Threesome (after Kathy Fish)

1.

The old woman lay by the side of the road, dabbing her cheeks with a tissue. A girl walking past her on the sidewalk asked if she needed help. I’m just resting here in my hammock, trying to beat the heat, the old woman said. The girl, dressed in black shoes, black stockings and skirt and sweater, said that’s not a hammock, that’s a shallow ditch. She stepped off the sidewalk and stood looking down at the old woman. At the edge of the road, a police car pulled up and stopped next to the curb, flashers flashing.

Fredrika, the old woman said to the girl. Is that you?

I’m not Fredrika.

The officer got out of his car, shaded his eyes against the bright sun. Latched to the back of his belt, his handcuffs jingled. 

Officer, the old woman said, this is Fredrika. I taught 52 years at Woodland Elementary. She was one of my best students. She patted perspiration on her forehead. The girl turned to the cop and said, My name’s not Fredrika. 

The officer stepped down into the grassy ditch, into the inviting shade of a large maple tree. He remembered the cool fruit drinks his grandmother poured from a blue ceramic pitcher years ago. Is this your house, ma’am? Do you know what day it is? 

The old woman smiled and said no, and yes, it was Independence Day. 

When they stood her up, the cop thought if they let her go she might liquify, she might just melt into a puddle on the ground. They helped her to the police car. Am I under arrest? the old woman said. Are you arresting me? I know my rights.

Be still now, the officer said. I’m taking you in.  

2.

An old woman lay in a shallow ditch by the side of the road, dabbing her cheeks with a tissue. Can you help me, she said, motioning to a girl walking by on the sidewalk. The girl, dressed in black shoes, black stockings and skirt and sweater, was listening to Alice in Chains on her phone. She plucked out an earbud and said, What? The old woman waved her tissue, a distress signal. I can’t get up from here, she said. The girl stepped off the sidewalk and stood looking down at the old woman. At the edge of the road, a police car pulled up and stopped next to the curb, flashers flashing.

Mrs Foulds, the girl said. Is that you?

Mrs. Lorene Foulds, yes. I taught 52 years at Woodland Elementary. Were you one of my pupils?

The officer got out of his car, shaded his eyes against the bright sun. Latched to the back of his belt, his handcuffs jingled. 

You were the meanest teacher I ever had, the girl said. You pulled my hair and called me dumb. The girl grabbed the woman’s tissue, wadded it up, and threw it in the street. Help me, officer, the old woman said, this girl pushed me down, she tried to steal my purse. 

The officer stepped down into the grassy ditch, into the inviting shade of a large maple. He heard a staticky chir coming from the girl’s earbuds and asked her to please shut the music off. He held out a hand and said let’s get you back on your feet, Mrs. Foulds. 

The old woman smiled and said Happy Independence Day, Officer Jules. 

When he stood her up, she clung to the cop’s hand, her long painted red nails sinking into his skin. Arrest that girl, the old woman said. A law-abiding citizen can’t even walk down the street these days. 

She’s lying, the girl said. You got no proof.

Be still now, the officer said. Both of you.

3.

An old woman lay in a shallow ditch by the side of the road, dabbing her cheeks with a tissue. Can you help me, she said, motioning to a girl walking by on the sidewalk. The girl, dressed in black shoes, black stockings and skirt and sweater, was listening to “Bleed the Freak” by Alice in Chains on her phone. The old woman said, Why look at your face. It’s full of holes. The girl stepped off the sidewalk and stood over the old woman. At the edge of the road, a police car pulled up and stopped next to the curb, flashers flashing.

Mrs Foulds, the girl said, is that you?

Mrs. Lorene Foulds, yes. I taught 52 years at Woodland Elementary. You have a ring in your nose.

The officer got out of his car, shaking his head in disgust. Latched to the back of his belt, his handcuffs jingled. 

You were the meanest teacher I ever had, the girl said. You slapped Hannah Conway’s face.  You smashed Randy Nevers’ mouth into a drinking fountain and broke his teeth. The girl grabbed the woman’s tissue, wadded it up, and threw it in the grass. Help me, Officer Jules, the old woman said, this girl is using bad language, she assaulted me. 

The officer stepped down into the grassy ditch, into the inviting shade of a large maple. He heard a staticky chir coming from the girl’s earbuds and nodded his approval. What’re we up to now, Mrs. Foulds? 

The old woman opened her purse and pulled out another tissue. The girl grabbed it, wadded it up, and threw it in the grass. The officer held out his hand.  Will you come with me, please, miss?

I thought I taught you better, the old woman said. She pulled another tissue from her purse. I taught you better.

The officer and the girl got into the squad car. His radio squawked as he called for backup, then drove away, the siren screaming.

2 Comments

  1. Wow, everyone’s own perspective.

  2. katcunning says:

    Fascinating, Rick. Made me think of both a Zen story & of Kurosawa’s “Rashomon.” You are becoming ever more philosophical.

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