Sweet Pea

by Nancy C. Demme

She forgot things. Even now as she sat on the plastic bench, the sun warming her back, in front of Estelle’s Salon, she was scrutinizing the budding plant in the brown pot. It wasn’t like Estelle, she thought (she’d never call her Stell or Stella as the others did), to keep a bunch of weeds on her stoop. Not in front of the shop. Maybe they’re Sweet Peas, she mused. They did have budding pods, but no, she grimaced, they’re weeds, I’m sure of it. “Cow fodder,” she said to herself and quickly looking left and right, grabbed the greenery with her fist, pulled and threw the clump of sod over her shoulder around the side of the building. “Better an empty pot than to show neglect.” But she wasn’t sure, and she stood and walked around the corner to examine the weeds once more, but by that time she had forgotten the type of plant she thought they were, and suppressed a cry and stomped on the tangled plant with her sensible brown shoe.

When she came back around the side of the building and was seated once again in the sun, a man walked down the narrow pathway. He was a big man, big belly, with a pink face and heavily lidded eyes. I’ve told Estelle time and time again about the narrow walk, she scolded. A full bodied person could easily traipse off into the grass, and the man did just that, raising his arms to steady himself. She stood abruptly, extending her hand.

“Are you all right?” she said, stepping forward.

He laughed, his heavily lidded eyes lifting. “I’m fine.”

“Isn’t there a regulation size?” she said, shaking her head.

“Size for what?”

“For sidewalks, of course.”

“There is no regulation size for the likes of me,” he said standing before her, and she saw, of course, there wasn’t. He picked up the empty brown pot. “You watching the flowers grow?”

She looked quickly toward the side of the building. “I’m waiting for Estelle.”

“Estelle Longkeep? You’ll be a good long while.”

“Why is that?”

“It’s Sunday. Shop’s closed,” and he jangled the doorknob to make his point. “No lights.”

“But she always…”

“Monday to Saturday. Never on a Sunday, a Sunday, a Sunday,” he sang and he grinned.

She clasped her hands together in a fit of anger. “How come you know so much about her comings and goings?” she asked, suspicious.

“Trims my nose hair every Monday morning 8 am sharp.”

“But I had an appointment.”

“For Saturday maybe or possibly Monday. She opens 8 am.”

“I know, I know to trim your nose hair.”

“Right.”

“But my hair!”

“Looks fine to me.”

“All men say that,” she huffed.

“No, it’s fine. Curly and fine the way ladies like it. You’ll call Estelle tomorrow.”

“But my perm and blue rinse.”

“Shop’s closed.”

“She’s late is all.”

“I think maybe you forgot. Happens. Why don’t you come to the bagel shop with me. You’ll have a cup of coffee on me and on your way back you can check the shop, but I can tell you unless there’s a wedding the shop’s closed on Sunday.

“So it really is Sunday.”

“Yes ma’am.”

She noticed he had nice eyes, grey, under those thick lids. He wore a polo shirt, blue, stretched to the limit across his middle, but clean, freshly laundered. His fingernails were clean, and though it was a little late in the season for Bermuda shorts his were tightly creased. He did not look at all like Purvis Mealey.

“One cup,” and she unclenched her hands, extended one of them to his and stood. He sat the pot upon the bench. “Maybe she can squeeze you in.”

“Who?”

“Estelle,” she said, staring at his pudgy face. “Your nose hairs,” she said knowingly, wobbling, waltzing on the narrow walk.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Author Bio:

Nancy Demme has been a Children’s Librarian for twenty-five years in East Windsor, NJ and has in that capacity facilitated an ongoing adult writers’ group for fifteen years. She also teaches creative writing to teens and adolescents, and continues to take courses in everything from playwriting, children’s literature, song writing and storytelling.

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