Dizzy Street ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
The girl Dory sat on the high porch, partly hidden behind an overgrown azalea bush. She held her Bible opened on her lap but wasn’t looking at it much. She was enjoying the morning, noting especially the trilling of the birds in the sweet spring air. A robin landed on the railing not three feet from her face and she watched it with interest as it blinked its tiny eyes and moved its head from side to side. After a passing car made the robin fly away, she concentrated on her Bible again and read a couple more verses.
In a little while a man she had never seen before came along on the sidewalk. He wore a suit, a rare sight in the town, and carried a little briefcase, like a lawyer or somebody important. When he saw her he smiled. She looked away quickly, not wanting him to think she had taken undue notice of him. He stopped directly in front of the house and, facing her, raised his right hand as though taking an oath. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do.
“May I help you?” she asked.
“I’m looking for Dizzy Street,” he said.
“This is it.”
“All the way down at the end of the street.”
She pointed and he looked in that direction.
“Suppose you show me,” he said.
“You can’t miss it. Just stay on this street.”
“Are you too busy to get up from your chair and show me? You can walk, can’t you?”
She didn’t much care for his tone, being the complete stranger that he was, but she stood up and went to the porch railing and pointed again down the street. “Just stay on this street,” she said. “Go down that way and you’ll come to the church. A dog could find it.”
“Maybe I’m not as smart as a dog,” he said.
“I think you’re fooling me,” she said. “Why are you looking for the church? Are you a minister or something?”
“Now, do I look like a minister to you?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“No, I’m a salesman,” he said.
“What are you selling?”
“You’re selling books at a church? People don’t go there to read.”
“Yes, but they go there to sing songs and I happen to be selling hymnals.”
“Oh.” She was disappointed for some reason. “Just stay on this street and you’ll come to the church.”
“Maybe I find you more interesting than the church at the moment.”
“My mother’s in the house taking a bath. As soon as she’s finished, she going downtown to see her doctor and I’m going with her.”
“Is she sick?”
“In the head, is all.”
“Are you going to tell me your name?”
“I don’t like your looks.”
“What’s wrong with my looks?”
“I don’t know. You look shady. Dishonest.”
“That’s because I’m really thirsty. Might I trouble you for a drink of water?”
“I suppose so, although it isn’t convenient.”
“Can I come in?”
“No! My mother is taking a bath, I said!”
“Can’t I come into the kitchen? She’s not taking a bath in the kitchen, is she?”
“No, but she wouldn’t like it if I let you in.”
“Because you’re a stranger. How do I know you won’t rob the place?”
“I won’t. You have my word.”
“Yes, and how much is that worth?”
“If I can’t come in, won’t you bring the water out here to me?”
“I suppose I might, but I don’t know why I should.”
“Because you’re a good Christian, that’s why.”
She went inside and when she came out she handed the glass over the porch railing to him. Their fingers touched when he took it from her. He drank all the water and handed it back, smacking his lips.
“Why don’t you come down here where I can see the rest of you?” he said.
“You’ve had your water,” she said. “You can move along now.”
“And what if I don’t?”
“I can go inside and after a while you’ll get so bored at not having anybody to torment you’ll just go on your way.”
“I think if you were going to go inside you would have done so by now.”
“If my mother sees you here bothering me, she won’t be very friendly toward you.”
“Does she own a shotgun?”
“No, but she has been known to take her shoe off and hit people in the head with it.”
“I can run faster than she can.”
Just then her mother appeared at the screen door, wearing a dressing gown. “Come inside now,” she said. “I need you to help me get dressed.”
“In a minute, mother,” the girl said. “This man is lost and I was just giving him directions.”
The mother eyed the man through the screen as if he were a stray dog. “Go on now,” she said. “There’s nothing for you here.”
“I was just going, madam,” he said with a silly bow.
When the mother receded into the house again, the girl said, “See what I mean?”
“She certainly makes a body feel to home,” he said.
“I have to go in now.”
“Do you always do exactly what your mother tells you to do? How old are you, anyhow?”
“None of your business. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go into the house.”
“No, I don’t excuse you.”
“I’ve had enough of this foolishness. My mother is waiting for me to help her get into her clothes.”
“Is she helpless?”
“She’s got arthritis in the hands and she can’t do buttons or zippers.”
“I think you need to get away from her. She’ll suck the life out of you and not think a thing about it because she thinks it’s her right.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I bet I’m not far off, though, am I?”
“It was a pleasure meeting you,” she said. “I hope you sell lots of hymnals.” She turned toward the door.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “I want you to go for a walk with me.”
“Do you not hear what I’m telling you?” she said. “My mother is waiting for me and I’m going to take her to see her doctor.”
“If you don’t go with her, she’ll make it fine on her own. She wants you to believe she can’t do without you but she’s really more capable than she lets on. She’ll be as helpless as you let her be. She’ll lean on you for the rest of her life when she should really be leaning on herself.”
“Are you an authority on old women?”
“I’ve known a few in my day and I know what they’re like.”
“Well, I’m afraid you don’t know what you’re talking about in this case.”
“You do care for me, don’t you?”
“Why would you think that?”
“Because you’re still here talking to me while your mother is waiting for you in the house.”
“The next time she comes to the door and sees I’m still here, she and I are going to tussle and I don’t think you want to see that. I can tussle with the best of them.”
“She’ll call the police.”
“Walk away with me right now and let her do up her own damn dress.”
They ran until they came to the end of the block and turned the corner and then they walked. They walked and didn’t stop. A week later they were two thousand miles away. The girl never once looked back or regretted the leaving.
As for the mother, she was distressed for a time but not terribly surprised at the turn of events, understanding the daughter’s nature as she did. She would bide her time and wait for the day when the daughter returned, humiliated and laid low by a man whose name she hadn’t even bothered to learn.
Copyright © 2014 by Allen Kopp