The week provided numerous opportunities for one's blood pressure to soar or sink. The Affordable Care Act received Supreme Court blessing, as did lying about one's service. A judge looked on me with amusement, providing a brief glance of humanity that I desperately needed at just that moment. An old friend and I sat over coffee for a near-record three and a half hours. My son posted on my Facebook timeline. Yet another of our cars got bashed by speeders using Holmes for a closed course, this time, thankfully, an honest one who stayed to provide his information. And the white cat, aging, sweet and small, began sleeping in the driveway, necessitating a stop-and-search each time we traverse the asphalt.
Among all the hot summers that I have spent, Kansas City in 2012 affords some of the more trying times. My car's air conditioning failed a few weeks ago, and I have been too busy to make an appointment for its repair. I have arrived at distant hearings with my blouse clinging to my skin, grateful to slip on a jacket to hide my discomfort, shedding the outer layer before climbing into the driver's seat for the long ride home. A mixed bag, busy-ness: I'm sure to "make my month" but less sure to survive it.
I have reinvented myself so many times in my five-plus decades that I feel as though I'm just hitting my stride in this version of myself. A younger woman would be thrilled at the serge in client-base and the reliability of payment exhibited by this current batch. A younger woman would thrive on the ten-hour workdays and early morning coffees. But I am not a younger woman, and while my hair might be properly tinted to disguise my age, I feel it in every step, every reach, every twist of my wretched ankles. I'm not complaining, God, just wondering if I can earn this bounty you've seen fit to send my way. And keep it coming. Knock wood.
I closed my eyes to pull some strength from the bowels of my body yesterday, as I tried to clip a 14-page brief down to the five-page limit in the rules. I made it to ten, and edited the title, body and prayer to include a request for leave to file over-length Suggestions. I glanced at the motion to which I was responding, wondering how my opposing counsel had managed to keep within the locally dictated limit. Ah. Single-spaced! I could not resist adding a footnote to my own plaintive plea, noting the sneaky, possibly impermissible dodge. I deleted the footnote, re-added, deleted, then finally left it. Catty, but perhaps it will tip the scales in my favor. I recalled a judge who once hefted a brief-in-a-binder filed by a fancy St. Louis firm. Ms. Corley is granted leave to file a 5-lb opposition, with or without binder, he intoned, and if I had not already witnessed his wicked sense of humor, I might have missed it.
Heat seeps into your skin here in the city. But in the mountains, the occasional stirring of the air by a breeze coming through tall old evergreens saves you. On a screen porch, overlooking the river, as the night falls and the small animals skitter through the underbrush, summer settles like a tired guest in the gathering dark. Heat shimmers in the day but whispers after nightfall, yielding to the earth's need for temperance. The rocking chairs stir the air.
By morning, in the mountains, in the summer, the air registers seventy. A few hours after breakfast, your hair falls in lanky strings to your shoulders, and you hitch your shirt in a knot above your belly. You slide your feet into shoes that barely earn the name, and roll your jeans to your knees or tear them into ragged shorts. You walk along the dusty roads, around the square, to sit in the last open restaurant and drink Pepsi-Cola. The ladies in their cotton skirts pour endless cups of coffee, and the men in overalls complain, with utter lack of conviction, about the heat and what it might do to the crops. They watch for clouds to gather in the distance, and speculate on what those puffy images might hold.
You shuffle back to your home, and glance at the box on your door to see if anyone has been by. You know that running a small-town law office out of your house has little to commend it and much to suggest that a city girl should not attempt it. But the heat has taken hold of your common sense and wrung it dry, so for the afternoon, you visit the library in the basement of City Hall next door and play jacks with the mayor's granddaughter. You've read all the books but you borrow one or two anyway, just to give the mayor something to do. She writes your name carefully on the borrowing card, as though there are lots of strangers wanting to check out books and she might lose track. You thank her, ruffle the little girl's hair, and go back to your home, to the empty rooms and the wilted plants on the rail.
And you take endless showers, even though you're only three houses down from the city water treatment plan, and your hair has long since taken on a funky hue, where L'Oreal meets Chlorine. You don't care. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, you've heard.
Then the night settles again, and you slip onto the screened-in room at the back of the house, and listen to the soft sound of the river below rising to meet the rustle in the endlessly rising, aging pine trees. You lean back against the chair and let yourself be lulled into quietude, as the heat of the day dissipates, and in the distance, the sound of a summer storm rolls into town. You close your eyes and smile, knowing that in the coffee shop tomorrow, you'll hear the men arguing about whether the rain helped the crops or not.
The Kansas City heat of 2012 has not yet been broken by thunder. We reached 107 two days ago, but tomorrow we should drop into double-digits. We've taken to leaving water on the porch for our cats, and in the early afternoon, our eighteen-year-old, home between work and his evening's activities, lets our silly old Beagle into the house to spend the hottest part of the day. She moves more rapidly than she should, flops down onto her bed, and glances around, confused, no doubt, at the sudden opportunity to be cool.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
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The Missouri Mugwump™
- M. Corinne Corley
- I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.
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