Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BACK TO BASICS (02/16/17)
TITLE: The Pioneer Next Door
By Jan Ackerson
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“Take your shoes off!” called Kim, and then laughed. “Do you hear that echo?” she said. “It’s so empty in here. When’s the truck supposed to arrive?”
Brian looked at his watch. “About three hours. Want me to find a pizza place?”
“In a bit.” Kim leaned against the wall and slid down to the floor, patting a spot beside her. “Come sit down.”
She rested her head on Brian’s shoulder. She didn’t sleep, but the sound of his phone ringing fifteen minutes later brought her up with a start. From Brian’s end of the conversation, she could tell the news wasn’t good.
“It’s the movers. What a mess—first the truck broke down, then the driver got sick. They’re sending a new driver out, but it’ll be a few days before it’s fixed and on the way again.”
The family slept on the floor that night—they’d packed sleeping bags in the car. The next morning, Kim stepped into her front yard and gazed down the street, in the misplaced hope that the moving van would turn into their driveway. She was heading back into the house, shoulders slumped, when she heard a voice from the next yard.
“Hey there!” It was a smiling woman, perhaps ten years older than Kim.
The woman crossed her driveway and held out her hand. “I’m Rachel. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
“Kim. Thanks, I guess. It hasn’t been a great start.”
“Oh, it’s just the truck with all our stuff’s been delayed. It might be tomorrow or the next day before it gets here.”
Rachel squeezed Kim’s arm. “Don’t worry, sweetie. Just tell me what you’re missing, and I’ll…”
Oh, this lady is nice! She’s going to offer us the use of her … stuff! So glad we’re going to have nice neighbors. Wish I could invite her in for coffee, but noooo…
“Sorry?” said Kim. “I was distracted. What’d you say?”
“Just tell me what you’re missing, and I’ll be glad to tell you how to do without it.”
What? Okay, she’s a kook. Kim eyed her new neighbor suspiciously. “My Keurig?”
“If you have a pan, you can make coffee in it. I’ll show you.”
“They’re in the moving van.”
Okay. She’s one of those know-it-alls who has an answer for everything. “Y’know, Rachel, I’m going back inside,” Kim said. “We had five or six boxes in the car; I guess I’ll unpack them.”
But in the house, Brian was fuming. “There’s a huge storm system brewing. The truck’s going to be moving pretty slow—if it moves at all. It might be Saturday before they make it.”
Kim looked at the girls, who were standing wide-eyed in the empty dining room. Apparently, the adventure was wearing out for them, as well.
She spent another night on the hard floor, thinking. When she saw Rachel hanging clothes on her line, she stormed out, ready with a mental list she had titled Things I Can’t Do Without.
“The library’s just three blocks that way,” Rachel said. “Good morning, Kim.”
“The girls’ toys.”
“Did they bring anything in the car?”
“Just one or two favorites.”
“Then they have toys, don’t they? Their favorite toys.”
“My computer. It’s got my novel on it.”
“Pen and paper. Or pencil, if you like to erase.”
Kim squinted at her neighbor. “My hair dryer. Look at this mess!” She fluffed up a mass of wild curls.
“It’s pretty, Kim. Let it be.”
“It’s just so infuriating!” muttered Kim. “She’s one of those crunchy granola, back to the earth, pioneer women. So self-righteous.”
Brian put down his phone; he’d been talking to the moving company again. “I’m glad you’re making friends so easily, Kimmy.” He tweaked her nose.
“Oh, for Pete’s sake. Go ask her what you’re supposed to do without your lawn mower. Maybe she has a goat she could loan you.”
Brian headed for the door, grinning, but before he got there, the doorbell rang: Rachel.
Kim glowered at her. “My favorite blue shoes,” she said.
Rachel shrugged, looking at Kim’s feet. “You have those shoes. They’ll do.”
“My sanity?” Kim sighed.
“You got me there,” said Rachel. “But this might help.” She held out a cup of cappuccino, steaming hot.
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