The alarm clock rang right at 6:00 a.m., as she'd asked it to do. She further requested that it give her 9 minutes more of sleep. She made this request four times and then admitting that the cranberry relish wouldn't make itself -- year after year it had refused to do so -- she staggered to the bathroom and turned the shower on to warm up the water.
She lived in an older building with an older landlady with a total denial method of setting things like thermostats properly, or even fixing things, as in "That window is broken! There is jagged glass and rain and snow can get in! Here is a board that fits in the hole! There is jagged glass but rain and snow can't get in as well! Is it really broken? Oh, look! A leaf has landed on the grass and I must pick it up!" Ten minutes usually did it for warming up the water and a year was about the right time for external repairs.
Her landlady only hired people she knew and trusted but it was even better if she could wait for her cousin to visit from Europe. He was very clever with his mind and his hands but sometimes he was delayed by surgery or visiting his daughter in California instead or not wanting to come to America during an election year. There was a plumber the landlady liked but he was always in the most desperate of straits and had to be tracked down via friends of friends of ex-girlfriends. The preferred electrician was very talented, not licensed, and weighed in excess of 400 pounds. He, too, fell on hard times when his roommate decided to get married and move and he was forced to give up his apartment and, at the age of 45, move in with his parents. He promptly fell ill and then seemed to disappear. The parents weren't known to friends of friends and he had no ex-girlfriends.
The water heater had been installed by an old boyfriend with whom she didn't get on at all but he always cut her a deal on parts and labor and then gave her a warranty for both. He was mostly responsive but as with most repairs in the building, things were not quite right.
People asked why should put up with it but it was for the same reason the other three tenants did: the rent was price 33% under the market price including heat. It was the bargain of the century and it was amazing what people would do for a bargain.
The shower was ready to go. She did her normal routine and was ready to go including makeup within 15 minutes of leaving the shower. She put a shower cap on her head, put on sweatpants and a t-shirt, slipper on her feet, and went into the kitchen to create the relish. After thirty minutes, the relish was ready in her late mother's favorite crystal serving bowl, plastic wrap pulled tight across the top. It was not even 8 o'clock.
The weatherperson had said partly cloudly but she peeked around the closed blinds to see what was going on in the world. The was a high cloud cover, the sky a pale gray. The street was predictably empty due to the early hour on a holiday. Not even the dog owners were trotting their pets. Lawns were a shade of frosted green. The trees had lost all their foliage. There was a flesh-toned Fiat 500 parked about half a block down.
All her nerves were in her stomach and she raced to the bathroom and released them. She cleaned herself off, washing her hands especially vigorously, and then went and looked out the window anew.
There was no flesh-toned Fiat 500. The was a small spot where it had been and a young woman she knew lived about halfway up the block who owned a black standard poodle -- named Fifi -- was walking toward her building. She grabbed her keys and raced outside.
"Good morning!" she said to the woman. "Hello, Fifi," she said looking into the dog's eyes and spoke as if the dog were a baby.
"Hi," said the woman. "Happy Thanksgiving!"
"Woof!" said Fifi, who sat right down as if trying to listen to what she had to say. Fifi always did this when she spoke to them. She'd never considered getting a dog but might make an exception for Fifi.
"I saw you came from over there," gesturing in the direction of where the car had been parked. "Did you see a giant get into a Fiat 500?"
"Fiat 500? What's that look like?" asked the woman.
"It was small and flesh-toned. It was parked where that space is." She pointed back to the spot. "See?"
The young woman turned and looked squinting. Fifi stood and looked as well.
"Oh, yeah, but it wasn't a giant. It was probably the handsomest man I've ever seen who wasn't a male model," the young woman advised. "He smiled at me and nodded his head. Fifi didn't seem to like him very much but he doesn't care for most strange men."
She stood still and looked at the young woman.
"Are you okay?" the young woman asked. "You just turned all white."
Fifi licked her hand.
"Do you know that man?" the young woman asked. Fifi sat down and waited for her answer.
"I used to know that man," she lied. "I didn't think I'd ever see him in this neighborhood."
"This neighborhood has gotten very trendy and very chic," said the young woman. "Don't be surprised at all who shows up. We kind of got in on the ground floor."
"Oh, I rent," she said. Fifi whined as if to say she was throwing away good money.
"Never mind, Fifi," she said to the dog. "It's not your business."
"Woof," said Fifi and he jumped and pranced around then stepped to the grass and did a massive amount of dog business.
"Woof," he said to his owner when he was done.
"Good boy," she said, picking it all up with a plastic bag. "Have a good holiday," the young woman said to her.
"You, too," she said, the handsome man at the back of her mind.
"By the way," said the young woman quietly, "I didn't see where he came from otherwise I'd tell you."
She grinned back at the young woman.
"Thanks. I appreciate that," said told her. "Bye, Fifi."
Fifi was already wanting to have at the squirrel that was prancing near the alley and was standing at attention.
"Let's go, Fifi," said the woman and they walked away.
She ran back into the apartment and released more nerves, scrubbing her hands and face afterward. She also realized she'd gotten quite cold standing outside for her investigatory work. Her teeth were chattering. Thinking a hot shower would warm her up, she turned it on and was waiting another three minutes for it to get hot again. She'd been standing outside wearing the shower cap she'd worn to make the relish making her blush.
She admitted to herself that she was probably as close as she'd ever been to going a little crazy. She took off all her clothing but not the shower cap and had a quick shower. She felt warmer but knew that without concerted effort, her teeth would again start chattering.