Kick the Bucket by Paige Umholtz

It’s eight thirty and I’ve overslept. That’s neither here nor there, but I better get moving. I can only imagine what I look like, emerging from my bedroom. I’m sure I look like death warmed over, but when you get to be a woman of my age, death warmed over is at least workable. I shuffle to the bathroom and remove the curlers from my silky white hair. It looks abysmal, but I do what I have to do.

“I need a perm,” I mumble between my gums. Getting those teeth removed was one of the best decisions I ever made. I grab my false teeth from the bubbly cup of water, rinse them, and in one swift motion I have a mouth full of pearly whites. I finish applying subtle makeup. I may be 86, but a lady has got to look good, almost dead or not.

I shuffle to my galley kitchen and put on a small pot of coffee. Then it hits me. The date. I glance at the calendar and my suspicion is confirmed. June 23. Mildred’s doctor’s appointment is today. The poor old woman, she has been struggling with some, uh, personal health issues. Her appointment was at 8, but I won’t call her for the full report until at least 10:30.

The coffee maker beeps, and I retrieve my steaming cup of joe and head into the living room. With a paper in one hand, and my coffee in the other, I relax into my floral print couch.

I stare blankly at my television. I only watch a couple shows and channels. The typical ones like Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and The Price is Right. That one’s my favorite, but I liked Bob Barker more than the new host. I can never remember the boy’s name, something Carrey I think, but all I know is, he couldn’t hold Bob’s microphone.

I can’t wait any longer, I just have to phone Mildred and ask about her appointment.


“Hey there Millie. How was your appointment?”

“Well hiya Winnie. It was fine. The doc just gave me some more meds to take. I swear, half of these pills they’ve got me takin’ don’t even do nothing. I should just stop taking them all together!”

“I wouldn’t go doing that. I’m sure that they have a reason. That’s why we’re not doctors. We don’t know.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Well anywho, I’ve been thinkin’ and, well, we aren’t getting any younger ya know.”

“Mildred, I don’t know what you are talking about. I feel better today than I did in my 30’s.” The sarcasm in my voice extremely obvious.

“Yeah, yeah, real funny Winifred. Anyway, I think we should start crossing some things off of our bucket list.”

It sounds like a fun idea. Usually, I’m not up for Mildred’s crazy schemes, but this seems like something I could be on board with. There is some truth in the fact that we aren’t getting any younger.

Heck, we’re bound to check out sooner or later anyway, so why not speed up the process.

“That actually sounds like fun Millie, we should plan a day…” Before I can finish my sentence Mildred interrupts me.

“Great, I’ll pick you up at a quarter till twelve. Oh, and don’t wear nice clothes, things are about to get messy.”

Click, goes the phone. I hear the buzz of the dial tone and hang up. It’s about to get messy, ay? I guess I better not wear my good Silver Sneakers shoes.

As promised, Mildred pulls into my driveway at 11:45 on the nose. She is quite punctual, that one. I open the car door, and there she is, with a huge grin on her face. I slide into the oldsmobile and buckle my seatbelt.

“Oh Winnie, I’m so glad you could come! This is going to be great fun!” I can’t help but chuckle at the energy in her voice. I haven’t seen her this avid since the invention of roll-on deodorant back in ‘52.

“So where are we going?”

“Oh you’ll see! It’s going to be the cat’s pajamas!”

We pull into the parking lot of the mall. I open my door, and I must admit, I’m slightly confused.

“What are we doing the mall Millie? Are we going to try on frilly undergarments?”

“No, guess again.”

“Oh, I know, we are going to the arcade and going to blow all of our money on arcade games!”

“Nope, one more guess.”

“Oh geez Millie, I don’t know.”

“We are going to start and have a food fight.”

“Are you crazy! We can’t do that! We could get in serious trouble!”

“Oh sure we can, and we won’t get in trouble. Who would arrest two old ladies starting a food fight? No one.”

“You’re right, you’re right.” We walk into the mall food court, and choose our weapons. I choose 2 Big Mac’s, a large fry, diet coke, and a oreo Mc-whatever they’re called.

Strolling to our table, my heart starts pounding. I can’t believe what we are about to do. Mildred gives me the “look” and I know what happens next. It almost occurs in slow motion. I watch as the chicken nugget launches from Millie’s hand and flies through the air, and hits, smack dab, in the middle of some young man’s pimpled face. This is it. I start wailing the food on my tray, and next thing I know, everyone is throwing food all over the place. A half eaten quarter-pounder smacks the side of my face, knocking my dentures clear out of my mouth.

I watch as they skid across the floor, and some grown man steps on them, splintering them into pieces. My beautiful teeth fly all over the place. When the food stops flying, I wipe down my face, and glance over at Mildred. She looks like a giddy school girl who did something she knows she shouldn’t have done. I’m so glad to see her so thrilled.

I step out of the shower after washing soda and ketchup out of my hair and grab the telephone. I ring my dentist and make an appointment to come and get new dentures. I no sooner hang up the phone and it rings. I answer.


“Winnie! Oh wasn’t that just the bee’s knees today. I’m so glad we did it.”

“That was a lot of fun. Maybe someday soon we can cross something else off.”

“Be careful what you wish for Winifred. I’m already planning our next adventure.”
Two weeks later, I walk out of the dentist office after getting my new dentures for the second time. Yep, second time. After the food fight, I went and got my new pair, and then Mildred made me go skydiving. Needless to say, dentures don’t stay in well when you’re screaming at the top of your lungs while diving to your death.

When I arrive home, I get a call from Mildred.

“Ready for our next adventure?”

“Yeah I guess so. What do I need to wear this time?”

“Nothing! I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”

Again, her punctuality amazes me. I get in the car and all she is wearing is a bath robe.

“You’re gonna like this one Winnie.” She says to me as she turns the corner onto the main road. We drive for about an hour and then Mildred parks. I see the sand dunes, and once again, I’m confused.

“Mildred, honey, I have been to the beach before, what are we doing?”

“This isn’t just any beach, come on Winnie, let’s go.” We head towards the water, and to my horror, we come upon a sign. I burst out in laughter as I read the faded letters.

“Sandy Cheeks Nudist Beach: Come Feel Free With Us”

Mildred whips off her robe and starts running down the beach. Some things were flapping that, 20 years ago, wouldn’t have been flapping. I stand there, in awe for a moment, soaking everything in.

The beauty of the crystal blue water and the marshmallow clouds above it amaze me. In the distance I see hundreds of people, standing there in the nude. Young people, old people, and some pretty ugly people honestly. The difference in shape and size is astounding. I want to cover my eyes and run, but then I hear her.

“Winnie! Come in, the water is fine!” Now, Mildred and I have been friends for years, but I have never seen this much of her, nor have I ever wanted to. I have to admit, it looks kinda fun, and you know the old adage, when in Rome.

I disrobe, and start running through the burning hot sand. I don’t know which part of my body to cover. It’s a weird feeling, being nude in public. I push that to the back of my mind and run to Mildred. Hey, as I have said before, I’m not getting any younger, and I will probably never see these people again.

“Oh, isn’t this just so much fun?” Millie says to me, with a sparkle in her eye. I spot a burly man, around our age, down the shore just a bit, who is staring at Mildred.

“Millie, look that man is staring at you!” We start giggling like teenage girls.

“What should I do? Should I wave? Do I flash him a smile?”

“You are flashing him enough already,” I say smugly. “ Why don’t you give him the signature Mildred Fredrickson wave and wink. That’s what made Paul fall for ya all those years ago.”

“Ooooo. You are so right. Men can’t resist the wink and wave. Ok. Here goes nothing.” She takes a deep breath and then slowly turns to the man and waves, her fingers twinkling. She pulls off the best wink I have ever seen. The look on her face is one of pure bliss.

“Oh Winnie! I feel like a kid again. This is so awesome!”

“Look, he is coming this way. Act natural.” I say, though, I don’t know if we can be any more natural. We’re standing here naked for heaven’s sake. Just as the man reaches us, a gigantic wave comes and wipes us all off our feet. Once again, my teeth fly out of my mouth.

“Mimmie! Mimmie! My beeth bell bout” I mumble with urgency.

“What did you say?” I open my mouth and point to where my teeth should be. “Oh heavens! Winifred your teeth! Where do you think they went?” I shake my head ashamed. How am I supposed to explain this one to my dentist? After the teeth accident, I decide it won’t ruin our afternoon. We step around shells in the sand in our trek back to our towels. I lay down and breathe in the familiar scent of summer. You know, the mixture of sunscreen, salt air, and sun. Mildred looks at me and whispers.

“Do you think I could get that fine gentleman to rub suntan lotion on my back?”

“Sure,” I mumble, with a chuckle. We spend the rest of the afternoon soaking in the sun. It feels so good to lay and have the warmth fill my body. As we pack up to leave, Millie gives her gentleman friend as kiss and giggles.

“Just like grade school,” I think as we walk away. The drive home is great, recalling the memories of the afternoon.

She drops me off at my front door, and I scurry inside, afraid that someone will see me. For the third time in a month, I call the dentist and tell him that I need new dentures.

“What happened this time?” he inquires.

“Well doc, ya see, I have been crossing some stuff off the old bucket list and my teeth, well, they seem to be a casualty every time.”

“Well Mrs. Sanderson, I’m glad that you are enjoying yourself. I think I can squeeze you in at 2:30. Can you be here by then?”

“Certainly. Thank you kindly Doc.”

“No problem. See ya soon.”

After the nude beach, Mildred decided to take it one step further. We got tattoos. Yep, that’s right–tattoos. My hind end is still sore today. I figure that if we keep doing crazy things, I’m going to keep losing my teeth. So, I decided to get them tattooed on my right butt cheek.

The tattoo parlor was horrifying. It was so dark in there, I’m surprised anyone could see to do tattoos. Mildred was determined to get a hummingbird on her chest. The poor tattoo artist–he tried to talk her out of it. I did too, but when it comes to Mildred, she can be a bit bullheaded. He tried to reason with her.

“Ma’am, I don’t want to sound insensitive but, if I try to put a hummin’ bird on your chest, well, it’s gunna look like a flamingo.”

“Listen here son, I’m paying you to give me a tattoo, not advice. I want a hummin’ bird.”

And that was it. Mildred got her hummingbird, and, not to my surprise, but apparently to Mildred’s, that hummingbird stretched out into flamingo in front of her own eyes. We all just chuckled and shook our heads.

I called Mildred this morning to check up on her, ya know, see how her tattoo was healing, but she never answered, or returned my call. This made me worried so I’m on my way over to her house to make sure she’s alright. It’s unlike Mildred to not answer. The morning sun pierces through my windshield as I make the short five minute drive across town. I pull up to Mildred’s house and park.

Something just feels off this morning. The morning is chilly, lending to the dew on the roses in her garden. I gingerly walk up the front steps, as I have done millions of other times, but again, this time just feels different.

I knock on her front door, and once again there is no answer. My heart starts pounding and with a shaking hand I retrieve the spare key she once gave me years ago. After several shaky misses of putting the key in the keyhole, I finally succeed. I push the door open and call softly.

“Mildred. Millie, are you there? Are you okay?” No answer. Complete silence. I pad a little further into the house, and chills run down my spine. I climb the spiral staircase and walk towards Mildred’s room. I walk closer toward her door and knock.

“Millie, if you’re in there, I’m coming in.” I open the door to her bedroom with a slow smooth motion. I hold my breath and prepare for the worst.

As I open the door, my breath hitches in my throat. There she is, laying there so peaceful in her bed. I walk toward her, her lifeless body. I feel the tears welling up behind my eyes.

“Millie,” I call, soft and calm, like I’m calling her from heaven. I could tell that she was gone. She looked like she was sleeping, eyes closed, hair in curlers. I sit down on the side of her bed. Her hand is cold and clammy. I take it in mine and bow my head for a small prayer. I let go of her hand, and through watering eyes, I notice a note addressed to me on the dresser. I pick it up and see it written in Millie’s handwriting. I open the note and begin to read:

I hate the circumstance that I have put you in. Obviously, if you are reading this, I have “kicked the bucket”. My prayer is that you are the one that finds me and you don’t have to find out from the police or anyone else. In this letter, I have some confessions to make to you. So, here goes nothing. At my doctor’s appointment I found out that I was terminally ill. I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. I told the doctor’s that I didn’t want any treatment and that I wanted to live the last few months of my life to the fullest. That’s where you came in. You were so ready and willing to take part in any crazy adventure I threw your way. For that I will be always grateful. The love that you have shown to me and the friendship between us that has endured for 80 years is something that I never took for granted. As I am sitting here, writing to you I wish I could tell you what is going on, but for me, this note was the best way. I do apologize for the predicament I have put you in. I’m not going to take too much of your time, but I want you to know one thing. I love you so much and I want to thank you. Don’t miss me too much, cause you will be with me soon. The last 3 months of my life have been the best and happiest 3 months I have ever lived and I will never take them, or you, for granted.
~ Millie

As I wipe my eyes with a tissue, I hold the note in one hand close to my heart and Millie’s hand in the other.

“They were the best months of my life too Millie.”

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