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In Our Midst

January 16, 2011

*See note in previous post.

transitory by CallMeSubtle

Transitory by Flickr user CallMeSubtle

The alarm clock goes off, it’s 9:30am. I shove my face deeper into the pillow. The phone has been ringing non-stop since 5:30am or so. Well, actually there were two calls around 3:30am, a call around 2:15am, three around 1:20 – 1:45, and several around midnight. Ugh! They’re out there! There’s a loud pounding on the door, when it stops I count backward from ten waiting for the loud explosion that inevitably never happens.

I roll over and stare into the ceiling hoping either to be absorbed into it or that it will give signs that it’s finally going to come crashing down. Instead I’m shaken out of my day dream by a light tapping on the window of the side porch door. I sit up and slide my feet into ratty old baby blue slippers. As usual it’s my neighbor from across the street. I open the door.

“I got a good clear look this time! Do you want me to call it in this time?!” I just let out a groan, wave it off and say, “What’s the point.” I slink off toward the coffee pot that’s just spewing out the last few drops before its robotic alarm buzzes to tell my ghost body still in bed that the world is waiting. I grab two mugs and ask my neighbor, who even though this is routine for is still waiting at the door, if she’d like some coffee and breakfast. I grab two bowls, pour cereal and milk without even asking what my neighbor would like. She of course closes the door, comes in and sits down.  She’s my only real friend these days.  Not even a real friend though.  I’m not sure anyone can be a real friend to me anymore.

I pull my baby blue bathrobe off the hook on the back of the kitchen door.  I pull it on, sit down at the table and tuck the robe in around me.  The house isn’t drafty for once, though maybe that was all in my head to begin with, the robe is more of a comfort item these days.  I mechanically dive into my cereal, never taking my eyes off what’s in my bowl.

My neighbor goes on and on about neighborhood gossip, the latest town news.  I just interject at the appropriate moments with the proper “mmhmm, I’m listening” noises, even if all I can hear is the loud crunching of cereal.

The cereal is just starting to get mushy when there’s a loud rat-a-tat-tat at the side door again.  My neighbor opens the door neither of is us too surprised to see her husband standing there.  He steps in as his wife sits back down to her cereal.  “Good morning!” he says.  “What are you two ladies chatting about?”  “Oh, I was just telling Jessie about the new plans for the high school’s library addition.”  his wife replies.  Before she’s even half way through her sentence I feel the silence creep up.  When it finally falls and the deafening sound of cereal smashing and sloshing in my mouth returns, I barely have to flick a glance up to know dirty looks are being exchanged between the couple.  Finishing up my mastication project I wonder if in all forty some years of marriage their fighting has ever gone beyond this magnitude of deafening silence paired with an exchange of the ol’ stink eye.

“Well, I just dropped by to say the new window came in at the store and I’m on my way over to pick it up.  If it’s ok I can come back and fix ‘er up in a few minutes?”  I tell him that’s fine.  Seeing my neighbor’s wife done with her cereal, I pick up the bowls and run them under the faucet before letting them clank to the bottom of the sink.

When the couple has left I grab up a loaded laundry basket and head for the basement.  I haphazardly sort the clothes and then drag the clothes from last night out of the dryer.  In my own little world I shove the dirty clothes into the washer and go back to folding the clean laundry.  The familiar rat-a-tat-tat on the door comes, I shout up the stairs and rub my forehead as I hear the side door open and footsteps tap down the basement steps.  My neighbor’s husband crosses to the far window, new window in tow, and yanks the boards off.  His tool box has been sitting on the floor for nearly two weeks now.

The unfolded to folded laundry ratio well past the midway point I hear a voice say, “Well, that should do ‘er!”  followed by the sound of fake dusting off of hands.  Tools are packed up and a disguised groan comes as the heavy box is lifted.  I hear my name,  “Say,  Jess…”  my neighbor’s husband begins.  I pause my folding and half turn my head in his direction, knowing too well he won’t say what he really wants to say.  “…if you have any problems with it just give us a call ok?”  He’s barely to the word “if” when I’ve folded two more shirts and remembered the dirty laundry sitting in the washer.  I thank him as he heads back up the stairs.  I hear the door shut and stare at the spout of the laundry detergent canister.  “Damn it!”  my wrist thud as they fall against the edge of the washer.

After I’m showered, dressed, and have grabbed the shopping list off the fridge, I hop into the car.  I start the drive to the store that’s 15 minutes out of my way.  I pass a familiar house and even though the day has turned out to be rather sunny, the house appears dark somehow.  A “Happy Birthday, Trevor” banner from several days ago hangs pathetically on the porch.  No cars parked in the drive or in the street in front, just a bicycle over turned in the yard and a seemingly lost pink boombox sitting patiently on the porch swing.

Three or four minutes later I pass the football field.  I scan the cheerleaders shouting and leaping into the air but my eyes briefly on a single girl on the bleachers sitting with her back to the road.  I watch as every now and then her left arm leaps from her side and into the air in time with her friends movements out on the field.  In my rearview I catch her head turn briefly in the direction of my now fading car.  She leaps from the bench, skips out to the edge of the field and begins to kick her legs high into the air with the rest of the cheerleaders.

I come to the front of the school where the too expensive, too under used LED message board still scrolls “Congratulations Creekside Class of 2010!”   Semi aware I’ve just let out the Guinness Book of World Records winning entry for loudest sigh, I scrunch down in my seat a little further and press my foot against the gas pedal.   Ten minutes later I find myself in a parking lot staring at my shopping list:

  • Milk
  • eggs
  • lettuce
  • cheese
  • frozen dinners
  • ice cream
  • frozen veggies
  • pop

and scribbled tightly in the bottom margin, detergent.

Thankfully it’s the Fourth of July and the store is virtually empty save a few people who forgot their chips or hot dog buns.  I grab my stuff, at the check out the clerk jabs my purchases into the crisp paper sack and tosses the bags into my arms.

At home I unpack my bags, then head back to the basement with the soda pop, detergent and frozen goods to store  away in the large freezer.  At the bottom of the last bag I unexpectedly find a bag of “Extra Seasoning! Spicy Fries”.  I glare at them for a moment before shoving them into the freezer and slamming the door.  I pour the detergent into the wash and start up the machine.

Heading up the stairs I grab my dusting and cleaning supplies to start in on the rest of the house.  I come to the mantle over the fireplace and shove the duster between the large gaps between photos.  In the hall I try to ignore the afternoon sun blatantly pointing to more faded spaces between photos as I vacuum.  I shove the vacuum cleaner back in the closet.  In the kitchen I start dinner, I always make too much.  Dinner started I jog down the steps to change the wash.  Upstairs the phone rings.

After checking the caller ID I pick up against my better judgment and as if controlled by some unseen force.  Stupidly, I hear myself say “I thought I told you not to call…”  The voice on the other end ignores me and drones on.  Unsure how much later, I become aware of alien fingers twisting around the phone cord.  I wonder why I’ve kept this old phone so long.  “Look Jess, I know how you feel but this is FAMILY…”  The deep voice launches into the standard speech.  I suddenly remember the multitude of things I forgot to put on my shopping list and yet managed to pick up fries I won’t ever touch.  I quietly curse myself.  I let the voice know I need to go rescue my dinner before it burns.  As I hang up I catch the voice something about “…the 27th…he needs you.  You’re his mother, for Christ sake!”  For Christ sake…right.

I watch the sunset out the kitchen window.  The dryer buzzer sounds, when I come to I find an empty plate in front of me and near full pots and pans on the stove.  Running my hands over my exhausted face I stand up, leave my dishes and head back to the dank basement that seems more like a prison today.

Pulling the warm clothes out one stray item lands on the floor between the dryer and my basket.  I haul it up to find a t-shirt in my hands.  The room begins to swim.  Sobbing uncontrollably I rush to the wash basin to vomit.  My legs give way, sinking to the floor my head strikes the basin but I hardly even notice the pain.  I hardly even notice when the fireworks begin all I seem to notice is my own wailing, the sound of blood rushing in my ears, and the crumpled t-shirt on the basement floor.  The message emblazoned upon the shirt staring back at me, one I had seen before but…I hadn’t really noticed…

It looks like I never finished the exact idea I originally had (think I thought I’d get this up quicker and thought I’d just remember from my chicken scratch outline).  It looks like the original ending ended with her collapsing and hitting her head.  I’ll probably monkey around with it again at some point.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2011 4:28 pm

    Quite an interesting story….you left me wondering what was it that she read…very effective.


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