Ponder this:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I was in the local drugstore, chatting with the clerk while I waited for a prescription. Absently, I registered the chime that accompanied the door opening, and on a wisp of wind a small older woman appeared to my left. Tidy and clean, gingham shirt tucked into belted pants, light auburn perm-curly hair held back from her face by a bandanna headband. Think perky Claudette Colbert in The Egg and I. Except older of course, with eyeglasses, and lipstick that had bled and dried only the tiniest bit into the creases around her lips, which were already in motion. 
In this scene from the movie "The Egg and I," Claudette Colbert stands alongside Percy Kilbride, playing Pa Kettle, as he shakes hands with Fred MacMurray. While the movie characters were based on MacDonald's book, they were turned from fond portrayals into caricatures. Nonetheless, the movie spawned a series of popular films based on the Kettle family and caused MacDonald's reputation as a serious writer to slip.


"Girls! Girls! Help me."
She bristled with commanding presence. Her blue eyes looked hard into both of our faces. She reached out and laid one hand on each of us. So great was her fervor that the clerk and I were transfixed. I thought she'd just had her purse snatched. I had a momentary vision of my running out the door and down the village sidewalk in pursuit of the evildoer.
"Do you know of a small . . . decent, you know what I mean . . . apartment for rent? Or even a house! A small house, because . . . you know what I mean.
"Here's why: I'm a recent widow... I'm not going to cry!"
She closed her eyes and tightened her lips for a moment.
"Do you believe in God? I do. Do you believe in God? I'm a Christian.
"What's your name, Darling?"
I told her and she repeated it. "It sounds so . . . show biz! And I was in the business!"
A soup├žon of Brooklynese, or perhaps just the kind of larger-than-life confidence that I associate with downstaters, in her delivery . . . I did not doubt for a moment that she had been in Show Biz. She had mastered the art of the Dramatic Pause.
She said my name again, looking at me with her head tipped back slightly and smiling.
"Do you know what my name is? I'll tell you! Millie Teri! Get it? Military!" 
She saluted, a little toy soldier.
"I'm a recent widow... I'm not going to cry... But I am, if you know what I mean."
Her head thrust forward toward the clerk, a Brave Smile armoring her face.
"Do you have any advice for me? Do you?"
Her hands were still on our arms, keeping our attention, clutching more tightly at emotional moments.
"I'm staying with . . . a friend. A very compassionate friend, who offered me a home. But I feel . . . limited. If you know what I mean. Not by anything she does or says. You know what I mean. I want my own space. And I love animals."
Each of us had offered possibilities (mine had been rejected for being on Main Street), and the clerk said, wincing, fearful of disappointing: "I don't know if animals are allowed in the apartment..."
"I said I loved them! I didn't say I had any! Tell me! Tell me! Where is it, Darling!
"What's your name? Oh, that's a nice name. Did I tell you my name? Millie Teri!"
She did the little toy soldier salute.
I stood in thrall long enough that my prescription arrived, the clerk swiped my prescription card for me and packed my small bundle while I stood riveted by Millie Teri (salute!). Millie insisted on giving me her name and telephone number. Her signature was flourished and large: an autograph.
"Don't forget me! Please!
"I couldn't if I tried," I said, rolling my eyes with a laugh. "I have your phone number right here in my wallet where I'll see it all the time."
The transaction gave my rabbity instincts the opportunity to kick in and I was out the door. I could hear, behind me, Millie still imploring and demanding.


When I got home I contacted a Realtor friend, described Millie and her wish, gave her Millie's phone number. I hope Millie finds her apartment or small house. If I hear of something I certainly will call her. I hope, though, that she misses my call and I have to leave the information on an answering machine. 

20 comments:

Sightings said...

So I had to google Millie Teri, and I found one ref. -- to an actress who played the "weeping woman" in the TV version of Stephen King's "The Stand." Think she's the same person?

June said...

I'm pretty sure that's the lady, Sightings.

Tamara said...

This is just priceless! Love it!

rachel said...

Oh, the tension between the desire to help, to rescue, and those sensible rabbity tendencies! Fun and a little daunting at the same time..... (salute)

Carolynn said...

Sounds like she's teetering on the edge of something...hope the ol' dear is alright.

Majid Ali said...

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threecollie said...

That is quite a story. Sure an amazing world. Hope she finds just what she is looking for.

VioletSky said...

see, you try to help one person and another (majid ali) pops up with a request.

Barb said...

I hope there is nothing for rent right beside your house!

Woodswalker said...

You never know what kind of fun each day will bring!

VM Sehy Photography said...

If someone hadn't already found some proof that her story is legit, I'd have said trust those rabbity instincts. I kept waiting for the punchline. The thing she did or said that would let me in on the scam. Still feels like a Traverlers bit to me. She constantly reiterates that she's widowed. She gets your name, but gives you a play on words for hers. The pace of her speech doesn't leave you time to think or ask questions and just for good measure she tosses in God. I'd still be careful.

English Rider said...

I'm glad that you tried to help her. She could be any of us one day.

Linda said...

How funny, like in odd. I would want to help also but would probably not give her my name. Always the skeptic.

Hilary said...

What a cool interaction. You brought her to life for the rest of us. Thank you for that.

Naqvee said...

your post about millie reminds me of this homeless old lady who keeps roaming on the streets of my colony and keeps asking money to get her daughters married from past many years, she looks as if she once belonged to a good family but she was kicked out of her house being old and cranky with her relatives .. God better knows... Such incidents bring crease to my forehead as even after helping such people emotionally and monetarily .. the help doesn't and never seem to be enough.

Thanks for the good read.
Got navigated here from Hilary

Naqvee ♥

TexWisGirl said...

oh, can you imagine the friend that has her staying with them? wow!

congrats on your POTW!

Kat said...

Oh I love her. She sounds a tad like my mother, though my mom isn't THAT dramatic. Close. ;)

Congrats on your well deserved POTW!

Elizabeth Grimes said...

This is hilarious! You're a wonderful writer. Congrats on your POTW!

missing moments said...

What a great read. Delightful!
Congrats on your POTW!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Great story. Yes, I think I might miss that call, too.

I saw The Egg and I. I read the book, too. Loved it. Betty MacDonald - aka Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.