I stopped at the kiosk to ask Kim about lodging for a summer visitor whose little Yorkie wouldn’t be able to climb the ladder to the guest loft. I saw Pattie Whitaker outside, holding a bag of ice and talking to Kim about the awning installation underway at G-18. Pattie asked me if I needed help and I shook my head. I explained that I was going to Lodi to see if they had knee braces at CVS. “My artificial knee quit working right a few years ago, and it seems to be even more damaged now,” I explained. Pattie said, “Was that the clicking noise I heard the other day,” and I sighed.
They agreed that the pharmacy in Rio might have what I needed. I headed off to town, thankful for the advice which could save me an hour’s trip. At the drugstore, a cheerful girl with purple hair and a Tree of Life tattoo on her arm let me open the packaging of the one option that seemed likely. We studied the nurepreen contraption for a few minutes, then looked at each other. She smiled hopefully. I stuffed the thing back into its box and said I’d take it. I mentioned that I liked her hair. She said, “I’m really glad you told me that,” as though some one had expressed a contrary view. The pharmacist raised his eyes from the counter above us. I got the idea that he might have been the most vocal of the dissenters.
“I’m glad I got to see your hair,” I insisted. I shot the boss a daring glance before limping out of the store.
In Lira’s, the local market, I pushed a buggy to the vegetable aisle. A clerk stood near the avocados loading produce iinto bins. “How are you today,” he asked. “I can’t complain,” I admitted. He didn’t know me and had no idea what I meant. So he gave me the standard line: “Me neither,” he vouchsafed, with a hearty laugh. “Wouldn’t do any good. Nobody would care.”
I turned my head for a moment and squinted. “I disagree,” i argued. “If I complained, you’d act like you care, and I’d leave the store thinking what a nice man you were. That would do some good for me at least.” His pleasant chuckle followed me as I moved over to the oranges.
I turned into Jackson Slough Road behind a red-winged blackbird. The little thing guided me all the way to Brannan Island Road, where we parted ways, each headed to our respective homes. I pulled into Park Delta Bay ahead of the UPS truck, and made my way over to my tiny house. I sat in the parking space with my eyes closed, listening to the hum of the cooling engine. The only other noise to penetrate my tired brain was the faint clacking of broken dreams.
It’s the twenty-fifth day of the fifty-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.