1. One Week, Okay.

    On Monday her car wouldn’t start. Already 20 minutes late to work, she traipsed to the bus stop without checking the schedule first. A young man was already seated on the bench. Despite the space for approximately three moderately-sized humans or two obese ones remaining, and despite her relatively diminutive stature, she stood.

    “I haven’t seen you here before,” he said.

    “Nope,” she said.

    “Do you take the bus often?” he said.

    “Nope,” she said.

    “You live around here?” he said.

    She rummaged through her bag in search of something in which she could display an intense interest. She settled on a torn sheet of paper, unfolded it, and read last week’s grocery list over and over again until his bus came. She stayed behind and took the next one, out of spite – for what, she didn’t know.

    She arrived at work two hours and 37 minutes after she was scheduled to clock in. She told the manager on duty, the male manager, that she’d been attacked and held up at gunpoint by a thug who demanded her wallet and cell phone. He looked her up and down, took in her disheveled appearance, and decided to believe her. He didn’t write her up. An hour later he offered to buy her lunch. She declined.

    On Tuesday she called work. The female manager answered the phone. She told her she’d not be coming in because she had to take care of various police things to do with the theft of her wallet and cell phone. The female manager expressed concern for her well-being and asked if she was “okay.”

    “Sure, I’m okay,” she said.

    “Just okay?” the female manager said.

    “Sure,” she said.

    “Alright,” the female manager said.

    She was told to take all the time she needed, so she did.

    On Wednesday she slept until well past noon. She called her mother and started an argument, not because she disagreed with the woman on any account, but because she felt like arguing with someone and her mother was the first person to answer the phone.

    “I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately,” her mother said.

    “I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately,” she said.

    “I wish you wouldn’t do that,” her mother said.

    “I wish you wouldn’t do that,” she said.

    “You’re acting like a child,” her mother said.

    “You’re acting like a child,” she said.

    Her mother hung up. She found an adult contemporary lite rock radio station and cranked it up as loud as she could. She found a headband with horns attached that she’d worn with a Halloween costume one year and put it on her head. Then she found some fairy wings she’d worn with another Halloween costume on a different year, and she put them on too.

    She wanted to cook something for dinner but the fairy wings were spraying glitter all over everything every time she moved so she sat cross-legged in the middle of the living room floor and bit her nails while listening to Phil Collins.

    On Thursday she decided to go to a bar. Her car still wouldn’t start, which was just as well. There were 12 empty barstools at the bar. She sat on the one at the corner. As she was sipping her beer a man came in and, despite the 10 other empty barstools remaining, each one progressively further away from her, he wanted to sit on the one immediately next to her.

    “Is someone sitting here?” he said.

    “Nope,” she said.

    “Do you mind if I sit here?” he said.

    “Nope,” she said.

    “Are you having a good day?” he said.

    “Nope,” she said.

    “Me neither,” he said.

    “Okay,” she said.

    She paid her tab and left.

    On Friday she called a mechanic to get her car fixed, then called a tow service to collect the car and take it to the mechanic. The mechanic had asked her what was wrong with the car.

    “I don’t know,” she said.

    “Well, what’s it doing?” he said.

    “Nothing,” she said.

    “Nothing?” he said.

    “Right,” she said.

    “Okay,” he said.

    On Saturday the mechanic called and told her she could come and pick up her car. She told him she didn’t want it.

    “But you had it towed here for service,” he said.

    “I know,” she said.

    “Well, now it’s fixed, so you can have it back,” he said.

    “No thank you,” she said, and hung up.

    She walked to the grocery store, bought two mangoes, and ate them as she walked back. She contemplated how much more detail you noticed when you were walking instead of driving. She’d never realized the house three doors down had tulips in the window boxes. All of the tulips were red, except for one, which was yellow. The yellow tulip was her favorite. In her mind, she named it Earl. Her second favorite tulip was the third red tulip from the right in the window box of the window on the downstairs window to the left of the front door.

    She thought about knocking on the door and talking with this neighbor about the tulips, but she’d never met the people who lived in that house and she wasn’t much of a conversationalist. Besides that, her fingers were sticky from the mangoes, and she’d probably be expected to shake hands with whoever answered the door. She was already well past the house now, anyway, and didn’t feel like turning back.

    On Sunday she ate peppermint candies and cried for three hours. Then she called work. The male manager answered the phone, and she told him she’d be back on Monday.

    “You mean tomorrow?” he said.

    “Yes,” she said.

    “Okay,” he said, and hung up.

    © 2013 by Jennifer R.R. Mueller