FOLLOW THE SUN
Birdsong and bright sunshine greeted Mona as she opened her eyes. Turning her head without lifting it from her pillow, she focused her sight on her alarm clock and noted the time – just past seven thirty. Stretching her legs beneath the floral quilt seemed to get her blood flowing again while she luxuriated in the fact that there was no hurry for her to rise even though a beautiful morning beckoned through her window. No longer did she need to rise at five-thirty in order to be at her work station by seven forty-five; no more waiting in the drive up of a fast-food restaurant for a calorie-laden on-the-go breakfast; no more weaving in and out of lines of commuter traffic; and no more cutting off co-workers in the parking lot to get a spot near the door. A smile tugged at the corners of Mona’s mouth as she raised her hands in the air.
“Yippee! I’m free!” she exclaimed at the top of her voice, causing Pete, her Venezuelan parrot, to loudly ruffle his feather in his towel covered cage.
Mona flung back the quilt, swung her legs over the side of her queen-sized bed, and tucked her recently pedicured toes into a pair of well-worn scuff-style slippers. She caught her reflection in the full length mirror as she made her way to the bathroom. Speaking to her reflection she said, “You’re retired, old girl.”
A short while later, dressed in a comfortable pair of jeans and a softly worn, button-down blouse, she chatted with Pete as she made a big fuss over the bird. After he had eaten a bit he noticed that Mona had left his cage door open, a sign that he could come out and visit with her when he was finished.
Mona picked up the television remote from the kitchen counter, aimed it and clicked the power button to turn on the set. Two seconds later she was listening to the anchors of Good Morning America as she poured herself a large glass of orange juice; a few seconds more and the toaster ejected two slices of bread that she proceeded to cover with butter. She vaguely toyed with the idea of preparing an omelet but at the moment that seemed too involved. Tomorrow, perhaps.
After vegging-out in her recliner for about an hour, she turned off the television and popped a handful of music CDs into the stereo. Now to tackle the work she had assigned herself – cleaning her condo from corner to corner.
Like a soldier preparing for battle Mona assembled her weapons: mop, bucket, broom, dust rags, spray polish, etc. Her attack was methodical and in a short time all of the condo’s surfaces gleamed and sparkled. A sense of accomplishment fed her feeling of well-being. By the time she stowed away her cleaning implements Mona felt sure that it must be early afternoon. Once glance at the kitchen clock, though, told her that there was still half an hour until lunch time.
“Well, Pete, that’s what happens when you live alone. Not much of a mess to clean up.”
“Pretty bird, pretty bird,” was Pete’s response.
Mona decided that since it was almost lunchtime she would check in with her closest friend, Millie. She snagged the cordless phone and settled into her comfortable recliner, dialing Millie’s office number as she did.
“Millicent Bunting.” Her friend’s voice was crisp and professional as she answered the call.
“It’s me,” Mona replied, “can you talk for a minute?”
“Oh Mona, hi. How’s retirement treating you?”
“Loving every minute so far.”
“Well, things here are still the same. Of course there are so many last minute requests since everyone wants to make sure things are done ‘just right’, you know.”
“Just think, Millie, this time next week you’ll be among the ranks of the retired folks yourself.”
“And I can’t wait! What a joy it will be not to have to answer to anyone else,” Millie sighed into the phone.
“This is the life, woman. I slept till seven thirty this morning and spent the rest of the time watching the news on television. Now I’m going to make my lunch.”
“I’m counting the hours, Mona, believe me. But I really have to hang up now. Heidi is coming towards me and it looks like she has a list of questions. Really, you’d think by now people would have all their questions behind them.”
“Oh hon’, she’ll never be the one to fill your shoes. That one can’t administrate herself out of a paper bag.”
“You’re absolutely right about that but she is the best of the lot.”
“Well, have fun and think about next week. I’ll see you at your retirement lunch.”
The remainder of Mona’s first full day of retirement was spent much in the same manner: lunch, clear the dishes, pull in the mail, discard the junk mail, return to watching the television. After a while the mindless chatter of the television caused her to let out a huge sigh.
“This is certainly boring as heck,” she remarked to Pete who had already had the good sense to go back into his cage. “The sun is shining, there’s a light breeze, I think I’ll go for a walk and try to get myself back into shape.”
Mona sauntered into the bedroom and emerged a few moments later wearing a snazzy jogging outfit that had been in the back of her closet for years. It was made of hot pink spandex and fit her as snugly as her own skin. She bent over to tie the laces of a pair of old sneakers and by the time she made it out the door she was puffing from the exertion of getting ready.
“Start off slowly,” she thought to herself. “No sense overdoing it on the first time out.”
Mona decided that once around the condo complex where she lived would be an adequate start so off she went. At the end of her driveway she turned left and walked, not too slowly yet not too briskly, about a quarter mile before the roadway curved right and began a slight incline to another set of buildings at the top of a rise. Although the daytime temperatures were in the upper sixties Mona couldn’t believe how warm she was feeling.
“Must be the old blood flowing,” she thought to herself. “Gosh I feel grand.”
Increasing her speed slightly she made it up the incline where she stopped momentarily to rest and enjoy the view. Up here was where the pool and club house were located and this was the first time that Mona had come up here on foot. Deservedly, she felt proud of herself. Moving over to a bench, she sat for a while, watching some children playing near the clubhouse. After a brief rest and feeling as though she should begin the trek home, she stood up and felt something snap in her lower back. Mentally she admonished herself to pay it no mind. She set off down the incline thinking that this would be much easier than on the way up. A few steps into the return walk proved to her just how badly out of shape she had become.
About ninety minutes from the time she had left her condo, Mona arrived at her front stoop. The spandex of her jogging outfit had caused her to sweat profusely and she was sure the clothing had shrunk two sizes since she’d put it on. Her left sneaker appeared to have blown out but that she attributed to the fact that the pair were at least ten years old. Mona’s short but neatly coiffed hair was dripping wet from her sweat and she was puffing as she hauled herself into her living room and flung herself onto her recliner.
“Pretty bird,” called Pete, making sure Mona wouldn’t ignore him.
“Pete, be thankful you’re a bird and you can fly,” was all Mona could say to him.
By the time Mona had peeled off the pink spandex, shoved it into the trash pail, showered and returned to the living room it was dusk. The warm shower had helped to refresh her but her lower back ached so much that it was all she could do to sit upright. A quick glance at the evening news showed that nothing much of urgency had occurred during the past few hours so Mona covered Pete’s cage, turned out the lights, and eased herself into the cool crispness of her bed sheets. Her head sunk down into the comfort of her pillow and her last thought was, “Can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this opening scene from FOLLOW THE SUN. Another installment will be posted in April. Check back often so you won’t miss any of Mona and Millie’s adventures.