Emily and Her Vivid Imagination
“What’s in that?” Emily said, leaning on the bakery counter and pointing to a three-layer cake.
“Chocolate mousse,” the clerk behind the counter said. She cleared her throat, glaring at Emily’s large body pressed up against the glass.
“Is it fresh?”
“Just like everything else you’ve asked about, it’s fresh.” The clerk stretched her neck, scanning the forming line. “Shall I box it up for you?”
“And there aren’t any apple pies in the back?”
“Lady,” a voice from the line called, “wouldya make up your mind already?”
“Whatever is in the back has been preordered,” the clerk said. “Apple pie is in demand this time of year. You know, Fourth of July and all that. So they need to be ordered ahead of time.”
“Well, I make a delicious apple pie,” Emily began before another voice piped in: “Just take one of each! Looks like you can handle it.” Snickers followed.
Without looking back, Emily sucked up some air. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll take it.”
“That,” she said, pointing to the mousse-filled cake. And…and a pound of cookies. The boys like cookies.” She spoke as if the clerk were familiar with her nephews.
In silent haste, the clerk boxed up the desserts and took Emily’s money while rolling her eyes at the patron behind her. Emily took the boxes and felt disgusted stares following her as she waddled by the endless line of customers. There was a dichotomy to the Emily Lamb she’d become: On the one hand, she felt ignored, invisible when people avoided looking at her. On the other, she saw the repulsed expressions when they did choose to look, making her want to hide. She hadn’t always been this large. It sort of caught up with her the last year or so.
Once she got to her blue Camry, she placed the desserts on the front passenger seat, regretting not having bought the sheet cake frosted with the likeness of the American flag. It would show she’d made an effort, even though she knew the exhausting effort it took to come this far. Flushed and feeling the perspiration slide down her back, she heaved herself in to her car, shifting her seat back and forth. It seemed she could never adjust it so that she was comfortable for any length of time.
How you doin’, hon?
“Could be better,” she said. No longer were the desserts on the front seat; instead, it was him sitting there.
She started up the engine, then leaned over and rooted around in her glove compartment, finding the CD Coach enjoyed listening to. Coach wasn’t his actual name, but once she’d heard the students fondly refer to him in that fashion, it’s what she started calling him. She’d been the only teacher to do so, which made her feel all that much closer to him. She shoved the CD in and put the car in reverse.
Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine…
There’d been a time she thought the song was silly. It wasn’t until he began singing it to her did she find it had redeeming qualities. Even now, she could hear his off-pitch voice screaming out the song, the twinkle in his eye that she so loved. She laughed and started to join in.
She slammed on the brakes, her body lurching into the steering wheel. A horn blared at her for an embarrassing length of time. She fumbled before shoving the car in park.
Joy to the world! Allll the boys and girls. Joy to the fishes in the deep—
Emily turned off the engine, immediately cutting the song.
“What the hell!” a disembodied voice shouted. “Didn’t you see me?”
One look in her sideview mirror and she saw an agitated man, looking much like a wild boar, approaching her car. She rolled her window down just as he reached it.
“Sorry, no, I…I didn’t see you.” Not a smart thing to say, but she wasn’t about to explain how difficult it was to turn around to see what the rearview mirror could not reveal.
“That’s for goddamn sure!”
“Really, I’m sorry.”
“Well, you should be. Your car is the one that got most of the damage.”
“Did you want to exchange insurance information?” She reached toward her glove compartment. “Guess we should call the police.”
“You sayin’ I caused this?” the boar shouted.
“No!” Emily said, tears coming to her eyes. She knew she should’ve stayed home. “I’m just saying if you want, I can give you my insurance card and I’ll take your number and we can deal with thi—”
“Hey, I ain’t lettin’ my rates go up because of your fuckup! I’m willing to let it go.”
She couldn’t believe her luck. The guy was all hot air and threats and little else. She thanked him as he rushed toward his big-ass car. From her rearview mirror there was no telling what make it was. Nor did she care. She caught her breath and turned the engine back on.
…blue sea, joy to you and me.
Just as she started to roll up her window, she saw a woman approaching her. “Hope you got his insurance number.”
If I was the king…
“Excuse me?” Emily said, annoyed to be interrupted yet again.
“He came in through the exit and tried to rush right by you. It was his fault.” The woman looked at her through eyes that sunk deep in a chubby face. “And it looks like he did some damage to your fender there.”
“Thanks,” Emily said, putting the window up.
“We need to defend ourselves!” the woman shouted. “We’re targets, you know.”
Don’t worry, honey. You’re nothing like her.
Emily pretended it was his hand brushing away the tear that was sliding down her cheek. She smiled, grateful to be so loved, and stretched as far as she could to see behind her, ignoring the fat nosy body who was still watching her, and backed the car out of the space. Soon she was on her way and could once again dwell on Coach.
She’d met him when she returned to school from another summer break. She weighed far less than her present weight, especially after having been active swimming, running and learning how to play tennis. She was never thin, but she’d been fit, tanned and comfortable with herself. She’d brought her optimism to the classroom, looking forward to introducing the students to Debussy and Mozart.
Before long, though, she found that the ninth graders had their own agenda in mind, leaving her to battle with headphones plugged into covert iPods. Not to be outwitted, she called on Sean who didn’t hear her. She approached him and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Since you’re not interested in listening to what I have, how about sharing your tunes with us?” Emily said.
At first he balked at the idea, but after she insisted, he grinned and swaggered to the front of the room, plugging the iPod into her speaker. Emily thought she would take the opportunity to discuss present day music compared to composers from centuries earlier. She would try and meet the students on their level. Before she knew what was happening, though, lyrics, nasty and lewd, poured from the speakers.
“Turn that off!” she shouted.
Sean reached over, but instead of turning off the music, he turned up the volume. Most of the students were hysterical and Sean enjoyed the attention, even blocking Emily as she tried to get to the sound system.
I want you to jump me, hump me…
“Sean!” she screamed, knowing that the horrid words had to be pouring out into the hall.
I’ll pry you, ride you…
Just then a strong hand appeared, clutching the back of Sean’s neck. Sean dropped to his knees, his face a purplish red. The newly hired coach that Emily had seen in the teacher’s lounge on a couple of occasions looked over at her and said, “You can turn it off now.”
She was too stunned to move. Dragging a squirming Sean with him, the coach turned off the offensive lyrics.
“Let go,” Sean spewed. “I’ll sue your ass.”
“Yeah? Meantime, you owe this lady an apology.”
“Me?” Sean said. “She told me to put it on!”
Some of the students muttered in agreement.
“I…I didn’t know that’s what you were listening to,” Emily said. “My god!”
Still having a firm hold on Sean’s neck, Coach said, “Apologize to Mrs. … Mrs….” He gazed at her with a questioning expression.
“Oh, Lamb. Ms. Lamb,” she said.
“Apologize to Ms. Lamb.”
Sean may have apologized to her, but Emily was more distracted by the coach’s muscular arms and taut stomach, by the deep blue in his eyes. “Thank you,” she called out as he escorted Sean out of the classroom.
“That was real nice what you did,” she now said aloud, glancing at the passenger seat where she imagined him sitting.
I’m glad I was there to help.
Emily kept a tight grip on the steering wheel, certain that Natalie would be on the Port Jefferson ferry, which was why she would not be. The drive was much more pleasant in the company of vivid memories that were given a voice, even if it was a much longer drive.
Joy to the world…
Together they sang with the Three Dog Night as she kept a steady pace along the highway.