If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Deborah L. Wymbs: The Store Owner’s Day

“What time do the polls close?” Chris asks as she approaches the food counter to pick up another order.

“I think seven,” I answer and I look around the near empty dine”

”I’m going to need to slip away to do my civic duty.” Chris’s words are packed with pride.

“Why not now? Things are slow.”

Chris was her husband’s second vote. He always told her who to vote for and why. Chris had been the high school beauty queen, the one all of the good looking guys trailed after and all of the nerdy guys dreamt about. When I met her five years ago, the traces of Miss Popularity were still there. Her fine dish water blond hair hung right on the tip of her ass. She has a healthy mane and she always keeps her ends clipped. Whenever I have a chance, I would give her a scalp massage. Her icy blue eyes would grow heavy and oftentimes she’d fall asleep. Her five foot eleven inch figure is filled out with soft curves. She towered over her husband by at least six inches. There’s a saying that he who has the highest head is the ruler. This is not the case between Chris and her husband, Dean.
“If Dean calls, tell him, where I have gone,” she says as she leaves the diner.
“When he calls, I hope I’m the one answering the phone. Makes me sick how he controls her,” Nan says with an arsenal of molten aggravation. She stares at me waiting to here my comments.

“I’m not saying a word,” I answer. I do not want to fuel Nan’s anger.

She never liked Dean’s male control center bit. He buried himself the day we were supposed to have a girl’s luncheon and he took off from work and joined us uninvited. Nan and I felt like we were imposing with all of the hand holding going on.

“Chris’s thingy is more like a hostage abduction scenario. I heard about those situations on Nightline,” Jan joins us.

“What?” Nan shouts impatiently at Jan’s observation. “That does not make any sense.” Nan lets her head drop to the side as if her neck has given out. She steers her eyes right into mine. I know that look: she is getting ready to verbally assault someone. Her classy Southern drawl is about to be unleashed on Jan. I have only so many seconds to respond. The clock is ticking. When she turns away from me, the words of mass destruction will exit the mouth from the south.

I say the first thing that comes to mind: “Jan, you know I habitually monitor the missing persons poster. I share my huge smile with both of them. Good save. Now all I have to do is keep dribbling till the whistle blows. “What I think is happening is Chris has a love/hate relationship with that man.” I use my best therapist voice.

“He’s a super jerk,” Nan belts out in disgust. “She is not a prisoner. I saw the wedding photos. They were two smiling fools.”

One would not believe that this loving band of women works together at the Lynx Diner.

“Nannette, its ok for people to smile. Look at me. I’m smiling. Relax and see the beauty.” I take a deep breath.

Jan takes a sip from her glass of ice tea and says, “Someone’s feathers are ruffled.”

“The only reason she married him is because when they broke up, he stopped eating. He told her he would not stop killing himself unless she married him.” Ban grumbles and tries to catch her breath. Anger makes her feel this way.

“Looks like bullying to me,” Jan interjects.

I give Jan the let it rest look. “You think.”

A customer comes into the diner with his family. Thank goodness. I hate talking about Chris behind her back. Jan hurries off to greet the family while I run off to the general store part of the café. A customer new top Tampy is in the store.

“Do you have anything for dry hair?” she asks. She looks to be in her thirties wearing too tight exercise sweats. I look over to Nan who has joined me behind the counter. She hasn’t finished her thoughts on Chris and the look she gives me means she has not yet let go of the flow. I hope she will let it go. I hope the customer distracts her. Nan has been trying to include a health section in the store because she herself is definitely into healthy living. She’s in her forties, but looks much younger. Nan gives me a devilish look and informs me she is going to see if Jan needs any help. She puffs at her beautiful auburn hair as she struts away.

“This way,” I direct the customer. “You’ll find five different brand names.”

The customer is about the same age Nan was when I first met her. I study her without her noticing. I bet she has a somewhat carefree and mobile lifestyle—the one Jan wanted, but it got away from her. The guy Jan was with for ten years promised her marriage and children. Funny thing he kept putting it off. She was exactly like his prom date: they both had purchased their gowns and never got to wear them because he stood them up at the last possible moment. When she meticulously unwrapped the paper protecting her wedding dress, I could only gasp. I would say that I do not remember. My memory may have been worse.

“Do you think this will help?” Ms. Thirty Something asks.

“Biotin? I have heard good things about it.”

“I think this is all I will need,” she says running her fingers through her professionally bleached ponytail.

As I ring her up, I ask if she is new to Tampy.

“No,” she answers, “my husband and I are visiting an alumnus. No way I could live here. Oh, God, no. I just couldn’t live here away from everything and everyone.” Her words sound like a group of coiled snakes hissing. Mrs. Thirty Something realizes how condescending she sounds and changes her tone: “How long have you lived here?” she asks.

“Five years and by choice.”

“I would have thought communities like this were made up of mostly elderly residents.”

“Nope,” I answer, we’re very diverse and a very wise group of individuals. This place is the true meaning of community.”

The pride in my voice is so obvious, all she can say in response is that she is a big city girl, always has been and always will be. Good thing daddy’s spoiled brat won’t be moving here. No one should be forced to watch the way she twiddles with her hair.

“Thanks for your insights and enjoy your biotin,” I say.

She gives me a pleasant I don’t like your smile smile, takes her change, and leaves.

Nan enters the general store. “Jan has a new understanding of what goes on between Chris and Demon, I mean Dean,” she says matter of fact.

“I hope you didn’t beat her up.”

Her eyes widen, than narrow, and I know what’s coming next. Her eyes turn into red laser beams. She is getting ready to attack. Five, four, three, two, one, I silently count down.

“Why are you still ordering organic chewing tobacco?” she harshly questions.

“It’s for my baby, Tyler,” I answer with glee in my voice.
“”Nobody feeds a tree a home made concoction. People feed their plants all of the time. Jerry the Tree Man has his own natural formula. I feed my baby every four months.”

“Tobacco, beer, music, dancing—no one does this stuff,” Nan says.

I find Nan’s bark amusing so I toy with her further: “Tobacco is a disinfectant; beer wakes up the trees enzymes, and all growing plants need nitrogen.”

“Stop. Just stop.”

“Can’t stop. You’ve opened the Pandora’s Box. People play music for their plants all of the time. What’s even better—“ and I start singing—“than singing live music to my tree?”

“You need a man.”

“Tyler likes his malt liquor at forty degrees.”

“I’m leaving,” Nan says.

I follow her singing, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. I don’t need a man, why can’t you understand?”

“I’m back.” Chris is all smiles as if she has just brought home an all A report card.

“Feel better cause you voted?” I ask.

“Dean came to the poll to make sure I made the right choice.”

Dammit,” Nan utters under her breath, “isn’t that against the law?”

“I wish I was a citizen so I could null her vote,” Jan says.

Nan informs all of us she is going to the back. She is now a certified hateful individual.

“Nan,” Chris stops her, “don’t forget the meeting tomorrow night. The developer is trying to buy up virgin land and it’s got something to do with AmerunUE, the EPA and illegal dumping.”

Nan lets out a loud huff and disappears into the storage area.

A slow talking voice interrupts us. “Good evening, ladies,” Scott says, “have you been keeping yourselves out of trouble.” He walks to his favorite booth, sits down and spreads his school papers across the table.

“We’ve been kind of bad,” Jan says. “We’ve been fighting and name calling.”

Scott gives Jan his special smile and says, “I figured as much.”

She hands Scott a menu and rests her knee on the booth.

Scott lowers his voice and says, “Well, you girls need to be nice or Scotty will give you a spanking, Jan.”

Jan lets out a girlish laugh. She has a crush on Scott. What wasn’t there to like? He was tall, dark from his beach combing days and intelligent. Very cerebral. He is a math professor at the university twenty-five miles north of Tampy. Everyday he commutes from his home in Tampy to his job. He could easily live near the university, but he claims small towns remind him of his childhood when he was growing up in a small fringe town south of Dallas. His light brown hair matches his soft brown eyes that smile even when his lips do not. One of his eyeballs is off center. This gives him a boyish look. He keeps his body lean and well toned. I saw pictures of him when he was in his early thirties, two hundred pounds eight packed and super-ripped testosterone. At sixty, he still has it. He never married and never had children. I suppose he never found the one or is simply afraid of commitment and he has a hermit recluse side to him that some might not find appealing. Scott feeds off of a concentrated intelligent mental philosophy analytical stimulation. In other words, scholarly debated conversations with several cups of coffee.

We were talking to one another about three years ago. Nothing ever became of it. We went out on a couple of movie dates. Didn’t click. Scott is too consumed with his work and his analysis of things. We drifted apart in a healthy way. I bought my house, met Jan, bought the diner, and married my own interests.

Some people do not understand why I don’t live above my store. There’s plenty of room. It’s just that I like my wood slat house with its wooden floors and coffered ceilings. I walk to wherever I feel like and it’s only a little over a mile to the diner and when I go to work, I’m leaving one place for another. It’s a mental thing. My house is really not that great, but the moment I saw the giant weeping willow my mind was made up. You can tell a weeping willow from all other trees. When the wind blows, its branches sway and dance with grace and character. The golden willow near my house I named Tyler. I could never see myself sharing my house with a man, but a man tree—everything is perfect, I am comfortable, and I do not want the feeling to diminish.

“Tyler, I have a few new songs for you. Give me a chance to settle in and I’ll be back.”

I go towards my house that sits away from the blacktop. A gravel driveway coils through the trees. Every time I arrive home, I feel as though I have been vacationing somewhere remote and very private. Nan insists that I am too isolated and someone will be able to take advantage of me. She kept giving me her big sister scolding until my birthday came around and her gift to me was a puppy. I tried to get rid of the puppy without hurting her feelings. I love dogs. I just didn’t want the responsibility. Looking after myself is a chore sometimes. When you reach fifty, you must take better care of yourself. Eating right, exercising the body and brain, drinking better liquids and trying to keep you up and running like a car. I finally convinced Chris to take the puppy. I sat him down and told him this was just not going to work out and during my speech he gave me an odd look and growled. I was trying to dump this Australian dingo and he was just not going to have it. I named him Husband and the name was a perfect fit: dominant, demanding, protective and always hungry.

“Husband, Husband, I’m home,” I shout into the open space.

One of the most important things I learned when I decided to purchase my own place was to find a daydreamer’s view. It can be inside or outside of the home. The background should be soft enough to allow your mind to ramble with a minimum of interruptions. It would be a spot you could be comfortable for hours on end. My spot is the sun porch. It’s perfect. In the daytime I watch the big plants dance as the wind choreographs their movements.

“Here’s your beer, room temperature, just like you like it,” I tell the willow tree. I pick up my cool glass of Zinfedel wine and tell Tyler I am having my usual.

“Are you ready for the gavotte?” I ask as I page through my book of music. “Sure you are. I know how much you like sixteenth century French court dance music.” I speak the last sentence with my best imitation French accent. I begin to play. My long rayon dress slides softly against my skin. I feel very much feminized. Some say clothes doesn’t make a person, but this dress makes me always. Pedicures, bubble baths and girlie clothes make me feel like a woman.

The wind dies down. It’s as if the audience has taken an unscheduled intermission. What is odd is how the tree continues to move even when there is no breeze. I’m not really surprised. If they can bend towards the sunlight, why can’t they bend towards sounds they like? Tyler sways again.
“I see you,” I address all of the trees. “Don’t think that I didn’t.”
I begin to sing.

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Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


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