Sadie and Gladys brunched together on Sunday, enjoying a feast of fresh strawberries and blackberries, French toast with maple syrup, bacon that was every bit as crisp as any Sadie had ever had, as much orange juice as they wanted, and coffee that tasted like something you’d get at a fancy cafe.
Gladys shocked Sadie by calling the meal “good” and then shocked her again by pointing out that Marcia at Table Nine was on “the thick stuff.”
“Do you mean thickened liquids?” Sadie was ashamed that she’d let that subject slip to the back burner in recent days, her new spiritual life and time with Jamie being foremost on her mind.
“If that’s what you want to call it,” Gladys sniffed, “although I don’t know why you always have to make everything so complicated. Pretending to be something you’re not.”
“‘Thick stuff’ is just fine with me,” Sadie said, humbled by the rebuke. “So how did you find out?”
One of Gladys’s nicer traits was her willingness to leave a hurt behind. “Before you got here, I heard her complaining about it to the servers. But they wouldn’t help her. I think it’s a crime.”
“Without a doubt.” Gladys lowered her voice and glanced back over her shoulders to make sure no one was eavesdropping. “It kills people, you know. If you don’t get enough to drink, you get fuzzy headed and then you die. I’ve seen it happen again and again.”
Gladys had lived at The Hickories for several years, and Sadie didn’t doubt that she knew a lot more than she let on.
“Have any of your—have you known anyone who’s been on it?”
Gladys eyed Sadie up before answering. “My friends, you mean? Were you assuming I haven’t had any friends here?”
“No, of course not, I just meant—”
“I’ll have you know that I’ve had plenty of friends here. It’s just that they’ve all died or gone home.”
“Of course you have.” Sadie felt her face flush; she’d been caught red-handed. She quickly changed gears. “So have any of them been on the thick stuff?”
“Yes, and they’ve all died within weeks, except for one. Her name was Ida—she lived next door to me. She survived for two years on the stuff, finally had a coronary.”
“Well, then, if Ida made it that long, maybe it’s not so bad after all,” said Sadie, hoping for a silver lining.
Gladys looked around for eavesdroppers again. “It’s not so bad if someone is sneaking you water and soda every day,” she whispered. “I kept her supplied.”
“Why Gladys,” Sadie whispered back, impressed. “You really do have a heart, don’t you?”
Gladys glared at her. “Don’t you dare tell anyone.”
--From The Song of Sadie Sparrow, pages 221-222