In this small town, the coffee shop anchors the main square. It’s the center of commerce. Here, locals gather, exchanging quips and news and quick hellos.
“Did you solve world peace?” I say to two who are just leaving. They’re Friday regulars, I know.
“Almost!” They’re grinning, and they’re not afraid to own it.
“Take another swing at it next week,” I say. I’m nothing if not encouraging.
Around me, the tables are filling up. To my right, two young women are coffeeing (that, yes ma’am, is a verb). They’re beautiful. I feel a pang in my middle-aged skin. And then I think of The Mister whose office is just down the block.
“I think you’re gorgeous.,” That’s what he would say. “You’re the only one that I want.”
What a guy.
Kitty-corner, three Mennonite girls appear to be having a study. They’re veiled with long skirts, and the one on the corner’s the leader. A mentor?
Against the wall, two from church. The one’s oldest son graduated with mine. And the other? The first-grade teacher who made Boy Three want to stay there forever. In first grade! God bless ’em.
In front of my round table, a single fellow. He’s engrossed in his laptop. At the two round tables behind me, two more. Everyone’s buried in their laptops. Except The Girl who’s kicking it Old School style…pen and ink.
I sip from the mug. Jamaican Me Crazy, and I know what awaits me at home. A pile of laundry rises like an Appalachian foothill. It needs to be sorted and washed. I sigh, thinking of the two youngest who share a room upstairs. Their penchant for leaving their folded clothes around–not in, but around–the dresser has forced me to coin a new mantra.
“The floor is not a drawer!” This is what I shout at two retreating backs, ascending the stairs, arms laden.
“The floor is not a drawer,” I repeat, infusing it with all the authority and menace my 4-foot, 11-1/2-inch frame can muster. I’m not hopeful.
The stove top, I know, will need cleaning, too, thanks to our local Seven Egger. Every morning, not only the skillet, but the entire south half of the stove receives a liberal baptism with Pam, the nonstick spray. And then he fries up seven eggs.
I’m not making this up. Local hens, we’ve heard, are exhausted. Me, too, from scrubbing the right half of the stove. Every day.
In the pantry (I note upon returning back home), The Red Velvet Oreos appear to be dwindling, evaporating like gas on the pavement. Which they spill by the mowers, of course. Small hands have been slipping them into an Angry Birds lunchbox for happy molars to devour at school.
Oh, yes. It was “that guy” who made a startling pronouncement at bedtime one night. As usual, his dad was pounding him silly. And as usual, he was shrieking and howling. When all at once, in between hollers, he managed to wheeze this one out: “It’s good that I kept the receipt.”
Baffled, The Pounder said, “What?”
“It’s good I kept the receipt in case I need a new family.”
Later this afternoon, they will start rolling in from work and from two different schools. It doesn’t matter that they’re 26, 17 and 9 (the 22-year-old is gone). They will still have their requisite “we must pound, wrestle and conquer to feel loved” hullabaloo, and the whole house, rafters down, will be shaking.
During one such kerfluffle, Someone, whom we know as The Oppressor, ended up with a puke bucket on his head (thankfully, it was empty; and clean). And in another fierce skirmish in an upstairs bedroom, Bucket Head claimed a heavenly calling, a mandate divine, to wad both younger siblings down between the bed and a wall into a crack about 4 inches wide. In “obedience,” then, he worked tirelessly until “mission accomplished!”
It was the following Tuesday before the two unfortunates managed to extricate themselves from the pile. Ye gods.
I know. It sounds crazy. Sounds wild and woolly. And it is.
I think I’m the one (as the sole owner of the ovaries) who should actually have the receipt. What a crowd. But it’s the one that I’ve got. It’s our brand of crazy, and it’s a woolly kind of life that I like.
Just don’t tell ’em that I said so. I mean it. If you do, I will say that you lied.