From the Sheriff’s Calls Section in the Point Reyes Light, January 12, 2012
INVERNESS PARK: At 1:37 p.m. a woman said the father of her son or daughter was threatening to take the child.
A Bad Day for Doris
“What I don’t understand,” Mildred took a sip of chamomile tea from the Bovine and put down the
paper, “is this simple question. Doesn’t the woman know if the child is a boy or a girl?”
“Of course she does, Mrs. Rhinehart.” Doris’ hands danced around the elderly woman’s head. It had only been a week since her last do, but her hair had lost all of its life. She’d used almost every product they had, and still Mrs. R.’s hair lay loose and lifeless in her hands. More spray – everything worked better with more spray. “Close your eyes.”
Mildred tightened her eyes until she saw stars. “But that mom!” she cried, agitated, worried about her own daughter Janet. She’d not called in a week. “For heaven’s sake, Doris, quit spraying, I’ve got to open my eyes, I need to think.”
Doris put away her spray and her scissors and held up her biggest blow dryer. One way or the other, she was going to get the older woman’s hair to behave. “They don’t say what gender the kid is in the paper for security reasons, Mrs. Rhinehart.” And, she supposed, to keep people out of everyone else’s business. But this father worried her. He was threatening to take the child. How old was the kid? Was the mother beside herself with worry? What about Barry? What if he came and tried to take Joshua?
“If I was the sheriff, I’d go right up to that man and tell him to stop scaring the mom and the kid. A mother and child need each other. Grab my cell phone, Doris, and I’ll put a stop to this nonsense. Dial nine-one-one.”
Doris pulled her own cell phone from her pocket. “Nine-one-one’s for emergencies, ma’am, but I’ll put in a call to the sheriff, to Officer Kettleman, if you like.”
“She’s the one who chased after my Fred last Thursday. Don’t you dare!”
Oh dear God, I’m losing my mind, Doris thought, and handed over the phone. “If you feel that strongly, go ahead, just dial whoever you like. I need a break.” She walked away from the chair, away from Mildred, away from all the other women baking their heads under dryers. Outside, it was a simply gorgeous day and didn’t smell like preservative or hair spray or the sour little old lady smell she endured most of the time.
The door to the store was open and instead of stopping, she crossed the street, to Toby’s, to the collection of people shopping, waiting for coffee drinks, normal people thinking normal type things. A stack of Point Reyes Light newspapers were in a rack. Doris thought of stealing them all and throwing them away. Then Mrs. Rhinehart, Beatrice, Hortense, and all the other ladies would have something else to complain about. Something normal, like mortgages, or recalcitrant children, or overdue books at the library.
Pausing in front of the newspaper rack, Doris tasted freedom for a second. Surely they would all be moving around in there like anxious hippopotamuses or rhinoceroses, creaking and worried and knocking everything about. She had to go back.
Instead of waiting for a truck to go by, she dashed across Route One. A BMW, a black one, driven by a woman from San Francisco who was talking on her cellphone with one hand and putting on her lipstick with the other, screeched to a stop.
“Oh dear God!” Doris, one hand covering her mouth, spun in a circle and fell.
The driver, an unnatural blonde, got out of the BMW, cell phone wires dangling from her ear.
Doris wasn’t sure where she was but the ground wasn’t as soft as her bed at home. Why was she lying in the street? She would hear voices in the distance a little more clearly if there wasn’t such a ringing in her ears.
“Is she hurt?” Beatrice asked, a glob of shampoo dripping from her cheek.
“You upset her again, Mildred,” Hortense said. “I told you not to tell her what’s in the paper.”
“I did no such thing.” Mildred pulled off her smock and was about to lift Doris’ poor head off the sidewalk.
“Don’t touch her.” The voice of authority rang out. It was Officer Kettleman. “Someone called nine one-one. How long has she been down?”
“Oh thank God, thank God.” Mildred clapped her hands. “Please help her – she’s our hairdresser.” She peeked into Doris’ eyes. “Doris, honey, you all right?”
Linda called into her radio. “Ambulance needed. In front of Cheda’s. It’s …” and before she could finish sirens punctuated the air.
“Officer, oh please, do something. You’ve got to save her!” Beatrice urged.
“I’ll call my doctor,” the woman from the BMW said.
“We don’t need any help from you, you stupid cow,” Mildred hissed. “You killed Doris.”
Linda left Doris to the paramedics. Her face looked a little pale but there was no blood, and her vital signs were good. She listened to their patter, corralled the BMW driver, and hustled the women back inside the salon.
“Now, what am I going to do?” Beatrice asked. “I’m covered with soap.”
“I can rinse.” Mildred steered her toward the basin. “Now, do you like your water tepid or really hot?”
Beatrice settled into her chair, and bent her head back. “Nice.”
“And I have foil in my hair,” another customer said.
“I can take it out for you.” Hortense felt official. “Have a seat.” She drifted a smock over the rather large woman.
“So, I guess we can do without Doris.” Hortense pumped up the chair and picked at foil.
“No, we can’t.” Mildred sprayed water all over the wall. “No, we just can’t.” She burst into tears.
Giving it all up, they walked to the front of the salon and looked out onto the empty street. The BMW was gone. So were Doris and the EMTs.
Hortense fumbled with a cell phone someone had left on the counter. “Shall we call nine-one-one?”
“We’ll just go down there, all of us.” Mildred stuffed the Point Reyes Light into a trashcan. “What do we want someone else’s stories for, girls, when we have our own? Everyone ready?”
And the contingent, in various stages of dress, marched down the street to the sheriff’s department, their purses at their elbows, eager and ready to take care of their own.
Author of fifteen short stories in the Point Reyes Light, a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper, Susanna Solomon is an electrical engineer and has run her own electrical engineering business for fifteen years. She lives in Northern California. She loves her grandchildren, gardening and dogs.
Rhiannon Thorne‘s work has appeared in Grasslimb, Midwest Quarterly, The Sierra Nevada Review, Bop Dead City, and Existere among others. She is the managing editor of cahoodaloodaling and a book reviewer at Up the Staircase Quarterly. When not busy wrangling a pet, a good book, or a bottle of craft beer, she may be reached at rhiannonthorne.com.