I woke at dawn to the sound of the man in the Class A to the east of me getting ready to head out. We talked about his accelerated departure across the weeds in my lot a few days ago. You weren’t going to leave until October, I pointed out, in the gentle voice that near-strangers use for exchanging subtle intimacies. The weathered face crinkled into a smile. He lifted his shoulders to shrug. The job finished early, ma’am, he said, in his soft Louisiana drawl. I wished him well.
As the sun rose, the sounds of his preparations grew. I had seen him and his workmates coming and going with boxes all day on Saturday, as I moved around with a couple of cheerful media folks filming a tour of my tiny house. But now he seemed to be fussing more than he ought, given all of the effort to get his rig ready by nightfall last evening. I tiptoed around the side of my house, a woolen jacket over my leggings and nightshirt. At the sound of male grumbling, I retreated into the house.
Indolence overcame me throughout the morning. I stuffed towels into the laundry unit, scrambled some eggs, and listlessly scrolled through social media. Once in a while, I peeked between the curtains at my neighbor’s place. About mid-day, I saw him standing at the back of his little car, which I knew he planned to flat-tow to his next job. Debris from the car’s hatch lay strewn around its rear tires.
I pulled back the curtain and slid the window open. Everything all right over there, I called. My neighbor stood. No ma’am, he acknowledged. I lost my keys and two silver things that I need for the tow, and now my battery’s gone dead. I voiced my sympathy, then withdrew at the sound of a truck pulling into his space. Help had arrived; no time for a chatty woman at one’s elbow.
Later, I tried to make a piece of toast in my fancy little oven. A pop preceded the dimming of its lights. On went the jacket and a pair of boots. I scurried outside, startled by the buffeting wind. I struggled with the doors of the back cupboard where the electric panel dwells, glancing at the peace flag frantically whipping above my house.
The male half of the film crew had moved the flag to get B-roll of my mural and the contents of the cupboard. A shudder of embarrassment rifled through me. Do other people have flags lying around for months, forlorn, forgotten, gathering dust? I can only ask people for so much help. A friend had installed that flag when the muralist took its bracket down; the bracket which a neighbor had affixed to my house several years ago. How many times can I prevail upon someone’s good nature? When the Delta wind snapped the metal last December and sent the flag tumbling, I shoved it under the trailer where it has spent the last ten months.
But Mark and Marina, two nomads who wandered into my life at the behest of some famous tiny-house YouTuber, could not let the flag lie. Mark called to Marina to take my ladder out of the cupboard. He brought over a flag pole bracket and one of those mysterious pieces of machinery that allow clever hands to mend broken objects. He climbed the yellow fiber-glass ladder which I bought at the Fayetteville Wal-Mart in 1990, and within minutes, my peace flag fluttered above my tiny house.
Today, though, an early winter wind threatened to send the flag clattering to the ground again. I struggled with the cupboard door, eyes raised, watching the furious motion of the fabric and the aluminum pole. My neighbor’s friend asked me if I needed help. Would you recognize a thrown breaker when you saw one, I asked. I stepped back. And do you think I should take that flag down?
He held the heavy plywood door back from my shoulders and opened the electric panel. Darville said you’re from Kansas City, ma’am, he noted, as he deftly flipped a switch. I lived in Osawatomie for a few years. His accent told me that he came from the deep south, as did the kindness he showed me. He climbed on my ladder, released the set screw, and lowered the pole to my open hands. Then he got the cupboard doors closed despite the rising wind, and secured the lock. You should be all good now, ma’am, he assured me, turning back to help his friend. I left them to it and went inside to rewarm my half-cooked toast.
A few hours later, I glanced outside again. My neighbor had secured his car to the back of his rig but seemed to be reconnecting the electricity to the big RV. You getting out of here today, I called through the window. I reckon not, ma’am, he admitted. I could hear his little bird chirping inside the silver trailer. Charley’s ready for the trip, now, don’t disappoint him, I cautioned. My neighbor laughed. We exchanged a few speculative thoughts about the virtues of a late start versus Monday morning traffic. I asked the Google lady how long it took to make Fresno. Not long enough for a stop, he decided; not with thirty more hours to drive. He allowed that leaving early in the morning made more sense. I wished him a safe trip. He said it had been good to meet me. Then he turned away, bent on checking his tires. That’s the way it is here. People come and they go. Long goodbyes serve nobody’s interest.
Now night has fallen. My three days at home draw to a close. I have little to show for them. I unpacked from the trip that concluded nearly a week ago. I packaged and mailed eleven books to folks kind enough to purchase my little project. I washed a load of towels. I finished reading one book, and then another; and sat in my rocker doing nothing at all for a considerable portion of the weekend. And for a few hours yesterday, I spoke into a camera and tried to be charming, rather than completely ridiculous. Ah, well. The world has turned another klick, and I’m still here; putting one foot in front of the other, living my tiny life.
It’s the eighteenth day of the one-hundred and fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.