Friday, November 02, 2012

Hand Me Downs


‘Hand me downs?  You want me to wear hand me downs?  Don’t you know anything about me?  I know your work shirts come from Good Will.  I’m ok with that.  Hell, you look good in anything, but me?  Look at me!  Do you really think I’d find sizes to fit me at a second hand store?’

She flounced angrily onto the fouton couch, kicked off her slip-on shoes, and wrapped her hands around her knees brought up to her chest.  Trying to avoid him, she stared out the bay windows.  The lake was covered in a thin shell of ice.  It would be a long winter before the hatchlings would break out of that pale white cage, she thought.  And me, it’s gonna be a lifetime before I agree to wear hand me downs. ‘Do you realize a woman who is now dead, a woman who died at 75, belonged to these clothes?’

Tamara, you’re making a big deal out of nothing.  Becky just handed me the bag and asked if you would like to look through it before she passed it off to the Second Hand store.  I didn’t give it a thought.  The bag’s been sitting in the truck for the last three days. It was so important that I forgot all about it.’

‘And when did you see Becky?’

‘Don’t start this, Tamara. I’m sick to death of your accusations. ‘

She curled into a tighter ball on the couch and stared into the white fog that surrounded her world just beyond the lake shore.  ‘I just want to enjoy this winter,’ she thought. ‘I hate fighting with you.  You should have explained that I wouldn’t want Elvira’s cast offs.’

‘Cast offs?  She died, for god’s sake.  She didn’t cast em off.  She died!’

‘I know, but it feels like cast offs.  You know how she dressed.  Hardly a prairie woman.  She spent gadzillions on her clothes.’

‘Then, what’s wrong with them?  I don’t understand.’

‘She wore them.  If I wear them, people will know that they are from her.’

‘And, whatever does that mean?’

‘It means they’ll snicker and talk behind my back about how we can’t afford decent clothes for me, about how much better they looked on her.’

‘Hardly.  Most of them know you already spend more on your bras than most of them do on an entire outfit.’

‘And just how do you know that?’

‘I’ve paid the bill.’

‘You have not.  I pay the credit card bills.  My pension covers all my costs.’

‘Sure.  Here in America you pay, but in Oz, I pay.’

‘Not for my clothes.’

‘I’ve had enough.  Be back in a bit.  I’m gonna go put the door on the lift station.’

‘Cold and snowy out there.   You sure you want to work in that cold?’

‘Not so bad,’ he murmured as he pulled on his fur lined red hat with the ear flaps down.  Just have to keep my fingers warm.’ He closed the door to the living room as he entered the foyer and then closed the outer door.

‘She looked.  Hummm. Must have made an impression.  He actually closed both doors.  She thought of the cost of electric heat here on the prairie. The bill this month was going to be fabulous.

This would be the third winter they had spent in Montana a few miles from the Canadian border.  She had to admit that they wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t brought him to visit five years ago.  In order to support a dear friend who was born in Spencer, she had purchased a lot for back taxes, a whopping $700 had made her a land owner. The lot was especially pleasant with twenty feet high caragana shrubs protecting it from the roadway and a lovely view out over the lake to the oat and wheat fields on the other side.

She loved to sit near the bay window and enjoy the serenity of the farmstead a mile north.  Manley, the owner, lived in town.  But he kept his folks homestead cleared and trimmed.  The red barn sported a brand new coat of paint.  The silo stood empty, but white at the far end acting as a focal point for this rural painting that greeted her each morning.

That morning grew later on each of these winter days  as the sun rose slower and slower.  By 23 December she’d be looking forward to a celebration of lights – probably lighting candles throughout the house and if wasn’t windy, inside paper bags down the sidewalk to the front door.  The Norweigans were the ones who started this ceremony to push back the dark, but her Irish self truly looked forward to the fantastical feel of it all.