Our Story A Day prompt is a list of words. A looonnnng list of words. When I do word prompts, it’s usually maybe three words, tops, but Julie is a taskmistress! 😉
My Holly prompt for today is “etymology or entomology.”
I’ll also have a one-liner at the end.
Picnic With an Ant
Houston always sees the bright side. Sometimes, it’s what I love best about him. Sometimes, like now, it irritates the shit out of me.
“It’ll be fun! Lacy, Honey-Pie, Sugar-Plum, it’ll be fuhhhhhhhn!” He embraces me from behind, his feet wide apart, and makes me sway back and forth, off-balance, until I laugh.
“Just to be clear,” I say, with exaggerated pronunciation. “I did not invite her.” Still mincing my words, I said, “I did not say I wanted her to come on this picnic with us.”
Houston released me and stood, heels together, hands folded together over his waist, head cocked to one side and lips pursed, the very picture of the old first-grade teacher we had each had, and who we were now discussing.
“Very good,” he said, in her sharp voice. “Distinct speech is the hallmark of an ed-u-ca-ted mind, children.”
“What’s pretending you were invited to a picnic when you were only informed that one was taking place?”
Houston and I had just moved back to town and wanted to celebrate with a picnic in our favorite park, which we had scoped out while house-hunting and had found just as beautiful as we remembered it. While Houston had shopped for a grill and charcoal and I had picked up groceries, I had run into our old teacher. Before I recognized her, I had offered to help her lift a bag of dog food into her cart. She had hefted it herself, saying, “I’m old, not weak.” That tartness was unmistakable, and, surprised at how little she had changed over the years, I had volunteered the fact that “Houey” and I were married and going on a picnic. And she had said, “Why, thank you, Lacy. I’d love to. What time will you pick me up?”
Now, Houston said, “Maybe the old gal’s lonely. She was Miss Pismyre when we had her, and she was a hundred years old, then. And how many friends do you reckon a pickled prune like that would gather around her?”
He clapped his hands, again in imitation of our old teacher. “Don’t be slow, children. Sloth is the hallmark of a disorderly mind.”
On the way to pick her up, we sang the first-graders’ secret anthem, passed down from year to year: “Our old teacher is a pissmire! Our old teacher is a pissmire! Our old teacher is a pissmire, and she’ll pinch you ’til you bleed!” Miss Pismyre never pinched us, by the way, except verbally. We had, of course, adored being able to say the syllable “piss” as part of a legitimate word, which, now that I thought of it, Miss Pismyre had taught us.
“Pissmire is an old word for ant, children. Ants are industrious and community-minded. I’m proud to be associated with such good citizens.”
I pulled up to the curb, turned off the motor, and said, “She’s not coming. Let’s go.”
Houston pretended to fight me for the keys. “Give her time! She’s not as spry as she used to be.”
Spry not being a word we had ever associated with Miss Pismyre, we dissolved in giggles until a sharp rap at Houston’s window sobered us up.
Houston got out, ceding shotgun to Miss Pismyre while he took the seat behind her.
He and I exchanged raised eyebrows: She was wearing blue jeans and a green t-shirt with If you can read this, thank a teacher! in yellow letters. She carried a tote bag imprinted with the logo of the local public radio station, and had a red fanny pack strapped around her waist. Oh, and socks with corgis on them, and bright blue running shoes.
She checked her wristwatch–trust her to still wear a wristwatch–and said, “I don’t want to press you for time, but I must be home by four. I’m pet-sitting my neice’s pug. Under duress, because he is not the best-behaved animal, but one accomodates one’s family.”
“One certainly does,” Houston said, who had not wanted to leave Connecticut, but had come back, since I was willing, to look after his aging parents. Mine were happy in assisted living in Florida.
We promised we’d have her home by four. I suspected we’d have her home long before that, but I would have been wrong.
It was a beautiful day, and the park was packed. And everybody knew Miss Pismyre. Hardly surprising, since she had taught so many first graders over the years, and their children and their grandchildren. What surprised us was how happy everybody was to see her. It wasn’t just that everybody recognized her. Everybody knew her. Everybody liked her. They teased her. She laughed with them.
She had tubes of sunscreen in her totebag for people she scolded for not having any, and they thanked her and kissed her cheek. She gave them statistics on food poisoning, if she suspected they were undercooking the meat on their grills. (Houston liked his brats with the skin black and cracking, so we were safe.)
Her totebag also contained a tablecloth and two bench-covers, so we wouldn’t sit or serve lunch on unhygenic surfaces. And–by this time, we weren’t stunned–a bottle of plum wine.
The afternoon flew by. She told us about her sisters and brothers, neices and nephews, great-neices and great-nephews, the former students who were now this and that in town or this and that in other towns but kept in touch with her or with others who were in touch with her. She knew about my parents. She knew about Houston’s parents. She knew not to ask us if we were ever going to have children.
We barely got her home by four. In fact, as we pulled away, I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw another car take our place.
At home, as we sat on the patio and watched as fireflies shimmered in the grass, the trees, the air, as we listened to the cicadas and the tree frogs, we finally said what we and each been thinking: Nothing had made us feel more like adults that our picnic with Miss Pismyre. And we wondered, Miss Pismyre being Miss Pismyre, if she had invited herself along as a gift to us. Because unobtrusive generosity is the hallmark of a lady.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: distinct, weak, volunteered, slow, coming,
time, duress, suspected, shimmy, listened. Entomology or etymology