Friday, January 4, 2008

The Power of Place

My best friend Starr Ann and I didn't end up staying two whole weeks, or even one, at Jodie's place up in Massachusetts. It just got too weird.

On our way there, we went right through town, and it seemed like a nice enough place. Starr Ann had her R-dar going, but wasn't picking up many Republicans at all. (Dang, I just tested out saying 'R-dar' three times fast. Although not as hard as that incredibly funny hard-to-say routine Tina Fey did in 30Rock. Remember her in that episode where she kept trying to pronounce 'rural juror?' Go ahead and try saying that even once. Tina Fey. Wow.)

Anyway, not too many Republicans mucking up the place, and it's a college town so we were feeling pretty comfortable and real glad about where Jodie lives when she's not at her ranch writing her book. Then we finally reached her house.

Dang. It was really nice. Elegant, austere, almost like a museum. Very impressive, really. The grounds were finely manicured and the house itself just oozed sophisticated grace. Quite beautiful. Starr Ann got out the key Jodie gave us and I saw her hesitate just a tiny bit before opening the door. We were smiling and everything, but I could tell we were both just a little tentative about actually going inside.

So right off, soon as you walk in the door, you can smell floor polish and flowers. Not Jodie's regular scents at all. But nice, anyway.

Starr Ann and I tried real hard to be nonchalant as we went from room to room. But we were both holding ourselves kinda stiff and then when we started talking, it was like we were afraid to speak out loud in our regular voices.

Real hushed, Starr Ann said, "Any chance we wandered into the wrong house, Margo?"

I said I didn't think there was any way the number would be right and the key would fit if we weren't in the right place.

"Yeah, guess that's true." Starr Ann had that one look she gets when she's trying to make things add up and they just won't.

So, we spent that first evening sitting in Jodie's living room in these real straight-backed chairs. We ended up eating out, because there was no way we
were going to take a chance in that fancy kitchen.

Then we were in the bathroom getting ready for bed, and I noticed Starr Ann was even brushing her teeth all wrong. Usually, Starr Ann works up a whole lot of toothpaste foam when she brushes. And once her mouth's totally frothy, she gets to talking all dreamy like, and waving her bubbly toothbrush in the air. Usually, it's a real treat to watch Starr Ann brush her teeth. That night, not so much.

We stayed out most of the next day, just walking around, taking in the sights. When we got back and Starr Ann sighed real big before putting the key in the door, I said, "How about we just head home tomorrow?"

Starr Ann's shoulders relaxed some then.

We rode up after dark, and from pretty far off we could hear hammering. Turns out we'd had some freezing rain the night before and during the day's thaw, a weak section in our fence had fallen over. Jodie had the horses secure in the barn and was out there in the cold, in the crossbeam of two big flashlights she'd set up, repairing our fence.

She couldn't respond too much to our arrival, because she was busy balancing a 16-foot board while nailing one end of it to the post, but when she saw us, Jodie yelled over the wind, "Don't set foot in this pasture, you two! Fucking mud in here's like walking on Crisco." She put her knee up to prop the board better and went on. "You didn't stay very long." Then she laughed a little bit and said, "Doesn't matter. I mainly wanted you to get a glimpse of my old life." She was talking while holding two nails between her teeth, and the wind was awful loud, but we heard her very distinctly when she said, "Gonna have to cut the university loose and sell that place. Can't envision leaving here ever again."

You shoulda seen Starr Ann's face light up. This was our Jodie.

So, we stood outside the gate for a few seconds, just watching her work. Then the board slipped and Jodie hit the mud. Starr Ann was over that gate and beside her before I had a chance to get the first latch opened. Just as she bent over to help Jodie up, Starr Ann's feet slipped out from under her and the ground claimed her too.

I truly was about to go in and help them, but all of a sudden they were both laughing hysterically. So I just enjoyed the mud wrestling while it lasted, which wasn't all that long, because it really was cold out.

We decided the horses could just stay inside in the morning until we got back outside and finished the fence. Jodie and Starr Ann needed to get inside where it was warm and take a bath.

Once they were in there splashing around and laughing, I went back out to finish the fence. No sense in keeping the horses waiting in the morning when I didn't have anything better to do.

Crisco was right! I landed right in it twice before the first board was even up. By the time the fence was good and secure, I was coated in good Kentucky mud and shivering my butt off.

From my hot bath afterward, I could hear Jodie and Starr Ann tussling in Starr Ann's room.

It feels real good to come home.