One Tuesdays and Wednesday Agatha was there, she’d bring her own simple canvas camping stool to sit on while she waited for the bus and sometimes she smoked and said nothing and sometimes she would tell me about her husband:
He drinks to much.
He smokes to much.
His health is bad.
He talks to much.
He could be wicked mean.
When she married him her family wrote her off and her son refuses to speak to her.
She didn’t seem to be terribly bothered by the fact her family wasn’t in her life.
He used to be good looking but now, Agatha said about her husband. He’s sort of desiccated looking and she wonders how much longer he can actually live for.
His liver and kidneys are bad and his lungs aren’t in good shape either.
Can’t be easy, she said, for his body and soul to keep together like that. Eventually she would mused the entire works was bound to break down.
She didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that her husband didn’t sound like he was longed for this world.
Once I said I was sorry for her troubles. It sounded like she had lost and was losing more then anyone should have to bear.
When the bus pulled up Agatha would toss her cigarette into the gutter, fold up her chair and said, before we got on the bus ” I think that when you lose something, it’s probably better if you don’t go looking for it. It’s like when an animal gets sick or hurt and wanders off and you go looking for it and when you find it, it practically rips your head off and then it kicks the bucket right there in front of you.
When something wants to be lost and die that bad. Let it, Agatha told me.
I see your point, I told her. I’ll keep it in mind.
When I was in the 5th Grade, our PTA organized after school projects where you could learn to cross stitch, or draw or build toy rockets, I think you could join an after school sports team where you could play indoor hockey and there may have been a bike riding club too.
The guys who learned to build the rockets had the most fun because they had ‘launch day’.
Some of the rockets never left the ground or they left the ground and went sideways and sometimes they ended up in the backyard next to our play ground where these two horse sized Alaskan Malamutes lived.
The male was named Zeke and if the rocket’s parachute ended up near him he’d grab what was left, chew it up and then he’d sit there with the pieces hanging out of his mouth and dared you to take them.
He’d sit there, look at you and dare you to climb the fence and pry your parachute out of his alligator sized jaws that were full his alligator sized teeth.
Zeke had actually been a sled dog in his other life, before his owner gave up the hobby and sent Zeke and his ‘wife’ Rascal down to Washington to live with her son.
Those dogs never snapped, growled or bit anyone but no one wanted to go near them…because I kid you not they were GIGANTIC.
Now, when I said that ‘the guys’ built the toy rockets and had launch day I’m not using slang for ” everyone”. It was mostly boys who built the rockets and got to have launch day.
I did the girl stuff, which is fine because my cross stictching actually came in handy when I was an Morticians Apprentice. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
So while the after school projects went into high gear ( they were fun, even if you couldn’t do ‘boy stuff ‘ or ‘ girl stuff’ because that’s the way the world turned back then ) I enjoyed them because on my way home I stopped off and played with Zeke and Rascal.
Here’s the skinny.
I was raised around Saint Bernards and Great Danes so even though Zeke and Rascal were horse sized dogs, it didn’t phase me. I thought they looked like Panda Bears and when I scratched Zeke behind his ears, he’d roll his eyes up into his head and of melt like a scoop of ice cream on a hot day.
So at the end of the Rocket Building ( the projects were winding down at this point because Summer Vacation was about to start) The boys in the rocket club had Launch Day and some of the Volunteers brought popcorn and we sat on the hill and watched the rockets pop or not pop and we watched three of them sail over the fence into Zeke’s waiting jaws.
I didn’t care about two of the doomed rockets but the third belonged to my friend Darren and that parachute was like a trophy and I know he had really wanted to add it to his collection.
I don’t know why, that’s just what the boys did.
So, I trotted over to the fence- which was around six feet, climbed it ( because it was faster then walking around plus there was a rule that if you left school grounds on Project Days you couldn’t come back ) and dropped to the other side.
There were screams, there were shrieks, there were kids screaming I was going to die- I think I heard a few adults screaming too and then I went to Zeke, popped my finger between his teeth and fished the parachute out.
Then I climbed back over the fence and gave Darren his parachute.
It was years before I really thought about Rocket Day.
I was a girl so I wasn’t encouraged to build rockets – toy rockets or real ones. I was a girl so did it matter I sucked at Math? It did not.
But when it came to running a rescue mission that involved scaling a fence and facing dogs with alligator sized teeth and prying a trophy from out of a set of monster sized jaws…, I could do and it didn’t matter that I was ” just a girl “
It wasn’t rocket science, it was about guts and I knew how to use them.