Wednesday, March 19, 2014

We All's Fine- (w.i.p.)

Would you like to know the truth? This is what I was thinking when the receptionist tilted her head at me and asked: How ya'll doin today?  Instead I said, "We all's fine", not sure if that was rude, but not too concerned about it. She told me the doctor would see me in just a minute. I eased myself into a chair. I looked over at her. She smiled in my direction and went back to her business. Southerners: slavery, red necks, lynch mobs, big porches, sweet tea, plantations, strong women, weak men, slow conversation, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor... Oh, y'all, how do you do it? How do you stay polite and righteous? How do you stay strong but seem weak? Which one is the facade and which one the core? I stared at her and drummed my fingers.

She looked up, "Sir?"

I stopped and looked up.

"Oh, I thought you were trying to get my attention, " she smiled, looked back down.

"No, ma'am".

She shook her head at me. You can always count on their humor though. I liked that. I could have fallen in love with her just for that. Even with the accent. I watched her looking at her book, still shaking her head at me, still smiling.  She looked up at me, "You doing all right?"


"Just had your last treatment, right?"

"I did, yes".

I didn't want to go into it. I liked her but that didn't mean I wanted to talk to her. I looked at her sitting at the desk. I thought about sliding my hands up her skirt, one hand on the outside of each leg; my fingers over skin, under elastic. She glanced at me from the side of her eyes. I sighed. She laughed.

"I'm old".

 "You're not that old Mr. Ollery".

"In cancer years I'm 95".

"You're 52. And that's not old".

"It is if you've already picked out a plot in the cemetery".

"Are you tryin to hit on me?"

"If only I could".

She got up and walked around into the waiting area, leaned on the desk, crossed her arms, "You know I think that's just about the nicest thing anyone's said to me all day".

"I'm sure you hear things like that all the time".

 "I really don't".

I shrugged at her. What else could I do?

After a while, she said, "You know what I did this morning? I don't why I'm telling you this, it's silly really, but... I took my son's turtles to the park and let them go in the pond. My son had three turtles. They were too big to be in the tank. They needed to get out. We got them a few years ago--"

I looked at her mouth while she talked. I looked at her ankles and her legs, the curve of her hip, her breasts, her neck, the line of her jaw, and back to her mouth again. It was a shame about the talking, the question mark at the end of each sentence, the lilt-n-twang. Women: small, vulnerable, curve, ass, boobs, pussy, wet--

"And you know it was strange because when we first got 'em, they were the size of fifty cent pieces, I swear, just tiny little things. You're not supposed to touch them though because--"

-- talking. On and on. Forever on and on. Even the ones that barely speak. Even the great ones. They've still got to explain. I sometimes think they'd be a lot better off with a piece of duct tape across the mouth area.

She stopped talking, "What are you grinnin' about?"

"You do not want to know". Women: psychic, mysterious, intuitive, frightening--

"You should be more patient, Mr. Ollery".


"And not so quick to judge," she stopped to let that sink in, "There is a point to this story, believe it or not".

There was no following this girl. Even though I wanted to.

"By all means, continue" I said.

"Y'all might be surprised if you really listen".

"Surprise me then".

"Do you ever pray?"

"Well that's a sharp left".

"I know it's a strange question, but you know, because I work here, well, it's something I think about from time to time."

"Do you?"

"And I talk to my son about it, and in fact when we let the turtles go, he wanted to say a little prayer--"

"Wait. Are you religious?'

"No, I'm not actually".

"Thank Jesus".

"And anyway he said his little prayer, kind of to himself, and then he said to me 'How do we know our prayers are heard?'"

"I'd like to the know the answer to that one myself".

"And I said you'll know it because afterwards something good will happen".

"Like what?"

She laughed at me; it was a good laugh, "That's exactly what my son said. And he's seven."

"He's obviously a genius".

The phone rang and she held up a finger and swished past me. Gone: old, sick, past, finished, over, dying, dead, forgotten. It is always such a burden to love someone. I listened to her voice. There were definitely worse things to hear.

"No it's not, sir, no problem", she was talking into the phone but she was looking at me, smiling. I was in the goddam doctor's office and she was looking at me like that. I had no idea about anything. All I knew for sure was that I didn't have a clue about a single thing, and then she said, "It's not a burden at all, really". Really. I watched her hang up the phone and lift her chin to look at me; I thought: I'm done. In every possible way, I'm done.

"What are you thinkin about Mr. Ollery?'' she asked me, finally.

"Would you like to know the truth?" I said.

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