So…for well over a year now, in addition to being half of team JAK, I have been leading writing salons a few nights a week. I provide my group of up to 9 writers of varied experience with a prompt, and we all write for 20 minutes. The results are always a surprise. Last night I wrote a little piece following an audio prompt with a story about the time when pots and pans could talk (listen to this On Being podcast and you’ll hear it in the last 6 minutes). It felt like just the right prompt for me to get back to this blog. So here it is, in writing and audio. Enjoy!
In the summer of 2021, there were not enough workers or not enough jobs. But the travelers and tourists who had been locked down and held back were unaware or uninterested and they tramped and stomped and shouted their way through restaurants and villages, leaving a trail of tears and despair, and some money, too. They must have imagined that the dollar bills they tucked into the palms of innkeepers and waitresses would wipe clean their slate of misdeeds. But the list was long and the bills were small in comparison.
The beach bullies and wander warriors spilled lemonade and ice cream cones along the lanes, never looking behind but for the occasional social media snap to lament their lost treat. Someone else would surely clean the mess they left behind. These were not cleaners of messes. Or walkers of crosswalks. Or even, in a time of deadly diseases in the air, wearers of masks, or givers of just..a..little..space.
Angry August, the name the locals gave to the month that preceded their return to normalcy in years past, seemed almost tame after Jackass July. And they cowered in their shops and kitchens, wondering if it might soon become Shitbird September, or just, Slightly more Stupid.
One night, after locking the doors and sweeping the floor, a shopkeeper stepped outside to find her scooter covered in muck from the shaken floor mats of the restaurant next door. She had endured yet another ten hours of public interaction and bad acts, including a shoplifter whom she had certainly thanked, and anti-maskers who ignored the signs, and then ignored her, and then left, declaring they would spend their money elsewhere. Again and again. And she yelled at the empty dock and cursed the lobster guts and careless cooks. And then she noticed the kind chef in the cruddy apron with the cigarette hanging from his lips, bent and breaking down boxes in the last light of the day.
“What happened?” he asked.”I’m so sorry,” he said.
And at once she knew he’d had a harder day and a more miserable summer, and that his kitchen was hotter than her air-conditioned boutique, and that drunken customers, overworked waitstaff and bussers, and late deliveries with forgotten ingredients had been his day, every day.
And she remembered the tearful reunion with the elderly sisters, and the Minnesotan who cherished her last trip with her ailing husband, and the comely couples able to resume their annual anniversary trip to her shop. And she hugged the dirty chef, climbed on her soiled scooter, and caught a cool breeze home to begin again.