Roxy determinedly yanked Robin a few steps into the lawn in her quest to find the perfect spot to move her bowels. She arched her back and pulled her rear end beneath her. Her thin front legs quivered with the effort. Robin couldn’t look at her, it felt distasteful, embarrassing even. She cast her eyes over her shoulder and her gaze settled on the small, rectangular brick house to whom the lawn belonged. There, between the drapes—and these were most certainly drapes and not curtains—sat a woman at a table holding a fork halfway to her mouth while she watched something intently. Robin’s eyes followed the woman’s own across the room, along the wall that was covered with wooden framed photos tinted beige, past the buffet lined with ceramic figurines and macramé, to a man standing in an undershirt, his brown tinted glasses obscuring his eyes, his bushy moustache concealing his expression. He stood looking uncomfortably motionless, holding a mustard colored telephone receiver. The receiver was attached to the base on the wall by a long, curly, tangled cord.
Robin was amazed. The left side of her jacket was heaver with the weight of her own phone—or device as they were often called now—and her ears delicately cradled little plastic orbs attached to the device so that a conversation could travel directly into her head while she was walking the dog if she so chose. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had a phone number to write on the “home phone” line of a form. She certainly couldn’t remember the last time she had used a phone with a cord.
She stopped. Of course you can. She’d stretched the cord as far as it could go, out of the kitchen and into the bathroom, her whole body taut with the effort. It was like all those evenings during her junior year in high school when she’d done everything she could to find some privacy to talk on the phone with Brandon Snelling. She’d even bought the extra long phone cord with her own money so she could pull the receiver with her into the hall bathroom (the only bathroom).
Oh, the pains she’d taken to talk to Brandon Snelling. She wondered where he was now—probably an insurance salesman in Eden Prairie. Calling anyone was not for the faint of heart in her house. Whether it was her father bellowing “Robin, get your dirty underwear off the floor!” or her brother whose favorite joke was to pick up the extension in the living room and crow “Robin, I have to use the toilet—now!” a simple ten minute conversation could go horribly wrong. Her mother was always impatiently waiting outside the door “we only have one commode, Robin, you can’t keep making the bathroom your own personal office.”
She’d been so jealous of Debbie Masterson who had her own extension in her bedroom and she could barely look at Jennifer Soren when she bragged about her father paying for her to have her very own phone line. Jennifer gave her phone number out on little peach cards to anyone who asked. Probably just practice for what she’d turn into when she landed on campus, before she got herself knocked up and married.
No, the last time she’d used that phone it wasn’t to mumble words of affection to a boy who’d break her heart just weeks later. The last time she’d held that phone to her ear she’d been stretching across the kitchen and out into the hall and into the bathroom, as was her habit all those years ago. She was contorted again, this time with a dishtowel over her nose and mouth to keep the foul smell at bay, trying to talk to her mother, all three hundred pounds of her, nude, splayed on the bathroom floor in a position that wasn’t natural. Robin remembered reaching to try to take her pulse, to check beneath her nose for a breath, and then, simply to hold her hand while saying over and over into the receiver “please hurry, please” while she held it between her jaw and her shoulder until her neck cramped.
It had taken a hundreds of dollars of massages to work out the kinks.
She’d finally just dropped the receiver and held her mother as best she could, all covered in piss and shit, trying to remember when she’d been there last to check on her, was it last week maybe? Damn Kevin for going to school in Chicago, damn him for finding a way to escape.
They’d sold the house, telephone and all, three months later.
The mustachioed man was grinning now and speaking both into the phone and to the woman with the feathered hair who now was gesturing with her fork, bits of potato falling into her lap. They were joking, she could tell by their smiles.
It was raining a cold nearly frozen rain in Minneapolis and the woman looked over, startled to see Robin standing on her front lawn. Robin held up the plastic baggie as if to say “don’t worry, I’m scooping.” And she did. Roxy was now standing alert, watching something Robin couldn’t see a few yards away. She pulled her leash, tucked her head against the wind and they walked on.