Messages Answered: More Questions
Emmylou remembered the message as she came in about noon from the rest of her chores. She was shaky and drained having had only coffee and some toast up to that point and ready for some lunch. She listened again and wrote down the number. She would call after lunch.
She cooked up some miso soup with tofu and green onions and had a salad she made from the greens she had gathered from the garden sprinkled with chopped roasted almonds and a hardboiled egg spread neatly on top and a glass of grapefruit juice to drink. Just the kind of lunch she liked. She ate slowly savoring all the flavors of bitter and sweet greens and salty soup. As she ate Emmylou looked out the window at the clouds moving like a blanket over the blue patches of sky. A huge black bird circled the cow pasture in the back.
“It’s that talking raven,” she thought. The bird had been squawking and gibbering around the ranch for a few days now, making the animals nervous. It was too large for a raven, more like eagle size and made sounds like language, but not English or any language Emmylou was familiar with.
“I wish it would just tell me what it wants and move on,” she thought as she got up to put her dishes in the sink and went into the living room and picked up the phone.
When Essie and Maddie got back to the house, Debbie and Matt were parked on the couch amid potato chips, dip and beer.
“Zat you, little one,” Debbie hollered when she heard the door open, never taking her eyes off the game.
“Ya, hey Matt, Deb this is Essie. I met her at church. Did we get any calls?”
“I dunno, I think the phone was ringin’ when we got up, but we din’t get it.”
“Cause we was getting’ sumptin else,” Matt said pinching Debbie’s thigh.
She slapped feebly at him and looked cross.
“Now none o’ that talk around the niblet, she don’t need to hear non of your dirty mind.”
Maddie turned to face Essie so they could not see her make a gesture of a finger down her throat, gagging. Essie shrieked with laughter involuntarily. Debbie looked up suspiciously finally getting a good look at her.
“Espider,” Essie said doing a tip toe dance and pointing at the floor. It was Maddie’s turn to laugh.
“I’m takin’ this upstairs.” Maddie grabbed the phone and fled with Essie right behind. Essie couldn’t believe Debbie would be so unconcerned about a 40 year old woman hanging out with her 13 year old daughter.
“Debbie is special,” was Maddie’s way of putting it as they got to the top of the stairs. “I’ll probly be all weird cusiv growin’ up with such a neglectful parent an all, but I still love her with all her faults at least as much as I hate her guts.”
They went to Maddie’s room. The walls were covered with seemingly random pictures. A perfume ad here, a movie poster there, a poster of Humphry Bogart and one of Ozzie Ozborne, Beastie Boys and Jim Morrison with arms open like an angel, Queen Letifah staring evilly, Avril Levine in a pink ensemble, Janis Joplin on a chopper, Marilyn Monroe on a piano, Elinore Roosevelt, Jane Goodall, Free Willy jumping over the boy and Albert Einstein looking like he had just got up from a nap.
Essie was overwhelmed. She turned slowly taking it all in. Maddie watched Essie’s face closely.
“Most people have that reaction when they come in here,” Maddie said with a shrug. She pointed to Albert Einstein and grinned. “I dig that man’s hair. With hair like that who can fuckin’ doubt yer a goddam genius.”
The phone rang and Essie picked it up.
“Hello I’m trying to reach Essie.”
“You called about a tour of the ranch,” Emmylou said and went quickly on. “I usually do those on Mondays from noon to three, and I think you would have to share your tour with a Boy Scout troop and a sixth grade class.”
“I was thinking of doin’ an eenterview for an article Iyam writing for a food magazine.”
“Well I could do that over the phone. But did you want pictures as well?”
“Yes, peectures. I haf a photographer.” Essie gave Maddie a questioning look as she said this.
Maddie did a celebration dance in the middle of the room that involved a lot of pumping arm gestures to both encourage the lie and celebrate being included in the madness.
“Can you get out here this afternoon or it will have to be tomorrow after 3:00.”
Maddie mouthed “tomorrow” at Maddie with exaggerated lips.
“Howabout tomorrow at 3:30, den we weel haf enough light for de pictures weethout too much flash.”
“All right then 3:30 tomorrow,” Emmylou breathed an audible sigh of relief on the phone started to hang up.
“Wait I weel need directions, please.”
Emmylou gave the directions in a shaky voice and hung up quickly.
Essie looked at Maddie, “do you haf a camera?”
Maddie nodded her head.
“A real nice SLR Canon my daddy got me last year as a guilt present, for runnin’ off with his girlfriend to Mexico. We haven’t heard from him since thank god. What a pain in keester he is. Always drunk and disorderly as far as I recall. But at least I got this bitchin’ camera. Trouble is I got no money for film, and I think it needs batteries.”
“I’ll buy the film and batteries. Do you know how to make eet work?”
“You bet. I can look like a real pro. Besides I had this dream about the farm.”
Maddie told Essie her dream of the field of grass, the spreading tree and the black bird.
“So I’m pretty sure I’m sposed to be there with you,” Maddie finished.
“I guess so, but you hafta clear it with Debbie. I don’ wan’ any trouble.”
“Oh, leave Debbie ta me. She’ll be fine.”
Maddie flopped on the bed and did some more happy dancing horizontally. Essie sighed and shook her head. She felt caught in something big like a net made of time and dreams and forgotten spirits.
Emmylou was shaking. She had been able to put her name out there locally and did alright, but a food magazine! Which one did she say? She couldn’t think of it. She had a busy afternoon ahead of her she would get the crew together to help her put everything in order.
Suddenly she thought that Random had something to do with this. He must’ve because the calls came so close together. She looked in the San Francisco phone book under Anderson. There were two R. Andersons and no Random Anderson. She decided to just go ahead and dial the first one and got Raymond Anderson.
She called the second number and got the answering machine.
“Hello you have reached Random and Essie. Just leave a message, and we might call you back. No, really, we’re not good at the call back thing, but you might get lucky.” She laughed because it was so like him to joke about things most people fretted over like answering machines.
“Hi, Rand it’s Emmy, I guess you set me up with Essie thanks for promo, though I don’t know how you knew I was still out here at the farm. Give me a call anytime. By the way she’s coming tomorrow at 3:30 maybe you could come too. I would love to see you.”
She hung up and smiled. The nerves had faded now that she knew Random was involved.