It took a moment for her to pull herself from the chair. Stiff knees and aching hips slowed her progress. She shuffled painfully to the door, pulled the dusty curtain aside to peek out.
A boy of about ten or eleven, stood on the front stoop. His jeans were tucked into red vinyl boots. The collar of the puffy coat he wore framed cold reddened cheeks. He held a snow shovel.
Maudie sighed and opened the door slightly. “What you want, boy?”, she asked in a voice rough from disuse.
The boy looked up at her and smiled hopefully. “Shovel your walk ma’am? Only ten dollars.”
“I ain’t goin’ no where, boy. No need to shovel, it’ll just snow again anyway,” she started to shut the door.
“Please! How ‘bout if it snows again before Christmas , I’ll come back and shovel it again. For free.”
“And why would you do that?”
“Cause your’s is the only place left to shovel. And I only need ten more dollars to get my Ma’s Christmas present,” he flashed another hopeful grin.
Maudie hesitated, then gave in, “Alright boy, but it snows again, you better be here. And for ten dollars, I want you to shovel around to the back door too!”
“Yes ma’am! Thank you, an’ if it snows again, I’ll be back. Promise!” he jumped off the step and started shoveling.
Maudie shut the door and shivered from the cold. She looked back at her comfy chair, then decided to get something warm to drink. She shuffled to the kitchen to brew a cup of tea.
She peered out the kitchen window to see whether the young boy had given up yet. He’d cleared the walk in front of the house and was almost to the stoop again. His breath blowing out in frosty clouds.
She turned to the cupboard for her tea tin. But can of cocoa powder caught her eye.
She heated milk, cocoa, and sugar in an old pot, the spoon she stirred with scraping the bottom in time the the shovel scraping the walk. She poured the chocolate into a mug when the boy knocked on the back door.
She opened the door, “All done then, son?”
“Yes ma’am,” he puffed, “the whole walk. You wanna come look?”
“No, I’ll just have to trust you. Knock that snow off your boots and come in.” She started for the front room and her pocketbook, then stopped. She pulled a second mug from the cupboard and filled it with the rest of the hot chocolate. “Sit here and warm yourself, I’ll be right back with your pay.”
She came back and sat across from him, taking a sip from her own mug. “You got a good present picked out for your Ma?”
“Yes ma’am, a pretty scarf in her favorite color. With butterflies on it.”
“Sounds like a good choice.” She handed him three five dollar bills as he finished his cocoa.
“Ma’am, I only need ten dol…”
Maudie shook her head, “you just remember your promise, boy.” Then she shooed him out the door.
As ran excitedly toward the street, he turned and waved, “Thank you, ma’am!”
She watched him disappear from sight, a rare smile lifting the corners of her mouth.
Then the snow began to fall.