fiction

Stories from Amos: The Well-Travelled Woman

shutterstock_208485571Though she had rarely travelled beyond the County line, Marjorie Weisenheimer never viewed herself as a homebody.

The second youngest of ten children, Marjorie had watched her elder siblings marry and move away, and with each successive marriage over the years, she quietly plotted her own escape between the pages of the National Geographic Magazine. Marjorie was going to see Greece. She was going to visit Athens. The Parthenon. Marjorie was going to wear a blue swimsuit one day, and she was going to dip her feet into the clear waters of the Aegean. This she knew with absolute certainty.

What was less certain, however, was how long her parents had planned to live. As successful as her father proved to be in running Amos State Bank, that is how unsuccessful he was in maintaining his health.  Between obesity, cigars, asthma and eventual heart disease, Old Man Weisenheimer lived a shockingly long life in a grossly unhealthy state.  He eventually expired on the heels of multiple strokes at the age of 87. Marjorie had been there to nurse him through it, of course, her mother having long since retired to her bedroom with headaches and all the maladies and afflictions induced by her hypochondriac state.

Thanks in large part to Marjorie’s excellent care, her physically healthy yet mentally ill mother managed to carry on living in her darkened bedroom until her hundredth birthday. She celebrated her centenary in the flickering grey light of The Young and the Restless, and finally drew her last breath to the strains of Nadia’s Theme accompanying the closing credits.

Marjorie buried her mother next to her father and wondered over the fact that they were so much closer in death than they had ever been in life. She looked around the graveside at her remaining siblings, a long row of black crows flown in for the funeral. As they filed away in turn, Marjorie noted that each was accompanied by their own spouses, children and grandchildren, all adults themselves now. Time had passed quickly outside of Amos. And while she had never truly wanted a husband or children of her own, Marjorie felt a sincere envy at the freedom her siblings had enjoyed in the world beyond.

But Abilene and Topeka were hardly to be compared to Athens. And Marjorie had her escape plans.

Her brothers and sisters hugged her and thanked her for all the care she had given Mom. They understood how hard it must be for her… so sorry they couldn’t have come sooner… and what a blessing she was still on hand for Poor Norman’s sake.

Yes. Poor Norman.

Marjorie looked at her younger brother, the baby of the family, the white haired ancient in the crooked tie leering in rapt appreciation of the minister’s wife, and she sighed heavily. Poor Norman. Bright enough to learn to drive and to hone his woodworking skills, but too dim to hold down a job. Poor Norman, smart enough to appreciate the female form in all its shapes, colours and sizes, yet not bright enough to understand boundaries and the dictates of social propriety. Wise enough to know how to place a bet at the Indian Nation casino, yet not quite astute enough to understand things like debt and taxes.

Yes. Poor Norman, indeed.

Marjorie looked at Norman. She was 65 years old now, her brother younger still, and given the apparent longevity of their bloodlines, she was convinced that the holding pattern of her life was set to continue for a good three decades yet. The thought was unbelievably depressing.

“You’ve always been such a good one, Margie,” her elder sister proclaimed, smiling wetly around lipstick stained teeth. “You are an absolute saint… I don’t know how you’ve managed all these years living up there.”

She made the proclamation as if Marjorie had a choice, which she found unaccountably funny. Yet few things made her feel such a sinner as to be compared to a saint, and so she shrugged it off. “It was a beautiful service,” she said, changing the subject and lying through her teeth. “It’s just how Mom would have wanted it…” She knew full well that her mother had been far more interested in her soaps than in planning her own funeral.

Marjorie went to bed that night dreaming of wading in the Aegean. The dream was distant and growing fainter still, yet still she was comforted by the thought of her big escape.

After a lifetime of longing for freedom, however, Marjorie found that when it finally arrived she was quite unprepared for it.  She inherited the house she had lived in since birth, a large, white Neo-Georgian affair that sat one block off Main Street, walking distance to the bank that had paid for it. Her siblings were left with equal shares of what little money remained, and most of them had the good sense to invest or save it wisely.

Well, all except for Poor Norman.

Given his own brand of freedom, Norman made a beeline for Wichita and purchased a brand new Cadillac with every conceivable bell and whistle, heated leather seats and something called Bluetooth. He had no idea what to do with all these gadgets, but he took enormous pleasure in cruising up and down the 6 blocks that were Main Street in Amos, ogling the pretty ladies. Gilda in the bridal shop paused to watch Norman roll past in his shiny black Caddy and she rolled her eyes in disgust. “Look at that old fool,” she said with a shake of her head. “Him and his sister living over in that big house like the King and Queen of Amos… who do they think they are, anyway?”

Norman winked and waved at the pretty redhead behind the plate glass window and, in a moment of sheer madness, decided to put the pedal to the metal and show her exactly what the Caddy could do. In six blocks. That ended at an oak tree in the school yard.

Marjorie was in the kitchen preparing a corned-beef quiche when she heard the God-awful crash that shook the windows of her house. Her first thought was of Norman.

Poor Norman. Poor, Poor Norman.

It took her nearly a year to sell the house, but within a week of handing over the keys to the young family who had purchased it, Marjorie boarded a bus bound for Kansas City. A few days later, she could be seen in her blue swimsuit, wading slowly into the Aegean, a faded National Geographic rolled under her left arm. The stones dug sharply into the soles of her feet, and the water was unseasonably cold. A stiff breeze ruffled her freshly bobbed curls. Undaunted, Marjorie lifted her well-travelled face to the meagre warmth of the sun and breathed in her freedom.

Mother Hen

© motherhendiaries 2014 all rights reserved

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