Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Goes Around

Ah . . . my fifth and final flash! This one, too, is memoir turned fiction. Ellen is Sandy, and Joe is Frank. This really happened!

What Goes Around

Ellen’s Friday had been typical but rough. She’d stopped at four schools that day, meeting with teachers, trying to convince them that her publisher’s textbooks were the ones to adopt for the next six years. She’d traveled back and forth across the county, keeping appointments that she’d set up days before. Even with the air conditioner going full blast, she never cooled off between stops. But always present in her mind as she worked was the weekend ahead. She could bear the heat outside and in the car and the negativism of some teachers as she thought of the fun in store for her.

Every year at some time in the spring, her husband, Joe, would drive all day to get to Chiefland, Florida, and would park their motor home on the Sewannee River, where he and Ellen would spend a weekend fishing and reading and eating seafood in quaint restaurants in Chiefland or Cedar Key. Small towns don’t have much in the way of entertainment, so they always joked about going to Walmart to watch the local characters. And sometimes they went there more than once during their little getaway to shop and to surreptitiously watch and smile about the locals.

Ellen knew that Joe would have everything they needed as far as food was concerned, so she didn’t need to stop at Walmart on the way to the campground, but as she drove, her mind kicked in. I’m almost out of toothpaste, so I’d better stop. Besides, I have some phone calls to make, and I can use the pay phone there. Since cell phones didn’t work in that area of Florida, she sometimes would have to use the pay phone on the porch of the campground office, suffering for days later from the mosquito bites that she’d get while talking. Walmart was air-conditioned and had no mosquitoes, making talking to teachers a pleasure instead of a slapping session on her legs.

I’ll be in and out in just a few minutes. Toothpaste and telephone. Toothpaste and telephone. But first I need to stop at the little girls’ room, she thought as she walked to the store. After her trip to the restroom, she strolled around the store, looking at interesting things—school supplies that she might use for her work, cosmetics, kitchen utensils, funny locals. Just a quick look through the store. Then she made four or five calls to teachers, setting up appointments and winding up her week in the Chiefland area. Now she could enjoy the weekend with Joe without having to worry about her next week in Central Florida. She was all set.

As she drove through the campground looking for their motor home and her sweetheart, she wondered if Joe had gotten there in time to catch some fish for their supper. If not, maybe they’d go out to Cedar Key to The Cove to eat. Either way, she knew their evening meal would be delicious. Having been gone all week, she couldn’t wait to see Joe. She’d entertain him with stories about the teachers that she’d worked with all week.

Ah . . . there he is! She parked the car, gathered up her work materials, and headed for the motor home. Joe met her, gave her a quick hug, and opened the door for her. Ellen turned toward the front of the vehicle and set her things down between the driver’s and passenger’s seats.

“Oh, no, Honey!” Joe exclaimed.

I can’t believe it. I’ve barely walked in to the motor home, and already I’ve messed it up! She knew that their home away from home would be spick and span and could just see in her mind’s eye that she’d tracked in mud or something.

At that moment, Joe reached out and pulled a strip of toilet paper about three feet long from the back of Ellen’s pants. Just thinking about the conversation at the supper table that night in homes all over Chiefland kept them in stitches for the rest of the evening.

“Hey, Mama. You shoulda saw the funny lady at Walmart this afternoon!”


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