She untied the lightly knotted plastic bag and removed what it held, a medium container of LoMein, white rice, and several fortune cookies. One of the cellophane wrappers though still sealed and filled with air, was empty.
Daisy studied it, wondering if it might have a deeper meaning. Hunger stirred in her, and she forgot all about the wrapper.
Shortly after sunrise, she got out of bed and set herself to work. She did the washing and mending for the ranch workers of the valley, which gave her enough money to live on and then some.
The sewing table held an old Singer, and she ran torn shirts and ripped jeans under its dancing needle all that morning. It was the rumble of an old Ford that caused her to look up and know it was Lloyd before he even pulled up.
She pulled on an old sleeping gown she maintained in the front room for such an occasion. She heard the truck door bang shut.
“Good morning,” Lloyd said. “Here’s the laundry finally.”
“Morning,” she smiled. “No problem.”
As she took it from him, he asked, “Are you going be a the Hoot, this Friday night? They will have a live band.”
“Sure, if you’re gonna ask me for at least one dance,” she said.
“You betch’ya,” Lloyd said as he stepped back off the porch and got into his truck.
Soon she was alone again. The sound of birds singing, returning after the vehicle had left, filled the air.
She started to separate the clothing, darks, colors, and whites. As she did this, she also went through the pockets, removing items and placing them in a small basket on the table.
One item was a small handbill advertising a new Chinese restaurant named Ling Mai’s. “A full dinner for under fifteen dollars,” read the piece of paper.
She next took a load out onto the back porch where her washing machine and dryer were and began washing it. By the time midmorning came, she had everything out on the line drying.
With the exceptional heat, the clothes quickly dried. Daisy folded them and put the entire bunch back into the oversized gym bag from which they’d come.
Instead of returning to the mending, she picked up a 1969 Reader’s Digest Condensed Book and turned to the page she’d last been reading. She spent the rest of the day nose in the book.
Once night fell, she turned on her sewing lamp, which doubled as a reading lamp, and got up to fix herself something to eat. With dinner in one hand and a large glass of red wine in the other, she went outside to sit in her favorite chair on the front porch.
She sat in the half-light cast by the solitary lamp and watched as dry lightning shot its zig-zag fieries across the dark and distant skies. Before long, she’d drawn sleep and decided she should turn in for the night.
With daylight came more laundry and mending. Daisy worked at this until about noontime when she concluded she owed herself a short bike ride to the roadside market.
The gravel road was rough and bumpy, having been graded recently by the county, so she pedaled the heavy framed Schwinn as close to the large ditch that ran beside the road. The canal would soon be full of water come the first good storm.
She visited the store, purchasing what she could carry in her bike’s handlebar basket. Leaving, she saw Ling Mai’s across the highway and proceeded towards the restaurant.
“Will that be all?” the woman behind the window asked.
She laid fifteen dollars in the window and was handed three pennies in return. She dropped the coins in the small try beside the register.
With the bag tied and carefully placed in the basket, she crossed the highway and started for home. Above and ahead, a large crow was suffering harassment by three smaller songbirds.
Her attention broke from this as she heard the Thatcher boy’s Cummins diesel truck. She did her best to prepare for what was about to happen.
The truck blew by her. The gust shook her and her bicycle, causing them to weave off the road and into the ditch.
She watched as the truck disappeared, bouncing over the road and out of sight. She could still hear the sound of the ‘Dixie’ music horn as she made her way back up onto the road and continued pedaling home.
By the middle of the afternoon and her dinner finished, she laid out on the couch and allowed herself to nap. She spent the rest of the evening and into the early morning hours sewing and mending clothes for her customers.
Again, the dry lightning announced itself in the distance with its brilliant and powerful display as she worked. As the sun came up, she fixed herself a couple of scrambled eggs and a small cup of coffee, then went to bed.
It was very late afternoon when she stirred. She laid in bed listening and thinking about that night and how she’d was supposed to go to the Hoot and meet Lloyd.
As darkness closed in, she got up and dressed in a yellow-floral print skirt she had made but had never worn. She added an oversize white button-down shirt that she knotted at her midriff.
Off the back porch, she stepped, heading across the open pasture and over two dells to Hoots. She could hear the band as she approached from the side of the roadside bar.
She had to shout her order twice to get a beer. She looked around for Lloyd, finding him crowded around by his friends and some women.
She sat at the end of the bar, waiting for him to acknowledge her, but he never even looked her way. Finally, with only half her beer drank, she slipped outside and started for home.
The night felt close and oppressive like a storm was about to bust loose. Then it came, that slightly chilled breathe that the air gives when signaling the moisture to leave its hiding place among the clouds.
The rain dropped in sheets, heavy and hard. Daisy slowed her pace, peeling off her shirt and then the shirt, leaving them where they fell.
With nothing left to get soaked, she raised her arms and spun in circles and danced like she hadn’t in years. She lifted her face to the downpour and shouted with joy until she could no longer make a sound but could only laugh.
The beer had left a sour taste in her mouth, and without bothering to towel off, she made a straight line for the cabinet that held a bottle of tequila. She didn’t need a glass or cup but would drink it directly from the bottle.
She listened as the rain battered the corrugated metal roof above her front porch. Accompanied by her bottle, she stepped into the shower and began to dance once more.
Soon the tequila and the rain were finished, and intoxicated, Daisy stumbled up the stairs, crawled in her bed, and fell fast asleep. Early morning came too soon and bid her arise, a command she hesitated to follow.
Instead, she lay between the sheets listened to her respirations, the gentle rhythm, the rising and falling of her chest. Light danced across her face, in dapplings issued from between the flittering leaves of the tree outside her window.
She felt content in the glory of such a morning but could not express why or how
An hour later, her bed sheet wrapped around her, she made her way downstairs. As she put on the water for a cup of coffee, she saw the still sealed, empty cellophane wrapper to the missing fortune cookie.
Daisy laughed at her thought, “Ha! I am the fortune cookie!”