure out how to help solve people’s
problems, it seems like you might as well have stayed with the police force, Patrick.” Anne sighed, then added, “I’ve
always wanted to stay in a bed and breakfast inn. It sounds so romantic.”
she’ll have to finally give in and say ‘Yes’?” Patrick asked. “Unless you’ve already decided,”
he teased Grace. He had proposed to her more times than he could remember, and her answer was always the same. He could hear
it coming even before she repeated the words.
I’m thinking about it.”
this will be your lucky day,” Anne said.
for a whole week,” Patrick said. “Maybe that will be long enough to do the trick.”
say a prayer for you,” Anne said, winking at Patrick.
reminisced about Mai-Ling as they drank their coffee. Suddenly, Anne jumped up and headed for the door.
we said?” Grace asked.
I’ll be right back. I forgot something.”
she was gone, Patrick leaned over and gave Grace a big kiss on the lips. She blushed. James, her late husband, wasn’t
the affectionate type, and she was trying to get used to Patrick’s advances. They had talked about it, and Patrick decided
that it was because James was “a cold-blooded Swede,” and Grace always reminded him that “It wasn’t
his fault. He was born that way.”
was back in a few minutes, a box of chocolate éclairs in her hands.
had another delivery of these,” she said, tearing the plastic wrap off and setting the open box on the table. They all
grabbed for one. “Who knew that a homeless shelter would have such fare as this? When I agreed to marry Philip, I thought
I’d be eating all sorts of nasty stuff, not chocolate éclairs by the cases. Well, I don’t eat cases of them, but
they arrive by the cases. You know what I mean.”
are good,” Patrick said, reaching for a second éclair. “Beats near raw boiled eggs and turkey neck soup.”
all laughed as they remembered the things Anne had come up with to feed the residents before Grace made her way into the kitchen
and demanded to take over.
rancid butter on the toast,” Grace added.
reached into his pocket and took out his cell phone. He searched for a phone number and dialed it.
you calling?” Grace asked.
just going to check this out. You know there are so many scams these days, I want to make sure we aren’t getting into
something over our heads.”
that would be a first,” Grace said sarcastically.
this the Riverside Manor Bed and Breakfast?” Patrick asked.
name is Patrick O’Mally. My—um, my ladyfriend, Grace Johnson, got a letter in the mail this morning, saying that
she had won a week’s stay at your establishment. I just wanted to verify it. You know, there are so many crooks out
there these days that I didn’t want her to get hurt, or to end up in…”
whispered to Anne, “Once a cop, always a cop.”
that’s it. In Marinette, Wisconsin with nowhere to
go and not knowing anybody.” Patrick paused. “Beggin’ your pardon, ma’am. I didn’t mean to imply
that you were a crook.”
we, er she has a full week to stay there in July?”
ma’am. I will be accompanying her. It will be a delightful vacation for both of us.”
what Mai-Ling, a friend of ours from the Haven of Rest Homeless Shelter here in New York
said in the letter. She is living there now. I think it’s across the river or something. How do you know Mai-Ling?”
will be a delight to meet you,” Patrick said as he hit the “end” button on the phone. He leaned back in
his chair and took another éclair.
like it’s legitimate,” he said. “The woman Mai-Ling works for as a nanny, her name is Kimmy Todd, is a good
friend of Becky DeWitt, the woman who owns and runs the B & B, and that’s how Mai-Ling came to enter the contest.”
how exciting!” Anne exclaimed. “Grace, you are so lucky. I’ve never won anything in my life.”
Philip,” Grace said, winking at her friend. “I think he was your ultimate prize.”
right,” Anne said. “That trip to the cemetery had to be the luckiest day in my life.”
and Grace had heard the story several times of how Philip and Anne had met in the confessional when he was a priest, and how
they rendezvoused in the cemetery until Philip left the priesthood, started the Haven of Rest Homeless Shelter, taking Anne,
a high-price uptown lawyer with him.
looked up at the clock on the wall. “I’d better get down to the kitchen. It’s almost time to start making
lunch.” She bowed her head and said, “I sure do miss Walter.”
was a good man,” Patrick said. “At least we cleared his name back in Nebraska.
I knew he wouldn’t have committed suicide.”
have had quite a few adventures,” Grace said. “Hardly seems possible that we have only known each other a few
months. It seems like you’ve always been a part of my life.”
reached across the table and took Grace’s small fragile hand in his big powerful one. “We’ve got a lot of
life ahead of us, Gracie.”
your mouth to God’s ears,” Grace said, enjoying the feeling she got when he squeezed her hand.
stood up and said, “If you two want to stay and talk, feel free, but I’ve got a job to do.”
smiled and said, “I thought you were supposed to be retired.”
am,” Grace said. “I got tired, then I got tired again, then I got tired again, and…” She laughed.
“I can’t count how many times I’ve been re-tired.”
and Anne were still laughing as she shut the door behind her.
I’ve never had more fun in my life,” she said aloud as she headed for the stairway that went down to the kitchen,
even though nobody could hear her. Yup, life was good. And now she was going a vacation. A real vacation. She didn’t remember ever having had one in her life. She and James had never been able to
afford it, and she didn’t know where they would have gone if they had wanted to go on a vacation. “Stupid stubborn
Swede,” she mumbled as she went down the steps, hanging onto the railing to steady herself as she went. She was still
in pretty good shape, for the shape she was in, but she was finding it harder all the time to get up and down the steps.
got up to leave, and Patrick followed behind her.
hope you two can stay out of trouble while you’re gone,” she challenged him. “I know that’s asking
an awful lot, though.”
us?” Patrick asked, grinning at her.
you. If you don’t watch it, you will end up getting famous for all of your antics. They might even write a book about
you two one day. I can just see it now: ‘America’s
famous senior sleuths.’”
like that,” Patrick said. “Wonder if it would hit the New York Times
bet it would,” Anne said. “It would have to be labeled ‘fiction,’ though. Not like that James Frey
book when it was supposed to be a true story and then they found out it was all make believe.”
it Oprah that exposed that whole thing? Maybe one day Gracie and I will be on Oprah.”
do that,” Anne said.
show’s been cancelled.”
scrap that idea.”
Anne said, ending the conversation, “it was the author of the book that got on her program, not the subject of the book.”
if he claimed the book was about him, wouldn’t he be both the author and the subject?”
like a man,” Anne said. “Always have to use the logical side of their brain.”