I haven't done any Freaky Friday tales lately because as far as I know, I'm out of them. If you sent me one and I never published it, tell me in an email and I will look for it. Do you have any idea how many emails I get a day? They get lost, man. Lost. I guess I could make folders.
But I digress. I digress into folders, which is always riveting. So let me stop digressing and take you to Faithful Reader and Sender of Dog Flowers Peter's Freaky Friday story. You ready?
PETER'S FREAKY FRIDAY STORY
The first thing you need to know is that this story is true. I heard it first from my father many years ago at the dinner table. He was relating a tale he had been told by one of his closest family friends, a staunch Catholic who managed a large department store in the nearest city. But this was during the late 1960s. I was in my teens, jaded by the Vietnam War and questioning authority. I didn’t believe it, so I spoke to one of the participants, the man’s son. We had been friends since boyhood, and I have never known him to lie. Even now, when we get together and reminisce, I ask him if this possibly could have happened. He nods his head and says, “Yes, it did. But don’t ask me to explain it.”
It was a summer in New England. The Beach Boys were filling the air on AM radio with their surfing tunes. On the highways, everyone wanted to be behind the wheel of a Mustang. The Red Sox had yet to find their Impossible Dream season, but Curt Gowdy could still make the games interesting from his radio perch at Fenway Park.
My friend and his twin brother were in their mid-teens. They earned spending money from cutting lawns and doing odd chores for neighbors. As it happened, at the beginning of the summer an elderly woman moved into the house across the street. The lawn surrounding her house had not been cut in some time, so the boys’ mother suggested they go across the street and offer to cut it. They did, and the elderly woman was only too happy to agree. When they had finished, drenched in sweat and covered with grass clippings, she asked what she owed them.
“Nothing,” they said.
Though she insisted, they refused to be paid. She had no choice but to simply express her deepest thanks. Standing on her front porch, she watched them push the lawn mower back across the street, and a smile filled her aged face.
As the summer progressed, they returned each week to cut the woman’s lawn. There were other jobs to be done around her house, and they tackled those with the same spirit. But they continued to refuse any payment for their work. They told her that they were happy to help a neighbor, and they wouldn’t think of accepting money for doing so.
One Thursday morning, towards summer’s end, their father was walking the aisles of the department store. It was still a couple of hours before noon, and the store was not particularly crowded. He saw his elderly neighbor approaching him from the opposite end of the aisle, and they met somewhere in the middle. She was wearing a yellow rain slicker, which struck him as odd because there was no rain in the forecast. “Good morning,” he said in greeting.
She smiled. “I just wanted to come down to thank you and tell you how much I appreciate everything your boys have done for me,” she said in reply. “They could not have been nicer.”
“Thank you,” he said. “They’ve been happy to help. But you certainly didn’t have to come all the way in here to tell me that. Is there anything I can assist you with in the store?” he asked.
“No,” she answered. “I just wanted to make sure I had a chance to tell you how I felt.” And she turned and walked away.
He didn’t give their meeting another thought. On Saturday morning, he saw the woman’s son, a man he knew, entering her house and removing some of her items. He crossed the street and asked if she was all right.
“Oh,” the son replied. “You haven’t heard. She passed away on Thursday morning.”
“That’s impossible,” he replied. “She came into the department store on Thursday morning. I spoke to her. She seemed fine.”
The son shook his head. “You must have your days confused. She wasn’t feeling well that morning. My wife and I came over about 8 o’clock to take her to the hospital. She died around ten.”
“That’s just about when I saw her. She was in the store wearing a yellow rain slicker.”
The son took a step backward and stood there for a moment, unable to speak. “When we got to the house that morning,” he began, “my mother said she was cold. We were in a rush and couldn’t find her a sweater, so we put her in that rain slicker. She was wearing it when she died.