I think I woke up at the normal time. Sunlight was flooding my living room where I slept on the couch. I realized that my nice coat was still on from yesterday. The fuzz around the neck is what woke me up; it itched madly. It looked nice, and kept me warm on the way to Delores’ house and back. But it surely wasn’t meant to be slept in. Still groggy, I sat up long enough to take that coat off, then I laid back down. I threw that warm coat along the top of the couch. I was sure I would use it a lot walking to and from the Diner.
Thinking that… I remembered… It was monday, but the Diner was closed for the next week. I was stuck here… with… nothing… Laying there on my bed (this couch) I tried to think cheery thoughts. But this big pile of stuff that I had been pushing out at arm’s length… salesmorons… how hard working at the Diner was… my zombie-eyed food-service worker day to day existance… having absolutely no future, and nobody left that I really cared about… that really cared about me (well, except for maybe Delores and her family)… All this stuff demanded attention. It demanded that I either let it crush me inside right then, or else I needed to bravely push it back away again. Of course, I pushed it back away, but ended up crying, quietly. It hurt if I cried any harder. And I realized that my twine wasn’t in near tight enough. I tried making it tighter, but I couldn’t undo the knot I had put in myself at Delores’ house. I sighed, crying, then got carefully up and walked to the bathroom. I didn’t even bother turning the light on or anything. Sunlight made so I could see enough, and I knew where everything I needed was. I changed my twine. And when I tied it back in, I looked at the mirror… Maybe Kacey said what she said just to help me feel better. That worked well, I think, but… Looking in the mirror, it was clear to me… Just the same old me… …facing the same old life… …only now, without the Diner to go to, I had… many days of… nothing… I looked away from the mirror, walked quickly back out to my bed, sat down, and cried as loudly as I could, without it hurting a lot. I cried like that for a while.
For no reason that I could think of, my crying slowly tapered off. Well, at least I wasn’t freezing… It was cool in here, but tolerable with my work clothes on. And I could hear the wall heater turn on, then off, quiet whooshing, then totally quiet. That was good, I had no clue how to start it back up if it quit. Delores did that for me… Why was I so dependent on the people around me… Why did I spend so much time acting like a beat up little girl… I started crying again… Because that’s what I was… I cried again for a while…
Still, in my mind, I realized that I absolutely would go crazy in just a week… I needed… Almost in a daze, I just started looking slowly around this small, drab, plain, mostly empty room… My mind was absolutely elsewhere… I could clean, but I do that for a living… My bathroom needed that, but it was so cold in there… And the only water I could get was just barely above freezing… Maybe I could re-arrange stuff here in the livingroom, but that would mean moving… Ed’s… computer thing… It looked scary… It was tons bigger than Kacey’s quiet thing… Bah, who am I kidding… I will probably just sit here and cry the whole time…
There was a thick looking book on top of the little box for Ed’s computer. I actually stared at it a few minutes. Wait… I wasn’t freezing, so I walked over, and picked it up, then sat back down on my couch/bed. It looked like a thick notebook, like Kacey had in her backpack. Well, the cover of this thick notebook, well it was poofy and soft, I could push in on it, and it would spring back out. Whatever in the world… But I opened it up, and started looking through it. Well, even though it had a lot of pictures, it wasn’t some art book like I had noticed at Delores’ house.
But it did have… I realized it was the instruction book for Ed’s computer. The pictures in this book, well a bunch of them, looked exactly like the three things sitting on that low table only feet from me. The first section that caught my eye (about a thing called visicalc, I think) was maybe a fourth of this whole book, and was marked up extensively. I was pretty sure Ed had done the marking up; the handwriting looked… well, it was printing, and by someone whose hand was not real steady, even while he tried to carefully print. Then I remember Edna talking about that. Ed’s handwriting was just hard to read. And none of what I was reading held any interest for me. I started looking around the room, hoping for a closet maybe, where I could put this monstrous antique, Edna had called it once.
I worked at closing this thick notebook of instructions for a computer I would never use. I still tried to close it without bending pages, which was harder than it sounds, and made me laugh, quietly. I had to pull the pages to the center first. And right before it closed, a different section fell open briefly to the title page for the section. I managed to close the book… But I actually thought a minute about what I had just seen. Then I opened that book again, and found that page… It said “wordstar” and I honestly had no idea what a wordstar was, except that it had the word ‘word’ in it. Just maybe… I started reading. And the more I read… This wordstar thing was… well, it would let me type stuff in, save it, then bring it up again. I… That sounded… It reminded me of Kacey and her computer, Kacey typing for seeming hours… smiling… just typing stuff in, what was going on in her life. That was her journal, and she said that doing her journal was fun, and that she was the only one who would ever read it.
Well, I… For the next hour, I carefully read that wordstar section. This… program, I guess, would allow me to do exactly what Kacey had done on her computer. The directions also talked about printing, but I didn’t see a printer or any other piece of computer-like equipment around. Well, it didn’t really matter. I wanted to do my own journal.
I wanted to do my own journal… all by myself, just for myself…
The wordstar directions told me what to type in, to start this wordstar thing (by typing in wordstar!). I dragged this big book over to that low table, and tried typing that (wordstar) in on the keyboard for Ed’s computer. Well, I guess it was mine, now… But nothing happened. I tried a bunch of times… I could feel tears coming, and I almost gave up. And by now, I really REALLY wanted to do my own journal… Then I found this little note. I had to actually start the computer up first, and this little pointer thing needed to show up on my screen. Well, that was definitely not happening yet.
I sighed, then sat back down on the couch and started over at the beginning of this poofy instruction notebook. It was quickly talking about these little square plastic things. Well, I needed to look… I needed them. I finally found them, in this strange looking container covered with years of dust, hidden behind the big thing that was supposed to show the words and stuff. Flipping the top open (after I figured out how), I realized that, well it looked like we… I had a lifetime supply of those little black square things. And, the first one had a big label with (clearly) Ed’s writing on it. I made a mental note of that.
The directions had a picture about how everything should be connected together. I guess Ed had done that already because everything, the wires and stuff on that low table, it looked exactly like the picture in the book. Then I had to turn everything on. The power switch to the little box was easy to find, and the box thing made noise and a few small lights came on as soon as I did that. The power switch for the big thing that showed the letters took a while to find; it was way down on the back, and I had to get up, and turn that big box sideways to actually see where it was. I flipped the switch up, to on, I guess, but I didn’t see anything on the big screen thing. I turned it back around to face the keyboard thing, then just read in the book a minute maybe. I wanted to double check that I was doing the right thing… When I looked back at the big screen, a bunch of letters were there. Well, the letters were all an eerie green, too, I don’t know…
I next had to put one of those square black things in one of the openings in the front of the little box. Opening and closing the door on the little opening was easy, it just took a while to get the square in the right way. And I was never supposed to touch the little thing tucked inside the small black squares… Just to make sure, I only barely touched one of the four corners of the black things… It was more difficult than it sounds.
A bunch of this made little sense to me, but I finally got that little arrow thingie to show up. I quickly typed in wordstar, and… I just got that pointer thing back, and some wierd message. I almost started crying, but looking at what I typed, and realized… So, wordstsr is not the same as wordstar. I laughed, and that hurt. I slowly typed in wordstar, and checked it a few times. It worked the second time, wordstar jumped up and… I smiled… The green would take some getting used to but… I could do my own journal now…
I typed in quickly “All about my life…” Then I thought a few minutes. I couldn’t think of anything to say, to type… It was like… This was my very first journal entry, and I… Well, my life seemed so much like nothing to me… Maybe this was all a big mistake, me doing a journal… I really didn’t have much to say about my life… I was… This was not the kind of life I really wanted anyway… I couldn’t think… I pressed the enter key like I was supposed to do for a new line. Then I added my very second line to my very first journal entry “Zombie food service workew” Well, I had to look to see how to change the w to an r like it should have been, then I fixed that. Still, there was really no point in changing this, or even saving this, for that matter. This really felt like my life… for now, anyway… I sat there and just stared at the big screen thing, what I had typed… and began to weep softly… For quite a while, I just stared and those simple words… crying as hard as my head would let me… I only then realized that it was dark in my livingroom, except for the pale green light coming from the big screen thing. The sun had gone down. It didn’t matter… I… was so done with this journal thing…
I reached around the back to turn the big screen thing off, and I realized it was warm! Maybe it was even just a little hot! That meant it was my friend. I don’t like cold… I was going to turn everything off in despair, but I left everything on. Well, it could at least help warm up my tiny, drab living space… I didn’t even bother turning a light on or anything. I threw myself in my bed, cried softly, and was soon asleep.
I woke up in the middle of the night, and couldn’t sleep. I had a dream, and in that dream I was remembering… I was remembering life at the Diner, probably when it was the most amazing to me, towards the end of last summer, before it started to cool off. I was really snapping out of it from whatever had happened to me, and I was working my tail off, too, But I was, thanks largely to Edna, well, coming alive… I noted that it seemed like I was fighting my way through that same process again, without Edna this time… But just from that dream…
I got up unsteadily and sat on the floor in front of that keyboard and big pale green, very warm screen thing on that low table; everything was still turned on. I erased those simple two lines that I had typed, and I started over, and basically worked at typing in impressions, memories, feelings from that dream. My dream was mostly just a string of memories of what really happened around that time. I tried to type them in. Well, I found out quickly that the s key was gone, I mean nowhere to be found! I even turned a light on, and looked carefully, on the table, under the table, around behind everything… I had to use the z key in it’s place. Wow, that looked funny! But I started there, and just typed what I remembered, what I felt… Everything that Kacey said should, or could go into a journal, that’s what I worked to add. And I remembered too, that this was just for me. Well, right now, it would keep me from going crazy maybe, and that was reason enough. But I was sure nobody else would even want to read this. It didn’t really matter. And Kacey was right. Trying to capture, even the type of life I saw around me, just recording that… I think I smiled quite a bit doing that. My first journal entry was not extremely long. That didn’t matter to me at all. And I really enjoyed thinking back to those days, salesmorons and all. I called this entry beginnings, mostly because this was my first attempt at a journal. Well, I also realized that I took some time to describe myself, along with some basic facts about my life. Since nobody will ever read this, I am not sure why that mattered. Listening to Kacey, I don’t think it mattered that that didn’t matter. Try figuring that out!
It took an hour maybe to get my memories typed in, and I read it through a second time. It really looked strange using z for s! But by then I think I ran out of gas, out of words. Kacey never told me about that part, what I should do. I guess that didn’t matter either. And I was tired again; it was the middle of the night. Well, I smiled briefly, anyway. Getting up was hard. I had been sitting cross-legged for so long, my legs hurt. I managed to get myself to my bed, pulled a blanket over, and fell quickly asleep.
When I woke up the next morning, I realized I had another series of dreams, this time about Ed and Edna. Edna loved to talk about their life together. She never got into details, but evidently they enjoyed a good life together before Ed passed away, except that they never had kids. I have no idea why. Still, with all this fresh in my mind, I slowly got up and sat down again in front of Ed’s, well now my computer. It was still on. I had to research how to save what I had already typed in. Once I found out what to do… Just press a few keys…
And with the sun coming in a window at a low angle, I realized that the key things on the keyboard came off pretty easy. It didn’t take long to move the z key to where the missing s key went. And I scrounged a dead pen out of the kitchen garbage, pulled the insides out, and that little tube fit perfectly down inside where the bottom of the z key went. That way, I could make a z if I needed too, even if it did take a little while. Like I wrote, I was pretty proud of myself for figuring all that out. Of course, I named that second entry Ed and Edna; it was about them after all. Remembering all that Edna had said about their life… Some was from dreams, other stuff I remembered after remembering my dreams… Typing that entry in made me cry… I still miss Edna… After I was done, I went back and added that to the end while I cried… She was like a mom to me… And I saved my work again, too. I got slowly up and it hurt again. But I left everything on. It was tuesday, and it felt like a cold day (last week of december), and I thought my heater needed all the help it could get!
But I did get up… I was hungry. I couldn’t go to the Diner and get food. I remembered what the cook had made for me, hamburger patties and some buns. Well, I had watched both Edna and the cook use the microwave (the one at the Diner was the same as the one in my kitchen). I got a burger patty out of the frig and heated it up. Well, I think… It was really hot when I opened the microwave door. I guessed I should cook it for less than 5 minutes next time. But, aside from burning my tongue, and having to let it cool off some, it was very good. And I used one of the small water bottles from the frig, even though they had been in there for months. The water tasted fine. I guess I was really hungry. Well, and I really like hamburgers!
Even thinking that… I realized my next journal entry had to be about me, how I came to be, and how Edna came to be such an important part of my life. While finishing my hamburger, I came up with the title, dawn of time. I still can’t remember backwards in time past that morning when Edna said she found me on her back porch. And, for my first month maybe, I had to take Edna’s word anyway. I couldn’t remember any of that either. I felt that title reflected all of this, for me.
After my burger was done, I started typing. I was soon weeping softly, but alternately smiling too. It was, this journal was fun, but when I could even function, weeks later, I felt so beat up inside. It was just a difficult time, but Edna, well, she seemed to breath life back into me… And a bunch of the early stuff… well, the first weeks I could not remember anything, even now. Edna told me all about my first weeks with her. Even if I could remember nothing about that time, Edna remembered absolutely everything, and told me about it a number of times. I think me waking up on her back porch, coming into her life, well that seemed to be very special to Edna. I was thankful beyond words that she put up with me, too. And, yes, it was only a matter of time before Edna wanted me at the Diner, and I was quickly helping her out. That was hard but I didn’t mind. And I think all that physical work really helped me.
That journal entry was pretty long compared to the other ones, but I just kept remembering things I should say. It was sort of well, bitter-sweet is the word… Smiling with tears in my eyes… Edna really did go way out of her way to help me, and I really appreciated that. But I became really attached to her, too. And, Kacey was right. Doing this journal, my journal, well it was amazing.
I wrapped that chapter up, saved it, then tried to decide what to do. Getting up was the first thing, and that was hard. I had been sitting a few hours. I realized that I needed a better table and maybe a good chair for this. Kacey was sitting at Delores’ big table in nice, padded chairs, but I didn’t have any of that. And the only high table in this house was a small table with a few rusty metal chairs, in the kitchen. I don’t think anyone had used that table for years. Still, I opened the kitchen door (which let a lot of warm air out, and a lot of cold air in) and just stood there, looking at that table. Well, my legs still hurt. I guess I would just have to do this…
Just then there was a knock at the door, and that surprised me; I jumped a little. I honestly feared it was a salesmoron. But I had to open the door in order to even find out. Instead I opened the door into Edna’s room (which also let a lot of cool air in, and a lot of warm air out), and quickly peeked out a window so maybe I could see.
Well, it was Delores’ car, her mini-van. I walked out of Edna’s room, and closed both that door and the kitchen door. Then I opened the door, and Delores, Kacey and Tina spilled quickly inside. Wow, it was cold outside today! I hadn’t even noticed. Well, I wasn’t even outside either.
“Maude, I wanted to drop by to check on you, but… By family vote, you are coming over to our house for an early leftover dinner” Delores smiled, and so did Kacey and Tina. I hugged everyone.
Still, I thought a minute. “Victor?” I said quietly.
Delores sighed. “He’s back on the road, and the roads are a mess where they sent him…”
I said “Aww…” and hugged Delores again.
Delores smiled, and said “Maude, get your nice coat on, and let’s go. Leave the doors closed and the heater on though, it’s supposed to get really cold tonight.” That didn’t surprise me. According to Edna, that was how it was here during the winter. It got very cold. We all quickly jumped into Delores’ mini-van. We closed the doors as soon as possible. But, I guess Delores’ car has a heater too. I didn’t hear any quiet whoosh though; I don’t know how that works. But, it wasn’t cold for long once the car was started. And Tina started talking right away. It had only been two days since I was there, but Tina had so much to say! While Tina was talking, Kacey showed me her new cell phone. She had pulled up her facebook page, and pointed to the likes or whatever. She said quietly “almost 700 more since sunday, Maude!” I guess Kacey was pretty excited about that. Maybe it was really someone else’s picture they were after.
At Delores’ house, we got out and quickly went inside. Of course, it was very warm, and all our coats came off. Delores said calmly “Girls, kitchen table, please” and Kacey and Tina ran upstairs as Delores headed for her kitchen, and I followed her. I sat at exactly the same place that I did two days ago. Kacey came down first with her backpack, and pulled out her computer thing, set it up, then started typing.
I thought this might be the only chance I got. Even though Kacey was already typing madly, I leaned over a little towards her, and quietly said “Kacey, I started my own journal. You are right, it is very fun!” Then I smiled.
Kacey stopped right where she was typing, looked over at me and smiled broadly. “Wow, Maude, that’s amazing!” Well, then a frown momentarily washed across her face. “Aww, I wish I could read it…”
I wasn’t protesting or anything, but I replied quietly “I think you said… Well, I am pretty sure my journal is just for me.” I thought a minute, then added quietly “Why in the world… I don’t think anyone else would want to read about me…”
Kacey looked in my eyes, and took one of my hands. “Well, I would love to read it… But Maude… That’s just the thing. It is not so important where you are… Your whole life is before you, and you can record it as it unfolds before your very eyes! And then you will always have all those details!” I honestly had trouble grasping this, but Kasey seemed real excited about the possibilities. I suppose maybe, that my nothing life will change one day, I don’t know.
Kacey stayed excited “Ooo, I need to add that to mine!” and she was back to madly typing again. But I just thought that, well, to other people, my journal would just… Well, it would just embarrass me. It was enough for me to enjoy writing it all down, well, typing it all in. That was fine with me. I doubted I would let anyone else read it though. Well, if something REALLY amazing happened…
Tina came down, right then, and spread her beads on the table around her. She carefully showed me some of the projects she had been working on, then she started on another bracelet thing for me.
In the middle of typing at her computer, Kacey stoped abruptly, and looked up at me. “Maude, I didn’t know you even had a computer.” I think that was really a question.
I said quietly “I’m using Ed’s old comp–”
Delores heard this and laughed loudly, choked her laughter off, then immediately apologized. “I’m sorry, Maude, that was rude. It’s just that Edna thinks that computer is, well, she called it an antique. Does it still work?”
Well, I just felt Delores felt bad for what she had done. She didn’t hurt my feelings, so I got up and hugged her. I think she understood why I did that. After we hugged, I said quietly “Well, it seems to be working fine. It is not as small as Kacey’s, but I can type stuff in, and read it again. I think that is all I need right now.” I thought a little more, then laughed. “And it gets nice and hot. That computer is my friend.” We all laughed at that. I don’t think any of us like the cold.
Leftover late lunch / early dinner was very good. Tina ate a lot of a bunch of things and Delores, Kacey and I had some more of that mash potatoes plus corn plus turkey plus gravy. And we all helped with the clean-up, and that went quickly too. I asked Delores about that apple juice stuff we had the night before christmas. Delores made us some more. Then we all just sat around her kitchen table and just talked. Well, I talked a little, but listened quite a bit. Tina worked with beads, and Kacey worked at her computer.
Delores talked a while about Edna. I guess they had been friends for many years. A lot of what Delores said, Edna had already told me. Some stuff Edna had not mentioned. Delores was sad when she said that Edna just couldn’t have children. She and Ed tried, but… And one of the other reasons they moved here from texas, was to see if that made any difference. Well, it didn’t. That made me sad, and I cried a little. Then I said quietly “She was like a mom to me…”
Delores cried too. “Maude, Edna felt that exact same way… She told us a number of times, that you were like… Edna felt she was finally given the daughter she longed for, when she found you asleep on her back porch. Edna so keenly felt that, and loved you so much… We knew that, we felt that. She stopped coming to church, but we all understood why… It was like she could finally experience a part of her life that…”
Well, Delores and I stood up and hugged and cried together for a little while. And I could tell, that beat up, little girl voice… “I really miss her…”
Delores answered softly “Maude, so many of us do too…”
Well, we calmed down, and sat back down at the table and talked a while longer.
It started to get dark, and that was it, time to go. We needed to do our hugs now, while we were still warm, Delores said. Kacey and I hugged a few minutes, too. “Maude, you are such a neat friend” she said quietly.
I guessed. “You have to go back to school soon?”
Kacey sighed. “Tomorrow, then its back to the grind… homework, studying, tests, trying to keep boys from taking… School doesn’t start until next week, but I have three huge projects to start in on… It is so much more peaceful here…” When she said that, I just thought… Maybe we really should read each other’s journals, I don’t know… And, wow… it sounded like Kacey, well maybe there were salesmorons at her school too, how sad…
Tina had made me a new bracelet, and put it on my wrist as we got up to leave. Using the same colors (they were white and gold, she said clearly), it just said “beautiful” on it. I gave her a big hug for that. She is such a sweet young girl.
Fifteen minutes later, I was back in my house, reasonably warm inside, and alone again. My coat was on the back of the couch so I could sleep. Well, Delores had made me a “to go” cup of that apple juice stuff (she laughed), and I was sitting on my couch bed just sipping that. The juice was hot, but was supposed to be sipped while hot, I guess. I think I was just, dazed maybe. I sipped and stared blankly off into the distance until it was dark. Then I laid down, and went to sleep.
1. Maude: Beginnings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.