Monday, December 31st, 2001 9:45 pm (pandemo)
Going to Meeting
There is no sensual pleasure in the world comparable to the delight and satisfaction that a good man takes in doing good.
While empyting and rearranging the truck, Despina thinks, My alarm clock's battery needs to be replaced.... What if I'm late for my appointment with Jacques? ... He'll just think I changed my mind about coming. ... The latitude and longitude here are so different from Iowa, it's messed up my ability to somewhat tell time by the position of the sun. ... I'm really getting paranoid about it!
Digging out her one summer dress and various toiletries, she heads down to the hospital while she is still REALLY sweaty, taking the truck so it will be handy. She loads the empty milk can with great difficulty. The water in the hose has been well-sunned all day, so she douses her hair and face with it, slaps on a dollop of shampoo, and suds it up well. She does not notice that her blouse gets soaked in the process.
Jacques, exiting the hospital's front door, takes one look, and quickly dropping his eyes, suggests, "Maybe it would be better if I filled the can for you while you moved around to the facilities."
Looking down, she sucks in her breath. See through!
She lays down the hose and moves rapidly to the rear. Once there and showered in icy cold water, as advertised, she realizes, Oops! All my clean clothes are still in the truck. Waiting as long as she dares in the semi-dark, she finally cools off enough to start to shiver. Re-donning her dirty duds, she peaks her head around the door to see if the coast is clear, then dashes to the truck, hops in before anyone else comes along, and drives around to the back.
She combs out her short hair, which dries quickly, then adds a touch of make-up and dresses leisurely.
When she is as presentable as she can get with the facilities at her disposal, she sneaks into the ambulance bay far enough to see the clock. Only three p.m. If I go back out in the heat, I won't be crisp and fresh for long!
Digging around behind the seat of the truck, she retrieves her Complete Works of Shakespeare, then sits in the truck in the shade of the hospital and reads.
Soon Jacques happens by. Ducking his head, he reads the title. "An appropriately 'English school marm' kind of a book. Why not come inside and read on the couch?"
"People won't take it amiss, will they?"
"Hummm.” Jacques raises his eyes heavenward. “I don't know. Nobody's done it." He frowns.
"That must make life here pretty lonely." Sympathy for a fellow loner shines from her eyes.
"Oh, we White Eyes stick together. Nobody wants for companionship. This just isn't where we meet. If the Indians would come by, it might be, but we're careful to stick to neutral places the Indians WILL visit so as not to seem snobbish."
"Sense of community" as a moral arbitrator, a dictator of even minute personal decisions? Interesting concept, she mulls internally, then tentatively ventures an extrapolation. "Then, if anyone saw me reading in my truck, they'd think me snobbish? They wouldn't assume I didn't want to get all sweaty again before going to church?"
"They're not used to people other than me going into town to attend church. A few of the others I've met here go to town regularly, but the places they go are places the Indians go, too." As he talks, Jacques’ hands form graceful arabesques in the air.
Reading between the lines, she thinks, Like Ye Olde Watering Hole? Places to drink?
"The Indians can't go to the White Eyes' churches?" she asks aloud.
"Sure, they can, but nobody'd go out of their way to make them feel welcome. People tend not to go where they don't feel welcome."
"Will I feel welcome at the Baptist Church?" Her voice sounds timid to her ear.
"I don't know. If I were going to take a chance on the Protestants, had no doctrinal hang-ups, and was just trying to enjoy the service, I think I'd sooner bank on the Presbyterians, at least in this area. Or maybe it's just my high church prejudice showing through."
"Okay. I can try them tonight. I've no strong connections of a theological nature that would conflict for the short term."
"Have you thought about eating supper?" Hope colors Jacques’ voice.
"Not really.” Despina shrugs her shoulders. “I don't get real hungry in extreme heat."
"Aw, shucks, Ma'am. There you've gone and shot down my smooth lead-in to fishing shamelessly for a home-cooked meal." Jacques flutters his eyes, kicking shyly at imaginary dirt like a quintessential tongue-tied TV cowboy.
With a tinkling laugh, Despina responds in kind. "Well, put that way, what does your mouth hanker to wrap itself around?"
"Oh, I thought you'd never ask! How about a tuna and noodle casserole? I just happen to have the ingredients on hand." His hands fold as if in prayer.
"You know, you just might be in luck. I think that one's actually in my repertoire." She smiles sweetly.
He boils a pot of lightly salted water, leaping back when she plops a dollop of butter into the water, creating a small splash.
"Keeps the noodles from sticking."
"And the cholesterol from dropping." Jacques wiggles his eyebrows up and down.
She takes his can of Pam outside and douses the casserole dish well, then stirs up the cream of mushroom soup, milk, and tuna. She preheats the oven to 350 degrees, then blithely cases the cupboards. Spying a box of Grape Nuts, she removes them, setting them on the counter next to the dish of goop.
"There's a clean bowl in the dish washer." He nods toward a door set in the counter to the left of the sink.
"Cold water to wash dishes? This's going to be quite an adjustment."
"There actually IS a water heater in here for sterilizing the instruments. It's just not enough to SHOWER in comfortably. Three seconds of bliss, then the ICE CHIPS hit." He makes his voice shiver as if with extreme cold.
"I don't need a bowl. The cereal is a topping for the casserole. You can use an unsugared cereal, lightly buttered bread crumbs, a handful of potato chips, that type of thing." She brushes her bangs up with her forearm.
When Despina enters the Presbyterian Church, the first person she meets is Nancy.
"I'm so delighted to see you again."
After Despina explains how she happens to be there, Nancy takes her under her wing. In response to inquisitive questions from the ladies in the adult Sunday school circle, Despina gets good mileage out of describing her reaction to her non-classroom, keeping everyone laughing. Soon she has a promise, unasked for, of the loan of some old desks and a blackboard, which Nancy will have Tex deliver.
Day of Atonement?
All too soon, it is time to return to the hovel. People begin to leave, and Despina assures Nancy that her nice young man's service must have just run a bit long.
But, Jacques does not come.
"I won't hear of you staying alone, abandoned, here at the church! What church is this Jacques attending? We'll deliver you," Nancy insists.
Less than a block away, they meet a very forlorn Jacques, afoot, heading toward their church.
Rolling the window down, Tex asks, "Trouble?"
"Someone appears to have put water in my gas line while I was attending services, according to the mechanic. He can't work on it until tomorrow morning. I've reserved two rooms at the local motel. Would you mind dropping us off there?"
"Of course not. It's right on the way. Hop in."
Despina remembers, No water, minimal heat, but keeps her mouth shut. Asking this super nice lady to drive another 20 miles to the reservation is too much. Even the flat road Jacques had used on the way in is so pot holed as to be nearly impassable to a low slung passenger car.
As they check in at the office, Jacques requests, "May I get an early wake up call? The mechanic will be coming in at seven to pick up the car."
"Sorry, señor, no phones."
"Getting up early isn't a problem. I'm an early riser. Taking an early morning walk before the heat hits will be quite therapeutic. I can knock around then."
"You're really being a good sport about this." Jacques looks flustered.
"I'm just sorry that you have to buy me a room. I never thought past bringing my offering," she adds guiltily.
"The mechanic thinks if we bleed the line, then refill the tank, things ought to be copacetic. If there's sugar in there, too, though, things could get bad."
"Do we have trouble like this often?"
He hesitates. "The priest wanted to call back a parishioner with a car to help me out, but I settled for calling the mechanic to arrange to tow the car to the garage. When I described how it died, he seemed sure he knew just what the trouble was. Father Fran feels it was done in retaliation for Saturday night."
"So what trouble did you get yourself into on Saturday?"
Jacques’ eyes widen in astonishment. "Me? I, uh, one never really knows about these things."
Several times during the night, random gunshots interrupt her slumber, but, nevertheless, Despina surfaces at dawn the next morning. Five-ish is quite a few hours from his appointment. I need to do something about finding a solution to the "no water" problem. Maybe if I walk downtown, the cafe will be open.
Setting out, she walks briskly along the highway, trying to remember how far down the road the cafe is. As she passes the Blissful Rest sign, she hrumphs to herself, More like Sporadic Rest.
Nothing is open yet, and the lack of facilities has begun to get crucial when she spies the sheriff's office. A light blazes, so she crosses the deserted highway and pops in, startling the night dispatcher, who had been asleep.
"Kin I he'p ya?" Tony’s eyes blink repeatedly.
"I sure hope so. Can you show me the closest bathroom?" Despina’s nose tilts unconsciously into the air.
With a nod, the flustered clerk indicates a door, and Despina disappears into it, emerging a short time later looking washed and refreshed.
"What time does the cafe open?" She smiles enchantingly.
"I'd say, give 'er 'nuther 45 minutes, or so, 'n she oughta be there, cookin'.
"How far is it from here?" She ventures another engaging smile, nodding her head repeatedly to encourage him.
"'Bout three quarters of a mile, on t'other side."
She heads back, first knocking politely, then POUNDING, on Jacque's door before getting a response.
As they are walking toward the cafe, Cu's battered pickup pulls up alongside.
Rolling down the window on the passenger’s side, Cu asks, "Por qué están Uds. andando?"
Duh, buh, we're walking because the car isn't running, thinks Despina.
When Jacques remains quiet, Despina ventures, "Hay agua en la linea de gasolina."
Cu’s normally stoic face shows his irritation in the form of a vertical line in his forehead. "¿Qué, qué? ¿De dónde vienes?"
Staying in the local motel in separate rooms and going together to Ellie's Café for breakfast equals a federal case? Not!
Despina answers with a pained expression. "Del motel. Vamos al café para desayunarnos."
Cu leans over and forces the passenger side door open, face predictably blank. With an elaborate injured-party shrug, she climbs in, then Jacques.
After using her last bit of change for a sweet roll, she and Cu drop Jacques off at the garage, then head back to meet her students on their all-important first day of school.
Last updated 3/9/19 Corrected re-donning. 1/28/10 Added more tells; 12/18/09 Added “tells”. 12/27/08 Removed Hummm. 12/6/08 - Added a question mark after Saturday; 8/9/04- Changed good to well;changed care to notice, and dropped , not thinking about fabrics becoming transparent; added , and quickly dropping his eyes, suggests,; added Looking down, she sucks in her breath. See through! omitted Embarrassed, changed that would not become hot no matter how long she waits, to , as advertised, connected alongside - 7/14/03.
Word Count: 1988