Face to Face

ETTA remains
As fearless as ever.
She just does what needs
To be done to survive.

The place really doesn’t matter. It could have been any small town in the middle of America. Lawn tidy, houses white, flags flown on front porches.

It was not summer and not spring and not winter when Etta knocked on the door on Ash Street. She did not care for summer, spring and winter. The house number was the one she liked from all those that she had recorded in her address book. Numbers, like Boise, were important to her. She had almost forgotten about the numbers.

555 Elm Street in curly numbers were nailed just underneath the flag. He was a teacher. She was a social worker in a nursing home. Etta, it seems, had chosen well. When he answered the door, they stood staring at each other. Where have I seen those eyes before and I thought I was the only person in the world that had hair that color.

Hello he said finding his voice and turned to call his wife to the door.

Jeffery, I am so glad to see you after all these years. Your father always said you had hair like mine. I am so sorry about his passing. Oh, my goodness, you don’t remember me. I am Etta, I was your uncles first wife. Remember, we met in Idaho that summer that Mary had the family reunion? I was the “aunt” with the thermos.

It all coming back to him now. He and his wife had just gotten married. Mary, Etta’s sister had convened all the relative on every side of the family because she claimed that Etta was dying…a big misjudgment on her part. She invited everyone, including second cousins on both side of the family, asked them to pay their part (and hers). They had gathered in Anne Morrison Park for a picnic in late August, which she did not attend. Jeffery had almost not come because it was so close to the beginning of the school. But he wanted to show his new wife off to all the relatives. Etta was totally overwhelmed when 123 showed up. Etta had charmed them all, gotten their names, phone numbers and addresses. She had even managed to photograph each family. Etta was funny that way. It was just the perfect party she thought…a wake without a dead person. And in Boise to boot.

Etta walked into the living room, appraised the furniture and sat in a chair he had pointed to.

Where are you staying? Such an innocent he was. She smiled fondly at him and gave the name of a nearby motel.

I won’t hear of it. We have room and you are welcome to stay as long as you like!

So Etta was in, she had found a place to stay if only for a little while. He went out onto the front lawn and brought her two bags in. One tinkled with glass and the other smelled suspiciously like potato chips. The extra bedroom was in the far end of the house away from Jeffery, his wife and their children.

He went to bed that night with an uneasy feeling in his stomach. He had washed the dishes later in the evening while his wife tucked the children in and as Etta was singing herself to sleep. What have I done? Oh my goodness, what have I done?

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