By Sandra, Xanii@aol.com
I work a job to get some money to pay some bills and nothing more. That is all I chalk it up to. If you asked if I wanted to live, I would have to tell you no, but what good does that do except get you to think that I need a shrink. So much for you right?
Here I am, at this job, sitting in this small front space with the wooden floor boards that creek when you walk too hard. The lazy sun punches though the ancient blinds and colors my desk a dusty beige-yellow. Red and green lights flash on the phone and suddenly they disappear. I sit back in my swivel chair, arching my hips slightly forward. Time to wind out this day. I reach back and cancel the timid lights, half stretching and yawning besides.
Glancing over, I noticed the tightly closed door to the bosses' office. He must be pulling another late night of cheating on the Misses. Let me go and not be witness.
Rusty wheels squeak, catching my attentions. I bend between my legs and stretch the lower part of my back. I reach under the desk and pull out my purse. Standing, I pack away the pens and pencils and pull down my short vest. First front, then back. I side step the chair to the left and sling my purse over my right shoulder. Closing the shades to squeeze out the punching light, I shout, "Mr. Ganyon... I'm leaving Sir."
"Very well Hazel. I'll see you next week. " muffled through the almost sealed door.
I didn't give it a second thought, before heading for the dark exit and opening to an even darker hallway. Once out on the gray, dusk tinted walkway, I headed to the bakery.
Little children played on the wide walk. Hopscotch, dodge ball, jump rope and there I was, obstructing the intense games as I tread ever slowly. Not minding me, they entered their worlds, shutting me, the obstruction, out. So I stopped, once on the other side of their playing territory and watched, as I stood in the space for the adults. Milk chocolate, creamy milked coffee, cinnamon children played on the walk. Being as children are with their miniature shorts and shirts; hair barrettes, hair bows and little shoes.
I slipped my hands in my pockets, burying my watch on the left wrist and my bracelet on the right. Slowly still I walked, half glazed and wondering why. Mama loved kids. She loved lots and lots of kids and even when she became ill, she still had lots of kids around. My leather shoes, that had a shag on the tops of them and a brassy metal design, pattered across the warm broad walk. I listened to them, never really looking up. Soon I smelled the warm butter loves of the bakery and straightened my eyes to see where I was.
Two paces and I was at the curb.
"Excuse me..." A small voice questioned.
I looked down.
"Excuse me... can you help me cross the street?"
I reached a warm hand from my deep pockets and ran my fingers through her soft fine peanut butter colored hair, smoothing back the strays and refreshing her do.
Smiling through my glasses, I reached out an adult hand and she took it, trustingly.
"My Mama told me never to cross by myself... and to always ask a big person."
She affirmed with conviction.
"Rightfully so. " I spoke, in an official capacity. The lights clicked and turned in our favor. Strongly, I held on to her little hand, watching for cars and keeping pace with her little steps.
"Hi Mama... " She waved excitedly, once we reached the other walk.
Lifting my arm, I chaperoned her through the crowd of street crossers and pointed her in the direction she had waved to. She stopped, "...thank you Ma'am. " and she left. And there I was, empty handed once again. Something more this time, something vast left me when she, that little stranger, left me standing at the crosswalk.
Shaking my wits free, I straightened my glasses and fouled up my face. My lips, pressed in a thoughtful frown, my forehead furrowed and I walked, ever slowly, letting the rushing workers and cement trucks and subways cars beneath, pass me by. I turned to the left, back on track to the bakery.
Paces counted me as I walked, ever slowly on the cobble walk. Ten... and I was staring, not looking at the man who sold apples that I never ate. Absently I gazed at his fare. Fragrant bouquets of peach-plums, apple-banana, pineapple-melon, enticed my mouth to water. Digging in my right slash pocket, I unearthed fifty cents and bought an orangy-reddish yellow nectarine.
Fifteen... and I was on my way to the bakery, with dessert in a brown mini-bag for the walk home or the bath after the park.
Twenty-three...twenty-four...twenty-five. My eyes stayed glued to the wooden handle of the door as I smelled the waif of almond rolls seep out from the vents atop the shop. Diverting my eyes to the clean glass window of the cafe, I read the snow letters of the bakery: Malone's and baskets of rolls and breads and sticky buns and croissants sat in the display.
"Let me get that... " He said and placed his warm moist hand slightly over mine and tugged on the door.
I smiled a thank you and stepped back enough for him to open the door and I stepped in. Baking smells penetrated the fibers of my medium brown long sleeved shirt. My eyes caught hold of todays' hand written Chef's special: Tomato soup, creamy tuna salad on a fresh croissant or fresh whole wheat bread with your choice of coffee, tea or juice, it read. I sat on the dark brown stool at the counter.
"Hello Hazel... glad to see you here for dinner tonight. Will it be the Chefs' special?"
"Yes Wilma, thank you. " And she scurried to the rear. I placed my hands on the white smooth gray flecked counter. A fifties gray metal bumper came around the end part and the base faded into a deep cherry finished lacquer that matched the earth-toned decor.
"Here's your juice, I'll be back in a minute with your soup and sandwich."
Carefully I sipped the juice, mindful to conserve the gulps to match the bites of sandwich and the slups of soup that were to follow. Placing my purse between my ankles I examined the lines on the palms of my hands. Thick lines frayed and curving, thin lines straight as edges. I placed my palms down on the cool worn counter.
"Here ya go honey... thick soup like you like it and chunky tuna salad. Eat up before the soup gets cold now."
"Thanks again Wilma. " And I smiled broadly. I submerged the rounded silver toned spoon in the thick red soup and watched as the heat fogged the handle. Casually I stirred and lifted the end of the spoon to my mouth. Gingerly I lapped the smoldering elixir with my tongue, mindful of the temperature. Like lava, the soup curled its way down my throat and to my insides. Mmmmm... Wilma always knows how I like it, I thought and smiled my affections in her direction.
"Care to taste me like that? " Came a voice from behind.
"Only if you taste like Tomato soup."
"Then I guess I'm out of luck eh?"
"Definitely. " I shot back, between spoonfuls of that sinful soup.
She kissed my cheek and sat beside me, turning her forest green cap backwards, for a better look at the food.
"Typical Hazel. Had one of those day huh?"
"One of what days?"
"One of those days where you order Tuna Salad and Tomato soup. You are either depressed or sad."
"Maybe both? " I muttered.
"Hmmm... Over what? Ganyon been giving you flak again?"
"Chloe...... Never mind."
"Suit yourself. Hey Wilma... how 'bout some chow over this way?"
Wilma bustled toward Chloe.
"What'll it be Chlo ?"
"Give me some meatloaf, garlic potatoes, a glass of Zin and some cheeeeesecake for dessert. Oh yeah, please."
Wilma glared Chloe down then smiled when she saw that impish look Chloe always gives to weasel out of being rude.
"You're jus' lucky that you are with Hazel... Hazel I don't know how you handle this girl."
I gulped down some apple juice, " With a kind heart and a kick in the ass Wilma."
And she nodded a stern agreement.
"So, what's got you in such a rut Hazel?"
"Noth- " And my eyes caught sight of the little girl I had helped cross the street. She walked past Malone's, without her mother. Slowly she turned to me and smiled...
Chloe delivered my pregnant pause,
"Look, if it's our relationship, I can understand..."
"... it was hard to tell my family at first too."
... walking right out onto the street...
"We'll be okay Hazel..."
... right in the path of a car.
"...everything will be all right."
Hazel darted for the cafe door, almost breaking it off its hinges. When She reached out to grab the little girl's hand, she pulled from her. Hazel reached out further, lunging to take her, before the shiny bumper of the car did but she pulled away again. Car fumes filled her nostrils when she finally reached out enough to pull the girl close to her body. She tucked her between her breasts and held her hand over the girls little face as the car hit Hazels' side, taking her down.
Her shoulder snapped as she hit the newly paved road. An acrid asphalt stench burned her eyes when her nose was dug into the street. Her head landed with a muffled crack. The little girl squirmed out of Hazels' limp arms.
"Mama... please get up. " The little girl pleaded frantically as a warm pool of blood flooded around Hazels' nose.
Hazels' eyes gleamed over toward the little girl. Hey, What are you doing without your Mama, Precious? Didn't she tell you not to cross the street without a big person helping you? Tears welled into the little girls' eyes as Chloe ran to Hazels' side.
"Hazel!!! Oh my God, somebody call an ambulance!!! Please!!! Hazel honey!!! Please speak to me!!!"
Warm blood pooled around Hazels' body. Hmmm... Chloe, oh baby... Chloe screamed when she realized that help might not get to Hazel on time.
"Oh please Hazel, please don't leave me... don't leave me Hazel, don't leave me!!! Oh God Why?! Hazel!!! Hazel!!! SOMEBODY HELP ME!!! SOMEBODY HELP ME!!!"
The little girl knelt beside Hazel, caressing her face. Sticky blood smeared on her cheek.
"Mama... I'll help you."
Hazel smiled, broadly. Silly little girl, I'm not your Ma... Carlie?... Carlie?! Baby is that you? I've missed you so precious... oh how I've missed you. And there I was, helping you cross the street and I didn't even recognize you...
"Just close your eyes Mama and I'll be there with you."
Chloe watched as the little girl placed her palm on Hazels' forehead. Chloe felt Hazel squeeze her hand tightly, then felt her smooth hand go limp.
"She's all right now Chloe."
And the little girl curled up beside Hazel, snuggling beneath her limp arms.
"I'm coming Mama... " She whispered and closed her eyes, letting the world live, while quietly she died...