Tuesday, May 30, 2023

“Mrs. Walker Comes to Town” by Norma Gardner


Couples of long tenure often complete each other's sentences, as if there is an inverse relationship between years spent together and words required to get our point across. That being said, there was one morning about ten years ago when I guess I failed the “fill in the blanks test.”

It was a cold, icy winter morning in Northern Ontario, and on my way home from a business trip in Toronto, my flight landed late at our small local airport. My husband planned to pick me up and drive me straight to work for the rest of the afternoon but when I came into the terminal, he was nowhere to be found.

I thought perhaps he was running behind so I waited at the curbside until I realized it was about -20 C and decided to go back inside to stay warm. As I was already behind schedule, I started to become a bit anxious, but impatience gave way to worry after about 10 minutes of waiting with no husband in sight. He was nothing if not annoyingly punctual (and still is).

Meanwhile, my usual airport limo hires, many of whom knew my husband, were at the curb waiting for their next fares and very rightly pointed out that, had I booked with them as I usually did, I would be sitting in a warm vehicle, halfway into town by now, and in their opinion, riding in much better company.

I decided to try and call my husband in the hopes that he would actually have his cell phone with him and that he would have it turned on. When he answered and I asked where he was, there was a pause, some of what I thought was static and then I clearly heard him say "I'm on Airport Road,” and then we were cut off. Knowing he was close, I went back out to the curb to wait.

He pulled up a few minutes later and came out of the car in order to put my luggage into the back of our SUV, or so I assumed. Instead, with what looked like a lottery ticket in his hand, he tore past me in a hurry and said something about "Mrs. Walker." 

I didn’t know a Mrs. Walker, but before I could ask, he was inside the terminal building and I was left to take care of my own luggage. I took my seat on the front passenger side and waited, still puzzled, but hoping to be enlightened soon. I was mistaken. Out came my husband with a very elderly woman on his arm and another woman, perhaps the daughter, following behind, all of them in lively conversation.

My instincts told me that these people, who I vaguely recognized from my flight, were getting into our vehicle so I gave up my seat in the front, allowing the elderly woman to be more easily seated, and got into the back seat with her travel companion. They did not have to stow their own luggage.

No introductions were offered, but I had learned over the years that my husband wasn’t good at this type of thing so my expectations were low in this regard. After a few minutes of awkward small talk, mostly on my part, as the women seemed to think I knew what was going on and I didn't want to be rude or, worse yet, admit that I was the only uninformed one, we pulled into a restaurant near the airport.

My husband proceeded to unload the ladies and the luggage with thanks and good-byes all around. I took my rightful place in the front seat and waited for my husband to return, hoping that a very, very good explanation was forthcoming.

It turned out that, unbeknownst to my husband and due to spotty cell phone reception near the airport, I had missed the part of the conversation where he explained how he had pulled over to help a woman whose vehicle had slid into a ditch on an icy patch on Airport Road. She was on her way to the airport to pick up her friends, Mrs. Walker and her travel companion, who were arriving for a visit with friends and family.

My husband, frequent rescuer of damsels in distress, was the only one that stopped to help, assisting the distraught and thankfully uninjured driver out of her car and safely depositing her in a nearby restaurant to stay warm and call for a tow. She was quite concerned that she had no way to get word to Mrs. Walker, who would surely have landed by now.

Since my husband was already en-route to the airport, he offered to also pick up Mrs. Walker and companion, and drop them at the restaurant with their stranded friend, on our way into town. The driver had written her name and her friends' names on the first slip of paper she could put her hands on, an old lottery ticket selection slip. This was, I suppose, meant to serve as evidence to her friends, that my husband could be trusted and that he was not a stalker of air travelers. 

This was one instance when I didn't successfully complete my husband's sentence. (In my defence, it wasn’t just one sentence!). Instead, I had to fall back on trust in the unspoken words, luckily also a privilege of the long time married.


Norma Gardner retired from the corporate world a few years ago. Her longtime side gig as a seamstress, is now mostly limited to taking requests for superhero capes and the like from her grandchildren. She is content to spend time with family and friends, travel, and practice perfecting her sourdough recipes and her writing. 

“Mrs. Walker Comes to Town” was first published in White Wall Review. 

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