He was through the afterhours unlocked front door before I remembered what time it was, all short black dreads and nervousness, asking did we have booster cables, his car was right there in the across the street parking lot, full of girlfriend and baby and just bought used clothes, and he pointed thataway, and we said yes. We tried MB’s fancy new wonderful cables, and my old tried and true ones, but the car was having none of it, and so we figured he would call a friend, but neither he nor she had a phone, at least not with them, he said, just the baby and that dead Ford, so MB offered up his phone and it turned out they had no friends right at that moment either. It turned out also that the dead Ford had no gasoline, so while MB drove him to get a gallon and the baby sat behind the steering wheel, turning the key, trying to start the vehicle, the girlfriend sized me up to see if any of her new salvation army/goodwill clothing finds would fit me, which mattered not, because no way no how was I accepting a neon pink jumpsuit, regardless of the good intentions behind the offer.
We were an hour past our going home time, with stuff still to do, but you gotta be a human being sometimes, just to remind the gods and yourself that all is not lost. Earlier in the day we’d been driving, and behind a man who'd used his left arm to signal turns, and I’d said to MB that just the seeing of that gave me hope that all was not lost, both the me remembering what they were part and the man using them part, but MB just laughed and assured me it was too late. Civilization was gone. And though in truth I mostly agreed with him, deep down, part of me was still lit up by that right turn hand signal, thinking maybe not.
So we kept trying to get that Ford going but it was just done for, supposed new Walmart battery or not, gasoline or not, but at last MB's phone connected with one of their friends and we left them waiting in the parking lot, baby and all, but not before the guy suggested we disconnect the battery on MB’s truck and loan it to him for a while. And that's where the little light in me that’d been lit by the day's earlier arm signals just flickered on out. I hope they got home all right, hope some of those clothes fit her, and I hope the gods weren't listening, because it seemed proof that all is lost.
The girlfriend sitting in the car with no phone, no texting, no sighing, no drama, had kind of also lit me up a teeny bit, right there at the first, until we'd engaged in a bit of conversation. Life just happens, she'd said to me, and apologized for using up our time, which we'd not even thought about. Life does just happen, way too often sometimes, but you can't just sit in the car and let someone else take care of you, I'd thought back, wanting her to do something besides sit there in the passenger seat, spreading clothes across her lap and asking my opinion of each piece. Her acceptance of whatever happened seemed to cross the line over onto passive, and that's where life does just happen to you and you just let it and you never put up a fight even when a fight is needed.
Later in the week, at the grocery store. A guy in line ahead of me, buying milk, cigarettes, cereal. The plastic gallon of milk had sprung a tiny hole and left a Hansel and Gretel trail of milkdrops all the way up to where he stood, and when I pointed it out, he and the cashier found the tiny hole, and she said she'd send for another gallon, an intact one, but he said to tell the manager he'd give him half price for the leaky one - after all, he said, the milk was fine, and they were just gonna toss it. Off she went to the manager, and he and I looked at each other. No way will he let me, he said. I agreed. Managers have no power, I replied. It's all a tax write-off, he said back, and when we were right, when the cashier returned and said the manager said he could do nothing, we just smiled, and I thought back to the mom and pop stores of the old days, when in fact managers were often owners and did have power, thinking no way would milk have been thrown out, written off, thinking a deal would have been made. And then the cigarettes. Marlboro lights, he said, apologizing that he'd not mentioned them when she had headed off earlier, and the cashier was off again, to retrieve the cigarettes from wherever the store keeps them under lock and key, secret passwords and thumbprints no doubt required to gain entry, making it all the sadder/funnier when she returned with regular old Marlboros, not Marlboro lights, necessitating another trip to wherever the cigarettes lived.
We exchanged looks, that guy and I, and laughed, and I recalled out loud how when I was a girl, cigarettes were right there at the cashier's stand, and my mother would send me in to get her a pack whilst she waited in the car. All is lost, he said to me, turning back after he'd paid and was on his way out. We are done for.
I expect a flood any day now, and I have no ark.
capital letters a nod to story a day, keeping me in story writing mode,
even with everyday events.
in rereading this, it strikes me how very southern it is,
and so also apologies and thanks to t.r. pearson,
always an inspiration and especially so when i fall into storytelling mode.
if i have crossed a bit of a line into his cadence, it is unintentional.