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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"

Whoa, Nellie!

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal

When I go to the library I come out in a good mood. Libraries are amazing! You can walk right in, get as many books as you want, plus CDs and videos, show them your card and walk right out again with plenty to keep you busy for the next two weeks. If you owe a fine, as I often do, the librarian will tell you in a kind of sad and gentle way, "oh, it looks like you owe us $3.50," as if she thinks it is some unfortunate mistake or that maybe you were late returning your library books because of some terrible personal tragedy. Perhaps you'd taken them with you on vacation to South Carolina where you fell in love with the owner of a fishing expedition company and you and he were out on the bay, with the moon glinting on the water like engagement ring diamonds, when the silence of the perfect night was buffeted with the PFFT, PFFT, PFTT of a high caliber hunting rifle equipped with an illegal silencer and it took you just over two weeks to find the villain who destroyed your only chance of love and happiness by brutally ending the life of your sweet captain.

They read you know, librarians.

So then she will say to you kindly, compassionately, "but it's okay. You can pay next time." I always take a deep breath when she says this, even if I have the money, a deep, brave breath. I keep my eyes downcast for a moment and then look into hers and say, "thank you. For everything." Sometimes I give her hand a little squeeze and she gives me a Kleenex. Just doing my part.

I went to the library today. And when I came out I was in a super good mood. The library wasn't my first stop, you see. I'd been to a shoe sale and found two (TWO!) perfect pairs of shoes and THEN I bought some perfume. All before going to the library. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, I had a whole bag full of books I've never read before. I came out of the library with a bounce in my step and a smile on my lips. I hopped into the car and oh my! It was a chilly day, but the sun shining into the car made it toasty warm and comfortable. All I needed was a little spritz of my new perfume and I would be on my way happy as could be.

How long does it take to get in your car, fish a bottle of perfume out of its bag, have a spritz and find your keys in your purse? I'm estimating 45 seconds. I am very good at estimating time after all these years of counting pulses and respirations. Just as I slipped my keys into the ignition I heard, "WAWA!" I didn't think much about it. I was humming. But not for long. I jumped in my seat, startled by a horn somewhere near me blaring into the spring afternoon, "WAWAWAWAWA!!!!!!" With exclamation points. You could hear them. I slammed my foot onto the brake pedal (even though I had not started the car) thinking that maybe I was rolling or something, then I spun around to see who was raising such a ruckus.

There, just behind me and to my right was a white sports car. Surely the driver of that car was not blaring her horn trying to make me give up my parking space faster, I thought, looking into my rearview mirror, no way! Because if that is the case, I will just sit here awhile. After all, I have a whole bag full of books and nowhere to be.

"WAWAWAWAWAWAWA!!!!!!!" This time it sounded like cuss words. And all I could think, little old middle aged, middle class me was, "Oh no, she didn't!" I jumped out of the car before I thought about it. "Are you honking at me?" I rehearsed as I stomped over to her car, scowling. I have a very unattractive scowl. I could see her now, through her windshield. She had gray hair carefully styled in kind of a 1985 Dallas way and manicured nails and, I am not exaggerating, Jackie O. sunglasses. She threw her hands into the air and shouted, "Forget it, forget it, forget it!" and actually burned rubber out of the parking lot. "Mario Andretti would have sure been proud," and I am lucky not have been killed.

And I can just imagine the conversation at her dinner table this evening, "Seriously, all I did was toot my little ol' horn in the most civilized fashion and this BEHEMOTH with scraggly hair and one eye came charging at me. Like a rabid water buffalo. I bet she had a gun too! I just did not know what to do! I am lucky not to have been killed!"

What in the world are we coming to? She's probably somebody's granny. And I am too. What if I'd made it to her car, then what? Who knows. But I think I could have taken her.


Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" March 13, 2009 Column
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