The Doctor's Choice(3)

By: J. D. Faver

Peering out through the lace curtains, she saw three elderly women standing on the front porch. She opened the door, but before she could speak they marched inside, wafting a trail of powdery, old lady perfume in their wake.

“Hello dear,” the smallest of the three said in a tiny bird-like voice. “I’m Mrs. Peabody, the Librarian. Perhaps your aunt spoke of me? We were best friends.” She thrust a warm casserole dish covered in aluminum foil into Cami’s hands and began to unbutton her heavy coat.

“No, Delta Ruth.” The tallest of the trio spoke firmly. “I know you and Silky were friends, but actually, I was her best friend.” She tucked a foil wrapped bundle under her arm and unwound her scarf. “I’m Cora Lee Ferguson. I play the organ at the church. Silky and I went way back, you know?”

“Oh, no, I didn’t know,” Cami managed to get in, as Cora Lee pushed the bundle toward her. She juggled her unwieldy armload while both ladies continued to shed their outerwear.

“And I am Alma Jo Tooley.” The woman was thin with a fine bone structure.

Cami thought she must have been quite a beauty in her youth.

Alma Jo smiled at her in apparent delight. “I’m afraid these two are deluding themselves, dear, because I was Silky’s oldest and dearest friend. We were friends from the first day of school back in the old wooden schoolhouse that burned down.” She spoke as though Cami should remember this event.

“Oh, I ah. . . I’m sure. It’s nice to meet you ladies. Won’t you come into the parlor?” She looked questioningly at the items in her hands.

“My dear, that is my ranch chicken casserole. I’m famous for it around here.” Delta Ruth giggled as she pointed to the foil wrapped dish in Cami’s arms. “I hope you like it.”

“Well how nice of you. Thank you.” She neglected to say that she was flying back to Houston tomorrow and couldn’t put away this mound of food in a month’s time. Hoping that T-Bone and Frank would be hungry, she turned to lead the women into Silky’s antique and bric-a-brac crammed parlor.

“I made a loaf of my home-made bread for you. I always take the blue ribbon for my yeast breads.” Cora Lee colored slightly.

Cami expressed her appreciation as Alma Jo held out yet another foil topped dish.

“This is my peach cobbler. I whipped it up for you from the peaches I put up last summer. I must admit that I always take the top honors around here for my canned goods and preserves.”

“Top honors?” she asked.

“The county fair and rodeo in the spring. It’s about the biggest thing around here. You’ll see.” Alma Jo helped her transport the food into the kitchen.

Cami placed the casserole and bread on top of the range to keep it from the inquisitive cat. “I won’t be staying long. I’ve got another year to complete my fellowship.”

She took the cobbler from Alma Jo and placed it alongside the other items.

Alma Jo’s eyes opened wide. “Are you sure? I could swear Silky said she wanted you to have the ranch.” She tilted her head to one side and placed a finger to her cheek, pantomiming her confusion.

“I guess I’ll find that out tomorrow,” Cami said. “That’s when the lawyer reads the will.” She started the coffeemaker.

Returning to the parlor, she found the other ladies comfortably seated, having helped themselves to Aunt Silky’s sherry. They were sipping from tiny cut-crystal cordials.

Delta Ruth refilled her drink from the sparkling crystal decanter. “This is for medicinal purposes, you understand.”

“Yes,” Cora Lee said, nodding her head wisely. “I’m sure you agree, being a doctor and all. A wee nip will keep a body from taking a cold.”

“Ah, yes,” Cami agreed. “I’ve heard that, too. I think it was from Aunt Silky.”

Alma Jo accepted a sherry from Delta Ruth, who had taken on the role of hostess. “Won’t you have one, dear?”

“I’ll wait for the coffee,” she said.

“What do you plan to do with the ranch?” Cora Lee asked. “You know, Silky wanted it to stay in the family?”

“Well, no,” Cami said. “Aunt Silky never discussed her wishes with me. I wasn’t raised on a ranch and I wouldn’t have any idea what to do with it. I suppose the lawyer, Mr. Ryan, may know someone who could purchase all this land.”

The three elderly women exchanged knowing looks as they sipped their sherry. Delta Ruth’s lips pursed.

Cami shifted uncomfortably on the stiffly upholstered chair. “I get the impression you’re not telling me something.” She looked expectantly from one to another.