Ed Laird – The Arrangement

— another great story from Ed Laird

The arrangement was once again becoming common talk of the town.

“It might be a bit unusual, maybe even unconventional,” Marjorie Kennebrook said out loud at the close of the ladies’ Sunday school class. “I knew Minerva better than most. She was my dearest friend and I loved her like a sister. So I hope to hear nothing but kind, positive comments.”

Marjorie’s preemptive shot over the bow of Pittman society quieted loose speculation, but folks still couldn’t keep from wondering.

No one doubted Minerva’s contributions to Pittman. She was a charter member and frequent president of the garden club and organizer of the yearly festival.  She was chief contributor to the renovation of the abandoned elementary school into a performing arts center. Her creative energy was legendary.

But adjustments and accommodations had been made for more than seventy years for Minerva Pittman Reinhardt.  Even acceptance by those who knew and loved her well.
Invitations were routinely addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Frank M. Reinhardt and Mr. Andrzej Jarogniew, 131 North Main Street. Dinner place cards had Minerva in the middle with Frank on her left and Andrzej on the right.  Three seats at the performing arts center, front and center, were understood.

The Reinhardts and Mr. Jarogniew had standing Saturday reservations for dinner at the country club.  Their quiet conversation — whether just the three of them or a full table of eight – was witty, stimulating and accompanied with polite banter and laughter.

So far as anyone knew, Andrzej neither spoke nor understood English, but was dependent upon Minerva for interpretation.  Andrzej’s stories and insights were eagerly anticipated and received with laughs and nodding heads.  Frank never addressed Andrzej directly, but often smiled before Andrzej finished as if he understood.

The arrangement had balance. Frank was thoughtful, steady, introverted, small-town and devoted to his wife.  Andrzej was gallant, impulsive, extroverted, urbane and obviously adored Minerva. In the center Minerva was the morning star who outshone lesser lights and mesmerized all who entered her world.

And now that her earthly light was extinguished, there remained that unspoken question on everyone’s mind: what changes at 131 North Main Street would her death effect?
An answer was slower coming for the citizens of Pittman, but was resolved for Frank and Andrzej the evening following Minerva’s burial.  They retired to the Empire tester bed that they had shared with Minerva for forty-two years.

Frank spoke, after pulling the comforter up to his neck and adjusting for a bed that seemed much cooler than usual, even for a January night.

“Andrzej, I don’t know what your thoughts have been the last several days, but you will always be welcome in this house. You have been a source of inspiration for both Minerva and me. I appreciate your devotion to her. Her life was richer for it. You have been the best imaginary friend she could have ever had. And she had quite an imagination.”  He chuckled.

“Let’s honor her life and legacy by keeping everything just as it always has been.  Agreed?  Fine. Good night, Andrzej.”