But I don’t smoke

December 9, 2011


I know it is often said, but as a society we are very tolerant toward the insane. There is a man in our neighbourhood who is completely mad. As far as I can tell. He walks up the street. Stops at the same spot. And mumbles. Then proceeds on. Walks up the corner to buy cigarettes. He never walks on a crack on the sidewalk. He’s been doing this for over 20 years. No one pays much attention to him. Of course no one pays much attention to me either. And I step on all the cracks. But I don’t smoke.

THE GOOD EMPLOYEE

 

Diga Diga Do. Peggy took all the packages of corn flakes off the shelf. Individually. And placed them on the floor. Individually. Then she took each one and placed it carefully back on the shelf. She smiled and sang the lyrics of a song. ‘I take good care… the world belongs to me.’ Her head bobbed back and forth. Her smile hung in the air. Like the seat of a toilet. On a dewy morning. It is odd. To be odd.

“Doing a great job there,” a voice cried. Behind her. And up.

She looked up. And behind. The huge figure of Everest towered over. Like a cloud over city towers. On a sticky afternoon. In July. When you lose your papa. At the zoo. The laughing tangerines. A city floating in a sea of blue shampoo bubbles. Gulls flying about. Lovers sitting. In a swill. Betrothed. Dropping a coin on the city below and making a wish. It can be a strain. To have tu…ber…cu…losis.

“I was in a fight one time with a friend,” Peggy said. And stuck her tongue in her cheek. So that it jutted out of the side of her face. “I can’t remember what we were fighting about. Some people think that’s a crying shame. Not me. I don’t think it matters. We were destined to have that fight. No matter how much we fought it off, we would have had that fight. Destiny. I haven’t spoken to her since. My life would have been much richer if we had not fought. I picked up a piece of ice. So shiny. Like the frozen light from a star. And used it as a knife. She was smiling. Her smile got wider. With pearls of red at one end. She didn’t scream. It was the quiet that taught me a lesson. And it’s a lesson that we could all learn from.”

Everest looked confused.

“My name is Peggy. I may be crazy but I’m a very good employee,” the woman said. She held up one of the packages of cereal. “You need fiber in your diet. It kick starts your metabolism. In the morning. Any of the ‘ism’s really. And it’s good for your bowels. Like straw in horse dooey. Helps spread it around. And there’s nothing a man needs more in the morning than a good bowel movement. The old in and out. Slipping easily into the lake. From that dark recess. Like D.H. Lawrence.”

“I’m a coffee man myself,” Everest replied.

At that moment two young kids came running down the aisle. Everest stepped to one side to let them pass.

“Spoiled little buggers.” Peggy’s face screwed up. Into an ugly frown as she continued to replace the cereal boxes on the shelf. “My mother died of lung cancer at fifty years old. Never smoked a day in her life. If it was up to me I’d nail their little feet to the floor. Little bastards shouldn’t be running around free. They don’t let dogs free. Are you disappointed by life?”

Everest thought for a moment then responded. “Disappointed? No. Discouraged? Sometimes.”

Peggy smiled and returned to her packages. She sang, ‘Beyond the horizon, behind the sun, at the end of the rainbow, life has only begun’

Someone tapped Everest on the shoulder. Everest turned around. It was James Edwards, the pharmacist and one of the owners of the drug store. He was dressed in a three piece suit. Charcoal. White shirt that smelled of frabric softener. Lilacs. And a wonderful cologne. Old Sailor.

“Peggy is quite a show, eh?” Edwards said. His fingers reached for the knot in his tie. And made sure that it was straight. I wish I could dress like a buccaneer.

Everest smiled. “Did you say you’d like to dress like a buccaneer?”

Edwards shook his head. He pressed one of his hands on the other wrist. Taking his pulse. Like a long distant runner. In training.

Everest noticed. Is he expecting to have a stroke?

“She has an odd way,” Everest said. “But odd ways can be tantalizing. I had an aunt who dressed in the habit of a nun. Even though she had never received a calling from God. And gave birth to five children. Four of whom survived their first year.”

Edwards smiled. “I see you in the store quite a bit.”

Everest nodded. “I like your store.” Everest turned his attention back to Peggy. “She seems to enjoy her work.”

Edwards smiled. “I wish all my employees were as conscientious.”

“Has she worked here a long time?”

The pharmacist smiled. “Peggy isn’t an employee. She comes into the store, straightens out a shelf, buys something, than goes home. She’s harmless enough as long as she doesn’t get you into one of her conversations.”

At that moment, Peggy turned to Everest.

“They’ve got Ivory soap on sale. It’s a good deal. I’m going to buy a hundred dollars worth. You can never be too clean. Why smell like fish when you can smell like a cloud.”

The same two children turned the corner and ran down the aisle again.

“I need a hammer,” Peggy cried and stood up. “Sorry Mr. Edwards, I’ve got to go to the hardware store.”

“You don’t like children?” Everest said.

“I like them fine,” Peggy responded. She looked from Everest to the pharmacist. “I had a couple of rug rats myself. Fat little rats.”

Edwards looked at Everest and tried to discourage him from continuing the conversation. Everest did not heed his warning.

“And how are they doing?” Everest asked.

“I cut them up into small morsels and made meat pies out of them.” Peggy giggled. “The girl tasted a little tart.”

 

 

2 Responses to “But I don’t smoke”

  1. Great post thanks. I really enjoyed it very much.

    Love writing? We would love for you to join us!

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  2. munchow said

    I enjoyed your little story. As you say; odd ways can be tantalizing. And somewhat attractive and fun. Thanks for the humour.

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