After the policeman left, Miss Manners resumed her obscenity-laced cinematography at once. Then Michael ran out of trimmer line for the weed eater. The buses were already done for the evening, so he planned to walk over three miles to Wal Mart to buy more so he could finish the lawn at the first light of sunrise. At the last possible moment, I got another single bar on the Tracfone and texted a neighborhood friend asking for a ride. The friend saw it just before phone service died again and brought us a roll of trimmer line himself. I thanked him a thousand times, which is still not nearly enough.
The next day I raked up the grass in the rain while Miss Manners’ dog barked on the corner of her property, until she herself emerged to bring the dog up to her porch and call me an obscene name. She stood staring at me until I finished.
I really do wish I could command mosquitoes.
Friday, I didn’t feel very well, but I was desperate to be out of the house. I took Rose on the bus for a day out, thinking it would be quick. We went to the library and got picture books. We took another bus from the library to the pop-up Halloween store and took pictures of one another reacting to the scary mannequins with the tracfone camera. I particularly liked a decapitated figure in a ruffled nightgown who would trundle around in the circle, crying loudly about the witch-hunters who took her head. It reminded me of Miss Manners.
Then we went next door to Wal Mart to do the fifth-of-the-month grocery shopping. I bought a carton of special autumn edition “frozen hot chocolate” flavored ice cream, along with a lot of very practical inexpensive meat and freezer items. I congratulated myself on my thrift. We stopped for just a little too long to look at doll dresses for Rosie’s only female teddy bear, Mrs. Peabody. Rosie is a great lover of teddy bears; she buys them from the thrift store dollar bin or saves up her pocket money to get a new one. Most of her bears are boys and don’t need dresses, but Mrs. Peabody is completely naked. Rosie found a sensible dress and cardigan for Mrs. Peabody, but we just couldn’t afford it this week.
When we got outside, we were just in time to find out that the bus driver’s watch was fast. We watched the back of the bus as it drove away without us, a full minute before it was scheduled to leave on its last run of the night.
We were stranded, four miles from home, on a Friday night in Steubenville, with a cart full of raw meat and frozen food. I didn’t have my various powders and potions and tonics I take to keep the fibromyalgia at bay with me– I’d planned to take them right on time when we got home from our short, simple errand.Rosie started crying. She moaned that she was starving for dinner.
I had had the money to buy us dinner – I had just spent it to buy the dinner in the cart, which was waiting to be taken home and cooked. I did not have any means to get home and cook it. I am not a sorceress after all, fortunately for Ms. Manners.
I stood there texting desperately for an hour.
At that point it was starting to get dark. We each drank a few gulps of the ruined melted ice cream and threw out the soaked carton; then we hefted the heavy bags and started across the vast parking lot to wait at the library.
And at that moment, I finally got a call. It was from the nice old lady who sometimes drives me to Mass. I didn’t even think she was in town this weekend. I explained my predicament, and she told me to meet her just down the road at the Aldi.
I went into the Aldi and bought a pumpkin for Rosie to carve. Whole raw pumpkins are EBT eligible even though nobody I know eats them, and Rosie is behind on her penmanship skills in homeschooling so I give her every fine motor skill activity I can. Then the lady drove us home, chatting about the fun of homeschooling and neighborhood friends. She commiserated about the lawn and praised me for trying to de-escalate with Miss Manners. She handed me a bag containing several different varieties of fresh organic apple, from an orchard she’d visited, and a book about the Holy Spirit she’d found on the freebie table at the thrift store.
I got home, took my medicine, threw the meat in the oven before it spoiled, and enjoyed a fresh organic orchard apple. The apple was particularly delicious– the kind of apple that really tastes like something, like autumn and cool weather; the kind you can imagine tempting Eve or Snow White to their ruin. If I was really the kind of menace Miss Manners thinks I was, I would use just such an apple to put her into an enchanted sleep so that Michael could mow the lawn.
Rosie carved her pumpkin, with my supervision.
The lawn is all mowed and ready for winter.
It’s one of those truths so obvious it shouldn’t need to be said: kindness from human beings is the difference between a nightmare day and just another comically bad one. It’s far more wonderful to have kind friends than to have any sort of magic at my disposal.
I do hope this week is better, though.