What a day, what a day. It's only about 9 am and yet again I say, what a day.
It was grocery buying day today, which in my opinion is the most evil of all the days. I hate it terrible, but I do it because my family insists that on occasion I feed them something other than peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches.
They are so selfish.
Let me back up here. You should know that I live in a tiny Midwestern town (for the last eleven years) with a population of roughly 9000 human beings. We have a Wal-Mart, a couple grocery stores and two bowling alleys. That pretty much sums it up. It's not that I don't like living in a small town. I really do. It's relatively safe and most of the people I meet on a day to day basis I can greet by name and are quite nice. That's a good thing.
However, at the moment of my birth, I was screaming for someone to cut the umbilical cord so that I could be on my merry way. I was ready to roam. I like going places and seeing things. I like to wander. To set out on adventures. To go places I've got no business going. It's my wanderlust that causes me sometimes to experience an overwhelming need to leave my small town so fast I leave skid marks on Main Street.
Today is such a day.
I blame the Today Show. It's that damn Katie Couric and her fabulous New York shoes that have me feeling a little too Midwesterney. Seriously. As I sat watching her perky self deliver the news, I thought I might like to strike her with an open hand.
It's possible that's because I was sitting in my recliner wearing Mr. Man's Nike tube socks and the fuzzy black slippers my son bought me for Christmas in size extra-friggin' large. I don't know. I just know that she's all cutesy-pie, classy, cupcake in pumps and I'm all frumpy, dumpy, didn't shave my legs white trash in men's socks.
The comparison cast me in an unflattering light.
As I drug myself out to Food Hell, I felt like this small town was about to swallow me like the whale swallowed Jonah, minus the lingering aftertaste of whale bile. My "whoa as me" downward spiral was in full swing and I was headed straight for, "Why, oh why, sweet Jesus am I stuck in this place where nothing exciting ever happens and I never get to use the words "latte" and "fabulous" in any conversation?"
Sex and the City this ain't.
Pushing my wobbly-wheeled, mind of it's own cart through the aisles, I narrowly missed running square into what I can only assume was the world's oldest man. In my defense, time had shrunk him to about 4 feet tall and he was wearing a shirt that very closely resembled the Quaker Oatmeal label.
It was grocery store camo.
"I'm sorry," I said in my sweetest, it always gets me out of trouble, Southern drawl. "I didn't see you."
"That's alright there, young lady," he said. "Say, you wouldn't want to help an old man out would you?"
Should have toned down the accent a little. Now I'm going to have to marry a one-hundred-year-old man. Crap.
Thankfully what he needed help with didn't involve my dragging the worn out white dress from what used to be my hope chest, but is now my "why can't I learn to say no" chest.
"Can you tell me how to make a Jello mold?" he asked.
In the history of the world, has this question ever been asked by the world's oldest man to the world's most frequently married woman in a grocery store before 10 am? Only in Corn Capital, USA, kids.
"You want me to explain to you how to make a Jello mold?" I asked. "Is there a special reason you need to have your Jello assume a particular shape today?" Trying to get out of this conversation, I leaned in close and whispered, "Between you and me, I've heard that when Jello molecules are forced to assume an unnatural form, they become quite toxic. Studies have shown it was in fact a Jello mold, and not a second shooter on the grassy knoll, that killed JFK."
Note to self: Purchase one-way ticket to the Big Apple using the stash of cash Mr. Man doesn't think anyone knows about, under the alias "Sadie McDoogles".
"Well, it's just that my late wife Enid, God rest her soul, used to fix a Jello mold whenever somebody died and our good friend Buford passed away yesterday and I wanted to see if I couldn't make one myself. I thought maybe it would make Enid happy. Sort of be like she wasn't really gone." He stared down at his thin and time worn wedding ring, "Yep. She's been gone twelve years this August and I think about her every day. Miss her so bad sometimes I can't hardly stand it."
"Your Enid is gone?" I whimpered, bottom lip quivering. "And you miss her terrible?"
"Oh lord, yes," he said sweetly. "She was the best wife in the whole world. She was beautiful, too. Had big eyes and a sweet face and she could always make me laugh...no matter how bad things got. Fifty-one years we was together and I loved her as much the day she went home to be with Jesus as I did the first time I saw her."
If you assume his story caused me to tear up, you would be only partially right. It would be more accurate to describe me as weeping uncontrollably. I was blowing so many snot bubbles, I looked like the battery-operated bubble-blowing fish the evil Berta Lou keeps on her veranda. Little unattended grocery store children were gathering around me in record numbers, laughing and dancing while trying to see who could catch the most before they hit the ground and popped.
"I'd be happy to tell you how to make a Jello mold, Mister," I said through the sobbing. "It's really not hard. You make the Jello according to the directions on the package, lightly spray your mold with Pam and then put it in the refrigerator until you can sort of peel it away from the edges with your finger. Run the mold under some warm water and plop it on a plate. Nothing to it."
I am totally getting into Heaven for this one, I thought. Enid will make sure of it.
"That's it?" he asked.
"That's it!" I said.
"Well hell," said the man, "I could have figured that out my damn self. I wanted to know how you float carrots and pineapple in the damn thing. I'm not stupid."
"WWKD?" I asked myself. What would Katie do,indeed?
Copyright © 2004-2005, Sherri Bailey
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