Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Miss Lucy Goes Out On The Town, no. 1

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Lucy was startled. Yes, she'd been waiting for the Chicago ElderConnextion volunteer for twenty minutes, so she was expecting the buzzer to squwak. But when the volunteer didn't show up on time - what was her name, anyhow? Mary Beth? Well, when that lady didn't show up as predetermined, Lucy decided just to sit down on her well-worn couch in her coat, and wait. She felt a little hot wearing her coat while inside her over-heated apartment. But better to be ready to go at a moment's notice, then spend several minutes putting on her overcoat again. She just hoped that her ride wasn't cancelled. She loved going to these monthly luncheons. They had best food, much better than any meal Lucy ever prepared for herself (which was mostly Campbell's cream of chicken soup doctored up with some fresh vegetables) or Meals on Wheels. Besides, the lunch was prepared so nicely with cloth napkins, table clothes, streamers overhead. There there was the entertainment - often a Frank Sinatra impersonator, followed by a scrumptious dessert (last month's hot blueberry pie ala mode was especially good), a treat she couldn't usually afford herself on her limited budget. To cap it off, she got bring home flowers, always.

Lucy carefully walked over to answer the buzzer. She pressed the 'talk' button. "Hello. Who is it?" She said cautiously. You could never be sure who was at the door. Sometimes it was the kids downstairs, waiting for the next hair-braiding appointment in the downstairs apartment. Rarely was it the pizza man. Often it was Fedex dumping off their packages in a great rush, never really paying attention to just who they were contacting. They just put their fist to the call pad and rang everybody.

"Yes, it's crackle, crick, crackle with Elderconnextion. I'm here to crackle, crick crackle crick for the luncheon at hhsssssst. I'm sorry I'm crackle crick crackle. Traffic was horrible. Can I come on up? I've got to go hhhhhhhhhhhst."

Lucy couldn't hear exactly what was being said. She'd have to get onto maintenance to fix the figgitty old buzzer, which she was certain was older than she was, and she'd been living in the same apartment for the past 35 years. She liked Elmer, he was the most attentive super in the building. He'd take care of broken things faster than a mouse could scamper across her stove but he left to move to Florida with his girlfriend. Lucy paused. She had been awaiting a visit, so she pushed the door button. Seconds later she heard a loud knock on her door. "Bop Bop Bop!
Bop Bop Bop!"

Lucy peered into the tiny glass peephole on her triple-locked door. She saw this woman with brown hair and a fuschia coat. Must be Mary Beth. Recently she had to chase out a very nice woman who somehow got into the building and was soliciting for Avon. This didn't seem like the make-up lady.

She opened the door. It creaked, another thing that needed to be fixed, but that new guy, Mikolvo, didn't seem to understand English and he was always to busy flirting with that Mexican woman across the street.

"Ooh, Hello. You must be Lucy. I'm so terribly sorry about being late," Mary Beth said, walking in, a major wave of this heavy rose -scented perfume following in her wake. She looked around, pulling off her jet-black leather gloves. "Traffic was just awful! There was this big accident on Ashland Avenue, and they were redirecting cars so much I swear I thought I was going to end up in Lake Michigan. I tried calling you on my cell, but you weren't there. Or maybe I had the wrong number. I can't remember which. Anyhow, I apologize. But I was in the car so long with my Starbucks, I really got to go. Can I use your bathroom? "

Before Lucy even had a chance to say yes, Mary Beth flung her trenchcoat onto the couch, her massive white leather embossed bag with its huge ringed handle onto the hardwood floor. Faster than Lucy's late cat Master, Mary Beth was in the washroom. Lucy winced, thinking about the door that didn't close all the way thanks to a swollen door jamb and the jumble of prescription bottles surrounding the sink. Had she known this volunteer needed to use the toilet, she would have cleaned up a little.

Clunk! Lucy heard the thud of the toilet seat. Lucy, walker and all, quickly moved to her galley-size kitchen to do some cleaning there. She always did that when someone was using the facilities. She didn't want to hear all the personal sounds emitting from the bathroom. So she began putting away the tea pot, some saucers, wiping up the counter, and mostly importantly, turning on the faucet. She wanted to politely drown out any sounds coming from the bathroom. Splash! Splash! Swish, swish, swish! Splash! Clank, clank, clank! Lucy rustled around some pots on her stove, cleaning off the crust of chili on the countertop from last night's dinner.

Then she heard Gurgle! gurgle. Gurgle, gurgle. Mary Beth must be finishing up at the washroom. Yank, yank, yank at the door. Oh dear, the bathroom door was stuck again. Lucy rushed as fast as she clunkity, clunkity, clunkity could to the washroom, to pull at the doorknob.

Suddenly, the door opened. Mary Beth walked out, quickly shutting the door behind her.

"Thank you for letting me use your washroom," she said, brushing down her surplice-wrap dress which had swirls of black, pink and white paisley. She slipped over to the coach to pick up her coat and purse.

This was the first chance Lucy had to size up Mary Beth since she rushed into her home a few minutes ago. She liked her brown hair, which was cut into a bob, just like those pictures of her Aunt Emma in the 1920s. Unlike all those other young women, Mary Beth was wearing a dress. It seemed like so many girls these days wore jeans all the time. It was refreshing to see a dress.

"I like your dress," Lucy said.

"Oh, thank you. I made it."

"You made it? My goodness. I didn't know girls sewed these days."

"Oh, I've been sewing on and off since I was a kid. I got into it a big way when I bought a new sewing machine a couple of years ago."

"You did a great job, " Lucy said, clearly awed. "I thought girls were too busy to sew. When I was growing up, nearly all girls sewed. You had to. It was required in school. But today? I thought sewing was too old-fashioned and all young girls bought their clothes at S&M-"

"You mean H&M." "Yes, that's right H&M, the Rap-"

"The Gap?" "Right, the Gap, and Navy Pier."

"Navy Pier? Are you sure you don't mean Old Navy? Navy Pier is mostly for entertainment - there's a ferris wheel, restaurants, and Imax..."

"Yes, Old Navy. Anyhow, I never did sew. I couldn't, not after I saw my mother's finger get stabbed by a sewing machine."


Lucy had to sit down, her legs were bothering her. "My mother, God bless her heart, was sewing on her old treadle sewing machine when the needle accidentally ran over her finger. I was there when it happened. I was five years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. There was blood everywhere, on the knickers she was repairing for my father. Luckily it didn't get on our neighbor Johnny's jumpers, which she was also fixing. But I was so traumatized, I couldn't bring myself to sew ever. Even when we had to in high-school. I would just pretend, and then get one of my girlfriends to do my projects."

"Wow, that's quite a story."

"So now you know. I hate sewing machines. I just couldn't bring myself to go near them. Not even when my husband's pants pockets needed to be stitched. When I had a millinery shop, I always hired someone else to do anything with a sewing machine." Machines and needles? They scare me."

"You were a hat-maker?"

"I was for a while back ---"

"Oh my gosh. Look at the time. We must go. The luncheon's starting in 20 minutes and the traffic is terrible. We better get going!"

The two women, one a little bit younger than the other, had one thing in common at that moment: they were hungry. Swifter than Flash Gordon, they swooped down the stairs, walker in tow. They're were off to get some good chow.

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