Green Hills Literary Lantern

 

 

 

 Size Double XL

 

 

Lovina Martin plunked herself on the stoop of her family’s farm house located two concessions north of Wesley, a village of 1,500 residents.  Her vader rolled the dach waglie into the drive shed.  Uncle Alvin controlled a team of horses pulling a cutter in a field of hay.  Lovina was eleven, the oldest of six girls and an infant brother, Amos. 

The children in her family attended public school in Wesley. A large, modern building, it had recently received an addition in response to a subdivision development and an influx of David Martin Mennonite children.

Later that night Lovina counted electric lights flickering along the north edge of town.  She tallied hoping to reach her favourite number seventeen before her moeder hollered at her to get into bed.  Holding a cloth dolly she’d had since infancy, she marveled at what it would be like to be a townie.

Before going downstairs the next morning, Lovina drew a black X through June 26th on the Lantz Feed Mill calendar she kept squirreled under her bed.  After washing up, she scurried to the kitchen to pack lunches for herself and her sisters, slathering home preserved apple butter on rows of sliced bread before plunking each with a slab of homemade summer sausage.

As Lovina swiped at crumbs dotting the oilcloth that protected the long wooden table in their summer kitchen, her grandmoeder’s image danced on the spotless wood plank floor.  The semblance of order in the clutter-free kitchen was spoiled only by the men’s breakfast dishes soaking in the over-sized stainless steel sink.

A giant, her grandmoeder stooped slightly as she stood watch near an open window.  As always, the men ate their early meal long before the women sat for theirs.  On an oversized shelf, jars of canned chow-chow, spicy beet relish, apple butter, and baby corn-cob pickles threaded a splashy line-up.

The grandmoeder deadheaded African violets lining the kitchen window ledges sometimes peeking at Lovina. The deep purple of the flowers sang their own praises in the otherwise plain, functional kitchen.  Despite the matriarch’s failing eyesight, Lovina tried to capture every sneaky crumb before her hard-to-please grandmoeder ordered her to do it again.  By the time she tossed the every-day quilts over the beds, she hustled to ready her sisters for the bus.

“Good morning, Family Martin,” said Sarah, the wooden screen door slamming behind her.  “Yum, yum.  Smells good in here. Summer sausage, I bet.  Where’s Lovina?” 

Sarah was a 14-year-old who helped out by watching baby Amos and Lucinda.  This permitted Lovina’s moeder to catch up on her household chores like weeding the garden and putting up the harvested vegetables before the children schnibbled them all. 

Every morning Lovina fondly anticipated catching up on Sarah’s gossip, like which boy was sweet on which girl.  At times like this she speculated on what it’d be like to have a boy be keen on her.

Back upstairs Lovina pined for summer break.  While brushing her teeth with a mixture of baking soda and pump water, she mused that while they were nearly there, she was impatient for the freedom summer break offers. She planned to reread Where the Red Fern Grows, organize tea parties, and play school. Of course, her moeder would jam her days with chores.

“Lovina, it’s nearly bus time!” Sarah hollered.

“Coming!”

Lovina fiddled with a piece of paper tucked in her dress pocket.  In block letters Amanda Schwartzentruber, a classmate, had printed her address.  Lovina’s chest ached thinking of her moeder’s reaction if she discovered that her daughter planned to be pen pals with a townie.

“You’re going to miss the bus!  Hurry on now!” Lovina didn’t appreciate Sarah’s snapping wet dishtowel at her backside.

A few weeks prior, while on errands in town, Lovina had spotted Amanda riding a 10-speed racing bike around.  Her long reddish hair flowed from her metallic green helmet, her lanky upper body folded over handle bars as bare legs furiously pumped pedals. Lovina wanted to see herself on that bike, thin and athletic as a model in the Sears catalogue.

Once downstairs, Sarah elbowed Lovina in the ribs. “When you’re back from school, remind me to tell you what’s new.” Lovina groaned in frustration and wished it were summer holidays now so she wouldn’t have to wait

Her grandmoeder noticed.  “Eh?” asked her grandmoeder.

“Why don’t I have a bike, Grandmoeder?”

“We mayn’t,” she replied.

“Who says?” asked Lovina.

“The bishop, of course.”

“But why?”

“Your head is in the clouds.  The bishop thinks some of us are too English with things like bicycles. Now go.  You are late.  Don’t make it a habit.”

Grabbing her lunch pail and school books, Lovina snuck a final peek at her grandmoeder.  A prayer cap cradled her thinning grey hair.  As she clutched a watering can, a diluted tea concoction splashed over the edge of the flower pot, a puddle forming in a splash of sunlight on the hardwood floor.

“Grandmoeder!  Watch it!” Lovina yelled.  She tossed a tea towel over the spill and sat her grandmoeder into the rocker beside the cold wood stove.  Some days she managed, while on others her deformed, feeble hands fought to hold a watering can.  On these pain-filled days, Lovina expected to still find her grandmoeder perched in the rocker upon her return from school.  A glance over her shoulder noted cloudy eyes turned misty, her cheeks smudged with dark soil. 

Lovina sidled up against Sarah who had just pulled the plug on the sink full of dirty dishes.  “Sarah, don’t you ever wonder if there is more to life than this?” She gestured at the spotless walls, the long bench where she and her siblings lined up for simple meals, the sun a spotlight on a home plain and simple.

“Lovina, you won’t always live here.  Why, one day, before you know it, you’ll be married to one of the neighbour’s boys and you’ll have a place all your own.”

Lovina didn’t take to Sarah’s cheery optimism.  She preferred her delicious fantasy of the previous night when she’d been sketching her future in a Hilary notebook.

Lovina—an only child.  Huge oaks and maples surrounded a trampoline.  A climber situated along the yard’s back edge.  A motherly figure dressed in skinny jeans and a soft pink t-shirt, a solid brown braid lining her spine, sensible shoes replaced by Reeboks, worked in a flower garden.  Dusty work clothes on an adult male replaced by blue and green plaid shorts and a white t-shirt, a Blue Jays baseball cap hid his thinning hair.  Lovina would make up games like Catch the Tadpole and Climb for Cash.  The neighbours would return day after day to try and beat previous day’s totals.

“Ach, that’s stupid.”  She slashed red X’s through the sketches until the paper lay in shreds.  

Sarah’s voice drew her back to present.  “Lovina Martin, you best get your head out of the clouds and get those little kids out to the bus.” 

When Lovina spotted the flashing red lights, they flew like a flock of Canada Geese.   

Their bus was the last to pull into the school bus turnaround.  Mr. Martin, the shop teacher, greeted them, “Good morning.  The countdown is on.  Only two more days, children.”  He good-naturedly, gently knocked the heads of children as they flew off the bus, all jabbering with the excitement that end of school brings.

He shared the same last name as Lovina but was a different kind of Mennonite.  He belonged to a progressive church while her family was David Martin Mennonite.  Sometimes David Martins bragged they were better than townies or English as they often called them.  Her skin crawled whenever town kids whispered Stenkies when a David Martin passed by.

Lovina’s friend Amanda got dropped off every day in the bus turnaround by her mother, a teacher on staff.  Then she parked their beige van in the staff parking lot. 

“Lovina, wait up,” yelled Amanda.  “Still got my address?”

It had been Amanda’s idea that they’d be pen pals this coming summer.  Lovina gripped her hands as if she were squeezing water from a dish rag.  She wondered if all summer she could gather Amanda`s letters from the mailbox before her mother could use them to start the wood stove.  

A week or so after school was out Lovina overheard her grandmoeder and moeder sharing plans to take the buggy into town for a half day shopping trip. Lovina’s clenched her teeth when she overheard her moeder blow up in response to her grandmoeder unintentionally tossing away two-dollar off coupons for Fibre Plus.

“Moeder!  Really, Grandmoeder made a little mistake.  It’s just cereal!”

When her moeder lectured and wagged an angry finger in her grandmoeder’s face, Lovina was so frightened she dove to protect her.

Calming down, her moeder said, “Leave it, Girl. Go play.”  From past experience, Lovina knew there was never any point arguing when it had gone this far.  Grandmoeder was clearly becoming more trouble than she was worth.

She wondered if this glitch meant the trip to town was on the cutting block.

Lovina used her apron to scrub chalk off a blackboard Uncle Alvin had constructed for the nieces to use for playing school.  In the role of teacher Lovina scolded her eight-year-old sister, Elizabeth, for speaking Pennsylvania Dutch to Salina. 

“English now!” Teacher Lovina slammed a yardstick on the make-believe teacher’s desk.  “I’ll have to telephone your father if you don’t stop.”  She tapped Salina’s knuckles with the yardstick and raised a hairy eyebrow.

Elizabeth ducked behind her pink notebook and giggled.  Salina pulled a bologna sandwich from a recycled plastic milk bag and stuffed her face with it.  Teacher Lovina scribbled and taped a note to the corner of Salina’s desk

Eat at noon.  Sandwich away now.

Not great at keeping secrets, Lovina slipped out of role and bragged, “I’m probably going to town.  And you’re not.”

“When?” Elizabeth asked.  Salina’s eyes welled up at the thought of pretend-school ending. 

Salina had an invisible condition that made her mute.  She understood many things but was often overcome with fright. At those times she threw herself on the floor and cried until she threw up.  Lovina’s moeder would isolate her in time-out until she got a grip.  The doctor suggested help from specialists who’d go out to the farm.  Lovina’s moeder and vader were still considering.

“Never you mind.  Time for recess, children.”  Lovina slapped the stick on her hand.

That evening at bedtime, she brought up going to town with her grandmoeder.  “Who’s going to town?”  Lovina’s felt her face flush, frustrated in dealing with an old woman whose memory was holier than homemade head-cheese.

Lovina’s guilt from disrespecting Grandmoeder made her face flush and tongue thicken.  A matriarch in their culture demanded and deserved respect until and after death.

Before getting into bed, the girls brushed their teeth with baking-soda, gargled and launched into their beds.  Their bedroom sat directly across the hall from their parents’ room.  The three girls shared a bedroom so their grandmoeder could move into the bedroom down the hall.  After her needs for care and supervision superseded her yearning for privacy, the doddy haus was transformed into an office and lunch area for Lovina’s vader’s harness workshop staff.

As the oldest Lovina had her own bed while Salina shared a slightly larger one with Elizabeth.  Sometimes, in the morning, Lovina would find Salina shivering, holding on for dear life on the bed’s edge because Elizabeth had robbed all the covers.  A strip of blue masking tape on the hardwood floor between the two beds served as a wall to keep the little kids out of her space.  It never occurred to her sibs to protest. 

This particular night sleep eluded Lovina. She rocked from side to side, then flipped onto her stomach, then her back.  After counting from one to a hundred and back again, she popped out of bed.  She pressed her nose against the window, the twinkling lights of Wesley beckoning her.  A branch tapped the window.  “Which house is Amanda’s?” she wondered.

The next morning Lovina felt all jittery, like a motor in her vader’s workshop was drumming inside her, like that itch in the centre of a back that no one can reach.  She grabbed her Lantz Feed Mill calendar and struck an angry X through July 6. 

After a hurried breakfast she found herself outside by the clothes line stand situated on the other side of the wash haus. She was already sick to death of playing babies with Salina and Elizabeth.  She couldn’t stand to fritter away another moment washing dolly clothes, fishing them from the bucket with a stick, and hanging them on the clothesline.

With a bare foot Lovina kicked the clothesline stand not once but twice, regretting it as soon as a fierce pain shot from her big toe up her calf.  Lovina couldn`t remember Amanda ever saying she had to hang laundry.  Lovina wondered what it was like to use a clothes drier.  Lovina could still smell the bleach Amanda`s mom used to make her socks look brand new.

She regretted having bragged to her siblings that she was going to town.  Her grandmoeder had also had a rough night and decided to spend the day resting in her bedroom, so her moeder decided to take advantage of the freedom this allowed to do some uninterrupted mending and forfeit the planned trip to town.

Lovina fished a tattered paper from her dress pocket.  Written in Amanda’s neat uppercase script, Lovina reread part of a brief letter she`d fished out of the mailbox a few days prior before her moeder had fetched the mail. 

I can hardly wait for Tuesday next week.  I’m going to summer camp in the Haliburtons.  Hours on the bus but then, freedom.  Swimming, crafts, sports and camp fires.  I wish you could come, Lovina. And, oh yes, there will be boys.

Lovina too wished for the Haliburtons, whatever they were.  The last part about boys confused her.  Why would Amanda write such a short letter and spend the whole last sentence emphasizing boys? She read and reread that line, trying to eek the hidden meaning.

Much of the rest of the month was wasted arguing with her moeder, to permit Lovina to wash her hair more than once a week.  She was certain Amanda`s fresh smelling hair was washed daily.

One morning in early August, cold water splashed on her face did not wash the sand from her gritty eyes.  Using a hand mirror, she saw that her braids had come completely undone.  Fat fumbling fingers couldn’t fasten the dangling threads of yarn that peaked from her destroyed braided buns.

“If only this house had a proper mirror, I could fix these myself,” she yelled.

Her moeder scolded her as soon as she came around the corner, “What have you done?   Sit here and let me plait those properly.” She jammed Lovina’s head between her massive knees so she couldn’t wiggle free.

Lovina wondered if she could convince her moeder to take her on a trip to the Mill End Store.  It had to be better than staying another second in this boring house.  The evening before, she thought she’d overheard her moeder saying she and Grandmoeder should go there and Pink’s Foodmart to fetch a few things they couldn’t make themselves. 

After her moeder had successfully plaited her hair, Lovina reminded her, “Chores are done.  Can we go now?”

“Go outside and pick the last beans.  I’ll tell you when we’re going. As for you going—well, I’ll let you know when I’m good and ready.  And, for heaven’s sake, stop pestering.  When we go you’ll be first to know!”

If she was going?  Something inside her shifted.  She’d have to be super careful to be spot on with spit-polished behaviour.  It’d been a month of waiting to get off the farm.  She couldn’t blow it now.

She gathered beans as her eagle-eye kept guard on the kitchen window.  As soon as her moeder grabbed her purse and cloth shopping bags, Lovina bolted like a sprinter erupting from runner’s blocks, beans spilling from the basket.

“No, schlecht.  Go wash your feet,” her moeder ordered.  “We’ll be off sooner than you can say Emerson Bauman-Bauman.” 

Lovina fist-pumped the air like Miss Johnston, the gym teacher at the school.  She slipped her freshly washed feet into runners. They felt tight like five-inch heels on a rookie model.  

“I’ll go wait at the end of the lane.”

“Keep that up, you’ll be staying here to muck out the barn,” her moeder said, a sparkle in her left eye. Lovina knew that mucking out the barn was an idle threat.  That was boys’ work.

She flew down the hard-packed laneway, her mission the mailbox.  Three envelopes with windows, a flyer and a letter with her name in block letters.  Lovina slunk against the plywood bus shelter and carefully lifted the flap of the envelope addressed to her. Her eyes soaked up each and every word, like bread dough bait swells at the end of fishing line.

 

Hey! 

I know, I should write Dear Lovina but I am too over the top to care about using proper form.  I will just get right to it.  I am quite certain that I am IN LOVE!  L-O-V-E!  Yes, there it is.  Love in all caps!  I wish I could shout it from the tallest rooftop.  Stupid old Wesley.  The tallest building is the Mill End.  That would never do.

You may well wonder how a girl knows about love  … it is quite easy actually.  The heart just knows what the heart knows. 

 I have to go for now but I just wanted you, my best buddy, pal, friend, to know MY BIG NEWS.  Amanda Schwartzentruber is IN LOVE with the most handsome boy EVER!

 Amanda

 

She read and reread each word carefully, each obviously selected for their impact, the block letters strong, cornered, scorching hot.  When buggy wheels crackled on the hard-packed driveway to solicit her attention, she concealed the letter and its envelope deep into her dress pocket, burying them in lint.

After a half hour ride, Lovina’s moeder tied the horse to the hitch behind Pink’s Foodmart, in one of six designated parking spots for buggies.  Lovina recalled last fall when Grandmoeder was still able to harness the horse and drive to town on her own.   Her arthritic hands had dropped the reins and nothing she did allowed her to fetch them back.  Such a long release had caused the anxious horse to go berserk. Her grandmoeder had been touched by a lucky penny that day though to have avoided serious injury. Lovina shuddered when she recalled her vader’s stern, quiet lecture snuffed her freedom.   

The Mill End Store had three floors, one dedicated to fabrics, a hardware floor, and one with clothes and canned goods.  A grey and white cat snuggled among paint brushes, scrapers and sandpaper displayed in the front window.  A musty smell hit every customer entering the store, a combination of the store’s proximity to the polluted Wesley Pond and an old building’s insufficient ventilation. 

“Gross,” muttered Lovina. She held her fingers over her mouth and nose.

Her grandmoeder frowned.  “Lovina, the smell is not big.”  Lovina laughed at her grandmoeder’s attempt to make a Pennsylvania-Dutch / English joke.

Canned tomatoes, ravioli and Carnation evaporated milk lined the wooden shelves, jostling for shoppers’ attention.  The floor was damp with humidity and more than once Lovina heard her moeder say, “Watch out!” 

In the children’s section, Lovina fondled hot pink shorts and little t-shirts for toddlers.  She found the wild colours and petite sizes tantalizing.  She imagined little Amos dressed in traditional English clothes. Moeder sewed all their clothes: dark purple dresses for girls and blue shirts for boys. She used a treadle machine and at times Lovina still enjoyed the swoosh-swoosh of her mother’s stocking feet rhythmically pumping the treadle.

In winter, Lovina wore a dress lined with brushed cotton so it’d be warmer.  Her moeder even sewed their heavy woolen coats.  She used patterns passed down the generations.  Lovina fondly recalled her grandmoeder piecing quilt tops with accuracy.  Her work fetched top dollar at the Mennonite Central Committee quilt auction. That was before the optometrist diagnosed cataracts.

Lovina had a mission. She painstakingly hand-washed her underwear each night and every morning she dreaded facing the tiny tears she spotted in them.  Lovina wondered if a couple of toonies and two quarters in her dress pocket were enough for new ones. 

In the bathroom at school before summer break she’d overheard girls a grade ahead discussing pads.  Eager to hear more, she had perched on the toilet seat to eavesdrop.  Sex ed. in a can.  Lovina knew if she’d asked her moeder about pads, she’d just switch topics.  She couldn’t help but giggle as she recalled that informal, introductory lesson in which she discovered that Kotex came in various sizes, shapes, and colours.

In her culture Mennonite children were pardoned from school health classes in which things of a sexual nature were discussed.  Her moeder once explained that topics discussed in those classes were deemed by the bishop too personal to be discussed outside the home.  She remembered a time when her vader called the school principal to gently but firmly explain why a movie called Supersize Me was inappropriate for children to view.  She thought he was overreacting to a movie about getting fat from eating only MacDonald’s food when she knew he loved sinking his teeth into a Big Mac after going to the stockyards.

Girl undergarments were next to boys’ undershirts and bottoms.  Like all of her willpower had been flushed down the toilet, she caught herself repeatedly ogling the tight white ones stretched over a boy mannequin.  She wished she had a bottle of water to calm the heat creeping up her face.

Her moeder was in the basement where the hardware and kitchen goods were kept.  She sought a new broom and some tools for Lovina’s vader.

Suddenly Amanda Schwartzentruber’s voice caught her attention.  “Let’s get the paint, Mother, and leave.  The air in here is making my allergies act up.  And don’t let me forget to post my letter.”  Lovina’s moeder would have struck her for being so lippy.  And Amanda’s mother, a teacher.

“Doubt we have time for that today, Amanda.”

Lovina slipped behind a display board, fidgeting with the foolscap letter in her dress pocket.

The voices of her friend and mother faded as they descended to the basement before Lovina could ask Amanda about the strange letter she’d sent to her.

Lovina spotted her grandmoeder in the women’s wear section.  She yelled, “Got these in Double-XL?”  Lovina cringed as she watched her grandmoeder stretch an enormous pair of white underwear between her hands.  

The clerk was busy with a customer.  The grandmoeder’s booming voice demanded, “Mind once.  I haven’t got all day.  Got any Double XL in back?”  Lovina crept over to her grandmoeder to shhhh her.

A couple of town kids sniggered. Lovina pursed her lips and then thought better of letting the little hooligans have what was coming to them.

When her grandmoeder seemed calm, Lovina snuck back to the underwear table.  Too many choices: large, frilly, silky, black, and super tiny ones that looked like elastics the town girls used to fasten their hair for physical education classes. Lovina selected two pairs: plain white, conventional underwear. The price was right at a pair for a dollar.  Between the white ones she sandwiched a third pair.  Yellow, pink and purple flowers adorned the fabric, a bit of lace finished the edges.  Now for the pads.

Next to hair gel, Lovina found boxes of thin, wide, long, and narrow ones.  Standing at attention was a slim box of black pads, silver writing describing the pads’ versatility. She’d noticed a blue box of white pads under the sink in the upstairs bathroom at home but never black ones. Confused by the choices, she skipped back to the checkout counter, the fancy pair clutched like a sausage between two white buns.

Lovina wedged between her moeder and her grandmoeder, their bodies puffy like coffee cake dough.  Grandmoeder’s tummy protruded beyond her chest.  Lovina felt an oily mixture of comfort and shame as she snuggled against the pudgy belly.

A four-year-old and her mother stood in line ahead of them.  The mother pushed a toddler in a stroller.  The four-year-old girl pointed at Lovina’s family and said, “Mom, look.”

Lovina’s grandmoeder, dressed head-to-toe in black, clutched her basket overflowing with Double XL panties, the other hand grasping a new straw broom.  Something thick bulged from her grandmoeder’s dress pocket. Wisps of hair protruded alien-like from the bottom of her prayer cap.

“Eh, watch you don’t curl the broom!” Lovina’s moeder gestured at the curling bristles.
 

When the girl couldn’t elicit a response from her mother, she repeated, “Look, Mom.  Over there.”

The mother sandwiched herself between the girl and Lovina’s family.  Lovina smelled vanilla.  The girl peeked around the mother’s yellow shorts. Lovina leaned toward them to hear what the mother was saying, the words barely able to escape through clamped teeth, “Mennonites.  The book…remember?”  

When it was her turn, the mother leaned toward the clerk and said, “Do you know where we could buy a quilt?” 

“We carry fabric to make quilts but no finished tops.  Sorry.  Try Hawkesville.”

The little girl stepped on her mom’s toe.  The mother blocked her against the checkout counter.  Lovina’s moeder stared straight ahead, her upper lip quivering.

The little kid’s voice grated, “Mom—mm—mmy, listen-to-me!”

Lovina’s grandmoeder strained as she stifled a smirk, her eyes wide open, staring straight ahead.  Lovina’s moeder screened her smile by vigorously rubbing her nose with a well-used tissue.

When the girl threw herself on the floor and wiggled like a snake, even Lovina couldn’t stifle a chuckle. “Enough is enough,” said the mother, lugging the snake-child by a flailing arm.   Lovina feared the arm might pop out.

Lovina spotted Amanda and her mother leaving the store, a can of paint swinging between them like a child on a swing.

The mother managed to flee out the front door as the little girl giggled and danced, “Ding, dong, the …” The closing wooden door snapped the next word off at the knees.

Lovina stared at the floor tiles, coughed into her elbow, leaned into her grandmoeder’s basket, gently nestling the racy panties under the Double XLs.

The clerk said, “Sorry about that,” gesturing at the exit.

As the clerk checked Lovina’s family’s items, she said, “See you found the right ones,” she held up the Double XLs.  “Lucky you.  They’ve been on back order.” 

By this time, Lovina distracted her family by fiddling with the pen lights on display to the left of the cash register.  “Rude kid, eh?”

“Who cares?  We’re good witches,” said her grandmoeder.  Lovina was stunned by how hard her family laughed at their little joke. Her grandmoeder bent down and stuffed a yellowed tissue into her dress pocket.  She rubbed her obvious belly, “Shouldn’t have had that second helping of schnitzel last night.”  The smell of sage, onion and bacon fat crammed the air.

“These yours, too?” asked the clerk, pointing at sensible white underwear.  “Mine,” explained Lovina, counting out her loose change.  Racing buggies rattling past grabbed her grandmoeder’s attention.

At Pink’s Foodmart, Lovina was thrilled when her moeder bought a two-litre carton of Chapman’s vanilla ice cream.  Because they did not have a freezer at home, they took turns using the ice cream carton’s lid to scoop the melting delight into keen mouths while keeping watch from the store’s porch.

“I best get these bags into the buggy. Besides, the ice cream makes my throat a tickle,” Lovina said, clearing her throat with a fake cough while watching her family compete for licks.

A packer on break lingered on the back step of Pink’s smoking a cigarette and enjoying a bottle of pop while Lovina climbed onto the rear seat of the buggy. 

She figured she had about two minutes to complete her final mission before the return of her family. She rooted through the grandiose pairs of underwear her grandmoeder had chosen for herself.  There, as Lovina had hoped, tucked at the bottom of the bag was the pair of pretty panties she’d successfully gotten her grandmoeder to pay for.  She shoved them into her dress pocket.  But, wait, in the right-hand corner of the bag were two pairs of black underwear.  She checked the label expecting to see Double XL but instead read size 12. That was her size.  She wondered how those got in there.

She savoured the moment—a time of remarkable Gemeinschaft interrupted only by the thoughts of different coloured underwear swimming in her head.

She lifted her head long enough to notice a girl had joined the packer on the back step of Pink’s.  He had dropped the smouldering cigarette into the make-shift ashtray bottle.  His back to Lovina, he swung an arm around the girl’s thin shoulders.  His right hand tiptoed down her back, the fingers grabbing her jeaned behind.  Lovina gasped when she heard the girl squeal.  He swung her around to face him—a second gasp erupted from Lovina when the packer planted a kiss on the girl’s lips—not any girl but a girl very familiar to her—Amanda.  Lovina wondered if she was with her Haliburton boy.

A wisp of smoke trailed from the pop bottle ashtray—Amanda looked at Lovina as if seeing her for a first time.  After glancing at her cell phone, Amanda strolled hand-in-hand with the packer eventually disappearing around the corner of the Food Mart.  Lovina wondered if they might reverse their steps and come back to her—Lovina had watched every second of her friend’s departure, her back so familiar, but Amanda had not once returned a look. 

Fingers licked the edge of the foolscap.  The letter intended for the packer, hid itself deeper in her lint-filled pocket.

 

 

Cindy Matthews recently retired from a career in education in Ontario, Canada.  She taught for six years in the heart of Mennonite country.  Most recently she was a vice-principal of special education supervising behaviour programs, youth custody sites, and maternity homes.  Her non-fiction work has been published in CAP Journal, Leaders and Learners, Girlworks, Open Magazine, the New Hamburg Independent, and the Waterloo Region Record.  Her fiction has appeared in Rhubarb Magazine (Verrueckt Play), Ascent Aspirations (online version of Dear Ella), What If? (Thong Again), and ALS Ontario (online version of Algernon Louis Simon). She and husband John have three adult children, two of whom are teachers.  When not researching and writing, she gardens, paints, hikes, swims, and snow-shoes.  She also has an addiction to an iPad App called Draw Something.  Read more of her work at www.cindymatthews.ca  or reach her at cindymatthews1957@gmail.com.