One of the nice things about belonging to
an APA is that quite often you come across an article or a fan writer that you'd ordinarily
never see. The following is a case in point, and recently appeared in SAPS.
- - - - - - - -The Untimely Mrs. Jones
by Meg Stull
Sometimes life seems wonderfully fine, even when it's full of Life's Little Disasters. Right off the top of my head, I can't think of anything that's gone as planned recently. I'm sicker than I was three months ago. The plant where Ed works is only working a four day work week. A prolonged plague of feline distemper killed off all but one of our cats in spite of our spending a small fortune in vet bills, and we aren't even planting a garden this year. All in all, I can think of a hundred and one good solid reasons to be depressed. But somehow I'm not...
Ed and I had been planning in engaging in a little Afternoon Delight one afternoon when Mrs. Jones showed up with a tuna casserole. Now, Mrs. Jones is our closest neighbor, geographically speaking, but try as we might, we have never quite managed to make friends with her. She's as close to the stereotypical spinster schoolmarm as you can find in real life, and she always manages to catch us in our most singular moments.
There are a lot of misunderstandings between us -- stuff like the times our mail lady left my fannish mail in Mrs. Jones' box by mistake. The first time it happened, the mail in question was an issue of Holier Than Thou; the next time it was a Cultic fractional entitled "Large Painful Turds." (And some fannish friends still wonder why I strongly favor mail in plain brown wrappers.) (( Besides being in SAPS, Meg is also a member of The Cult, a rotating-editor letter apa. )) When our phone was on a party line, Mrs. Jones picked up at all the wrong moments. It took a lot of explaining before she was finally convinced that a 'Cultic Seance' had nothing to do with a coven of witches gathering 'round the bubbling brew. After all, she'd heard with her own ears that Steve had brought a new bubbling brew to the Cultic seance. Then there was the time I had a bathtub full of washing photos and Mrs. Jones heard Ed complain that he couldn't take a bath because the tub "was full of naked ladies and Michael in his jockey shorts."
But you get the general idea. I can understand why Mrs. Jones has always looked at us with a vague sense of alarm. She's really a very nice lady, and even after nine years of this kind of nonsense, she still tries her best to be neighborly, by doing things like bringing us a tuna fish casserole when I'm sick and money is a bit tight.
Unfortunately, she has a lousy sense of timing...
When the doorbell rang I wasn't completely undressed yet so I quickly threw on some clothes. Since I really want to make friends with Mrs. Jones, I invited her in for some cookies and coffee. She never stays long. I said Ed was upstairs "taking a nap," and I assumed he could hear us well enough through the open stairwell to know what was keeping me away from our eagerly anticipated entertainment. It wasn't more than two minutes after we sat down that Rufus demanded to go outside. The conversation paused while I escorted our dog to the door and Mrs. Jones perched on the edge of the sofa, politely munching an Oreo and sipping coffee.
Apparently Ed heard the back door close, and assumed Mrs. Jones had left, because, seconds later, he bounded downstairs, completely naked, arms open wide, shouting, "SURPRISE! I'm ready!" (And, believe me, he was ready... How embarrassing!) Unfortunately I was just coming out of the kitchen and it was Mrs. Jones who caught the full view of my husband.
Mrs. Jones fell off the sofa and choked. I mean the lady literally choked on a piece of cookie, and while we were standing there stunned, she started to slowly turn blue. Ed, who is always good in a crunch, was the first to realize what was going on. He hauled her to her feet and successfully administered the Heimlich maneuver after a few unsuccessful tries. In fact, he ultimately was so successful that not only did the cookie come flying out of her mouth, so did her upper plate. I bent down and picked up her teeth, but I sure didn't know what to say. There we stood, Ed stark naked, still supporting Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Jones gasping for breath, and me standing there like an idiot, holding a set of false teeth. In high school our dorm mother always used to say that a true lady could make anyone feel comfortable, no matter what the circumstances -- but, damn it, she never saw these circumstances!
Mrs. Jones is nothing if not a lady. As soon as she caught her breath (going through some truly amazing color changes in the process) she started to giggle. And then she started to laugh. And pretty soon all three of us were laughing so hard we had to sit down. When we were done laughing, Mrs. Jones insisted that we really didn't need to take her to a hospital. If we'd let her rest while she finished her coffee and Oreos, she'd be fine.
Ed excused himself to go put on a robe, and Mrs. Jones excused herself for a second to run some water over her teeth, while I got another plate of cookies. We sat around and talked small talk for about half an hour, and when she got up to leave, Mrs. Jones, hale and hearty, without a hair our of place, put a spindly arm around each of us. She gave us a gentle hug, and said, "The two of you are the most entertaining young couple I know."
I think there's hope for a friendship there yet!
All illustrations by Wade Gilbreath