Friday, January 9, 2009
I have the perfect guests. They don’t stay long. I’d be paranoid about it if they didn’t keep coming back. But they do.
I’m not set up very well for guests. I do the best I can but a lot of it is out of my control. I’m thinking of the one bathroom. That’s all I have. One. Not very conducive to city girls blow-drying and flat-ironing or whatever it is they do to primp nowadays. I have no idea. Since moving to the farm, I’ve gradually given up certain beauty routines such as changing my jewelry daily (or even wearing jewelry), lining my eyes with a Maybelline pencil that I soften with a lit match, and painting my toenails in the winter.
I haven’t even put on a pair of high heels in six years. In fact, I don’t own a pair of high heels. Shocking to those who know me since I used to be the queen of pumps. I had every color to match every outfit, including polka dotted (I know, I know, how many times am I going to mention those stupid polka dotted high heels? I can’t help it—I’m obsessed with them and I miss them terribly), plus suede, leather, patent leather, straw, acrylic, pointy-toed, open-toed, peek-a-boo, spiked heel, clunky heel; you name it, I had it. But those things just don’t seem that important anymore when you’ve got grain to unload in the pouring rain, hoses to drain, ashes to dump, and best of all, horses to ride.
So I’m out of the loop. The only reason I even know about the flat-iron is because my sister grabbed me the last time I was up there and dragged me to the beauty parlor for a little makeover. It turns out the bleached blonde look I’ve been sporting was so nineties and I needed something called “low lights.” Plus it appears that I don’t know how to dress. I forgot everything I used to know. For example, I thought the purple sweater I got from JCPenney purposely for the trip was pretty happening. Certainly a big improvement over the usual sweatshirts I get from Wal-Mart and, if I’m dressing up, out of the western catalogs. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I was dead wrong.
Sharon stood back and appraised me. She gnawed on the inside of her cheek. “You need black and white,” she advised.
“Like a little check?” I asked, trying to be agreeable.
“No! Black and White! The store! Get out of Wal-Mart or Kmart or whatever it is and do your shopping in a store that knows about clothes—Black and White, or The Limited or Express… one of those places.”
I decided not to tell her that I don’t really go shopping anymore, per se. I might grab something when I pass the clothes racks on my way to the frozen food aisle and I see a T-shirt on sale for $7.99. Or if Kelly needs a white shirt for choir. Or my rubber boots sprung a leak and I got as much life out of them as I possibly could by lining them with plastic Wal-Mart bags. But to go out on a trip specifically to shop for clothes? Armloads of clothes from a store that doesn’t have shopping carts? To go on a spree? Those days are over.
At any rate, I don’t give my guests makeovers but I do take them out to see the manure pile and when I really want to impress them, I take them to Sweet’s store down the road where the brothers Dewey and Fred, who live in the doublewide with the big greenhouse; Dub Jackson, in camouflage and blaze orange no matter what time of year it is; and Leon Thompson, who drives a school bus for the county; sit in the back around an old Formica table with long burn marks in it the shape of Cheese Doodles. They feed logs to the woodstove next to them, Fig Newtons to the dog under the table, and lines to everyone who comes in. They elbow each other and raise their eyebrows when my girlfriends and I enter. We pretend we don’t notice.
I couldn’t help noticing they’ve been doing some improvements over at Sweet’s. After all these years with an outhouse, they finally put in a porta-potty. My guests took pictures. They’ve never seen an outhouse in real life. But they refuse to use the porta-potty. They say, “I don’t consider that an improvement,” and make faces. Dub Jackson overhears and offers to take them across the road to his mama’s house which has a bathroom that’s spic and span. Dewey, Fred and Leon snicker and the girls don’t know what to say. How nice! But he’s still a stranger. I tell them Dub’s okay—he’s harmless. I’d go if I was them. If I didn’t want to use the porta-potty, that is. Of course I go in tractor sheds so a porta-potty is nothing.
“Yep, he’s about as harmless as Miz Thelma’s kitty cat,” Dewey says.
“Ain’t never got hisself a deer. Don’t worry, he can’t shoot nothin’” Fred says.
“Not even a squirrel,” Leon adds and they guffaw and almost fall back in their chairs.
“Now boys, leave them ladies alone. You’re scarin’ away all my customers,” Thelma scolds from behind the counter where she sells homemade sweet potato pies in little Baggies, hand-crocheted pot holders and pink eggs. You can also get bait, dried pinto beans, and a cookbook put out by the ladies from Trinity Christian that includes recipes for venison stew, pickled peaches, and corn chowder.
My sister comes back with a kitchen towel that’s been crocheted on the end so you can hang it on the refrigerator door handle, red to match her décor, and a bag of crabapples and reports that Dub’s mother is the cutest thing and if only he’d get out of those army clothes, then maybe he’d get himself a woman, just on the strength of that mother alone.
“First of all, they’re not army clothes; it’s camouflage,” I correct. “And second of all, Dub’s been married three times.”
“Well,” Sharon says, “he still needs a make-over.”
I don’t know about that happening but I do know that my guests keep coming back. They don’t complain about my one bathroom even though we have to take turns and with all that primping going on—someone’s always in there. I guess they figure it’s better than an outhouse or a porta-potty. But it doesn’t compare to Dub Jackson’s mother’s bathroom.