The following is an excerpt from Fried Windows (In A Light White Sauce), published May 2014 by Pandamoon Publishing. It is offered here as a sample of the story.
The book is currently available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats – http://www.amazon.com/Fried-Windows-Light-White-Sauce-ebook/dp/B00KM6MXI4/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
Copyright 2014 Elgon Williams All Rights Reserved
1 The Problem Delivery
Mrs. Fields’s twisted directions were just that— twisted. I couldn’t figure them out. There was a computer system to deliver, and the schedule was tight . There was nothing new about that. My frustration and sense of urgency rose as none of the directions on the paper made sense. The street names were real but how could reality be bent to fit these convoluted directions?
Three days before, Mrs. Fields popped in to the computer store where I worked looking for a computer system. There was no salesperson available to help her, so she went to the tech shop where I worked in the store and asked me. Fine. She said she needed delivery and set up, and since that would likely be me anyway, I figured I could take a little break from what I was doing.
She was a chunky, elderly lady about five-foot nothing with short cropped hair that sort of looked silver and sort of looked white depending on how the light hit it. At six-foot two, I towered over her.
After spending an hour showing her systems and asking her questions I determined she wasn’t at all savvy and mostly incapable of talking coherently. That became very clear when giving me directions to her house. She didn’t know her exact address.
“You can’t possibly miss it, dearie,” she assured me as she jotted down the directions. “It’s the only place out that way.”
So, I let it go. I thought I’d find the road she lived on and it would be the only house, just like she said.
After scrabbling with those directions for nearly an hour and still being lost, my options narrowed to one. Driving to an area that I thought was at least close, I looked for a letter carrier. One was parked at the side of the street, just before the edge of downtown, enjoying his lunch. I wished I had time to enjoy lunch. I had lost ten pounds in the two weeks of non-stop deliveries during a special promotion. Being built mostly like a scarecrow, it wasn’t like I had the weight to spare. Anyway, I apologized for interrupting the man’s lunch. Then, I asked for help deciphering the cryptic directions.
“Oh— oh, yes, Mrs. Fields,” he said. This was good; I was making headway. Apparently, he recognized not only the name, but also seemed to know the lady as well. I was sure I’d be receiving precise directions any moment now.
“Am I getting close at least?”
“No closer than you were to begin with. You see if you’re here, you’re still lost. I used to deliver mail to her,” he explained.
I listened patiently even though panic was starting to seep in. At least he knew where she lived, so I kept listening. The letter carrier fancied himself a storyteller, though, and finally, I had to interrupt him.
“I’m sorry, but I have a lot of things to do today. All I need is for you to point me in the right direction. What’s confusing is that she told me to drive to the edge of downtown and then up the hill. This is the only hill I know of. I mean, I’ve only lived here for a few years but I haven’t seen any other hills around, not in this part of Florida, anyway.”
“This is the only hill in town,” he confirmed.
“And the directions say, just before I reached the hilltop, make a U-turn and look for a street on the right. When I find it, turn left, not the first left but the second left, and take the more crooked road of the two.”
“Yes, and you drive straight down that road,” he said with a laugh. “She’s telling you exactly how she gets there, obviously. That’s how she drives.”
“Straight down a crooked road?”
“Yes, precisely,” he confirmed. “She gave you the right directions. The second road is crooked, but it is the most direct way to get to her house. I think that’s what she meant by ‘straight’.”
“Okay.” Glancing down at the directions, I tried for a little more clarity. “She says to look for a farmhouse where there is no barn. It has a large front door and a small front porch but no windows.”
“Yep, that’s her place. That’s it to a ‘T’.”
“She lives in a house with no windows?”
“Well, as I understand it, there was a tough season a while back. The crops were not up to expectations and money was hard to come by.”
“What does that have to do with why there are no windows in the house? Did she have to sell them?”
“No. According to her, she actually ate‘em.”
Did I misunderstand? “She ate the windows?”
“Fried‘em up and served them in a light white sauce,” he said and then laughed. “That’s what she told me, anyway.”
“Before you pass judgment, get to know Mrs. Fields. She’s a gem. She has a story to tell everyone and anyone, but the story she tells is always intended just for you.”
“I really don’t have the time to . . .”
“You should make the time, Brent,” he said, stealing my name with a brief glance at my name badge. “It’d be well worth the effort. Just have an open mind— a wide-open mind. She has a rare gift, but you really gotta wanna receive it.”
“And she eats windows?”
“Well, I don’t know that for a fact. It’s what she told me, though. Maybe she wanted to make me laugh. Her sense of humor is a little bizarre. Still, the fact remains that her house has no windows. Once you get to know her, none of that will bother you as much as it does now. Trust me on that. You’ll never look at the world in the same way.”
“If that’s intended as a sales pitch, it’s not working.”
“Hey, you make your own decisions, guy,” he said. “Do you think you can find it now?”
“I’ll give it a shot, I guess.” My confidence was at an all time low.
“When you feel like you’re lost you’re probably getting close. Drive until the glare of the afternoon sun is so bad that it blinds you. Pull over to the side of the road and look through the haze, and you’ll be there.”
“You’re as crazy as she is.” He laughed.
“Like you’re not?”
“Well, I have my doubts some times. Everyone does.”
“You think everyone’s crazy. In fact, mostly we are. We differ by degrees, I suppose. But this is truth, my friend. If you want to learn something different, you can’t keep looking in the same place and expect to find anything but what you already know. If you think about it, being crazy isn’t such a bad place to start when you need some novelty in your life.”
“I have enough trouble dealing with the things the way they are. I’m certain I don’t want to learn anything from a lady who eats windows and gives strange directions to her house.”
“Look, others don’t measure up to your expectations and they probably never will. But that’s okay because you don’t measure up to their standards either. So why judge anybody? Once you get past judging others, amazing things can happen,” he said with a wink.
“It doesn’t make sense.”
“Of course it doesn’t. Look, people like to think they’re being logical. And logic can be useful in understanding some things. But it can also restrict you from going places and finding what you’re looking for. That’s what I learned from Mrs. Fields.”
“You speak as if she was your teacher.”
“Mentor is a better word. Here’s the fact. I used to be frustrated. My job is important and I get that. People depend on the prompt delivery of their mail. But I was upset because I always wanted to be something else. Never in my wildest, youthful dreams did I think that when I grew-up, I’d fight in a strange foreign war that we couldn’t win, and afterwards, I’d end up delivering the mail in some sleepy little coastal town in Florida. I was going to be a police officer, a fire fighter, a cowboy, or one of the astronauts they shoot into space from the Cape— you know, a real hero, somebody others look up to. Then, after I connected with Mrs. Fields, I understood that everything I ever desired was still inside of me from when I was a kid. The little things I do everyday make me a hero to someone and that’s probably as good as it gets most of the time— at least on this side of reality. She told me that as I grew older, I misplaced some dreams. That’s all. They were still there. It’s just— other things got put in front of them. Priorities, you know? If your mind is open to all possibilities, you can find the dreams you lost. When you do, you’ll be forever young where it counts.” He tapped his index finger to his temple for emphasis.
Staring at him as much as he stared back at me, one of us was waiting for some sort of sign, I guess. But if he was waiting for me to get his point, that wasn’t about to happen. He saw me shrug, so he nodded, and turned the key to start his jeep. There was nothing else he needed to say to me. What did he really care if I understood or believed? If I found the house— fine. Otherwise, I’d just continue being as lost as I ever was.
After he pulled away, I watched him continuing on up the street to the base of the hill. I didn’t know exactly what to do. I got back in my delivery truck , pulled out onto the street, and took my best shot at following Mrs. Fields’s peculiar directions. I drove up the hill, and close to the top, I made a U-turn and came back downhill, looking for the street on the right. Then, I turned left on the second of two streets. At first, it appeared to be the straighter of the two, but when my choice proved to be a crooked road, I felt better about it. Maybe this was the right way. I imagined arriving soon, setting up the computer, and going on to my next delivery. My kids might see their father for once and receive some help with their homework.
The road meandered without any logic. The ground was tabletop flat, mostly free of obstruction, or contour. There was no apparent reason for the original planners to create such a crooked course. At one point, the road split into two lanes to avoid a stand of several towering palm trees around a large stone monument. Obviously, the monument had some significance to force the road builders to surround it.
Driving for a fairly long time without result, my confidence dwindled again. Could Mrs. Fields have forgotten to mention some key landmark or turn in her directions? She didn’t seem like she was all there after all. Had I driven past the house? Then, I wondered how anybody could not notice a house with no windows.
Maybe I should turn back. Exasperated, I pulled over to the side of the road and looked down at the paper with the warped directions. When I looked up from my clipboard, the glare from the afternoon sun struck my eyes. Shading them with my hand so I could see, inexplicably, there it was. Through the afternoon haze, directly ahead of where I pulled over to the side of the road, was a house surrounded by fields of tall grass gently swaying in the breeze. It had a massive front door and tiny porch but absolutely no windows.
My heart jumped. Tentatively, I opened the truck door, telling myself this didn’t make any sense. Why hadn’t I seen the house while driving? Seeing it now conjured up all sorts of intimidating and frightening possibilities and explanations. Most of those worried me.
Back to the matter at hand, I had to deliver a computer system and set it up in a house with no windows. That was all that mattered. I stepped out onto the pavement, crossed the road, and marched up to the front door. Already running way behind schedule, I intended to ring the bell, knock, yell, or use any other means available to communicate my presence. Having spent too much time finding the place, I was determined to wrap up this delivery as quickly as possible and be on my way to the next customer.
As I reached for the large brass doorknocker that adorned the front door, there was rustling in the bushes to my right. Distracted, I turned without bothering to knock. There before me on the ground below the lip of the porch a petite young lady was picking flowers. I walked to the edge of the porch where I got a better look at her. When she looked up at me with eyes that seemed to sparkle and change colors, her smile made me feel at ease.
For whatever reason, when I first noticed her, I thought she might be a child. But as she appeared to be in her late teens or early twenties with shoulder-length, auburn hair, fair skin with a few freckles scattered across the bridge of her nose, I decided she had a natural sort of cuteness the defied showing her age. She was pretty, not needing any cosmetic amendment. She wore loose fitting work clothes, a tee shirt that came down to mid thigh, and jeans that were rolled up to her knees. The overall effect made her look even thinner.
“Hello there,” I said. “I’m here to . . .”
“I know. And it’s wonderful to see you again,” she replied with her bright, perfect smile that dazzled me as much as her eyes.
“Again?” I asked.
“There should never be a first time for anything, so that there’ll never need to be a last, especially when saying hello . This time, you’re from that computer place, right?”
“Uh, yes, Digital World HQ.”
“That’s the one. Strawb asked me to wait here for your arrival. And so, while I was waiting here, I thought I’d tend to the flowerbeds and pick some fresh flowers to take inside the house. Aren’t they pretty?” She held up the bouquet she’d assembled. “Strawb’s waiting for you in the backyard.”
“Who is Strawb?”
“Mrs. Fields,” the young lady said with some impatience.
“You really have forgotten much,” she said as she hopped up onto the
porch, proving that my estimation of her height was actually generous, as she came up to about my chest.
She looked up into my eyes. “You know, of course, Mrs. Fields is not her real name. If you recall, that was what Johnny and Paul started calling her. She rather liked it, as well as the fine story behind the name, so it stuck,” she explained as if she really expected me to recall. “I hope you remember me, at least.”
Somehow, I didn’t want to disappoint her, but I had to confess as I shook my head, “I— don’t recall us having ever met.”
“It’s such a pity. We were always such famous friends. I’m Lucy,” she offered with her biggest smile yet, as her eyes reflected the blue of the sky and reminded me of gemstones twinkling in the light.
“Brent,” I gave her my name, as I pointed to my nametag. I accepted her delicate hand and we shook.
“Brent, among other names.” Lucy laughed. “Strawb said you were very nice to her at the store, but she warned me that you didn’t recognize her. That happens sometimes when we pretend too hard to be who we’re not.”
“I’m nice to everyone, I guess. I mean I try to be,” I said. “I try not to pretend.”
“It’s good you’re nice, but it’s a shame you don’t pretend. Why, pretending is the best way to play, I think.”
“I’m really sorry but I have no recollection of ever having met either of you, other than talking to Mrs. Fields in the store, of course.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll remember everything, eventually. It’s rare to my experience that anyone doesn’t remember once they are here and the confusion settles. The best times are always within reach, if you allow them to return. The way to see things most clearly is to close your eyes. But everyone is in such a hurry, and afraid to look away for even a moment because they think they might miss something, when all they might miss is more distractions.”
“Maybe you have a point, there.”
“Oh. I know I’m right about that.” Her eyes continued to invite me to explore their depths, probing me in the process as if she was waiting for a sudden flash of remembrance. Then she sighed. “Strawb said you took the time and patiently asked all the right questions. She felt comfortably confident that you recommended the right solution, even if you forgot about her— about us and all this,” she made a sweeping gesture with her arm. “That’s why she requested that you make the delivery personally. She was hoping to return your kindness with the gift of reconnection so that maybe we could help you, and you could help us in the process.”
“I’d be glad to help. But what is this reconnection?”
“With your past and your imagination, of course.”
“My past is forgettable and my imagination is just fine.”
“Maybe that’s the case. But I’ll bet you try too hard to ignore both. The past is as unavoidable as the future, and imagination is something that if you don’t use it you lose it.”
“Like a foreign language.”
“It’s nothing like a foreign language at all. If it seems to be, then that’s part of your problem.” She shook her head. “Try not to be difficult, please.”
“Look, it was a fluke that I was selling computers last Sunday. I usually don’t sell them. I just make deliveries and repair them when they break.”
“Well, we are all the more grateful for your efforts, then.”
“The store depends on repeat business, and referrals, of course. I try to satisfy every customer.”
“Then, you must be very successful.”
“We do okay.”
“What about you, personally?”
“I do okay, too.”
“If it’s just okay, then you aren’t properly rewarded for your efforts.”
“Do you know where Mrs. Fields wants the computer set up?” I was growing impatient and it was getting later by the moment.
“Where else would she want it? In the backyard.”
“It’s where everyone comes to play, now isn’t it? The computer is intended for the children, all of them, but especially Haim. So it needs to be there.”
“I strongly recommend against setting up a computer outdoors. It’s a highly complicated electronic device that will not appreciate getting wet when it rains.”
“Okay,” Lucy said. “Hmmm, well then, I suppose we’ll just have to make do without rain, at least where the computer is.”
“Come, I’ll show you the way,” Lucy said.
“Let me get the hand-truck and bring the computer with me. I’m on a tight schedule.”
“I’ll put these flowers in a vase and I’ll meet you back here.”
By the time I loaded up all the boxes containing the computer components, Lucy was waiting for me at the front corner of the house. As I walked toward her, she came to the edge of the road to meet me. She pointed the way to a tall shadow-box wood fence and an open gate at the side of the house that she’d left open for us.
Once inside, the fenced-in yard seemed an immense parcel of real estate. And yet, everything there appeared designed for amusement. A huge playground with two sandboxes, multiple swing sets with spiral slides, places to climb, benches to sit for resting, and tables for children to sit and eat snacks, or have lunch. Around the perimeter and outside the fence were several tall trees with their branches extended over the playground, though they didn’t appear to be giving much shade for the time of day. It reminded me more of a public park than the backyard of a residence.
“Are you in the daycare business?” I asked, making small talk as I carefully carted the boxes over the grass, holding one hand on the stack to keep them from sliding or falling off.
“Daycare? What is that?” Lucy asked.
“The amusements, they’re for children aren’t they?”
“Oh, those. Yes, this is a place for the young, but not necessarily just kids. Youth is an attitude as much as a perspective. Everyone who comes is youthful but not necessarily a child.”
“But it’s a playground, right?”
“We all play here, yes. Deep inside, everyone is a five-year-old or six tops. That’s the age we’re intended to be. Everything is marvelous and amusing to us then. Nothing about the world is boring. We discover and invent. We imagine and create. When we are five or six, we are connected to everything around us but also innocent and willing to discover everything about anything, aren’t we?”
“I guess so. I mean, sometimes I think about when I was a kid,” I admitted.
“Good, then you haven’t lost your way, you just need directions to get back on course.”
“About that, I almost didn’t find this place.”
“Until you did, and that’s all that matters. Now we’re here, together again. So, relax, be yourself, and be happy you made it back.” She twirled around as if inspired to dance.
“As attractive as that thought might be, we still live in the real world.”
“Well, if you like the real world, you can have it. It’s a choice you make. Here we choose not to be miserable.”
“I’m not miserable.” I leaned against the handle of the hand truck as I temporarily parked it at the back corner of the house, waiting for further directions.
“If you’re in the real world and say you’re not miserable, then you’re deceiving yourself,” Lucy said. “Anyone who is not here is lost.”
“Well, I’m not lost.”
“Because you’re here. You get bored with the outside world and want to escape its pressures, don’t you?”
“Well, yeah, but that’s true of everyone.”
“Doesn’t that make you miserable?”
“Sometimes, I guess it does.”
“So, you see, you lie to yourself, saying you’re not miserable when really you are. You never lied to yourself before when you were here. You couldn’t because no one taught you how.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Why, the difference is everything, isn’t it?” Then she cleared her throat. “It’s everything and nothing, same as anything else. All you need to do is decide to be young and everything else follows from that. To be young is what it was like before you started acting old.”
Copyright 2014 Elgon Williams All Rights Reserved
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