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The Last Odd Day

The Last Odd Day by Lynne Hinton
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From the Bestselling Author of Friendship Cake Comes a Remarkable Story of Love, Loss, Infidelity, and Forgiveness

HarperCollins; May 2009
192 pages; ISBN 9780061945069
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Title: The Last Odd Day
Author: Lynne Hinton

Chapter One


Even if the phone hadn't rung at all, the date itself ismemorable because Peter Jennings on ABC World NewsTonight had said it was the last completely odd day untilthe year 3111. Month, day, and year, all odd numbers,and it wouldn't happen again for another millennium.

Maude, the neighbor across the street, however, wasthe one who figured out things weren't right. She was theone who saw the unusual chain of events beginning totake shape; and even though she couldn't name what wascoming, she certainly warned me that something out ofthe ordinary was on its way. She did that hours beforeABC reported it, hours before the call.

She met me outside at the driveway when I went outto pick up the morning paper. She's usually up longbefore I am anyway since I'm accustomed to second-shifthours; and she always comes out to greet me even thoughshe knows I'm not a morning person. That day she ran allthe way out to her mailbox, her hair already combed andsprayed.

"I had one of my dreams," she said, all breathlessand excited.

"What's that?" I asked, trying to pull my robe togetherto keep out the chill and Maude's unwanted commentsabout still being in my pajamas.

"My dreams," she said, walking across the street tomeet me. "I had a water dream and you were in it." Shelooked at me, and I knew she was thinking I stayed inthe bed much too long. "It's about you. Your water wastroubled."

Now most people consider Maude slightly irregular.She lets homeless people stay in her house. She wanted toinvite a psychic woman who read tarot cards to speak tothe women's circle at her church. She has seven cats, allyellow and white. And she claims she can predict disorderand upcoming unlikely events based upon dreams shehas that consist of bodies of water. I don't know how sheknows where the chaos will be or who it will affect,something about seeing the stirred water at a particular identifying location. Regardless of her process of interpretation,she never hesitates to announce what it is shebelieves is coming in your direction.

"It was green and brown. Definitely troubled," sheadded with a dramatic touch.

I rolled my eyes and bent down to pick up the paper."Good morning, Maude."

"Are you up to date on your insurance policy?" Nowshe was standing right in front of me. She smelled likepine.

"You burning leaves?" I asked and glanced over inher yard.

"No." We had turned around and were walkingtogether toward my house. I guessed she would be comingin for coffee. "It's an old remedy for sinus problems -- boiling pine straw, then sticking them in the foot of anold pair of hose and tying it onto the water faucet in thebathtub."

Maude had lots of recipes for ailments and treatments.

"You got sinus problems?"

"Always this time of year. It's the goldenrod. Mr.Thaler has it growing at the fence. I try to get him to pullit, but I think he enjoys seeing me suffer." She is shortand has to walk twice as fast to keep up with me, even inthe morning.

"Then maybe you need to make sure your policy isup to date." I opened the door and she walked in.

"Oh, no need to worry for me. I took out an extrapolicy, even with what I got from Arrow. I got coveragefor everything." She went right over to the cabinet andpulled out a mug, the one with the cow in the middle,and poured herself a cup of coffee. She had worked at thelocal rubber factory most of her life.

"You got any milk?"

I pointed over to the refrigerator with my chin andpoured myself a cup and sat down at the table.

"You know, you really should clean out these drawersdown here at the bottom. You can get poison fromthe mold that grows on this cheese." She found the milk,checked the date on the side of the carton, and pouredalmost half a cup in her coffee. "Clarence Tupper had tobe hospitalized because of something he ate that had beenin his refrigerator too long," she added.

"Clarence Tupper was in the hospital because heweighs four hundred pounds. There ain't nothing thatstays in his refrigerator too long." I unfolded the paperand began poring over the news.

Maude moved near the table and sat down next to me.

"I'm serious, Jean," she said, and she pulled thepaper away from my face. "Something grave is about tohappen."

I glared at her, then snapped the paper back so that Icould finish reading the front-page headlines and the temperatureand weather forecast in the top right corner.

"Cold front's moving across the Piedmont." Ithought I could change the subject. "You already broughtyour porch plants in?"

"Did that three weeks ago when the first frost came.Cats eat the leaves off my geraniums every year; they'dprobably last longer outside."

I took a sip and kept reading. There had been a fire inan apartment on the other side of town.

"Maybe it's O.T."

I heard a chair being pulled out across from me, but Ididn't move the paper to see exactly where she was sitting.

"He has been in there a long time."

I still didn't say anything.

"Jean Witherspoon, are you listening to me?"

I dropped the paper and sighed. "Yes, Maude, I amlistening to you. You had a water dream and it's aboutme and you think O.T. could be dying."

"Well?" She wrapped the coffee mug with both handsand bowed her head while she kept her eyes on me.