Saturday, February 07, 2015

Almost at the Apple store

Smokers, fiddling with their keyboards, were sitting on the bench outside the Apple store. One woman with exceptionally long red fingernails waved her cigarette with one hand, pushed her glasses back up on her nose with her elbow and poked at her iPad keyboard with her free hand. Her black sweater was a poor choice for a hot day in Temecula and her brown pants pulled tightly across her belly. Her legs were crossed and a thick strip of pale skin showed between the pant leg and her shoe. She had that kind of wiry grey brown hair that's hard to keep under control; curls sprung up this way and that. Her upper lip was ridged from corner to corner with deep smoker's wrinkles.  A red leash was looped around her wrist and attached to a black lab seated behind the bench, his pink tongue hanging out loosely, saliva making a little pool on the ground. 

Her eyes brushed over me as I passed by. I could hear her stressed voice. "I'm not exactly sure Harry. Hold your horses! Let me play with it for a minute and see what happens." Harry looked exasperated and doubtful, trying to nudge the dog out of the way so he could get a better look over her shoulder. You got the idea that Harry was probably always standing behind. Short and fat, he looked like he'd run completely out of testosterone and now pliable as play-doh he waited for the little woman to decide what they'd do next.

He reminded me of my ex-father-in-law, a kind and congenial but dull man. My mother-in-law, his third wife, once told me woman-to-woman while we were preparing breakfast together,  "He didn't really pick me: I was simply convenient. After wife number 2 died, he walked down the street until he bumped into someone who needed marrying, like an old hound dog goes along looking for a scent."

Next to the Apple store, the Coach store was empty. Two or three purses were featured in the window, artfully lit. A striking display, it's too subtle for our little mall where you find the crowds at Forever 21, H & M, or Abercrombie and Fitch. 

Years ago, I treated myself to a black leather Coach purse (just like this one pictured on an Etsy site) after completing a particularly hard job. Dazzled by the brand, I liked the idea of owning it more than the purse itself which was too heavy on my shoulder and weighed me down. Once, I was going through security at John Wayne airport just ahead of a woman dealing with a couple of toddlers. As my purse emerged gloriously from the x-ray machine, she looked at me and said, "Ha - I remember those days when I was single. I had a bag just like that!" Our eyes met and I groped for an appropriate response like "And now - look at lucky you with your diaper bag!" I smiled at her, slung the bag over my shoulder and walked on. I should have emptied it out and given it to her. 

Instead, I felt burdened with that bag for a long time. After a dozen years moving it around in my closet, I finally took it to the Angel Shop to donate along with a bag of old clothes. A month later, I picked up a very old woman who was slowly trudging down Alvarado street. "Where do you want to go?" I asked her. "The Angel Shop," she replied. "It's my favorite place. I got this purse there." She held up a black leather Coach bag exactly like mine. Bingo. Resurrection. 
Image "borrowed" from the Angel Shop website


  1. Love the line: "He didn't really pick me: I was simply convenient. After wife number 2 died, he walked down the street until he bumped into someone who needed marrying, like an old hound dog goes along looking for a scent."

  2. OMG ! I love this story, from beginning to end. Did it all really happen? Even the old lady and the purse!!! I was about ready to rush to the Angel Shop to get the purse. I'm glad it went to a good home.

  3. Anonymous1:15 PM

    I'm always afraid I'm going to buy something back that I've donated (by mistake). This was a great story - the coach bag story and also the description of the couple at the apple store.
    I think it's about time you started your great American novel. I think you've got it in you. Remember your idea about doing a novel about lost rings? How about that one? Then I could be in it because of my lost ring story.