Chapter 11: Charlea's story
Today is Sunday and this afternoon, I’m expecting a visit from my daughter Lisa who's bringing a computer. It’s one of those smaller ones you can hold in your lap, so Lisa tells me. This morning I didn’t hang around after church. I came on home and got to work on a couple’ apple pies. Right now they’re finishing up in the oven. Lisa’s planning on spending the night and we’re gonna cook pinto beans, cornbread, and collard greens with cider vinegar for the senior citizens center lunch tomorrow. We've done it a few times, cooked lunch for everyone. Lord, those people sure appreciate a home cooked meal!
I open the oven, checking on the pies. The smell of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg fills the room. They need a couple more minutes, I think, as I close the oven door. There's a knock on the screen door, I look up and there's Lisa.
"Lord, It's so good to see you, child!" I say.
"Mama!" Lisa comes into the kitchen and gives me a hug. "Mmmmmm that smells great! But I wish you'd quit taking the Lord's name in vain. Do you realize, Mama, that you take His name in vain all the time now?"
"Lord, girl!" I exclaim. "I'm not taking His name in vain. I mean it every time I say it!"
Lisa laughs, then she goes back to her car to unload the crockpot and groceries. I remember the pies, thank goodness! I pull them out of the oven and set them on the stove to cool.
Lisa sets the bag of groceries on the table and starts putting them away. "Mama, I have some bad news. I couldn't get you a computer like I thought."
I am disappointed. "Lisa, Lord knows you tried," I say. "I'm going to have to find another way then. I have to get one of those computers, and soon. Maybe, after we get the beans soaking, maybe you could drive me to a store where they sell them."
"Mama, why do you need a computer right now?"
"I can't explain it, makes no sense, but I need to be on that...what's it called? …that chat room...and soon!"
"What are you talking about?"
I tell Lisa about the EARL site, and the chat room and how I pray for the people on there. I tell her about Wolfman and his wife, and the horrible things that happened to her. I tell her about Lavender and how her pastor has cost her church so much money.
"I just feel called or something. It just reminds me of what we put up with for so many years at the Baptist church. Just ask Jessie. She'll tell you."
"Oh Mama, I don't need to ask anyone. I was there, remember? Yes, Pastor was a piece of work, all ego and no love. I can see why you'd want to be on that chat room. Let me think..."
"You don't have to," I say. "Just drive me to a computer store and let me get one for myself. I have a little money saved up."
"Well, I think there's one in Pikeville. It will take us around an hour to get there. Let's get those beans soaking and could you pour me some of that iced tea? I'm thirsty!"
I get Lisa some iced tea and we talk while I rinse the beans and pour cold water over them to soak. She tells me about the grandkids, and the great grandkids.
"Mama, when can I drive up here and take you back to the doctor?" Lisa says.
Here she goes again, bugging me about doctors.
"Why should I go to the doctor? I say. "They'll just poke me and prod me, and for what? I'm going to die anyway. I don't need to shake hands with the thing that's going to get me!"
Lisa smiles, says, "Mama, we both know you're just afraid of being poked with a needle!" There's some truth to what she's saying but I don't care. She's not dragging me to no doctor!
We just keep talking in the car on the way to Pikeville. There's a man out jogging on the road and I can't help but remark, "That's right, keep on trying to run away from Father Time. But guess what? He's still gonna catch you in the end!" Lisa shakes her head, laughing.
"Those people on that chat room have strange names." I say. "I mean, Lordy, who would name a little girl Lavender, or their little boy Wolfman? There's even someone named Birddog on there!"
Lisa laughs. I wonder what's so funny. Finally she says, "Mama, those aren't their real names. They have chosen screen names so they can be anonymous, you know, so no one can tell who they are."
No wonder she was laughing at me. I feel a little silly now, but I'm used to not knowing what's what with things. We drive on for a few minutes.
"Oh that means I'll have to come up with one of those screen names of my own!"
"Yes," says Lisa. Why don't you be "Lordy?" I consider this for a minute, but catch Lisa's eye and realize she's just kidding. She laughs, gives me that look so I know she’s teasing me. By the time we get to Pikeville we've come up with a screen name for me, Oldlady1. It fits. I'm old, I'm a lady, and I'm firstborn in my family. Lisa says it's perfect.
The computer store in Pikeville is busy for a Sunday afternoon. We find the computers and I find the one I want, not too expensive, but not the cheapest one either, somewhere in the middle, always the best plan, I think. I tell Lisa to 'watch this.' She looks at me, sort of sideways with a question in her eyes, no knowing what I mean.
"I'm planning on showing you how to get a bargain, if anyone would ever come over to help us." Lisa shakes her head, smiles.
“OK Mama. Here we go again!”
It takes a while but finally a salesman comes over to us. They must not think an old woman might be serious about buying a computer. The man who comes up to us hides a yawn, looks tired, and has a name tag on that says, "Ed"
"Hello, Ed," I say. "You look tired. Let's make this easy. How about I make you a deal? If I sell two of these computers between now and the time you close this store today, can I have this computer for fifty dollars less than this price you have listed on here?"
"Mama!" Lisa laughs. "They can't do that!"
"Ma'am, we aren't allowed to just let you become a salesman for a few hours. There's all kinds of rules and regulations. This isn't one hundred years ago."
"OK then, how about another deal? I make wonderful apple pies, probably the best apple pie you've ever tasted. How about next time I bake, I get someone to drive me up here and I give you one of my pies, and you give me fifty dollars off this price today?"
Ed smiles, says, "Wait right here." He disappears into the back and comes back with another man, 'Steve’ who's nametag also says, 'manager.' Now we're getting somewhere I think.
"How do you do Ma'am. What's your name?"
"Charlea Carter. I'm from Mousie, and I'm old and I'd like one of these computers. Did Ed tell you about my deal I offered?"
Manager Steve chuckles. "Yes, he did. I think it's a fine offer. I'll tell you what. You can have this computer for fifty dollars off just because. You don't have to bake any pies. Ed, mark it down."
Ed smiles, grabs the computer and we head up to the cash register.
Lisa and I laugh on the way home with my new computer in the back seat, fifty dollars off the list price!
"Mama, you're something else!" she says. "When I need a new laptop, I'm taking you with me!"
"Lord! I can't believe that worked!"