Peg stood over her broken sink drain for minute number (she checked the clock on the windowsill) two hundred and fifty-three. A new record.
Peg looked down at the rag, stuffed into the drain. She hadn’t changed her clothes since the funeral.
That was three weeks ago.
After a week, she’d started smelling herself and pulled out an old box of baby-wipes. She would roll them up into balls and stuff them in her armpits as she stood over the sink, the car, and the gutters out back, all broken.
After another hour staring at the rag, she decided to leave the house. She didn’t have a destination in mind. She unfurled the baby-wipes from her pits and tossed them into the sink.
She was glad to find the near-by cafe packed full of people who didn’t know about the broken sink drain or the gutters out back. There was a banner hanging from the ceiling that read:
John Gerund Drug Prevention Clinic Fund Raiser!
There was a booth with a perky full-breasted teenager shooting cheerleader smiles at everyone who entered.
“Would you like to enter our raffle?” The cheerleader hollered at Peg. Peg responded by shimmying nervously up to the booth.
“Want to enter our raffle?”
“Twenty dollars a pop!” she chipped.
“Is there a limit?”
“Do you take a check?”
The fried-chicken and beer bellied gym teacher of a man in the booth put his hand gently onto the Cheerleader’s shoulder, just at the nape.
“We do sweetheart.”
“We do,” Cheerleader repeated.
“Can I have,” Peg did some mental math, “one-hundred-and-fifty tickets?”
Gym Teacher’s eyes lit up.
“Of course we can darling,” Gym Teacher interrupted.
“Of course we can!”
Peg wrote a check for the mechanic’s money, the plumber’s money, and the landscaper’s money; she handed it to Cheerleader.
Peg gathered her stack of tickets and wandered off into an emptier part of the room to wait, as Cheerleader began feverously writing Peg’s name on little slips.
Peg stared, dry-mouthed, at a cup of free coffee.
When it came time for the raffle, Cheerleader came skipping up to the front of the packed room. She stood among the baskets inundating with candies, fruits and lottery tickets.
She reached slowly into a bag and pulled a slip of paper.
“Peg Young!” she cried.
The Crowd clapped. Peg cringed at the sound of her husband’s sir name. She just stood there, not moving, in her little black dress. She looked around and realized everyone was staring, expectantly.
She wanted her moist baby-wipes and broken sink back. She walked up to the front.
A young man came running up to help her. As he did he kissed Cheerleader on the cheek. She giggled. The Crowd cheered.
Before Peg had turned around from her walk back, she was already being bustled to the front. The Crowd clapped, politely, and gave her a few half-hearted smiles. The boy once again carried the basket; hard scented candles and bags of pomegranate-flavored popery.
Peg turned red as she walked back up to the front.
The Young Man had already grabbed the basket and was walking it to her corner.
“Peg Young,” the “-ung” trailed off into the microphone.
“Oh, come on,” Someone muttered as she passed. Then, silence.
Peg made her way to the front. The Young Man watched. Peg grabbed the handle, a basket of made-that-day mish-mash of local store bought cookies. Cheerleader fished deep into the bag of names. She pulled one out. She sighed.
“PEG–just take this one too,” Cheerleader muttered, pointing to a basket of lottery tickets. Peg looked at it. She looked at Cheerleader. She looked to The Crowd. They all stared, silent.
She stood there, alone.
“I’m sorry,” Peg said, quietly. She left the basket. She left the crowd. She walked to the door. As she pushed it open, she heard Cheerleader cry,
She turned to see The Young Man dash up to the front. He took the cheerleader in his arms and kissed her.
The whole crowd roared.
Peg smiled, then stepped out into the street.