Last time I wrote to this prompt I inserted one of the stories from Free Magic Show. Here’s another one. San Diego, 1993, I was living in City Heights, a high crime, low income area of the city. 20 years later I know it was one of the happiest times of my life.
I’m home alone, bored, lonely, frustrated and a little angry. My knee is up and iced; the brace is loosened, but never off. I manage to get to and from class on the crutches belonging to Che Pablo Salvador Mulholland, but it’s very hard work. I’m running a seminar for teachers and I never look good, cool, polished, anything but sweaty and irritable and tired. It’s the hottest time of the year and the cart that’s supposed to transport me from place to place on the campus never shows up. Finally I’m cleared to drive one myself, but I don’t like it so I go back to the clump slump crash of crutch walking.
I miss the boys; I miss hiking; I miss my friend Mike with whom I’d broken up a few weeks before when he made the comment that if I had his kid, I’d be giving birth to my own grandchild. He’s only 15 years younger; it’d be half-a grandchild. I’d missed a period and was scared; I don’t realize I’m just heading into menopause.
The phone rings.
“Martha? It’s Jimmy. Craig and me had this idea.”
“Yeah, what?” Grrrrr.
“You do so many nice things for us. I know it’s no fun being on crutches and stuff.”
“No. I feel like I’m in jail.”
“Can you drive now?”
“Well, Jurassic Park’s at the dollar movies Tuesday. We want to take you to the movies and to Mickey D’s for dinner. It’s 25 cent burgers on Tuesday. That’s tomorrow. Can you come?”
I’m dumstruck. All bitter feelings vanish. I have a meeting that night of the Citizens Advisory Council for Mission Trails Regional Park, but I think I’m going to miss it.
“I’d love that, Jimmy.”
“We miss you.”
“Yeah, well I miss you too.” I’m super emotional in this ordeal and my eyes fill. “What time?”
“Come and get us at 4. The movie starts at 4:30. Oh, and Martha, we’re paying.”
I get home from school about 3 and change my clothes and get into the truck and head to IB. All the boys are at Jimmy’s house. There’s Jimmy, Mikey, Jason, Greg and Craig. They’re cleaned up and ready to go, grinning, and silly, and I expect them to start turning somersaults and I feel the same way. Jimmy breaks the spell by saying, “Nice crutches, gimp.”
At the movies, they pay my way, very proudly having each pitched in a quarter (except Mikey) and we stand in front of the candy counter and they say, “You can have whatever you want, Martha. We have five dollars.” I pick some Red Vines and Jimmy says, “You need a Coke, but we’ll get a big one and split it, OK? But I’m not sharing it with butt crust (his little brother).”
“Jimmy!” Mikey whines and sulks and stops and gets his own.
We go into the theater and sit together, two rows from the front. The movie starts. We are the audience, except for a few people scattered in the back. We love the movie even when we think it’s dumb. At the end, we leave, a lot less hungry than we were when we went in. It’s been a candy orgy, but dinner is yet to come and two doors down are 25 cent burgers. We line up.
“Arrrrgh!” roars Jason at Mikey, holding his hands up like little Tyrannosaurus forelegs.
“RrrrrrrrRRRRGH!” snarls Mikey in return, jumping toward Jason’s throat.
“Cut it out, Butt Munch. What do you want?”
“I got my own money,” says Mikey, still pissed at Jimmy.
“I’m not talking to you, Butt Crust. I’m talking to Martha,” says Jimmy, all largesse.
“Umm, I’ll just have a burger.”
“You can have fries, Martha. I got enough.” He holds out his hand.
“OK. A cheesburger and fries and water.”
“Water? Don’t you want a coke?”
“Just had one.”
“You can have another one, Martha. It’s OK.”
So we order our 25 cent burgers and sit together in a booth in this freezing cold, antiseptic, yellow and red monstrosity. They are on their best behavior, taking me out. No one sticks French fries up their own or anyone else’s nose. I feel a little uncomfortable in this formality, but I adapt and am honored.
Then the event is over. I take them home and head back to City Heights feeling loved, less lonely, less angry and anxious for everything to be restored to normal.