Sounding as if he had just finished running a marathon, Samuel James’ breathing was labored as he grappled with his end of the heavy sofa. He shifted his weight like a waddling duck as he walked to the open front door with Ruby struggling to keep her side from dragging on the hardwood floor.
“Are you okay, Sammy?” Ruby looked at Sam’s pudgy red face, moist with perspiration. Even though he was a big man—over six feet tall and half as wide—he had, what looked like to Ruby, rolls of blubber masking his muscles and adding extra weight to an already strenuous activity. “Let’s set it down a minute and rest.”
Having carried it to the kitchen, they sat the awkward piece of furniture down next to the oven. Sam immediately sat down, sinking into the soft cushions. Friends since childhood, he was always there for her, especially after her divorce from Guy.
“I started on that low-carb diet this week,” he said, finally catching his breath. “The doctor told me that if I didn’t lose weight that I’d die from a heart attack or something.”
Ruby laughed. “So that means you can eat a lot of fat and meat?”
Sam took a wrinkled white handkerchief from the front pocket of his jeans and wiped sweat from his brow before looking at Ruby, who had sat next to him. “I’m not skinny and in shape like you are.”
“Yeah, you are right,” she teased. They were such good friends; they could say anything to each other without either one being offended.
“If you married me instead of that jerk, Guy, I’d probably be slim and trim.”
Ruby knew Sam was not joking; he loved her, always did. Unfortunately, at least for him, she did not have the same feelings. “You’re my best friend, Sammy, and I love ya. But I think you have that marriage thing backward, people usually gain weight after their married.”
He stuffed the hanky back into his pants pocket. “Steak and bacon, that’s my kind of diet.”
Ruby giggled and then said, “Thanks for helping me move my furniture and things. I really appreciate it.”
Sam smiled and nodded. “Anything for you, Ruby.”
Ruby stood up and took two bottles of water from the nearly empty refrigerator. Aside from the water, and an old bottle of ketchup, there was nothing in it. It would be the last appliance they move. As soon as she found out if she had the nursing job at Vrolok Manor House and what the start date was, she was keeping it plugged in.
“When’s that lady calling you about the job?” Sam said, taking the cold water that Ruby was handing him.
“Today around ten,” Ruby said, twisting off the bottle cap. The temperature in the refrigerator was set so low, that the water was becoming an icy slush.
Sam looked at his watch. “That’s fifteen minutes away. Do you want to get this couch on the U-Haul and then while you’re talking to that . . . lady . . . I’ll work on carrying some other things to the truck?”
“Sounds like a good idea.” Ruby took another icy swallow, sat the bottle on the counter, and walked back to her end of the sofa. “Ready when you are.”
They each lifted their ends and stopped when they got to the door.
“Tilt it and we should be able to get it out,” Sam said.
With a few tugs and a rubbing against the doorjamb, they managed to get the unwieldy upholstered back and arms through the opening without having to take off the legs. Then down the clanking metal ramp they went, to the inside of the truck box.
“It’s suffocating in here,” Sam said as he walked back to the porch. “I say we find the coldest beer in town.”
“Sounds good,” Ruby said, walking up next to him. “But doesn’t beer have carbohydrates?”
“Crap, maybe I don’t like this diet after all.” Sam laughed so hard the wooden planks beneath their feet began to bounce.
“I think you’re stuck with water.”
“No way, I think I need to do some research on the matter.”
The two of them stood in the shade, underneath the roof to the entryway. They watched as a tiny iridescent hummingbird buzzed up to where the red feeder once hung by the dining room window. It moved up, down, left, and right, apparently looking for the red nectar it remembered had been there.
Sam noticed Ruby’s sad expression as she looked down at the green spear-like leaves and lovely blue falls of the bearded iris growing in the flowerbed next to the house. “I’ll dig those up for you while you’re doing that job interview; I know they used to belong to your mom.”
Ruby nodded. “Thank you, Sammy. I don’t want to forget them.”
“Hey, maybe this is all for the best. I mean, this house is getting older, and soon things are going to begin breaking down. And with all that money you said you’re going to get from that job, you’ll be able to get a nicer house.”
Ruby hugged Sam—only a half hug because it was difficult to get her arms around his wide girth. She was about to tell him she would not know what she would do without him, but the cell phone sitting next to her water bottle in the kitchen began ringing.
“Gotta answer that,” Ruby said, rushing into the house.
“Good luck,” Sam said as he walked toward the tool shed to get a shovel.