May 7, 2021

2 min read

ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: The Writer, His Wife, and their Afterlife

Book One, Part Two, Chapter 39: On Mulberry Street

I meet Cindi, Joshua’s real-estate agent, on Mulberry Street to look at the house for sale.

On this May afternoon, Cindi’s in a summery sheath and sandals, looking as feminine as ever — hair in place, make-up on, jewelry about — but she carries a heavy camera and flashlight. Cindi comes prepared.

Inside the vacant shotgun-style house, she immediately pulls up a corner of the beige carpeting in the living room. “Too bad, only a sub-floor. No pine flooring here.”

We go to the kitchen. “Paint the cabinets, change the hardware, buy a refrigerator, put in a new floor, and give it a good cleaning. I don’t think it even needs a new counter.”

I follow her to the bathrooms. She opens the rickety shower door of the second one, then checks its linen closet. “Nice closet. Lots of shelves.”

Cindi makes her assessment. “You really need new toilets and plumbing, and you’ll want to put up a wall to make the second bedroom private. A two-bedroom house on this street would rent for nine hundred or nine-fifty.”

We go out the back door, and she looks up. “The roof looks okay, but we haven’t seen the substructure yet.” She checks the basement door; it’s padlocked. “We’ll need access to that, if Joshua is really interested in this place.”

She takes interior and exterior photos to send to him. “I’ll e-mail you and him these photos today.” The showing over, we shake hands. “So good to see you again.”

Two days later, she calls. “I have two questions,” she says. “I haven’t heard back from either Joshua or you, so did you get the photos I e-mailed you?”


“Just as I thought. The file was too big to go through. I’ll divide it and send it again. My second question is: Did something happen to Ernie?”

I let a second or two pass. Cindi says nothing. “Yes. He died in December.”

“When he wasn’t picking up the phone, and when he didn’t come with you to see the Mulberry house, I wondered.”

“I didn’t want to tell you. You liked Ernie, and he liked you.”

“He was a special person. I’m so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you.”

“I know you and your husband and your son work together to renovate houses,” I say. “It makes me feel good to hear of a family’s working together, helping each other.”

I hear little sniffling sounds, and I suddenly realize Cindi’s crying. “This is my second marriage.” She’s still crying. “I lost my first husband in a plane crash. It was a private plane. Everyone died. We’d been married two years, but we’d known each other much longer. My parents didn’t realize the depth of my sorrow. I didn’t, either, until I started crying at a church meeting eighteen years later.”

“In my grief group, we talk and cry,” I say. “We cry and talk. Talking and crying. That’s what’s saving me.”