During the heat of summer, I think we both just… Well, the heat fries your brain, and you have little left for much else. That’s how I felt, anyway. Still, I was at least aware that me working so hard like that was giving Edna precious time with the locals. I saw that a lot, and realized she really did relish that time. And she thanked me often for what I was allowing her, helping her be able to do. I started hugging her when she said that. I was just so glad to help her, anyway I could.
But the rest of that summer went by quickly as a result. Drag my self through one hot day at the Diner, stumble home, relax on the porch in the cool of the hot evening with Edna as she did what I could not (remembered), then fall into bed exhausted. Then I did it again the next day. But I didn’t mind. I actually worked on trying to get the hang of setting the fans, window shades and such. I tried a few things that clearly did not work, and Edna would walk calmly over, and say to try doing this, or try putting the fans here and there, facing this way. That usually fixed it. Well, I was learning, anyway. And, one day, I put a fan at the back door pointing out. The cook felt that made an amazing difference in the kitchen. Edna had one of her friends pick up another fan from the hardware store, and that was that. The cook took care of that fan though. With the gas grill, it was always hotter in the kitchen. I didn’t know how the cook survived.
And more of the locals (ladies, Edna’s friends) came up and talked to me, or they would ask me to sit with them briefly. I still didn’t have a lot to say, but most were so thankful that I was helping Edna, and often told me so. Most of those ladies felt Edna was working herself to a frazzle, one lady said. That sounded bad. I guess, my perceptions about helping Edna, well most of the ladies of the town shared that opinion. They were thankful beyond words for me helping her. Well, I felt the same way, and my life… I had nothing else I knew to do. It all worked out fine.
Edna had put me in the guest room in the farm-house, and I slept in the bed in there, at first. She said, as hot as it was, I should sleep with all the windows open. By bed time, I was usually so beat that I just fell asleep no matter how hot or cold it was. And she told me I should always sleep with work clothes on. This made getting ready for work a lot easier, and she said having clothes on would be better in case someone came into my room. I didn’t understand what she was trying to say on that last thing. But I trusted her anyway, and slept in work clothes. And she suggested I shower maybe every two or three days. The hot water was broke, so we just had cold water. During the summer anyway, that felt fine. It just took forever to get all the shampoo out of my hear with cold water. I just didn’t use it often. Edna laughed when I told her that, and she said to just use hardly any shampoo like she does. Well, she admitted she had less hair than I did. But, when it started getting cold… It made no difference to Edna; I’m not sure how she managed that…
Still, I came to really enjoy warm evenings. It was hot during the day, but relaxing on Edna’s porch after the blazing sun had set, or was low enough on the horizon… I would usually come home like a zombie, but I looked forward to an hour or two on the porch listening to Edna talk about her past. We both so enjoyed that! And, as the summer progressed, I realized that Edna was forgetting things more than she usually did. I don’t know, it had only been weeks or months since I couldn’t remember much at all. I wasn’t sure what to think about that…
Coming to grips with what I had to do at the Diner was not ‘rocket science’, I heard one of the younger girls say. I think that means my part of making the Diner run, it was not complicated or hard to figure out. It was just a lot of work. And actually, all that hard work did continue to help me feel a lot better, a lot stronger. It seemed like each day, I walked home less beat. My body was adjusting to the harshness of the job, and it got easier as a result. My head still hurt, and I needed to keep my long hair tied back in a tight pony-tail, but it was manageable. Besides, I became increasingly more focused on caring for Edna.
But, I think I was slowly, well, coming around, maybe. I began to see a little more, be aware a little more of what was going on around me, even if the heat fried my brain. Like one afternoon, I realized that an older man from town had been riding his horse to the Diner “for his afternoon cup of coffee” Edna said with a smile. He didn’t come every day, but came a few times a week, always about the middle of the afternoon when things were slow. Edna explained that, when she bought the Diner, it had a raised bar along the curb of one of the parking spots that could be used to tie horses up to, while their owners came inside. She knew what it was for right away, and left it in. It was used only occasionally. But that was where the gentleman left his horse. It was just strange for me to look out the front window and see a horse standing in one of the parking spots. And the horse usually had his head down. I noticed that it was eating some hay from the sidewalk, probably put there by the owner. His horse was pretty big. Well, I don’t know, didn’t know anything about horses.
One day, he had parked his horse outside, and came inside and was having his coffee. He got into a discussion with another man from town, it was about ponies, I guess. I didn’t hear much of the discussion, but the man with the horse said to the other man as he got up to leave “I’ll bring my mini tomorrow. Then you will know what a pony is not!” He paid Edna, she smiled, then the man left, and headed off riding his horse. He did come back the next afternoon, on his big horse, with a smaller horse in tow. That other local was there too, and got up slowly, and walked outside (into the hot…) when he saw the man ride up on his horse. Well, I was curious, which was a new thing for me, since I could remember anyway. I followed him outside (into the hot…). But the man was off his horse, and he untied the “mini” horse from the big horse, and led the mini away some, tied the mini to the bar, and put some hay down on the sidewalk for it. The smaller horse, the mini I guess, began eating immediately. I thought it looked cute.
The only thing I remember from their conversation was this. “This is a mini, a miniature horse. Look at my other horse. A mini is just a smaller horse. Now a pony, well, everything is chunky and stocky on a pony…” I stopped listening at that point, that didn’t really matter to me. But I was standing in front of the mini, and I just looked at it. The mini was a very light brown, with darker brown hair, well the mane, I guess.
Standing there, I gently rubbed it’s nose. Interrupting their conversation, I said “She sure is a cutie.” And I had only recently understood that word.
The owner said right away “Well, he is certainly a nice looking stallion. I think he appreciated your intent!” Both men laughed at this. It was a boy horse I guess. I got down on my knees so I could get a little closer to him. I thought he really was cute. I reached over and pulled his chin up to about the level of my face, and looked at his eyes. I… Something felt very strange about what I was seeing… But it didn’t feel that way long. The mini wanted to eat, and quickly used his nose to shove me over on my backside, so he could get back to his hay. We all laughed at that, and it hurt my head. I got up and went back inside.
“I didn’t know you like horses” Edna said with a smile when I came back inside.
“Aww, that little horse is cute. I don’t know a thing about horses though.” I thought a minute, then added “Well, they don’t like you standing on their food.” Edna laughed while I chuckled. Laughing again would hurt my head more. Thinking about that episode as I started washing dishes again, well I concluded that was… Maybe I was becoming more normal, I don’t know. It didn’t seem so out of place, so absolutely childish like so many of my other responses. But maybe for me to even make that observation…
Well and that stupid tune in the background(2)…. I was afraid to ask anyone else around me if they heard it too. I didn’t want them to think I was going crazy; maybe I thought I was already drifting into those waters. But it seemed to get louder when things were more difficult. It became a pain really, harder to ignore at times. I did my best.
Other than that, the summer dragged slowly on. Salesmorons continued to play cat and mouse with me, well really with my body, and I had to constantly be on the lookout for their latest attempt to swindle me out of what nobody could ever give me back. Most of them, I could actually smell them when they came in the front door of the Diner. They just didn’t care what they did, or how they affected other people (well, except for their customers, I’m sure). I was so glad for the fans. Otherwise… I tried to be polite, but… There is no way I would ever give them what they were trying to take, any way they could. It was a chore sometimes to avoid running to the ladies room and throwing up, just for being near them. Well, the farm-house was safe. None of their kind wanted to deal with Edna.
Still, I agreed with Edna. The first cool day at the end of that summer couldn’t come soon enough…
1. Maude: Beginnings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.
2. “Faded Memories” from the “Chains of Promethia” expansion for FFXI, all copyright Square Enix.