“I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, Goodbye! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”
HummIng, drumming, got to go, got to go, off I go, off I go! Got your stuff, get my stuff, got my stuff! Red today, red today! Off I go!
Buzzing and mumbling and darting quickly like a sparrow, Aggie Maggie Magpie, her pet name for herself, she agitated and wrangled herself out of her bitty bitsy one room of a castle.
Did it all the time, do it all the time, doing it again, anyone see? No one ever sees, free like a bird, slick like a rabbit down a hole!
I’m late! Gotta go! Be seein’ ya! Wouldn’t want to be ya!
A chuckle escaped as she shimmied past the nurse at the desk, busy in self-conscious conversation with the doctor on call, blushing and fawning. Aggie Maggie Magpie grasped her baggy blue striped sweater to her chin and peered about, fearful she’d been found out. Sometimes it happened, and she’d be escorted, head down and ever so repentant, back to her little room on the second floor.
“Now, Miss Margaret,” You never get my name right, Aggie Maggie would mutter, “You can’t be going off by yourself. You get lost and we can’t find you.”
Bah, I don’t wander off. I know exactly where I’m going. We go to the park, to my bench by the fountain, every time the park, with the birds and the baby buggies and the smiles and the laughter and the puppies.
And you always find us.
And you always bring us back home.
Till we do it again.
“You comfortable now Miss Margaret?” you query, after tucking that ratty old camp blanket around my knees in the chair by the window.
Damnation, no! But I’m ever so patient, always patient, and I just smile. That’s what you want, always want, just that, isn’t it?
But look here! This time, I’m past the desk and out the door, quick as a lick! Gone! Gone! Free! Free!
Then panic! Oh no!
I scramble, digging into the dark depths of my tapestry bag slung over my chest, I peer deep inside. Is she there? Are you there? Sweet angels in Heaven, are you in there?
But I feel the tufts of hair beneath my fingers, feeling the glassy eyes and the smooth porcelain skin. I pull her out, she needs air, my little sweet Matilda Mae, my baby! She needs to stroll, you see, see the sights, see the children play, watch the clouds! Little baby of mine, my forever baby, Matilda Mae.
I hold her tight in my arms, smooth the woolen strands still left in the doll baby’s head, tilt her up so her eyes stay open. Beautiful blue! Beautiful blue! Look here, Matilda Mae, look here, and I raise her up to the sky! Here we go, we’re taking a walk, seeing the sights, playing!
Let’s go! We’re late! We’re late! Get to the park! Keep going, be safe my sweet doll baby! Mama’s got you! Chilly day, Matilda Mae, Mama will fix it! We’ll sit on our bench and watch the children play and the puppies romp! And today, Mama’s got a happy surprise for you! It’s almost done! Almost ready!
I see it! I see it! I’ll run now, just a little scamper! There’s our bench, doll baby! Just for us! Can you see?
The light at the corner turned green, and not one soul noticed the elderly woman skitter across the busy street, an ancient baby doll tucked under one arm and a raggedy bag weighing down the other.
She happily claimed her bench by the fountain, patted and settled her baby by her side, then pulled out a skein of rosy red yarn, a perfectly knitted, nearly completed tiny sweater of carefully cabled stitches, and two rusted knitting needles. Frantic, near maniacal, focused, Aggie Maggie Magpie commenced clacking and knitting and purling, it took but moments for her evolve into a woolen red frenzy. Matilda Mae looked on, unblinking, with her frozen pink porcelain pout.
“Look what Mama’s making! A warm sweater just for you! Just for you! Warm, you’ll be, warm! Like the other little children! Cozy Matilda Mae!”
“Artemis? Artemis? Lock the dog in his kennel! We’ll be out far too long to leave him in the house.”
Then sternly, with a steely edge to her voice, “Remember last time we trusted that little fuzzy muffin? Your slippers, Sir, were shredded!”
Katz, satisfied her instructions were clear, moved methodically through the house, quietly proud of her efficiently and grace, sailing effortlessly through the bedroom to the kitchen to the hallway to the front stoop in one elegant move, picking up, replacing that, fluffing this, stashing that, wiping this, then arriving totally bedecked and utterly prepared for their trek from their worn well, long-lived brownstone to the music hall just a few blocks distant. A lovely afternoon of pleasant concerto bits and slices of sonatas lay ahead. The orchestra master, long a friend and neighbor, allowed them to sit quietly in the darkest recesses during rehearsal. A grand gesture, appreciated and anticipated with relish, Artemus and Katz were given early access before the season. But they needed to leave shortly, or the master would be cross.
We’ll dash through the park, Katz decided for them both, hurry down the always clogged thoroughfares, dodge yellow cabs and those wily bike messengers, back again in force on their city streets. But we’ll make it. She glanced back through the door, waiting, as usual for her husband.
We’ll make it. If we leave now.
Orderly by nature, above all else she desired order in others. Disturbed when it was ignored, Katz believed wholeheartedly structure was the normal scheme of things, that it took a purposeful deviant effort to ignore it. And to ignore it was to encourage chaos.
And what could be less desirable than chaos?!
“I ASK you,” she mumbled aloud, a momentary breach of her own treasured self-control.
Amused, Artie patted Pete upon his knobby pate, snickering at his unsung wit. Pete? Pat? Pate? Could he work a room, or what?
“See you buddy, back home soon. Off to make Mama a happy woman!”
Giving the backside of the elderly and compliant Golden an encouraging nudge into his comfy oversized create, he whispered conspiratorially, “Pops’ll bring you a hotdog!”
English being his first language, the doggie wagged expectantly,then settled in for a long winter’s nap. He loved his crate, and his puffy blanket smelling of fabric softener and flea repellent.
Mouthing his favorite toy, a much-loved, much chewed duck with a squeaker inside, he fell into a contented sleep, never once doubting he was loved.
And never doubting a treat would be coming when his Man and his Woman came peering into his crate after his nap.
It was the way of things.
Leaves danced and lifted and twirled as the wind picked up. Nannies and mothers and fathers and caregivers of every ilk were gathering children from the playground, noting the ominous storm clouds gathering skyward.
Oblivious to the impending storm was a panicked attendant, soft hospital style shoes pop popping staccato up and down the sidewalk, eyes darting right and left, searching for something, or someone, missing from her care.
Oblivious, too, was the little woman, knitting frantically, putting the finishing touches on her miniature sweater of the bright red yarn, as well as the porcelain doll beside her on the bench by the fountain.
Less oblivious, but focused on the journey, were the man and woman, hustling quickly across the blustery city park, arm in arm against the wind, giving but the most cursory glance at the funny woman with the little red knitted sweater.
“She’s out in this weather” Katz sniffed, “Won’t they ever learn?”
Artemus, sighed, “It’s the way of things.”