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By Annie Jones
Steeple HillCopyright © 2007 Annie Jones
All right reserved.
Sometime in her childhood Sadie's daddy made a point of telling her, " If you pray for patience, you will be sent adversity for a teacher."
So she never prayed for patience. Not once.
And yet for some reason she still seemed to get dished out more than her share of adversity.
It seemed to follow her around, in fact, like a lovesick pup. A pup with the sleepy-eyed gaze of her husband, Ed, the persistent whine of her children's teenage angst and the maddening bite of her sisters" habitual bickering. To top it off, that puppy traveled with a pack, constantly nipping at her heels.
President of the contentious Council of Christian Womencontentious not being part of the official title, though she often thought it should be. Nip.
Unpaid, unnoticed, as-needed, fill-in employee at her husband's pharmacy. Nip.
First person everyone in town called to report about the often exasperating actions of her father, Solomon Shelnutt. Nip.
And ever-present gnawing that made it all the more difficult for her to shake it all offthe seemingly silly, self-indulgent empty ache of being a mommy to teens and no longer having any little babies to mother.
Adversity, in her case, loved company. For Sadie, more often than not, the biggest helping of itadversity,not companycame in the form of her seventy-one-year-old father's never-ending pursuit of what he called "authentic individualism." That was Daddyspeak for "Nobody tells Moonie Shelnutt what to do."
he'd said those very words to her this morning, so she should have had an inkling that this was the day trouble would go out of its way to find her. Find her? It had already phoned her three times! Well, three people had already phoned her trying to pry her out of the house to come down and "deal with your daddy."
Not today, she had decided. Today she would hide out from the relentless responsibilities of her life.
She had planned to let the phone ring.
She had planned to ignore the petty problems people piled at her feet daily with the expectation "Sadie can fix it."
She had planned to let somebody else learn from adversity today, even if it meant she never, ever, ever mastered the noble virtue of patience.
Adversity, she discovered this fine May Monday morning when she flung open her front doordressed in high-water overalls, shower shoes and a freebie wind-breaker a pharmaceutical rep had given her husband, no lesshad other plans. It had come in the form of a brand-new, never-expected variety right there on her doorstep.
And it had a proposition for her.
She heard him out impassively before saying, " Earl Lee Furst, I know you've been elected mayor of this little slice of Kentucky paradise an unprecedented thirteen times." Sadie quoted directly from the ruddy-faced man's mayoral-campaign ads, knowing he'd never allow himself to acknowledge the sarcasm in her doing so. In fact, because he'd got her up out of her safe, comfy easy chair when she was definitely not in a mood to do so, she laid it on extra thick. "And that the Furst family has roots so deep in Wileyville that they not only helped found the town, they grew themselves into the very character of the place, but"
"It's true, Mrs. Pickett." He beamed, his hand on his low, round belly. "Me and mine have long been pillars of the church, the chamber of commerce and the community at large."
"And don't forget primary sponsors of the Tri-county Bass-travaganza Fishing Tournament," she droned.
"Ah, yes, the Bass-travaganza." His eyes shone with a distant light usually reserved for talk of Mother, God and country. "That sucker really hauls in the cold hard cash."
Sadie cleared her throat. "That is to say, it's a real boon to you business owners, Mrs. Pickett. And like most things that keep this town's head above waterall my idea."
"Well, you've had some, um, doozies in the past, I'll grant you that." And even though the local paper had predicted a scorcher of a daygoing so far as to remind the parents of the children taking Lollie Muldoon's town walking tour to slap extra sunscreen on the kidsSadie wrapped Ed's jacket more tightly around herself and took a deep breath. "But I hope you understand, Mayor, that all I can ask about this latest brainchild of yours is."
He leaned in close like a kid getting a whiff of pieor like a thirteen-time mayor getting wind of a palpable piece of praise. "Yes, Mrs. Pickett?, "Are you out of your cotton-pickin" mind?, She plunked her hands on her hips.
He gave her one of his polished politician's chuckles, shifted his feet on the chipped-paint floorboards of her old porch then smiled. "Mrs. Pickett Sadelia Sadie. May I call you Sadie?"
She didn't want him to call her anything, but she did prefer Sadie over her legal name of Sadelia, or the more formal Mrs. Pickett, which even after nineteen years of marriage still made her think someone was talking to her mother-in-law. "Yes. Fine. Sadie is fine. Though I don't think we need to bother with a lot of these niceties, because we just don't have anything more to say to one another."
"Oh, but I hope that's not true. I very much hope that this is only the beginning of a very long, very productive working relationship and perhapsyes, even a friendship, Sadie."
She tried to hold back a shudder, failed miserably, then mustered up a meek smile and murmured, " Somebody must be walking over my grave."
Instantly she regretted introducing the g word into the conversation.
The mayor leaped on the opportunity and motioned toward her open door. "Speaking of graves I was hoping we could. Speak of them, that is."
Wileyville Parks and Recreation Supervisor and Superintendent of City Interment Locality. Sadie could hardly catch her breath to think of taking on such a title much less the implications of the job the mayor had come to quite literally lay on her doorstep.
"All right, we'll talk about it." She drew a deep breath trying to force her mind to form a cogent, clever, well-worded argument as to why she could not possibly even consider his offer. After a few seconds when no such argument materialized, she simply shook her head and, her voice cracking, said a bit too loudly, " The cemetery lady? You want me to be the town cemetery lady?"
"Don't forget the park."
"The park is just four swings and a slide. What you are, in truth, asking of me is to take on managing Barrett and Bartlett Memorial Gardens. And since, despite that lovely name, there are only a few shrubs and wild rosebushes to be found on the premises, it's plain to see you want me to oversee the graveyard."
"Maybe if we sat down and talked this over sensibly" He stepped toward her half-open front door.
Manners dictated Sadie ask the man inside, but."
A home reflects the people who occupy it. Chaos in the home meant chaos in the family. That's one of the first things a girl learns growing up in a small town. Always keep your houseor at least the part seen from the front doorin order, and people will know that you manage the rest of your life with the same sense of style and grace.
Sadie glanced back over her shoulder into her living room.
Empty pizza boxes left over from Saturday night lay on the coffee table. Her fifteen-year-old son's video game system tangled in a heap in front of the TV. Her daughter's clothes draped up and down the stairs and dangled over the banisterthe aftermath of yet another mother-daughter heart-to-headphone talk.
And next to the chair where Sadie had been sitting this Monday afternoon? A bag of jelly beans with all the black ones picked out and eaten, crumpled tissues lying on the floor in drifts around a virtual tower of unread self-help books. And the cordless phone peeking out from a mound of magazines and throw pillows where she'd tried to suffocate the poor thing to keep from hearing another plea to come and."
"Actually, Mayor Furst, you caught me at a bad time." She finally stepped fully out onto the porch and closed the door behind her. Choosing the lesser of two evils, she believed they called it. "I was just on my way out, there's been kind of a littleemergency."
He slid his glasses off and rested the tip of one earpiece alongside his thin lips, a pose he employed for almost every photo they ran with in the Wileyville Weekly Citizen. "Nothing serious, I hope."
"No, no. Just a littlemisunderstanding."
"Ah." He nodded and slid his glasses back into place, obstructing the expression in his eyes when he added, " So how is your daddy?"
"I never said" She looked out at her quiet street lined with refurbished turn-of-the-century houses then sighed.
"He's fine. I just need to get over to the VFW and collect him."
"Wonderful. I'll walk with you over there, then." He swept his arm out, inviting her to go ahead of him down the steps, through the morning glory-covered arched gateway and out onto the sunny sidewalk.
"Oh." She curled her bare toes against the thick rubber soles of her pink-and-orange shower shoes. "II need to change."
Into an entirely different person. This Sadie wasn't about to go strolling through town looking like a walking laundry pile with the mayor at her side. Though it might finally be the one thing she could do to make her daddy proud.
No, Sadie could practically see Lollie reveling in the role of president of the Wileyville Historical Society, pointing Sadie out to the grade-schoolers taking the town tour today and saying, " What we learn when we study about the people who have built our fine town, children, is that some folks are a lot like the big oaks that line our fair streets. The nuts don't fall far from the trees." Then she'd nod to the mayor, smile big at Sadie and add, " On your way to see your daddy today, sugar?"
"I'm sorry, Mayor. I can't just up and go with you right now. I hope you understand."
"Of course, Sadie. It seems I've got you at a bad time. I don't want to press you to make a decision under these circumstances."
"But I think I can safely say I've already made my decision and it's"
"Don't say it." He held up his hand. "Don't say no. Not yet. Talk it over with Ed and get back to me."
To protest meant to prolong his presence, so she simply smiled and nodded, telling herself she didn't actually agree to anything. The door creaked as she opened it just wide enough to slip through, and before doing so she turned to the mayor and mumbled the expected, " Thank you for thinking of me."
"No, thank you, Sadie." He grabbed her right hand in a vigorous shake then leaned in, still holding her palm to his and whispered, " You know, given all you've been through lately and all you have had thanklessly thrust upon you over the years, I think a new job, a real job, would do you a world of good."
"Oh." She had no idea what to say to that. So she murmured, this time with some actual connection to the sentiment, " Thank you. Thanksforfor showing faith in me."
She shut the door and fell back against it, unable to make perfect sense of what had just happened.
A new job? A real job?
Sadie didn't want a new job. She wanted her old job the role of wife and mother, just the way it used to be when everybody still needed and relied on her. That was her real job, the only one she ever really wanted.
But with the kids growing older and more independent, and the Lord having seen fit to deprive her of another chance at holding a new baby in her arms ever again."
Not that she blamed the Lord. She told herself it was part of His plan. She told her family and friends that He knew what was best and she had to accept it. And times like these, in the dimly lit stillness of her all-too-quiet home, she told the Lordnothing at all.
She had nothing to say to Him. She could not pour her heart out to Him, because ever since she'd lost the baby, her heart had been as empty as the tiny crib in the closed-off nursery upstairs.
That had to change.
Every day she woke up and waited for that change to come.
And it had.
To some extent.
Most days now she wasfine. Or functioning, at least.
Excerpted from Sadie-In-Waiting by Annie Jones Copyright © 2007 by Annie Jones. Excerpted by permission.
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