The two acquaintances, rather than friends, met coincidentally on a rainy day, as they went about their daily shopping in the town centre. Considering their age, they’d basically known each other forever. But as they got older they had less and less occasion of being together. They sat on a nearby bench.
‘How nice to see you Gertrude. It’s been a long time!’ said Elsbeth. ‘How are you feeling?’
‘Oh dear, don’t get me started! If the knees don’t hurt, it’s my back. If it’s not my back, it’s my indigestion. But we live on,’ she said casually, ‘How about you?’ ‘Well, I don’t mean to complain, but I passed a kidney stone last month. Very painful, my dear.’ There was just a hint of triumph in her voice.
‘You don’t say!’ retorted Gertrude. She seemed flustered. After a short pause she blurted out ‘I had gout last year!’
The two women looked out over the square in from of them. Despite the rain, the town centre was crowded as people busily went from one place to another, each one going in a perfectly defined route, while the whole ensemble seemed perfectly chaotic to a casual observer.
Elsbeth found her strength and charged once more unto the breach.
‘My husband has terrible gout attacks, too.’ She said. After a pause and a knowing sympathetic smile, she delivered her coup de grace, ‘But of course, that’s on top of his arthritis. His hands are completely deformed.’
Acknowledging defeat, Gertrude got up and smiled. ‘It was lovely to see you Elsbeth! Please send my best to your husband.’ She said as she extended a hand to help Gertrude off the bench.
‘Thank you, Gertrude. See you soon.’ She almost reciprocated the pleasantry when she remembered Gertrude was a widow.