By John Thomas Tuft

The Quiddler Quora of Farklers were gathered for their weekly tournament. Every Friday without fail, they gathered in the living room of one of the elite members for a cutthroat round of the word card game or the noisy rattles of six dice going for 10,000 points and bragging rights. And snacks. Snacks are a must. Snacking took a steep dive when they all decided to try keto diets at the same time, but true friendships must withstand tougher challenges than that. After all, when one of the players makes the absolute best chocolate cinnamon cake with fudge icing, all from scratch mind you, keto can easily be returned, when absolutely necessary, to the ash heap of history where it belongs. When Sis’s daughter in law signed her up for a wine club membership, the true meaning of a match made in heaven was realized. To the fullest. Word to the wise, chocolate and wine can loosen the tongue, moderation be damned. Oh, and little dogs. I’d be remiss if I did not tell you that they all bring their little dogs to the weekly event. But you probably already guessed at that…

It was mid-January, if I’m not mistaken, when the ladies gathered at Sis’s new place. Sis had decided she needed more room and a man, so she went and found a man and they bought a bigger house together. In the same cul de sac, with the same neighbors, and the same Friday appointment, so not to worry. If you have ever listened to a group of women, ages 68 to 88, competing in any arena, then the following comes as no surprise. Periods of low muttering, grumbling. Interrupted by gales of laughter. Some long silences while words are searched for in the official Quiddler Dictionary. Then cries of triumph or disagreement. While the small dogs compete for attention on comfortable laps. A discussion started over whether they needed to take a break and play Mexican Train or not. Which ended with keto be damned, break out the chocolate cake and the wine. Which led to them telling stories to each other. Which is what any group of good friends will do, and the QQF are no different.

Artie, the unofficial head of the QQF, who somehow had found her way from South Dakota to central Virginia on a dare, or her marriage–it can be hard to tell them apart–told a story about one of her students from her teaching days in a small town just down the road. It seems little Simon kept being tardy, showing up late for school. Artie knew that Simon’s family did not have two nickels to rub together and that his chance for a better life included an education. South Dakotans are a practical folk. “So, I said, Simon, if it’s because you don’t get breakfast, get here on time and I’ll have some cereal and an orange for you every day.” “I have breakfast just fine, teacher,” said Simon. “Do you not wake up on time?” asked Artie. “I can get you an alarm clock.” “Oh, no, I’m up with the chickens,” said the boy. “Then what is it? Why are you late for school?” Simon hesitated. Finally, “Because I have the shoes.” “I don’t understand,” said Artie. Simon drew himself up, and explained, “I have the only pair that don’t have holes in the bottom, ma’am. My little sister can’t walk. So, every morning I carry her out and show her the spring where our water comes from. I tell her some day she’ll walk there herself. Just hope. That’s all. Sorry for being late.”

Cake was eaten and wine was consumed. Next Charlotte told a story while waiting for a double twelve domino tile to release her orange engine and go out in triumph, of course while scratching the ears of the small dog in her lap. “It was right after Chester died. I was devastated, so alone and wondering what would become of me. I had to keep working because we had debts from when his business failed. My daughter was married and lived in California. I was not about to ask her for help. Chester had his pride and I have mine. I got so worried I started to have heart problems and the doctor told me to sell the house and go live near my daughter. But my life is here. One day my daughter just showed up at the door. Said she’d been worried about me. We went for a drive up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I found a clear, cold spring coming from the side of the mountain. When I tasted it, I can’t explain it, I just knew everything would be okay. And here I am.”

Cake was eaten and wine was consumed. Sis told her story. “My boy was in jail. Again. His father and I were divorced, but we both loved him. Enough to leave him in there for a time, no drugs, no alcohol. It near broke my heart beyond all mending. I was trying to start over, go to school so I could do more what I wanted to do with my life. But I was at my lowest. What had I done wrong? Late one night, his dad stopped by. Said let’s take a walk. And we went back out in the woods, back to where the spring that fed the house bubbled up. I knelt down and took a long drink of that ice cold, pure water. And with that swallow I knew that I had to learn to let go, or it’s forced on us…”

And the QQF ladies all nodded in agreement because that’s the kind of friends they are…

Words are magic and writers are wizards.