Not you, Peg.

cookies

Class starts early for a Saturday, but it’s usually worth wrangling with the alarm clock.  There is a different topic and speaker each month, a sense of community, and a variety of homemade snacks.  Blueberry muffins, granola, fresh strawberries, cookies, crackers and a veggie tray are crammed together to cover the snack table on a regular morning.  I even gave up bringing my own stash of nuts and fruit because of the confidence that I felt in the generosity of the class to provide a spread of tasty treats.

We arrived late last week and shimmied behind the chairs of punctual members of class, carefully stepping over purses and bags to the last open seats on the far side of the room. The instructor finished with the announcements and upcoming volunteer opportunities as I began to strategize my trip to the back of the room to visit the snack table.  

How to do it without disrupting the rest of the people in the row again or drawing the notice of the instructor?  I was excited about what new surprising options awaited me and devised a complicated route to shimmy around a few more people at the end of the row, only to double back along the edge of the room where the treasure beckoned me.

“Excuse me, I have something to share,” a voice shouted from the front of the class.

It was Peg, short for peg-leg, but I think her real name was Brenda or Donna.  She was a below the knee amputee who always had something to say.  She pushed a pair of black framed glasses onto the top of her head and into a nest of light brown, tightly permed curls. 

“I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies and snicker doodles.”

She took a sip from a can of Dr. Pepper that was next to the unnecessary stack of papers, notebooks and books that she brought to each class.  I felt a mild irritation that she had to stop to take a drink to deliver what was sure to be a ridiculous message, but also a softness in my heart from the mention of the snacks that she brought for the day.  She spent time and energy to gather the supplies and to mix the ingredients in the perfect ratios, to stand in front of the hot oven and pull the cookie trays out after carefully watching the dough turn brown and the chocolate chips to melt through the oven window.

“But I left them on the kitchen counter this morning, right next to the plate of Rice Krispy treats.” 

A gasp escaped from my mouth before I realized that my jaw was hanging open; it was like the mailman forgot to close the lid to the mailbox and all of the letters and advertisements ended up scattered across the yard.  

“That’s why there isn’t anything sweet over on the table.”

She shrugged, not in an apologetic type of way, but rather in a matter-of-fact-sucks-to-be-all-of-you-who-don’t-get-to-eat-the-cookies-that-were-allegedly-left-on-the-counter way and pulled her glasses back onto her pasty face.  Her announcement was over.  She was over as far as I was concerned and had no idea of the impact from her negligence on her hungry and partially-insane-from-pregnancy and hormonally-imbalanced classmates or one classmate, in particular.  I withheld the snarl that started in the back of my throat and rummaged in my bag for an old mint muttering angry words about Peg. 

After a few days of self-reflection, I came to the following conclusions about the snack situation. Perhaps this wasn’t the unforgivable trespass that I originally thought, perhaps I should have been contributing to the snack table instead of relying on the generosity of others, and just maybe I wasn’t dealing with the normal disappointments of life very well.

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The Cost of Freedom

dog

After the rain stopped, a dog appeared from an alley.  It zig-zagged up the sidewalk, sniffed at a door with green paint that curled up in half-peels and then stopped to lap at a puddle of dirty water.

The dog was caramel colored with medium length hair that was darker in some areas where it gathered into mats between raw, bald spots. A frayed rope hung from its leather collar, a dangling reminder of the jail from which the dog had just escaped.

The dog moved with a heavy slowness, dragging the invisible weight of a broken spirit.  It had been too hungry, cold, and neglected for too long to start to heal in a day or two out of the yard.  In fact, freedom wasn’t so different from incarceration in the backyard where it had lived tied to a tractor tire for the past few years.  Either way, there wasn’t any food, clean water or anyone to give a damn if it lived or died.

He reflected the people living in the abandoned and dilapidated buildings along the cracked sidewalk.  They lumbered through life with their heads down, too sad, lonely and hopeless for too long.

No one came after the dog as it wandered into the distance, further from the yard and ever closer to an tenuous future that was certain to end with Animal Control or crumpled in an alleyway.  Still, freedom was worth it.

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