by Todd Maupin
My keys. My house keys. The keys to my house. As the French subtitles would read, clés chez moi. Clés chez.
When I patted the side of my pants for the reassurance of feeling my keys in my pocket where my trousers were joined at the hip, I was immediately disappointed. And then subsequently mortified. Not the even the benefit of the doubt. My keys were very much gone. Vanished into thin air. This town’s dratted elevation! I had lost my keys. All of my locks, out in the open, ripe for the taking for anyone but me. My keys were living my worst nightmare of being naked in a public place. French sous-titres: au naturale. The naked truth. Cinéma vérité.
Impending rain that was forecast for later in the day gave me an extra sense of urgency. A perfect storm that would rain on my parade of linens on my balcony. It was imperative that I made it back to where I had aired my dirty laundry. Three sheets to the wind. It was my theory that nothing was as white as a sheet that has been exposed to the elements before washing. Sometimes I throw in the towel too. It was an easy process: it was a breeze. Sometimes the wind was too strong. It was a force of nature, but had its uses. For the birds, too.
When it rains, it pours. I preferred not to weather the storm. Naturally, I wanted to start searching for my keys right away, but I had been standing in line for a while at the pharmacy. The place was so warm and my shirt so small that I was already hot under the collar. This was not all in a day’s work. I had taken the day off because I needed my prescription. I did not like living hand to mouth but I would ingest what the doctor wanted.
The pharmacist’s window was visible off in the distance. The line was barely moving, at a crawl, and no one could walk upright with the curiously low ceilings that were only good for the low man on the totem pole.
There is no time like the present. And I had enough of it to study this month’s page of the baking ingredients calendar hanging nearby. I was tempted to flip to February to see if next month had any zip to it or would be as slow as the molasses in January. Maybe someone would be sowing wild oats? No, that would probably be March. After all, you reap what you sow. I was glad the people queued ahead of me knew where to stand because I would not have known where to draw the line. I could only toe the line until it was my turn to be served. The fellow ahead of me had a tourniquet on his hand. The obvious swelling stood out like a sore thumb. I was all thumbs when it came to hitchhiking. It got me where I needed to go.
Struggling to quench debilitating thoughts about the fate of my keys, I inched ever closer to the pharmacist’s window. I put my foot down, then the other one. I put my best foot forward, then the other one. The wait time was long enough for me to have read between the lines, but I don’t like reading while standing up, or crawling. It makes me queasy.
When I was finally next in line, I overheard the interaction of the customer just ahead of me. The impatient patient described how she had woken up on the wrong side of the bed and the pharmacist was searching to localize a solution. The pharmacist handed an object to the patient and explained the method of treatment. It fit the bill that the patient would be paying.
“Put this on your left, and sleep with the wall on the right. Being between a rock and a hard place, you will be able to control on which side of the bed you wake up,” the pharmacist diagnosed.
“But what about my husband? He lies like a rug and is resistant to change,” the patient was less than confident about the proposed solution. She was holding the rock limply and cautiously, but rolling it in her hand. Leave no stone unturned.