Sunday, August 28, 2016


Miss Mavis Meeker was a flappy-clothes, tall lank lady who loved gossip, and she could insert her beanpole self into the tiniest niches---for hiding and overhearing, or for barging in and asking.  It seemed as if carrying around all those rumors kept her thin as jogging, for she was the one who “sold out” from the Fund-Raiser Tea before scones, to get home to the phone when she heard that old Mr. Halliburton got caught retrieving his hearing aid from the back seat of a married lady’s car. 

She had a need-to-know like no one else in Paxton, and her curiosity grew with each year of her inquiring life.   She’d drive out through the country roads, looking and scanning and taking note of who had nice yards and who’d just had a dish installed and if the Covingtons' children were visiting.   She’d go through an unfamiliar place, and would turn around and come back down the road to see if she could see a name on the other side of a mailbox, frowning and getting a grump on her face if she didn’t, for she simply MUST know who lived where, even if she didn’t KNOW the who.

She traded in “good works” in her information quest, walking an apronful of tomatoes from her garden down the street to the house where a strange car had been parked for several days, trying to peer around the door when it was opened, to see if the Boyette girl had left her husband again and come back to stay with her Mama 'n'em.   If ever a stranger or anyone in law enforcement knocked on a neighbor’s door, she’d make sure she was outside with some little chore so that she could hear or see whatever happened, or she’d grab up a few flowers and take them innocently over just for an excuse to hang around.

She was the first to take a dish by the home of the bereaved, and also took pains to be the first to view a corpse.  She’d been known to wait outside the funeral home in her car til they opened the doors.  She’d stand right by the casket, looking her eyes full, and then  would circle the room like a name-dropper at a cocktail party, pronouncing how the departed looked---from Natchrul to Peekid to They Did All They Could, with a sly peek at the listeners for their reactions.   Closed casket funerals put her off kilter for a week, not being able to assess the make-up, or if they were wasted away, and all.

Being first at the house after the news spread of the death was important, so she could see “how they took it.”  Folks in town swore that  she had four cakes, two casseroles and a banana puddin’ on hand at all times---no WAY she could whip up a dish that fast. 

If Evelyn Couch, inquiring after Ont Vesta in the nursing home, were as nosy as all get-out, and a tee-nincey bit on the obnoxious side, she’d have sounded like Mavis Meeker. 

Miss Mavis would approach a lady, dozing in her wheelchair in the hall---the fact of the lady’s being in Golden Years had, in Mavis’s mind, conferred an immediate mantle of senility upon check-in.   She thought of them all as having been “committed,” as one would have been to Whitfield, the moment they left their own abodes to live at “The Home.”

But she visited them just the same, thinking that if any geriatric mind-mishap might have dampened their filters, she could just ask anything about anybody, and they’d give her the answer.   If they remembered it.   Like where DID the Finch girl go that time when she left school to travel Europe with her Aunt, or who WAS it that Harliss McIntire was with up at Clarksdale that time Mac shot the tires out on her Cadillac? 

She’d arrive at Golden Years, look up and down the halls for a likely victim, and home in.   She wasn’t above going right in a door where someone was sleeping, making herself at home, and rustling about a bit to wake the unwary soul, and had no qualms about asking prying, pointed questions. 

 Until Miss Martha Bridger, that is, who had never had much of a filter to start with, and had taught sixth grade boys for enough years to inure her to any inquiry, expletive, observation, or gesture. 

“Miss Marthy!!” Mavis trumpeted, apparently also convinced that passing eighty rendered her victim deaf, “Do ye know who Aaah ayum?”

A long, testy no-nonsense teacher-look from Miss Martha, and a little complete-circle-like-clock-hands of her tight-pursed lips before she spoke.

“AA’ve known ye all yeh lahfe, Mavis, and ye habm’t improved.”


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