Sunday, September 9, 2007


My best friend Starr Ann (hi, Starr Ann) is almost never sick. Healthiest woman you ever saw. But some allergen or pollen or mold or something hits the air every year about this time that really does a number on her. Last night her eyes got itchy and her throat was killing her. Starr Ann got so stuffy, we had to saddle up and ride all the way to the drugstore in town for some antihistamine this morning.

Just our luck! We rode up in time to land smack dab in the middle of about a thousand SUVs descending on the drugstore parking lot. Well, it seemed like a thousand. The megachurch down the street was just letting out and all those religious people were stopping to shop at Walgreen's on their way home.

We had to tie the horses way off in the lower lot under the lone tree the developers forgot to kill when they built the strip mall. This adorable little boy saw us and ran over to ask if he could pet the horses. He was very sweet and gentle with them, and when his mother called him back (the name she yelled was Anthony) he remembered his manners and thanked us quite formally.

Starr Ann grabbed a carry basket on our way inside, saying there were a few other things we could use, and since we'd rode all this way we might as well make the most of the trip.

Personally, I thought we passed a few too many Palin stickers on our way in and should make it snappy. But no, Starr Ann just had to circulate and eavesdrop on all the phony, church-afterglow conversations. We hovered around this one group of six adults who were shaking their heads and tut-tutting over how violent those people in Iraq are. One man said that's what you get when you've got a whole bunch of godless religions ripping each other to shreds and refusing to get along. Starr Ann caught my eye and mouthed, "godless religions."

When we finally reached the checkout line, there were eight people in front of us - and the poor teenager at the register wasn't very fast, so it looked like we'd be standing there for a while. I was trying to think of a way to make the waiting more interesting when Starr Ann beat me to it.

All of a sudden, she thrust the basket into my hands and said real loud, "If you aren't even sure who the father is, I don't see why Raymond is paying for your procedure." Then she walked out the door.

Dang. Talk about wiping the after-church compassionate smiles off a bunch of faces!

Since everybody was staring at me, I thought I should say something. So I laughed kinda lightly and said, "How about those Wildcats?"

There was absolute silence as the checker finished up with the customers in front of me. Then, right before it was my turn to pay, I felt a tug on my shirttail. It was Anthony. He obviously hadn't been around for Starr Ann's festivities. I looked down into his gorgeous pastel face - blue eyes, yellow hair, pink lips - and he smiled real wide before saying, "Thank you again, ma'am, for letting me pet your horse."

I was about to tell him he was quite welcome when a hand yanked him away from me, and as soon as his mother got him to the back of the line with the rest of the family, she smacked him, hard, across the face.

My whole body went hot and stingy. Giving in to the natural urge to say something, anything, to take up for that poor baby would only have brought more trouble for him. So I quietly emptied my stuff onto the counter and got my money out.

Throughout the entire transaction, I was so numb I couldn't even appreciate the little surprise Starr Ann had planted at the bottom of the basket. When the checker scanned the condoms and KY jelly I didn't stop him or try to explain those were nothing I'd be needing. Ever. Just paid up and left the store.