Schmidthaus Writing


Chapter 1: A Typical Day Was Like This


A typical day for Rebeca involved cats, chores, cats, comfort food, cats, and secrets.

She had the luxury of waking up without an alarm. Well, without a device of any kind waking her up, but unless she chose to sleep with her door closed she would never oversleep. Squashblossom, called SB or Esbie by her friends, always made sure Rebeca didn't oversleep. Esbie was a big, fluffy gray housecat, surprisingly light when picked up and just as surprisingly heavy when she walked on your chest. This treatment was usually saved as a last resort, so Rebeca usually was awakened by a piercing stare from her nightstand. �How you can stare so loud is a mystery,� she told Esbie this particular morning as she rolled over and pushed her legs out from under the covers. Barefoot in PJ pants and a big t-shirt, she headed down the back stairs to the kitchen.

There she encountered the second of her three cats: Snuggles showed his love and adoration by rubbing against her legs on the stairs, about sending her tumbling. Used to this sort of attention, she avoided the fall and picked him up. Ten pounds of black-furred love sunk against her chest and purred his satisfaction, allowing her to reach the kitchen in happy safety.

With familiar effort, she set up her coffee apparatus one-handed but had to unburden herself to toast an english muffin. She liked a light nosh before her early chores and walk to town.

Watching her was like watching a choreographed dance: no move was wasted, something was always being accomplished, every gesture had meaning. Within a minimum time a proper service was prepared and laid out at her kitchen table with coffee fresh from a french press in a cup and on a saucer with just a touch of sugar and cream, a perfectly toasted english muffin with butter and jam on a small plate, and a napkin. Nothing was out of place, preparation equipment was washed and set out to dry, and she stepped onto her front porch to recover her newspaper.

She was greeted there by the last of her cohort: an orange tabby, large but sleek, with attitude to match his size. He waited until the door opened, then made his stately way into the house and down the hall to the kitchen. "Good morning, Maurice," Rebeca offered to the cat. He ignored the greeting.

Returning to the kitchen, she placed the paper by the back door and settled in at the small table. Sipping and nibbling her way through her preparation, she looked nowhere in particular and settled her day's plans into her mind. Walk into town. Breakfast at the diner. A visit to the shelter followed by a quick stop at the grocery store before coming home, then yard work and a visit "out back". Even in her own mind she always referred to it as "out back" and with others she tried to avoid mentioning it at all.

When she was fully awake and had her plans clear her nosh was gone. She handwashed her dishes and set them to dry. Takign the back stairs two at a time, she returned to her room and put on the clothes she'd selected the night before and tied her hair back into a simple pony tail.

Back downstairs, (with no cuddling this time), she collected her paper, slid some cash from the cookie jar into her pocket, and walked out the back door and on to the diner downtown. She received nods and greetings with a smile and the same in return from several people. Folk knew of her even if they didn't know much about her and most thought well enough of her to greet her. Also, it was a small town, so folk tended to be more sociable than big city folks might appreciate or understand. Still, she did not initiate any of this contact.

She had routines, but avoided repetition. She did not have �her seat� in the diner but sat wherever there was space, usually at the counter. She did not order �the usual� since her tastes and moods changed. Today she had peach yogurt, two eggs scrambled with cheese, and hash browns with a big glass of orange juice. She didn't initiate conversation, but made polite talk with her server and called her by name. If others greeted her, as on the street, she responded sweetly and politely, but did not extend the conversation. Not in a hurry, but not wasting time, she ate and moved on.

On different days she did different things in town, not by any schedule but based on what seemed like a good idea that day. Today it was a visit to the shelter in town. It was for women or children needing shelter for a short time or help getting back into society. Rebeca contributed what cash she could to the cause and also put in some time when she felt she could help out.

Today she went to help with washing up and found one of their washing machines not working. The staff mentioned calling a repairman, but Rebeca simply borrowed a few tools and pulled it out from the wall. Checking the works she found a belt had slipped loose and put it back in place then tightened up things that needed to be tightened before putting it back into operation. Things like this didn't happen every day. Usually she just helped a bit with the operation of the house and went on her way. She didn't talk to the staff much and most of them were too busy. She sometimes talked to the visitors, but most of them were in their own minds and didn't start conversations, so neither did she. Usually it was the children that brought her out of her shell and got her talking, but even then she volunteered little. Still, they tended to be comfortable with her and appreciate the attention.

After the shelter she stopped at the grocery store. Each day she bought only the few items on her mental list: Just what she needed to buy today since she would need it before tomorrow. She rarely bought impulse items, but even on those she'd learned to trust her instincts because sometimes an odd need appeared before she realized it consciously. She only bought extra items if she would be needed them soon and she could carry them more easily today because today's list was short. She tended to buy fresh foods and cook from scratch more than most do these days. Because of her situation she didn't need many conveniences and because of her attitudes she didn't want them. She paid in cash, as she had at the diner, and carried her load home.

Unpacking immediately, she put everything away. A quick check on each of her co-residents and found two asleep in the front window and Maurice giving himself a bath on her favorite chair. She laid out their food, refilled their water, and considered an early lunch. She planned a long day in the yard and “out back”, so she decided to eat a bit now and pack something to eat when she took a break. Setting some water on to boil, she also set up a water bottle and thought ahead to dinner. After the day of hot work, something light and cool would be good, so she built a small fruit salad and put it in the fridge to allow the flavors the meld. That with some cold cuts and veggie salad would be good. Working backwards, she sliced off some bread, spread it with butter, and took a small block of cheese from the fridge. That with a couple apples she'd bought today would make a good second lunch for her break. She added angel hair pasta to the water on the boil and sliced mushrooms for a quick saute with butter, then tossed the pasta with butter and Parmesan before adding the mushrooms.

While she ate, the cats wandered in to acknowledge her existence with a head butt or rub on her legs before eating and drinking their fill. She finished her pasta with a glass of milk on the side, washed her dishes and set them out to dry, then went out the back door.

She walked around the house on the porch, looking for anything major that needed to be added to her list. Walking around the yard, she picked up a few bits of wind-blown trash and took them to her trash can and recycle bin. Some dropped branches were stripped for green bits to go in the compost pile and sticks for her fire wood and kindling piles. She also checked the garden for ripe items and selected a nice tomato, a small green pepper, some strawberries, and cleaned up some weeds. The produce placed on the back porch, she took up the pack with her snack and other materials, grabbed the walking stick off the porch, and walked to the back of her property toward the gate.

Behind her property was a forest - part of a nature preserve set up by one of the founders of the town. She had started exploring it when she was very small, a year or two before her parents realized she was getting that far from the house. The preserve was always a bigger interest to her than the rest of the neighborhood and certainly of more interest than the children her age. She always felt safe there, even when she realized there were a few predators large enough to be dangerous to her.

She walked randomly at first, looking at familiar sights and just letting her mind and feet wander as they would. She felt soothed by the rustle of wind in the leaves and the seemingly random bird calls. Small creatures ignored her as a familiar presence if they noticed her at all. She moved quietly as the beasts around her and fit into the flow of the woods.

Time passed and she realized she was where she needed to be: a small outcropping of rock with a few old trees standing guard. Looking around, she saw no one. Standing still and listening, she heard only the subtle sounds of the forest well aware of itself with no outsider influence. Satisfied, she sat on a stone to take off her shoes and sock, sat them next to her pack, and walked between two of the largest stones and into another world. Nothing happened in the clearing outside of the ordinary. Squirrels, birds, and other creatures went about their business until Rebeca stepped back through the stones. Looking tired and sweaty with her hair a bit frazzled and dirt in several places, she sat down and pulled her socks and shoes back on, then quietly ate the food she'd brought, leaving a portion of each item in an indentation in the stones near where she had stepped through. Leaving nothing else behind she walked a meandering path home to arrive at just about supper time.

The rest of her typical night involved a shower, putting on her lounging/sleeping clothes, dropping her dirty clothes down the chute (and doing laundry every week or so), eating dinner in the kitchen and then cleaning up including putting away the dishes that dried during the day, and relaxing in the living room with a cat or three. She might read, she might draw, she might sew. Some evenings she would make something special, like starting a gallon of mead. Once or twice a week she would make bread and when the mood struck her she would make cookies, muffins, or scones, always saving a few for herself and taking the rest to the shelter or some function.

When many people her age were just getting ready to party, she was winding down for bed. Different cats would settle in with her; being cats they could not allow themselves to be predicted, but usually at least one was there when she went to bed. She set no alarm, used no radio to make unnecessary noise, and simply turned off her light and went to sleep.

So ends a typical day for Rebeca as she was.


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