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The Old Woman in the Shoe
by Melissa Martin
10/09/2011 / Short Stories
BuzzzThe alarm on her clock shatters the morning silence. Sundays arrive fast. Just enough time to brew a pot of coffee. Mabel hobbles to her seat beside the window as she ignores the peeling paint and sagging ceiling. She has a direct view of the little red brick church. In the spring the tree leaves almost hide the building but the white double doors stay exposed. Mabel patiently waits.
Pastor Duckworth, his wife Chicken Little, and their four ugly ducklings arrive first. The greasy deacons arrive next. As usual Snooty Samantha and Pouty Pam stroll up the steps with elaborate flower arrangements on their heads. Big Bertha hurriedly stumbles up the steps while clutching her books and papers. Weird Wally in his starched shirt and high-water pants is usually the last person to arrive. "What a sight!" Mabel hollers and chuckles. She nicknames the entire congregation. The rusty old organ cranks out a screeching tune. Brother Tone-death bellows out Amazing Grace every week. Mabel sets glued to the window seat until the last member goes home. "What a bunch of self-righteous old snoops," she mutters to Squeakers the cat.
"Throw the rocks and run!" whispers Teddy to Peter. They like to taunt the old wrinkled woman in the shabby shack. "Get out of here you hoodlums!" Mabel screams in her crusty voice. "You're an old woman in a shoe. Where's your kids? They ran away from you," the boys chant as they sprint down the dirt road. A wave of self-pity sweeps over Mabel. The last time she saw her two sons was at the state penitentiary two years ago. Mable knows the town folk think she is loony but the only reason she fired her shotgun at Pastor Duckworth and the greasy deacons was to keep them from inviting her to church. She purposely fired over their heads. Sheriff Brown didn't do a thing except to scold her a little. "Get off my property!" she yelled as soon as she saw a hint of pity in his eyes. Mabel hated people to pity her and she didn't care what they thought.
"Squeakers, it's time to come in the house," she croons. "Ouch!" she almost falls over the crate by the door. Another box filled with jars of tasty applebutter and fruity jam. Mabel smells the sweet aroma of another blackberry pie and the fresh bouquets of Lilac and Honeysuckle. Every week a box is left on her porch. "Probably some old busybody who is spying on me," she complains to Squeakers. Mabel hates do-gooders.
The next day turns hot and humid. "Lady, here's your groceries!" yells the young freckle-faced teenager from the broken front porch steps. He acts like the house will bite him. Mabel slaps the wad of one-dollar bills into his handand then everything goes black. When she awakes, old Doc Olson is leaning over her hospital bed. 'Mabel, you've experienced another heart attack and I want to do some tests this time," he gently but firmly orders. She is too tired to argue back.
Pastor Duckworth and Chicken Little visit her daily. Their real names are Samuel and Esther Hiles. Being polite, they make small talk about the hospital food. The shotgun episode is not mentioned. The four ugly ducklings volunteer to feed Squeakers so Mabel tries to be cordial. Squeakers is all she has.
"Mabel, you're well enough to go home," Doc Olson informs her three weeks later. "But you need to take care of yourself, eat right, and stop staying cooped up in that house twenty-four hours a day!" Mabel bristles, "Doc, I thank you for helping me but I don't need any of your lip. Now please drive me home."
"Well look at that!" Doc exclaims in surprise. Mabel sets frozen to the car seat. It is rare to see her speechless. Her shabby house is gone. A brightly painted yellow house stares back at her. The junky cars in the front yard are replaced with flowerpots. The holes in the roof are repaired. The greasy deacons greet her from the new front porch swing. Snooty Samantha and Pouty Pam place a large bunch of flowers in her arms. Big Bertha offers her a blackberry pie. Brother Tone-death holds a basket full of jam and applebutter. The four ugly ducklings lovingly stroke Squeakers. Tears well up in her eyes. "Mabel, you're not going to use the shotgun again, are you?" Pastor Hiles teases.
BuzzzThe alarm clock shatters the morning silence. The smell of coffee and biscuits soon fill the cozy remodeled kitchen. Mabel waltzes to the window. The little red brick church looks inviting. She hurriedly dresses. "What will people think if I'm late to church?" she jokingly asks Squeakers.
Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.
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