I walked home, slowly, crying… Once inside, I took a very quick, very cold shower, crying… I got clean work clothes on, crying, even though it would be over a week before I went back to the Diner… With no cook and no customers, there would be nobody there… Nobody there… That is exactly how I felt that night. And I had days stretching on… just like that… nobody here… I cried until I fell asleep…
Of course I woke up when the Sun was high. Of course, I remembered everything I was holding back at arms length, including that terrible man yesterday that had… I wanted to go take another shower again, just thinking about what he did… It was just so cold… And, I guess for the first morning since I could even remember, I realized… It was very cold in my house… Even with my two blankets over me, plus my work clothes, I was almost shivering… Laying there in my bed, I looked over at the wall heater thing near the front door. I sighed. “Another master of fire…” I thought to myself… Well, I was freezing, even inside my house… I had to do… something… I got up, realized my mistake right away, then wrapped one of my blankets around me and looked for Edna’s… my… sweatshirt. Even with Edna’s old sweatshirt on, my work clothes, and a blanket too, I was still freezing. But I had to do this…
I did find a small adjusting thing, on a different wall, a small square box with a thing I could slide. It looked just like the one at the Diner. I moved it to 60, which is where the one at the Diner was set. Then I waited. The wall heater didn’t make any noise, no whoosh or anything. It didn’t even belch out any fire. I waited a few minutes, then sighed, then walked over, and flopped down on the rug in front of the wall heater. Edna had talked about this heater quite a bit as well. According to her, it was not as bad as the heater at the Diner. But Edna fought back tears whenever she said this, but I guess Ed took care of the heating every fall, and monitored everything through the winter, and then turned it off in spring. Edna tried to figure this monster out too, and couldn’t. She finally asked one of the men at the hardware store to come do it. Edna didn’t like bending down so much, anyway.
Sitting down in front of this maybe a little less dangerous master of fire — of course I was scared to death… I remembered those 3 feet of flames that shot out of the heater at the Diner last week. There was no way to get to the side of this monster. But, it did have a small door near the bottom, and I carefully opened it. It looked like there were some directions, some words that might be directions, but… None of it made any sense to me… I just started crying. I would probably freeze to death before making it back to the Diner after this vacation thing… I just sat there, shivering under my blanket, crying softly…
There was a knock at the door. I tried to get up quickly, and fell over backwards on my blanket, which didn’t hurt, but the blanket fell off… I was very cold. I scrambled up right away, and wrapped my blanket around me, so I didn’t freeze on the spot. Only then did I open the front door, hoping it wasn’t some salesmoron who would shove his way inside and take from me what I could never…
It was Delores. She smiled at me, noticed I was crying, and said immediately “Maude, what’s wrong…” I did recognize her genuine concern though.
And I knew I sounded like a whimpering little girl again because that is exactly how I felt. “My heater won’t come on…”, then I started crying, softly of course.
Delores hugged me, then smiled and said softly “Let me look at it.” I backed away from that thing, and sat on the couch, making sure my blanket left no cold air gaps. Delores fidgeted with something, pushed something else a few times, then fidgeted again, and a quiet whoosh sound started. It sounded a lot like the heater at the Diner only it was quieter. Delores walked over and looked at the adjustment thing on the wall and said “60 should be good.” Delores walked over to me, and held out her hand. “Let’s look and see if Edna has any better coats for you to wear.” Delores helped me up, and we went into Edna’s freezing cold room, and Delores looked through the millions of clothes in Edna’s, well now my closet. Delores soon pulled out this thick coat. I smiled right away. It was dark blue, but had the most beautiful white fuzzy stuff around the neck, the hood, and around where the hands come out. I put it on right away; it was so much warmer than Edna’s old sweatshirt. I hugged Delores and thanked her.
Delores sat down on the edge of Edna’s bed, so I sat down next to her. “Maude, I don’t want you to be alone this weekend. Edna would scold me fiercely, and, well, it just wouldn’t be right. I want you to come to my house. I have a guestroom you can use. Tonight we will go to church for christmas eve, but the rest of the time we will just be relaxing…” Then Delores laughed and added “…and probably eating too.” Delores stopped a minute, then put her arm around me, looked into my eyes and said quietly “Please…”
In my scared, little girl voice I quietly said “Ok…” I… that sounded better than what I had planned… which was… nothing… I had thought no further ahead about the next week or more, beyond realizing as soon as I woke up that I needed to get this heater working before I froze to death. We walked out of Edna’s room, and I closed the door.
“You can leave your heater set at 60, that should be fine.” Then she laughed again. “Maybe it will warm up in here by tomorrow afternoon when I bring you home.” I smiled, anyway. We went out, I locked the door behind us. It was actually warmer outside! Well, not warm, just not as freezing as in my house. My new coat, really Edna’s coat; I sighed. It was my coat now… It helped a lot. It was very warm. Delores opened a door and motioned me into her car, and helped me with the belt.
“Delores, thank you.” I said quietly.
Delores looked at me briefly “Maude, Edna was right. You really are a treasure. Besides, it would be a high crime against humanity for you to have to be alone for christmas.” Then she laughed. Well, I didn’t even know what christmas was, but it sounded important. I would probably find out.
Delores lived in town, and drove us to her home. I only vaguely remembered anything from when Edna died, but I had spent maybe a few days here then. But Delores’ house seemed a lot different now. Her husband Victor was home, sitting, watching some sort of game on TV. I had seen him before, but I knew his name now. And Delores’ two daughters were home now too. Delores introduced her older daughter home from college as “Kacey with a K”, and Kacey got up and hugged me.
Delores introduced her younger daughter Tina, who was “out of school for two whole weeks” Tina said proudly as Delores introduced me.
Kacey coughed, and said what sounded like “Tini,” and Tina objected immediately.
Delores sighed even before Tina responded. “Kacey, that was intentionally hurtful” Delores pointed out calmly.
“You are right, mom… I’m sorry Tina” Kacey said, then added “You are the best little sister in the universe.” I think Tina had trouble deciding how to take that, but I did too. Tina ran back up the stairs to her room.
Well, it was nice and warm in Delores’ house. And that alone… Delores led me to her guest room. It had it’s own little bathroom and everything. Delores started the shower. I could tell right away, it was WARM! How could she read my mind… “Maude, take a nice shower, get cleaned up, and just relax.” Delores left, and I took a LONG shower. The water was so warm, and felt so nice. It was almost hot at one point, but I figured out the adjuster thing. It was so warm, I could even wash my hair! Of course, my head complained when I took my twine out. But I found some shampoo stuff in there, and that’s what I did. It always takes a while to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. But with this nice warm water… Well, it felt so nice… When I was done, I dried off, then put my work clothes back on (jeans and a dark blue t-shirt with a pocket that used to say ‘the Diner’). Well, they were all clean last night when I put them on. Sitting on the bed, I found a brush, and brushed my hair briefly. That hurt. Then I put that twine back in. My hair, my head hurt less. Dressed again, I stayed sitting on the bed and looked out the window. Delores had a bunch of nice plants in her yard. That was a lot nicer than looking out across miles of cactus and snakes… I just sat there, and tried to relax, just like Delores had said. I sat there, looking out that window for a while.
But I think Delores wanted… She knocked on the door, and invited me out into the kitchen. I followed her and sat in one of the chairs. Well, there seemed to be a lot going on out here. The TV was still going, and I guessed that was where Delores’ husband was, but her two daughters were doing stuff at this big round table in the kitchen. Delores was very busy cooking. The youngest daughter Tina was playing with some beads and some had letters on them. I saw so many beads, I don’t know how she could… Well, I thought she was playing until she showed me a bracelet I think, with my name on it, then alternating yellow and white beads. It was very pretty. Then she took my hand and quickly slid that bracelet she had just made, over my hand and down to my wrist, then carefully straightened all the letters. I thanked her, of course; it looked very nice. Tina started again on another bracelet, I think. While working, Tina mentioned a few things, slowly, as she worked.
“The kids at school make fun of me a lot because I still like doing things like this. They even call me a baby sometimes. Well, that and I had to take second grade over. I just try to ignore them. I still like playing, working with beads, things like that. All that the other girls at school seem to care about is boys and their cell’s… I think I will have plenty of time for all of that. I am in no hurry.”
Like I said, this explanation took a little while because Tina was busy with her beads. But Delores had stopped and was listening to Tina as she talked, and smiled when Tina was done explaining. Soon after, Tina had finished a matching bracelet for her mom, using the same colors. It said “Delores” instead of my name. Tina got up and walked over to her mom. Delores stopped what she was doing right away, let Tina put her bracelet on, then hugged her daughter, and told her thank you. Tina said proudly “Now you both are sisters!” Delores and I smiled at each other. Tina was quickly back to work.
Tina asked her older sister if she wanted a bracelet. “Not right now sis, I’m working on my journal” Kacey answered. She sounded pretty distracted. Well, the older sister Kacey was sitting in front of, a computer, I guess, staring at it and typing quickly. That reminded me of Ed’s old computer, still on a low table in the living room of Edna’s, well my house. Edna talked about Ed’s computer a few times. I guess they bought it for farm records, but it didn’t see much use. After Ed died, Edna left it there, right where it was, and didn’t mess, didn’t even touch it, she said. She didn’t think it even worked any more. Edna would laugh as she said it was probably thirty years old. But, I remembered that Ed’s computer had a separate keyboard thing, and another box hooked up to a big case with a screen thing like Kacey’s computer. The keyboard was in front of the screen thing too. Only Kacey’s computer was much smaller, and very quiet.
Well, I was trying to, I don’t know, do more than sit there and listen… Trying not to sound like a scared little girl, I asked Kacey what a journal was, what she was working on. She answered, but did so as she was typing furiously on her computer the entire time. She didn’t even look up, at all. And there were often pauses between each comment. I didn’t mind any of this, and just listened quietly. I seemed to be good at that, at least.
“Well, it’s a project for my english class at college…
“At least once a day, we need to make an entry in our own journal…
“We just type in, what happened during our day, what our feelings were, any special things… scary events… funny, even embarrassing things…”
“Our teacher won’t even read it. Well, nobody else will ever see this stuff. It is really just for me… I can put anything in here I want…
“It is very fun. It gives me a chance to think through, to actually record, and even realize what is going on in my life…
“I think that is the point of this project. This journal, adding entries, THIS is the only homework we have for this class, anyway…
“And the lectures she gives during class…” Kacey rolled her eyes slowly, still looking at her computer screen. Then she laughed.
“Get this. For our final, there is only one question, did you make an entry in your journal at least five times each week?
“If we say yes, we get an A, and a C if we answer no…
“Well, I won’t lie, even if she has no way of knowing…
“But this journal is such fun!”
Kacey was done explaining, and kept typing. After a little while more, she stopped typing, then I guess she read over what she had typed in, and maybe nodded then sighed. “That should do it for today” she said approvingly, and only then did she look up, and look at me. I smiled. The next thing I heard, she said, almost scolding “Mom!” Then with just a hint of whining “Mom, why didn’t you tell me Maude was so beautiful?”
I… It took far longer than it should have for me to realize that Delores’ older daughter Kacey was actually talking about me. Then I blushed. Delores just looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. The younger daughter Tina answered, well maybe a little snippy is the word “Because you were buried in your journal, duh…” Delores asked her younger daughter to settle down right away. Then Tina continued. “I already made her a pretty bracelet with her name on it, and with her amazing colors.” I looked down at the bracelet. It really was very pretty, and I did like the colors she picked.
When I looked up, the older daughter was holding up her cell phone like she was pointing it at me or something. “Maude, can you look at my camera and hold still a minute?” I didn’t know why she wanted that, but I smiled. Next, I think Kacey was talking to her mom. “Aww, can we take Maude’s hair down for a little while?” Delores looked at me.
“Well, my head hurts a little more, but maybe for a few minutes” I said quietly.
Delores stopped what she was doing, walked over, and carefully untied my twine, then gently guided my hair down over my blue t-shirt. Kacey held out her own hair brush to her mom right away. It hurt a lot, but Delores didn’t take long to brush my hair, and her daughter got her hair brush back. I brushed away the tears. Kacey pointed her phone at me again, then said quietly “wow…” I heard a few click sounds, and that was it. Then “Mom, you can put her hair back up again if you want.” While I tied my hair back up again so my head would stop pounding, Kacey was back to work at her computer. But she explained what she was doing. And again, since she was busy at her computer, this all took a while, with delays between each thing she said.
“Maude, I run a small beauty tips and tricks section on my facebook page…
“I try and include things I have found that work, and other girls have contributed too. It is a lot of fun…”
But she did stop and look at me, then she said this. “But Maude… Your face, your eyes, your hair… You really are beautiful…”
I smiled, said “Thank you.” Then she got back to work. She also added this.
“I have a bunch of girl’s pictures added already, and even more linked in. But you, Maude… I’m adding your picture, without your name of course, but with the caption ‘some are just born like this’ ” Then she smiled. Then, all of a sudden Kacey said excitedly “Oh wow, I need to add this to my journal!” Then she was back to typing madly again.
Tina said quietly “Not again…” then slowly rolled her eyes.
Well, I had a hard time digesting most of this. All I remembered about how I looked was what I saw in the mirror every morning, every time I put new twine in. I guess I would have to take their word… Even so, I noted this was still a lot better than sitting at my house doing… nothing…
Dinner was less than an hour later. Delores was right, there was just so much food! I have no idea how she did all that, along with everything else she did with me, with her kids that afternoon. Well, she explained that the turkey had cooked over night, and she just left it in the oven warming, while she pulled pieces from it, and made everything else. Well, I tried to take small amounts, but mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy… Wow, I had seconds… I think I tasted everything else, but especially dumped a bunch of corn on the mashed potatoes the second time. Everything was very good. I think Kacey tried to take small portions like I did, but Tina… Wow, she really ate a lot for her size. Delores was careful how much she ate as well. Her husband Victor enjoyed everything.
We rested for an hour, then we would leave for church. Well, I offered to help Delores with the cleanup. That’s what I do for a living, after all. She thanked me; it made things a lot easier. Still, Delores was very organized with what she called leftovers. She had a bunch of little plastic containers, and the leftovers went in there, and she had me mark what they were. And if there was more than a container worth, the rest went in the garbage. Well, she saved all of the turkey. She evidently could do a lot with that. But, as good as dinner was, I asked her about eating at the Diner. “Cooking dinner is nice on occasion, but it is a lot of work. I don’t mind eating at the Diner if I am very careful, and do my walking; it is just a lot more relaxed for me.” We still all sat together in their living room for a little while before it was time to go. We just chatted. Well, I mostly listened.
Delores’ mini-van, she called it, was easily big enough for all of us. I sat next to Tina on the way, in one of the back seats. She talked the whole time about school and stuff. Well, it sounded like it was just hard for her. It sounded like she got teased a lot. Still, I wondered if she was actually bored having to be at home all day now. She assured me that she had plenty to do, though. She also whispered that she hoped a few of her christmas presents might help with that! None of this registered with me, but Tina was clearly anticipating this special time.
Being at church was just hard. This was Edna’s church also, and the last time I was here was for Edna’s funeral. Most of the people there knew Edna, and so knew about me. A lady would come over, and ask me how I was doing. That would make me want to cry, which would make them cry too. It was just hard. Edna’s presence was still being missed by the people here. And it had only been a month ago. I still missed her too. Well, I was wearing one of Edna’s favorite coats, I heard a lady tell her friend. It was a little easier once we sat down in the big room, though. Delores sat next to Victor, with Tina on her other side, then Kacey, then me. We sang some nice songs, people talked, then the pastor, I guess, got up and talked a while, about christmas, I think. Well, I didn’t understand a lot, but it was clear that someone loved people so much that he gave people his only son, who was born a baby, just like us. Wow, I couldn’t imagine… I could think of some meaningful gifts, but to actually give your baby to someone else because you loved them so much… That made me cry, softly of course. After it was over, I followed Delores around, and we still ran into Edna’s friends again, and we would make each other cry. I couldn’t help that. I think Edna had a lot of friends.
On the way home, I sat next to Kacey. She was pretty excited. She said quietly that her facebook page got over 100 more likes, I think she said, just since she posted my picture this afternoon, and I guess this was a good thing. She actually got her cell phone thing out, and was looking at her page that way I think. She laughed and said a bunch asked for my telephone number. I thought of salesmorons immediately. Then I thought no way, even though I didn’t have a telephone, one that worked, anyway. Kacey got this quizzical look on her face. “Hm… Two girls think they know you, and want me to contact them.” She looked a little more. “Do you know a girl named pinky?” Kacey asked. I slowly shook my head no. “Wow, look at that hair…” Kacey said this, laughed, then turned her cell phone off. “Maude, don’t worry, they will never find out who you are. You should NEVER EVER give personal information out over the internet. That is so just asking for trouble!” Well, if other people were already asking about me over this internet thing… I was thankful for her protecting me like that.
After we got back to Delores’ house and inside, we sat together in the living room a while longer, while Delores got everyone a cup of this apple juice stuff. I can’t remember the name, but it was very good. Tina got a cup too, so I didn’t think it was beer or anything like that. Again, we just sat around and relaxed. Delores sternly warned Tina to stay out of the presents under the christmas tree tomorrow morning. Then Delores turned the living room lights off. Well, only then did I notice that tree, the christmas tree, and the tiny colored lights on it… Well, it looked very beautiful. And the small lights were bright enough that I could now see colorfully wrapped boxes under that christmas tree. I thought these might be the things Tina had mentioned before. I was pretty sure these boxes were gifts, and I felt bad I had not brought any. Well, I just didn’t know.
A little while later, we all got up. Delores hugged me, and Kasey and Tina did too. I found my way to the guest bedroom, and everyone else went upstairs to their bedrooms, I guess. I walked in my room, and lay slowly back onto the bed. They, well it was always warm inside this house, so I didn’t even need to climb under the pretty covers. I fell quickly asleep. Right before I nodded off, I remembered the end of one of the songs we sang. “…sleep in heavenly peace.” Well, I just hoped I would understand that some day. My life didn’t seem very peaceful right now.
1. Maude: Beginnings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.