“You will never guess,” Allison said to Leo. She had a copy of the original building permit for her old house, one the clerk had kindly made for her, and a giddy grin.
“Okay, then tell me,” Leo said.
“No, you should guess,” Allison responded.
“You just told me I’d never guess.”
“Oh, come on, please try. It’ll be a lot more fun.”
Leo sighed, but not with frustration. He was curious, of course, but also loved seeing a spirit of playfulness in Allison. She was usually so serious, so focused. He joined her in grinning, out of delight in this transformation of his friend and landlord.
“Okay. The builder of this house was, um, George Washington.”
“Leo! That’s not a serious guess.” Allison frowned. “Try again. Think about it. Who’s the least likely person, or the one you would most wish had built this house?”
Leo pondered. “Least likely? I stand by my first guess, George Washington.” Before Allison could protest again, he went on. “Most wish? Oh, that’s a tough one. Give me a moment.”
They were sitting on the porch, of course, their usual place. It was an unusually warm afternoon. Probably our last one this year, Leo had thought. Winter will be here before we can blink.
His attention drifted as he watched a few of the last autumn leaves skitter up the street in the breeze. Everything will be here before we can blink. Old age, sickness, death. It all comes rushing up so fast. A vision of his old friend Marilyn in the hospital skittered through his mind, echoing the leaves. She was here, and then she wasn’t, he thought, and sighed again.
“You’re right,” Allison said, her voice carrying a note of shock. “How did you guess?”
Confused, Leo focused on her. “Huh?”
“Marilyn. You said Marilyn.”
“I did? I was thinking about here, but I didn’t realize I’d said anything out loud.”
“Yes, you did. And yes, it is.”
Leo stared, and then they both broke into huge smiles.
Allison confirmed his thought by handing him the piece of paper she’d been holding. “It’s her last name. Marilyn’s. On the building permit for this house.”