The coolness of, well, not sweltering summer, it did finally begin to slowly blow across the desert. It wasn’t quite as stinking hot during the afternoons, the fans were not as necessary, the shades made a little less difference… It ever so slowly began to cool down. We would enjoy a few cooler days, then it would be blistering hot again, then some more cooler days. Well, we had to guess, anyway. Edna started listening to the weather report on a small radio she had in the kitchen at the house. She would usually listen attentively, then, when they were done, she would laugh, and say “They probably don’t have a clue either. They should just say ‘Summer is over, it will slowly get cooler.’ At least they wouldn’t be wrong.” That old radio didn’t get used very much, beyond Edna laughing at the weather report.
Still, I think Edna, well, perked up maybe, as the weather in the desert began to cool down. Well, it seemed she was more like how I remembered her early in the summer. Maybe the heat was having more of an affect on her than even she would admit. Still, I was glad for the change. I was slowly growing closer to Edna, caring about her more. My world was slowly opening up from the time I woke up on Edna’s back porch, it seemed, and Edna was increasingly a major concern for me. Well, and talking quietly to the local ladies, they shared my concern, too.
And I think that, by the end of summer, I was pretty much done talking like that scared little child. Well, I felt like I was growing up, although I really couldn’t explain that. My body was getting stronger, with each passing day, it seemed; I worked very hard 6 days out of 7. I took more and more of a say-so over my life as a result. I could. Maybe the constant confrontations with the salesmorons had forced that on me, I don’t know. But I think others of the locals realized a part of that battle, anyway. So maybe, I just had to grow up.
But, like I said, I think I was becoming increasingly careful to help Edna any way I could. One day, she dropped the plates for half an order, all over the floor. I told her quietly that she needed to let me help her with big orders like that. Then I cleaned it all up, of course. But I think Edna was more than happy for me to carry more of her load. I think she needed that. It meant more work for me, but… I guess that mattered to me less and less. I just adjusted how much I could do in the course of a given day.
And one sunday early that fall… We went for a walk in the afternoon like we usually did. It wasn’t stinking hot, but it wasn’t cool either. It was actually a nice warmish day. Edna took her snake stick, of course. She always grabbed that off the back porch as soon as we walked out the back door. We had walked a while already, and were pretty far from the house. Edna was talking, but she was answering a question I had asked. I think me asking questions was happening more and more. She was alternately thinking and explaining. I was just listening. But, I guess she didn’t see the coiled rattler ahead of us. I stopped immediately, but she did not. The rattling didn’t start until Edna was very close, really too close. I didn’t even have time to yell or anything. I pushed Edna sideways and she fell over. But I grabbed the snake stick, and began randomly whacking that snake with the stick. Edna slowly got up, grabbed the stick, and rammed that snake’s head deep into the ground and held it tightly there for a few minutes. During that time, she began to cry… “Mercy, Maude, you saved my life…” That was all she said for a while. That was… different for Edna. At least I didn’t seriously hurt her.
When she was sure the snake would not recover, Edna pulled the snake stick out of the ground, and we both backed slowly away from that snake, watching for any more. Then Edna broke down and cried on my shoulders. I cried too. I loved Edna deeply, and didn’t want anything like that to happen. Maybe ten minutes later, Edna’s crying slowed, then stopped. “Maude, maybe you should carry this thing…” Edna meant the snake stick, and she held it out to me, and I only slowly took it. “Maude, I think your sensabilities are better’n mine. I didn’t even see that rattler, even though it was right in front of us. Well, I don’t know why it didn’t try ‘n strike… Might ‘a been cold, but I don’t know. Still, you pushin’ me over probably saved my life. Mercy, seems like just yesterday, I was workin’ to save yours. And don’t mind me none, you knockin’ me down like that didn’t hurt anything. Some of my friends just fall out of the blue, and get all banged up. I don’t have that problem, I don’t think. I guess I bounce pretty good or something. Long as I don’t land on a cactus…” We walked and talked the rest of the way back to the house. I was on the lookout for snakes though, and, having to carry that stick, that responsibility, that was just very scary. Fortunately it cooled off quickly, and we walked less and less.
But I think Edna really liked the fall season. She explained that she and Ed used to love the heat, but especially working so much at the Diner, well, it was not fun. She said repeatedly she was honestly looking forward to cooler weather, and the changing of the seasons, she called it. She talked a lot about how the trees where they were from would transform into the most brilliant, beautiful colors in the fall, then the leaves would slowly wither and fall off the trees. There were hardly any trees here on the edge of the desert, and those around seemed to struggle all summer to even stay a little green. I had to take her word on those beautiful colors.
And, I don’t know… One cooler afternoon, I was walking past some customers as I carried a bin full of dirty dishes to the kitchen to wash them. I had noticed the cute couple when they came in, but that happens occasionally. They were travellers anyway, and looked pretty young. Edna had already taken their order, and she was sitting at a different table talking to some local ladies. We were pretty slow. The young man caught my eye and said “miss.” I stopped; I was thinking he wanted, needed something. But he asked me to sit down. I set the bin on the next table; it was empty. They were both on one side of the booth, so I slid into the other side.
The girl said right away “My name is Julia, don’t you remember me?”
I thought a minute, then said quietly “I’m sorry, I don’t. But I have been through a lot lately…” I couldn’t say anything more without crying, so I didn’t.
The young man spoke next, and said “And my name is Rick, and your husband should remember me, too.”
I said right away and quietly “I… think you are mistaken.” Fighting back tears, I got quickly up. Julia took my hand, looked at me lovingly, and said gently “Hey, we didn’t mean to upset you. We know who you are. We know you will remember us some day!” I smiled, but wanted to run home and cry buckets, quietly. Edna called me to the order up shelf to help her deliver a big order, than I was back in the kitchen doing dishes afterwards (still working at not crying) until long after that young couple left. I realized I needed to work on forgetting that whole thing. Me having a husband… like that would ever happen… Well it hurt too much, and I had to be able to focus on Edna.
As the weather cooled over the course of that fall, we would increasingly sit inside for our evenings together. Edna was having difficulty moving her rocking chair around so much, so we just left it in her room, and I would sit on the floor and lean against her bed. Still, Edna had so much to talk about, and really cherished all her memories. She appreciated too that I was such a quiet listener! I was asking questions, but I tried to wait until she had reached the end of a thought. And my questions would often result in another lengthy recollection. I didn’t mind at all. and Edna was really enjoying us remembering together. Like I said, I had no recollections beyond months ago. Edna had decades worth. It worked out well for both of us.
1. Maude: Beginnings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.