(Read the other chapters here.)
When I woke the next morning, the sun had barely made an appearance in the sky and Miss Pauline had yet to drag her white plastic chair to its spot under the Trident Maple. Decked from head to toe in purple, black and gold, I tiptoed down the stairs to begin to prepare breakfast for Minnesotans who, though “tuckered,” were up most of the night watching The Wire, Season 3 marathon. In the kitchen the light on the microwave had been switched off, and the aroma of fresh brewed coffee wafted through air. Confused, I read the note that was folded tent style on the counter next to my favorite Franklin Peanuts coffee mug.
“Morning, Miss Tinsdale, hope we didn’t disturb you rattling around this morning. I made a fresh pot of coffee and a tin of muffins. Please don’t trouble yourself making lunch for us. We’ll be out most of the day taking in Baltimore, Maryland sights! Have a super day!–P.S. I grabbed a mug from the cabinet. I figured it must be one you like a lot, with it having so many cracks and chips.” I studied the script, neat and highly legible, along with the appropriately sized smiley face beside the combo signature: “JSherilynn&Hank.”
I poured myself a cup of coffee and after one sip had to admit it was just the way I liked it: strong, black, and blazing hot. I took a seat at the kitchen table and thought about making yet another meal for one as I continued to sip what was for sure the best cup of coffee I had had in life. I read the note again, studying it, the loops and dotted i’s and crossed t’s, even committing the smile in the smiley face to memory, slowly coming to the conclusion I’m sure many of my ilk would have if confronted with the same: Minnesotans are just plain evil.
I was about to suck down another mouthful of the mellow Costa Rican blend when the phone rang. I knew from the sharp, grating trill that it had to be Glory. I also understood that if I didn’t pick up there would be a price to pay. Even so, dressed in my best Ravens Active Woman gear, I continued to sip, leisurely reclining, legs lifted, propped on the adjacent seat, content to let the “Piper” and the rest of the world go straight to voicemail. And I would have done this too, if I hadn’t heard a little something below the refrigerator’s hum, an undeniable rustling easily recognized by all This Old House (and not so old house) owners.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw it, but didn’t have time to let out even one startled comic strip “Ewk!,” before it leapt quicksilver from the counter, jumping over Sherilynn’s tin of muffins on the counter, then onto the floor, darting somewhere under the stove. I ran out of the kitchen, slowing down only to grab the phone. Once in the living room, I stared at the keypad, having gone blank on who I could possibly call. An exterminator was not an option, not with the Minnesotans afoot. Benny also was a no go. The only pestilence he had ever experienced was when a renegade blackbird broke formation and crashed into the sliding glass doors of his 25th floor condo. No, I had to call the Piper. For sure, the Piper would know what to do.
The call needed to be brief. I did not have time to hear Glory’s opinions on global warming: “It’s all those aerosol deodorant wearing suit types, causing this mess. A little baking powder and a person should be fine–if they don’t have a disorder.” Or why (God, help me) I was still single at thirty-eight: “You need to give up the ghost on finding a “good” black man, Estella. At your age and with all the socio-economic intermingling going on—Asian women—decent black men are slim pickings. Find yourself a nice Jewish man. That’s what Mrs. Hall’s girl Janiece did, and she couldn’t be happier….” Taking a breath, I kept this in mind as I dialed.
The answering machine picked up. “Hey, Glory, sorry I didn’t call earlier, but it’s been hectic. These Minnesotans are a trip… Yeah, well…I wanted to ask you a question, but that’s okay. I’ll call you later, tomorrow perhaps. No need to call back.” Then because I really did feel guilty for not calling sooner, “Have a great day–Mom.”
Not thirty seconds later, the phone rang. “Glory, I was walking out the door when you first called, but got to the phone too late. You had already hung up,” I lied, taking a seat on the stairs. I listened. I heard the high enthusiastic squeals and low grumbles of Glory’s disciples in the background as they received their marching orders and allotment of pamphlets to be handed out for that night’s carport revival. “Ink’s still running on my batch, Miss Glory,” someone was reporting.
“You’re busy getting ready for tonight, Glory, so, I’ll…Yeah, they’re nice, what you’d expect from the heartland, plain folk.” Even as this fell from my lips, I knew that it was the wrong thing to say. “Well, I really doubt a couple of married serial killers would be willing to trek all the way from Minnesota to behead Baltimore-based bed and breakfast owners…. Sure, if you choose to look at it like that …then, of course, it’s possible. Yes, I have a lock on my bedroom door. I’m not crazy, mother.” I continued to listen as Glory, distracted, asked someone, Dolfine?—No, Dolphin, had he in his efforts to become a good Christian bothered to bathe that morning.
I looked at my watch. One minute, fifty-nine seconds had elapsed. “Glory, I need to cut this short. I can’t miss that next Circulator.” I hung up not sure if she heard me, still determined to see Dolphin properly washed. But it was done. Even though I had paying guests on the premises, with critter(s) roaming freely throughout my home–and had forgotten to ask what to do about this, I had made my requisite weekly call to my mother, and was two notches below elated that I had.
To be continued…
Willett Thomas is the president of Write of Passage, Inc. She earned her MA in writing from Johns Hopkins. She has received artist fellowships from Blue Mountain Center and the Millay Colony. She was selected as a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation fellow for the District of Columbia, and is the recipient of the 2008 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange award for fiction.