I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday, and somehow we got on the subject of Pearl. It’s been a few years since Hope graduated from high school and went on to college. I’m not sure where she settled or what she’s doing, but I decided I would check in on Pearl the human, Pearl the dog, and Aunt Grace.
Guess what? They still live in the rooms above Sanderson’s Store. They’ve got to be close to ninety by now. I wonder how the world is treating them.
My name is Ellie and I’m almost fourteen. That is if you consider eleven almost fourteen. I don’t live with Pearl and Grace, but I take care of Pearl the dog for them. I’m over at their rooms above the store so much, I just as well live with them. I’m on my way over there right now. I sure hope Pearl the dog isn’t too uncomfortable. I was late getting home from school today. I had to carry my heavy old saxophone home because my lesson is tomorrow, and I have to act like I practiced, so I haul it home, hoping somebody sees me so it’s not for nothing, and then I haul it back the next morning.
I sure wish there was another way. If I had known what I know now, I never would have played the saxophone. I have two reasons. Number one is it’s heavy, and number two is you have to suck on wood, which they call a reed. You have to keep buying new reeds because after you suck on them and blow air through them, they get yucky and you have to switch it out. My cousin plays the saxophone too and that’s a bad deal. He sits beside me and either socks me in the arm all of the time, or makes me laugh which gets me into trouble. It makes me mad every time I think about it!
When I got to Sanderson’s Store, I climbed up all those stairs and knocked on Miss Grace’s door first. She hollered for me to come on in. I don’t really have to knock, but every time I just meander on in, she jumps about a mile in the air and screams. Then Pearl starts hollering from her place, and Pearl the dog starts howling and barking. Believe me, it’s much better to knock than go through all that nonsense. It’s a little better if I go to Pearl’s place first. I never have to knock on her door. She’s pretty nosy and somehow knows I’m at her door and she open’s it before I get there, then she begins to tell me how bad her day was.
According to Miss Grace, she has to do all this stuff for Miss Pearl, and according to Miss Pearl, she works her tail off taking care of Miss Grace. The truth is, I take care of both of them. Except for an occasional tip, I do it all for free. I actually think, since I’m almost fourteen now, I should start charging, but Mom says a big fat no. She says I need to train for the day she turns old. Don’t you just love how everybody has my life all planned out?
“Come on in Essie.”
See what I mean? That’s Miss Grace. I went on in.
“Miss Grace, I just wanted to let you know I’m here, but I’m late, so I need to get Pearl the dog and take her outside. I’ll come back over here when we get back.”
Did this picture scare you? It did me when I first saw it hanging in Pearl’s living room. I think it must be her mother and that’s why Pearl wears those hoot owl glasses and tries to be stylish and all flashy. She doesn’t want to resemble her mother. Some people do that. I can read Peal like a book.
When I turned around to face Miss Pearl’s door, she was standing there glaring at me, and puffing on her air cigarette. When she holds it in her mouth and puffs away, that means she’s mad. I sometimes worry that sucking in all that oxygen without breathing out much carbon monoxide, she’ll hyperventilate again. She did that one time. I was there too when her eyeballs rolled to the back of her head and she fainted dead away. I had never seen anything like it. Thankfully, she landed right and didn’t break her big-eyed glasses. Someone would’ve of had to haul her over to Pierre again to the Red Owl Store so she could get some new owl glasses. She says they’re her “statement,” and they go with her other “statements” like her millions of bracelets and wild colored clothes. When she really goes all out, she even has a cigarette holder in every color to hold her air cigarettes.
I hope I don’t sound too mean. I’m just in a bad mood. I get that way sometimes, and then I don’t act right.
I just ignored Miss Pearl’s hateful look and started petting and talking to Pearl the dog. She didn’t seem to be in a big hurry to get outside, but I sure was. I knew by the time we got back, Miss Pearl’s wrath would have subsided. She’s just like an open book that way.
Pearl the dog and I went for an extra long walk, and when we got back, guess who was there? Miss Pearl was standing in her doorway, and right across the hall, Miss Grace was standing in her doorway. Mr. Bradley Crandall was standing in the hall.
I could smell something really good cooking, but I couldn’t tell who’s kitchen it was coming from. In the time it took me to take Pearl the dog out, those two had really dolled themselves up. I knew they must have hurried, because when Miss Grace turned around she almost tripped because she only had one rubber band around her little black flats. I don’t know if it’s because they’re too big, or she doesn’t have any arches, but she cannot keep her shoes on without a rubber band. She also left one of those pink foam curlers in her hair. It was in the back where her bad cowlick is.
Miss Pearl looked pretty normal, except she was holding an ashtray and every once in a while she held it out to Mr. Crandall so he could ash his air cigarette.
You have probably already figured out that Miss Pearl and Miss Grace both lust after Mr. Caldwell. It’s not like he’s the only man in town, although I can’t think of any others around who are single and almost ninety. I felt sorry for him because he must have been invited to supper, and he was waiting to see where his food was cooking. That must be a very awkward feeling.
Well, I couldn’t wait to find out how it all played out, because I had to go home and suck on my reed, so when Mom gets home from work, she’ll think I practiced. I know she checks my reed because I’ve seen her do it.