As I stood waiting for the kettle to boil this morning, the sounds of a steady rain surrounded me, wafting into the house through the slight opening in the back door. The dog sniffs the yard, then takes the stairs in the slow ponderous way she has developed, mostly, I've concluded, to guilt me into letting her come back inside. She sprints out the front door if it's left ajar and makes 63rd street before I can find the leash.
But I let her have what she wants, another hour in her bed under the dining room window. As she settles I pour hot water through the cone of the coffee dripper. The Mr. Coffee died while I cavorted about the ocean side. I don't understand why; I had just purchased it six or seven months ago. So I've gone back to my college roots with a 10-Cup Melitta with its plastic cone. I got a single-burner warming plate to replace the one I donated years ago when I thought I'd never need it again. This one has four settings and sits high on the conter. I miss the low, flat one with its single-button feature but I couldn't find a replacement on Amazon.
My mother bought my first Melitta, forty or so years ago when she came to my little apartment on Russell Street where I paid by the week. I kept the place scrupulously clean, not too difficult since I owned next to nothing. Mother stocked my kitchen with cast-off pans from her collection, the Melitta, and dishes from Vet's Village. We had repaired our relationship that far, after my petulant decampment from home the prior year.
My living room had a futon on a folding frame, a couple of rockers, and an old recliner. Mother brought me the old full-sized bedframe and we found a mattress and box spring set somewhere cheap. I had no air conditioning. I ate at a Formica table on a metal chair with the back door propped open for circulation.
Mother did not understand why I insisted on living in the city. But she kept her complaints quiet. By then I had quit my hospital job in North County and found a similar one near my college. I had bought my first car, an MG midget which constantly needed my brother's ministrations. I burned through clutches like Kleenex.
When I got tossed out of that place for bringing black people around my bigoted landlady's precious four-plex, I moved to Laclede Town with two roommates. One of them had a full set of dishes and a couch. They both had lots of friends. Donna, one of them was called -- which I only remember because we worked together, later, at Legal Aid. I think the other one's name was Linda but I'm not sure. It could have been Sue.
They both had their lives on track while I mostly worked, cut classes, drank Scotch at the Student Union, and sat in my bedroom with the door shut feeling sorry for myself. But I adored those girls. I cut my hair because they wore theirs short.
Three campus cops lived in the townhouse across from our back patio. One or the other of them would slip out their patio door and across to ours, rapping on the glass. Whoever heard them pulled the wooden dowel from the well of the doors and let them into the house. They'd borrow coffee, bring us booze, carry heavy furniture without much prompting, and otherwise do what guys do when three women move into the neighborhood. None of us dated any of them. They had girlfriends now and then; Donna and Sue -- yes, her name definitely was not Linda -- always had boyfriends. Our place drew a small crowd once a month. The little dishwasher got a lot of use.
Donna and Sue finished their studies before I did. I stayed in the place by myself for a full semester, not counting the pregnant teenager that lived with me for a few weeks and sat on the patio, smoking, in the November rain. She drank cup after cup of coffee brewed in my Melitta. I took her to an adoption lawyer who helped her find someone to pay her expenses and take her baby. After she left, I was alone.
On my twenty-first birthday, during that last fall of college. Donna, Sue, and a friend of Sue's named Kathy who had a broken voice box and spoke in a whisper, took me on the Admiral to celebrate. On the crowded deck, music blaring, the Mississippi gliding behind us, they pressed frozen drinks with little umbrellas into my hand. I got hopelessly drunk and cried. They danced and held me in a room so crowded that I couldn't have fallen down if I had tried. The music pounded in my head for weeks, fading only with October's chilly evenings, when I'd stand in their empty bedrooms and will them to return.
In a couple of hours, I will don a black flowered dress, and a pink sweater, to attend the funeral of Maddie McDowell who died this week. Her family has requested that mourners wear pink in honor of her youth and sweetness. This will be the second funeral that I've attended in pink, the first having been that of a sixteen-year-old who killed herself. Maddie, with whom my son attended elementary school and who lived across from another family we know, died in her sleep after minor surgery. Her loss grieves me. I cannot imagine bearing the pain which her parents and brother must feel.
The rain saturates the ground and flows from my gutters. I stand at the front door with my crystal mug and think about replacing the broken rocker and buying new plants. Soon spring will unfold herself and spread her grandeur over Brookside. I am ready. I intend to plant pink roses in Maddie's honor.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
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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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