Kayode Ojo – Running on Empty
When he landed in Dallas his favorite cousin, Beth, was there. Growing up he’d called her Elizabeth. Now he was training himself to call her Beth, as she preferred. Beth’s husband, Greg, had just died of an early heart attack. She’d mailed Luke a cassette of the funeral, but he’d never listened to it because he hadn’t been able to lay his hands on a tape recorder—not a problem that would have occurred to her, she who had a ranch house stocked with self-cleaning ovens, a microwave, two Dustbusters, three TVs, dishwasher, washer and dryer and Lord knew what else. So he just patted her back and said, “It was a beautiful service. I hope you’re surviving.” “I’m doing fine, Luke, just fine.” There was something hard and determined about her that he admired. Beth’s bright Texas smile came as a comfort. He told her he’d never seen her in such pretty dark shades of blue. “Well, thank you, Luke. I had my colors done. It was one of the last presents Greg gave me. Have you had yours done yet?” “No, what is it?” “You go to this lady, she measures you in all sorts of scientific ways, skin tones and all, and then she gives you your fan. I have mine here in my purse, I always carry it, ’cause don’t you know I’ll see a pretty blouse and pick it up but when I get home with it it doesn’t look right at all and when I check it out it won’t be one of my hues. It will be close but not exact.” Beth snapped open a paper fan. Each segment was painted a different shade. “Now the dark blue is my strong color. If I wear it, I always get compliments.You complimented me, you see!” And she laughed and let her smiling blue eyes dazzle him, as they always had. Her face made him think of Hollywood starlets of the past, as did her slight chubbiness and smile, which looked as though it were shot through gauze. Her little speech about colors had been an act of courage, at once a pledge she was going to be cheerful as well as a subtle blend of flirting with him (as she would have flirted with any man) and giving him a beauty tip (as she might have done with another woman). He’d been the ring-bearer at her wedding to Greg. They’d been the ideal couple, she a Texas Bluebonnet, he a football star, she small and blond, he dark and massive. Now she was just forty-five and already a widow with two sons nearly out of college, both eager to be cattlemen.