A Short Story by: Blue Jeans
“Macy! How nice it is to see you again!” She greeted Macy with so much outwardly affection; it diluted her inner bitterness for her so-called friend.
“Elle! It has been awhile.” Trying to be polite, Elle allowed the woman to sit next to her on the bench but granted enough room to leave a buffer between them that the conscious mind wouldn’t notice.
The two old ladies that day were black belts in the ancient art of polite delusion. There was no doubt both of them, since they met in college found no pleasure in each other but, thank the Lord, were raised right; even though they didn’t like each other, at least they pretended to.
They were not the only two pretending, chattering on about the “good old times,” their grandchildren, and Medicare as if the other cared. It was all common polite people talk.
It was a small town; everyone knew everyone and during the beginning of winter, by the library’s entrance facing an active parking lot, a lot of gossip was happening all at once.
“You know Macy, I heard Becky, you know, from the Pizza Place, who lives next to Dave?”
“Yes! The one that has a peculiar child that doesn’t look at all like her. You know, I think he’s adopted. There is no way that child is hers.”
“You know now that I think about it, I think so too. Or maybe, he’s from that affair she had with Susie’s husband! They do look a lot a like.”
“Now you mention it Elle, I think it could be so. Do you think Susie knows?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t with that affair. How old is the boy? Tom told me the affair was only about two or three years ago.”
“Well how old is the boy?”
“I don’t know!”
“This is an mystery instead.”
Leaning in to fully consume the gossip tossing between them, Elle and Macy, just like anyone else in town, were talking about anyone they could come to think of. It must have been a way to keep their stale conversations going. After the quick catch up between their family lives, social lives, and the weather, they had nothing else to fill their dry mouths.
As they continued to eat up all the latest news, Becky Channing walked by. She was in a hurry, clutching her son’s hand in one and a mound of books in the other. Still wearing her apron and work attire, she had splotches of flower on her cheeks and fading lipstick about her drying lips. She caught Elle and Macy’s attention immediately. They pounced upon the opportunity to have the first insight on the latest town news with the wild and wayward Becky Channing.
“Hello dear!” Elle waved to the woman, stopping her in her tracks and causing her heels to skid. Being the quiet observer, Macy was scanning her and the child to later use in another tale for another a gossip group chat.
“Oh hello Mrs. Evers, Mrs. Dawson.” She was prepared to move on but Elle trapped her once again with another polite question.
“Oh you can just call me Elle dear none on of this ‘Mrs. Dawson’ business. I see your little boy is growing taller every day. How old is he?”
“Oh um he is two years, now.”
Elle and Macy exchanged an illusive glance before further questioning the girl. It was Macy’s turn.
“Oh really? How cute. Can he talk?”
“Don’t be silly Macy,” Elle interrupted moving the dialog along, “Of course he can.”
Everyone turned to the little boy, not over a two and a half feet tall babbling to himself. He slipped his infant hands, softer than soap, out of his mothers, flopping to the ground, blabbering gibberish.
“Did you hear him Macy?”
“Oh yes. He’s so cute. I swear he said ‘Dada.’ Didn’t you hear him?”
“Yes Dada! So precious. His father must be so proud.”
They watched her expressions carefully, seeing her eyes shift down to her son and her jaw line raise. The slight flare in her nostrils gave it away. The rumors could now be verified. This was the juicy stuff they were looking for in their humdrum lives. It ignited their curiosity as they continued.
“So, are you off to walk after this?” Elle inquired, taking the reins again.
“Not with your son I hope.” They leaned in ever so slightly to catch every twist in Becky’s emotions.
“Well no. Susie agreed to babysit him today.”
“Oh how nice of her.” Macy almost sighed, eying Elle with such distain for the arrangement. It was as if they could pass thoughts.
How unfortunate for Susie to watch the son from the affair. Macy thought. Elle could read this same thought through Macy’s shadowing eyes.
As they plowed through the inner workings of her mind, another celebrity among the older gossipers and polite talkers rolled into the parking lot on his motorcycle. He championed a skull and cross bones painted upon the side of his leather seat and a blood-red bandana about his head. He had no helmet on, swiveling his leg over the seat as he came off of it. His long hair draped around him and his furring brows darkened him.
“Look who we have hear Macy, it’s that new rebel!” It wasn’t long before all of them turned cautiously to see the sinister man clinking his chains about his waist ever time he walked.
“It’s such a disgrace how he carries himself.” Elle said sympathetically, “He comes from such a great family but is nothing like them.”
“I heard,” Macy whispered, carefully choosing when to glance at him, “that he is a criminal fresh out of a sentence.”
“No!” Elle gasped.
“Yes. A bank robbery I think.”
Becky found herself out of place, only listening to the gossipers. She was lost for words. She wanted to pick up her heels and get away while she could. Time was ticking. Finding it an appropriate time to exit the scene, she waved without a word and began to walk toward the library when she noticed something.
She wasn’t holding the small hand anymore.
She couldn’t hear his babbling.
A heart-stopping fear struck her like lightning, frying her nerves as she spun all around looking for him.
“Samuel? Samuel!” And then she found him.
It happened all too fast—Elle, Macy, and Becky all starred in horror as Samuel doddered into the street as a car was reversing out of the parking lot. Too short to see him, the car driver revived his engine. Becky went running as fast as she could, choking with her heart in her lungs. Little Samuel was in his own world walking right behind the car, intrigued by it’s puffing of smoke and before Becky could scream, before Elle and Macy could look away, the rebel swooped in and snatched the boy right from the back of the car. Out of fear of hitting the new town criminal, the driver stopped immediately.
Still caught up by her inertia, Becky couldn’t slow down fast enough, almost hitting right into the man carrying her son, unscathed.
Without a word, the man cradled Samuel who was still babbling, looking up at him with large brown eyes, so pure, so politely, and delicately placed him into Becky’s shaking arms.
“Thank you so much. Thank you.” Almost in tears at the near death of her child, Becky forgot to be courteous of his social standing and lavished her thankfulness upon the man.
In return, all he did was lightly nod her way, smiled at the boy who returned the grin and walked away. She was trapped in a replay of actions, from the moment she lost him to time she had her child back into her arms. It was an endless time loop for a while, temporarily stopping everything until her heart rate slowed down. Unconsciously, she let her eyes follow the man as he walked on with the clink in every step into the library and then returned to her undead son now sucking on his thumb.
She rocked him back and forth as if he needed to be calmed while she was the one that was on the verge of tears. Oh God. Oh God. She continued to murmur.
As Becky returned back to the task at hand she put him down, now firmly holding her son’s hand as she compiled her books and placed them into the return machine. In a few minutes she was gone again, with he son now cradled as she walked back to her car.
Macy and Elle didn’t have the right words; they didn’t know what the polite words were. It was the moment that was so unexpected, the act that, to as much as gossip could tell, was simply out of character.
“Well, I must be going now. It was nice to see you again. Macy.” Elle announced, arising to her feet.
“ Yes, yes it is approaching lunch time. I must be going too. Good bye.”
Without another word or exchange with their eyes, Macy and Elle went on their own merry ways for they could not bare the shame of seeing incorrectly. It was no fun when your gossip story arrived at a dead end. So they left their bench and said no more about it. That was the proper way—never admitting you’re wrong.