Continued from Plague Life – Part II
The next day, just after noon, Megan was in the driveway of her parent’s home just down the street from Doctor Maples’ place. She had the base of an antique steamer trunk on a collapsible work bench and was sanding the wooden slats along the frame. The belt sander was loud and the dust was thick enough that she had to stop every few minutes to clear her classes and shake her mask.
She used her mom’s car that was still in the garage, but her dad’s truck was gone. When her parents drove to their place in Arizona two months ago, the plan had been to stay a couple of weeks. Now Megan wondered when she’d see them again. They were happily hunkered on their rented corner of an 800-acre ranch with nothing but nothing surrounding them. Her mother was riding again, and dad was hunting most days and the word “retirement” kept slipping into their conversations.
Megan changed the belt in the sander to a finer grit. She made sure she was busy and didn’t let her mind wander to Joyce and what had happened the night before. Not because she didn’t want to, not because a fantasy of Joyce Maple wasn’t slavering, chained dog at the edge of her subconscious ready to fill her head with all the details she could provide. But she wouldn’t.
Regardless of the fantasies she’d had since childhood about the doctor down the street, Joyce was a friend. Not only had she known her since she was a kid but she trusted her with Tommy. Picturing her naked based on a chance glance and goofy joke seemed a betrayal of some kind.
The blanketing silence of the street settled quickly without the sander’s whine. She shook her hand which was still buzzing a little. There were doves cooing in the pear tree and a distant lawn mower but the street was eerily quiet. Those out tending to their yards or Mr. Jensen, waxing his car again, seemed hushed as they went about their chores. She was about to bend to the task again when she heard Tommy from down the street. Six-year-old boys do not do hushed. “Hey Megsy”, he called. She removed her fogging glasses. He was riding his bike toward her and waving.
“Hi Tommy!” she waved back, instinctively glancing up and down the street for cars. “Where’s your mom?” she asked then bit her tongue as if the innocent question would reveal something. Would she have asked that question that quickly yesterday? Two days ago?
Tommy had braked at the bottom of the drive. “She’s coming”, he said and pointed.
And there she was. Joyce had just stepped into sight from behind the mammoth rhododendron at the end of the block. She was wearing old jeans that were ripped at the knees more from use than fashion and a long-sleeved crewneck running shirt-a souvenir from some five K or other she’d run over the years. Her running shoes were a striking blue, a coincidental match with her sunglasses. Strolling more than walking she looked lankier than she was. Her mask was hanging at her throat, ready to be pulled up if anyone passed or wanted to exchange words from across the sidewalk or over the hedge.
The visions that Megan had tried to hold off crashed through the walls of her consciousness like the Kool-Aid man as she watched Joyce’s languid approach. She cut her eyes from her chest not wanting to go there. This is ridiculous, she thought.
“You’re comin’ to eat with us”, Tommy cried.
“Oh, am I, now?” Megan said smiling. She had pulled her mask down so he could see her face.
“This one talked me into pizza from Folino’s for dinner”, said Joyce, close enough now to join the conversation.
“And you’re gonna come!” Tommy yipped.
“Is that OK?” asked Joyce. “I know we said five but….”
“Naw-that’s good. What time?”
Joyce pulled her sunglasses down her nose and gave her a look. “You’ll have time to clean up, right?”
“Oh yeah, I’ll be fine.”
“Good” said Joyce turning away with a slight tilt like a small plane leaning toward home. “See you then.”
Tommy was off up the street and out of earshot. “Hey Doc,” Megan called to her. “I enjoyed you walking away more last night.”
Joyce said nothing but, without missing a step, spun slowly and grinning with her tongue between teeth that had never looked so white, wagged both fingers like a kid playing quick draw, before turning away again with maybe, just maybe, a little switch in her hips.
“Sweet Jesus”, thought Megan.
Continuing here Plague Life – Part IV