The look she seemed to be going for was Suburban Soccer Mom: blond hair tied back into a ponytail, too-cute t-shirt, jeans, and Keds sneakers sans socks. But...she looked like she was pushing 50, and her make-up was troweled on, rivaling Tammy Faye Bakker, circa 1980-something.

I noticed her standing at the digital card catalog, then went back to scratching notes onto the pages of my manuscript with my nifty red pen, trying to fall back into the story, but not deep enough to keep me from being able to pick it apart.

Then her phone went off, loudly. It was enough to make me look back up. I didn't say anything and barely looked at her. It was nearly a Pavlovian response: phone rings, I look up to see where it's coming from. Apparently looking up implied an interest in her conversation, something she obviously did not wish to share.

"Don't you be gettin' all up in my bizness."

Take a deep breath, look back at the manuscript.

"I ain't tawkin' for yo' enterTAINment."

Glance up, raise an eyebrow. I couldn't care less, really...

She snapped the phone closed and shoved it into her back pocket. "Whatchew doin' anyway?"

"Teetering on the precipice of irony, apparently."


"I'm writing."

"You writin'? Whatchew writin'?"

A guide to passably correct grammar... "A book."

"A whole book?" No, just the second half. "Wassit about?"

"Right now it's about 200 pages." Please go away...


Another deep breath. "Basically, it's about someone coming to grips with growing up in a dysfunctional family, how she remembers it as opposed to how it really was." I didn't mention the dead guy.

"Oh, like Dr. Phil makin' people seen how shit's their fault, too?"

"Pretty much."

"That's cool," she said, hands going to her hips. I was seriously hoping she would go away; I was feeling rude and abrupt and sure that my mouth was going to catch up with my mood. But then she went on. "I'm sorry I bitched at you. I'm just pissed. My boy got hisself into the air force and now he's goin' someplace I never heard of and I just wanted to come look it up 'n see where he goin', you know?"

She was terrified.

"Where's he being stationed?" I asked.

"Land's Stool?" she asked herself.

"Landstuhl. It's in Germany."

"It ain't nowhere near Iraq?"

I shook my head. "I know people deploy from there, but it's pretty far from Iraq and Afghanistan. I think the base there is Ramstein Air Force Base."

"Says he's goin' be a lab vampire. A pleebo-somethin'."

"Phlebotomist?" I guessed. "Lab vampire is a pretty good description."

We talked for at least half an hour, until her phone rang again and she had to leave. The longer we spoke, the less street her speech became. And I got it: sound tough, and people back off. But really, she was just a Mom, absolutely terrified that her 18 year old son might be headed for war. She only knew bits and pieces from short phone calls and had no clear idea where he was headed and what might be waiting for him when he got there. She was filled with a mixture of anger and pride, and had no idea what to do with those feelings.

Seems I got all up in her bizness after all.

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