I know that title sounds funny. It is just that… Well, Edna said she found me in the middle of her back porch bright and early one morning. This was early last summer, she said. And this was a few years after Ed had died.
When she found me there, she… She said I didn’t have any clothes on, and I was curled up in a little ball. And it looked like I was sleeping. She made sure I was breathing, anyway, just barely she said. She also said it took the longest time for her to actually wake me. She was able to carefully hobble me into her house, and she got me down on her couch. She said I fell back asleep again immediately. Well, she thought I was asleep, anyway, so she threw a blanket over me. Edna was a little late for work after taking care of me, and so she left me there, and walked to the Diner just like she always did.
Finding people on her farm, I guess I was not the first one. When the farm was busy, she and Ed would occasionally find one of the ranch hands asleep on the back porch. Ed said often, they were sleeping off a night at the bar or something. With a look of disgust, Edna said “that smell, you never forget.” A few times, they had one of the local girls run away from home. They ended up at Edna’s because she knew most of the girls in town since they were babies, and Edna seemed to go out of her way to help them as they grew up. Well, her reputation spread, I think, and a number of girls, when they thought they couldn’t take life at home anymore, well, they ‘ran away’ to the farm. The back porch was outside, but safe enough. And with such a small town, little happened that everyone else didn’t know or would quickly find out about. After staying a while, especially over night, most local girls soon just walked home. Even a single night away from home, and all that entailed; Edna felt that was enough for most of those girls to realize home wasn’t so bad. Of course, she would talk to each girl the next morning. If things at their house were out of hand, Edna would let the sheriff know, and things would calm down quickly after that.
Edna said I was different, I looked different. She felt I was older than the teenage girls from town. I didn’t smell like alcohol at all, and she could tell I wasn’t on drugs. I guess she had some exposure to that in this little town too, as kids she knew grew up and got into all kinds of wrong, she used to say. And, what she called her ‘feminine intuition’, she didn’t think I had been, well, taken advantage of, she said.
Edna worked a full day at the Diner that first day, and said honestly that she forgot about me until she was walking home that night. She was a little scared. As unresponsive as I was, she just was not sure if I would even be alive or not. She walked in her door, and checked on me right away. I was still breathing, but still sleeping, and it looked like I had not moved. And she noticed a huge bruise on the top of my head at that point. Not knowing what it was, she put a cool rag on it. Well, that roused me a little, and I opened my eyes, and looked groggily around the room. I smiled at Edna anyway. The first thing she said to me “Young lady, you are beautiful.” Well, I don’t remember specifically hearing that, but Edna stood by that opinion, and told me so often.
I was soon back asleep, and so Edna did her evening routine, and then she too was asleep. The next morning, she said I was awake when she got up. She said I asked for the wet rag again. Maybe half an hour later, she said I asked for some clothes. She brought me some of hers, which fit me ok, and she helped me get them on. Then I fell back asleep on the couch, and she went to work. And I think Edna was counting on this. When she came back home, she said I was awake, and that I asked if I could have some food. She had already brought me a hamburger and some fries from the Diner. She got a small bottle of water out of the frig, and brought it to me. Sitting up was hard, and made my head spin, so I stayed laying down with my head propped up on some pillows. Then I ate that entire hamburger, and most of the fries. Edna cautioned me about drinking too much water. She also showed me where the bathroom was, in case I needed it. Edna said that, for the next hour or two, she just sat in the rocking chair next to the couch, rocking slowly. I was just laying there, looking slowly around. I smiled at her a time or two. She just sat there with me. We didn’t talk. But having her there really helped me calm down I think.
The rest of the week went slowly by for me, just like the first few days. I slept a lot, most of the day too. Edna kept bringing food home from the Diner for me to eat for dinner. And she kept a cool, wet rag on my head most of the evening. She put a big bucket of water next to the couch for that, she said as she laughed. But that cool rag felt so nice. I had to get up to use the bathroom a few times, but that made me real dizzy for some reason. Towards the end of that week, sitting in her rocking chair, she would ask me, just once, if I was ready to talk about anything. I usually just shook my head no, and that made me dizzy too. Well, I didn’t know what to say. As the week progressed, I spent less time sleeping, and more time just laying there, looking around her living room. My head still hurt a lot, but a lot less as the week progressed.
Sunday was different; Edna stayed home all day. (The Diner was closed.) She spent most of the day in her rocking chair relaxing next to me on the couch. And she kept the wet rag on my head all day. But I think she needed, wanted a few answers. This conversation was from Edna’s recollection of that sunday, in the morning. I still can’t remember this conversation, and she told me about it often. Like I said, Edna loved to talk. After I felt better, she talked to me, and reminisced a lot… But this is what she remembered about our first conversation.
“Young lady, do you have a name?” Edna asked softly.
Edna said I answered like a scared little girl, and it took a while. “I… I can’t remember…” I said slowly, and with a pretty high pitched, but soft, feathery voice, she called it.
“Do you have any family?” Edna asked, again softly. Edna said I didn’t answer, but that tears formed in my eyes. Edna changed the subject. “Do you remember what happened before you came here?” Edna asked. Edna said it was a minute maybe before I answered.
“…No…” I said quietly.
Edna thought for a few minutes, and she hoped this would help me calm down. She smiled at me and asked “Young lady, would you like to stay with me for a while?” Edna said I smiled at her, and she took that as a yes answer. I don’t think Edna even minded this prospect. She was lonely for her deceased husband, and loved to talk about him, their life, and a lot of other things. I seemed to know very little about anything. We needed each other, I think. Again, after a few minutes of silence, Edna said this. “Young lady, you do need a name. Can I call you Maude? You remind me a lot of one of my nieces, and that is her name. And she is really sweet. So, can I call you Maude?” Edna said I smiled at her again, so that was that.
It was quiet again for a few minutes. Then Edna said this “Well, Maude, can I get you anything?”
I quietly answered “No, I think I’m ok…” There was a brief pause, then I said “I’m sorry I can’t remember…”
Edna jumped in quickly. “Maude, that’s ok. By the looks of your head, something dreadful must have happened. I should have had the Doc come look at it, and may still. It’s just that the swelling has gone way down. I think, given time, a lot of things may come back to you. Until then, I will do my best to take care of you. And, if I talk your ear off, I apologize. My husband has been dead for a few years, and I still miss him. His name was Ed, and he and I ran an amazing chicken farm here on these grounds back in the day. We sold the best chicken meat in these counties for many years. This farm was a veritable gold mine, that is until the packing operation opened in the next county. Their entire operation was automatic, and the chickens never moved, from…”
This part of her description changed a little each time she told it. But, I think you get the picture. Edna loved to talk. Early on, I could remember very little, and just listened. I think that was what Edna needed. It just wasn’t a problem. And I quickly realized that I was remembering what she told me, so I didn’t think I was going crazy or anything.
The next week, Edna worked during the day at the Diner like she always did. Then she came home, gave me some food, and put that rag on my head, then talked easily until dark. I just sat there and soaked it all in. She actually thanked me a number of times for being such a patient listener. And she said that, towards the end of the week, I would ask her a question or two about what she said if I didn’t understand. Well, I was trying to understand. I couldn’t remember anything from before Edna found me, so listening to her… That was all I knew, but I learned a lot just from that. Maybe I should say I remembered a lot, but that was not the same, I don’t know. Eating, clothing, things like that, I… Edna’s memories helped me put some parts of my life back together, anyway. And she loved remembering.
And, the evening of the saturday of that second week, she stopped talking long enough to get up, hug me, and say “Maude, I really love you, you can stay here as long as you want.”
I hugged her back, and said softly “Thank you, Edna. I think I really need that.”
Edna kept on talking.
I know this was scary for her, but that second sunday, Edna insisted that I get up and try to walk some. It was early morning and not hot yet. And she said that I needed to walk, “to get my system going”, so my body could heal. I mentioned that my head hurt when I tried that. I am not sure how she knew, but she left briefly, came back with a piece of black shoe-string, she called it. She gathered my long hair up into a tight pony-tail, and tied it off with that shoe-string right at the back of my head. My head hurt a lot less. Edna helped me, and I walked carefully around the house some. After a while, I had to sit down and rest a minute on the bed in her room. Then we walked back out to the couch. Edna smiled and said that was amazing progress. With me laying on the couch again, and Edna in her rocking chair, we talked together the rest of the day. Well, Edna talked…
That next week, the third week, after Edna came home from the Diner, she helped me walk every evening. There was a small path that went from the back of her farm-house, down a small hill, to what she called “the pump-house”. We walked down that path until I needed to rest, then we walked back to the farm-house. And Edna talked to me a lot about the main hazard of their land, rattle-snakes. And she always took her snake stick, she called it, on our walks. It was about six feet long, longer than the snakes in this area. Edna actually used it a few times. She would poke it into the inside of their coiled body, then quickly fling the snake away from the path. I heard their buzzy rattle sound a lot; they usually weren’t pleased. I think Edna ended up repeating stuff she had already said about rattle-snakes, over the course of that week. I think she did that on purpose; she was just concerned, and wanted to make sure I would not forget. Like, a coiled rattler, she called them, could only strike the distance of it’s body length, usually 4 feet around these parts, she said. Edna smiled, and told me about her husband Ed, walking around their property with a shotgun, killing every rattler he could find. Edna felt the chickens and their scent, drew rattlers in droves, even after all the chickens were gone. But she cautioned me that a shotgun could cause more damage that an rattler. I guess she still had Ed’s guns (he had a few), but Edna felt I should just leave them alone. I was not about to argue for some reason.
But, by the end of the week, Edna said I could easily make it all the way to the pump-house and back. Edna felt it was about half a mile down there and back. She was very pleased with my progress. And, she was right, I really was feeling better. I don’t really remember much more than that. And, of course, on that sunday, Edna stayed home with me, and we did our walk twice, and spent the rest of the day relaxing and talking. She dragged her rocking chair out to the front porch, and I sat in another chair we brought out from the house. I worked on relaxing, and Edna talked about her past. I think we both enjoyed that. And Edna would always say that I was really listening for the first time on that third sunday.
The fourth week, Edna and I walked down to the pump-house and back twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening. She said I was getting a lot stronger, and could easily carry my chair out onto the front porch, so Edna and I could sit together and talk “in the cool of the evening” Edna would say with a laugh. Well, it was nearly the middle of summer. It wasn’t cool, even in the evening. In fact, here, during that summer, it never cooled off. Locals tell me every summer here is like that.
And, honestly, my memory of my past begins hazily on that fourth week. Well, I also noticed this strange, eerie tune drifting very quietly in the background(2). It never went away. I just ignored it. But I showed a decided liking for hamburgers, and soda especially. Edna was delighted to bring me a burger home every night. A soda was a little more difficult for her to get home, and she cautioned that a lot of soda was not a good idea. I liked how it tasted though. I remember our evening walks the best, including the time Edna used the blunt end of her snake stick to shove a snake’s head deep into the ground. It never did get back out. I guess it was too close to us for Edna to feel comfortable flinging it away. I think we were actually talking together, which overjoyed Edna, and she had just lost track. And I don’t know, watching this slight, older woman wrench that snake’s head brutally down into clod-dry ground (she called it) with that large stick… I quickly realized she was trying to protect us, protect me. Maybe it was us or that snake. And, to hear Edna talk, she wasn’t too concerned about her own life. I think she felt her time was near anyway. But, after I came, it was clear that she was very protective of me. I really appreciated that.
The fifth week after I showed up on her back porch, Edna had me come to the Diner with her. I think she was trying to keep me close, so she could take better care of me. I don’t think she was comfortable with me spending so much time alone at her house all day, not any more. There were always a lot more people there at the Diner. And, of course, I wore some of Edna’s clothes (jeans and a dark blue T-shirt); they fit me well, our bodies were similar. Well, the locals thought I was a new helper. No, she protested, I was like her adopted daughter. I didn’t have to work.
By the end of the second month, I was helping Edna; clearing tables, washing dishes, and sometimes serving meals. I did a lot of cleaning too. I guess the fumes really bothered Edna. She took such good care of me, I was so glad to be able to help her in return. And my strength had come mostly back, I felt. It still bothered me that I couldn’t remember any further back than early in July, Edna said it was. But by then, grueling six day weeks spending most sunlight hours at the Diner pretty much became my focus in life. Edna and I spent sundays relaxing and talking (listening for me mostly). It was a nice break. Then, monday, it was back to work.
Still, I quickly realized that me helping Edna, well it left her more time to visit with the people of the town, the “locals” she affectionately called them. Well, Edna had lived in this now tiny town for the better part of forty years, and she knew practically everyone in town. Visiting with the locals… Well, it was clear she really cherished that. After I started helping, she could actually do that.
Well, from what I could remember, Edna had brought me back to life. Then she put me to work at the Diner so she could visit with her friends more. I didn’t mind.
1. Maude: Beginnings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.
2. “Faded Memories” from the Chains of Promethia” expansion to Final Fantasy XI, copyright by Square Enix.