Editor's Note: For the first time in the history of the San Mateo County Fair, a 300-page anthology has been published that includes more than 100 stories, poems and essays from writers who submitted award-winning work for the fair's literary contest. The idea was the brainchild of Bardi Rosman Koodrin, a San Bruno resident who runs the fair's literary contest, and the anthology, titled "Carry the Light," features work from many Peninsula writers.
From p. 56, “Following Orders”
Point Reyes Station: At 10:42 am deputies called for back-up for a “pedestrian who was not following orders.”
“There’s no crosswalk so I can cross anywhere,” Fred Rhinehart said to the officer.
“Sir, make up your mind,” officer Kent requested.
“But nobody’s here,” Fred complained. He needed to buy a steak for Mildred, but everytime he headed across the street, he couldn’t remember which kind or was it a head of lettuce that she had wanted? He didn’t want to go home empty handed.
“Sir, you’re slowing up traffic,” Officer Kent said.
Fred was in the middle of the road. Mildred had been in the kitchen clucking her tongue and threatening to write down a list and pinning it to Fred’s shirt. Now Fred sort of wished she had. “Okay, okay, officers,” for now there were two of them. He walked back to the relative comfort of the bookstore and sat down on the bench in front of the Bovine.
He went through a list in his mind, milk, check; bread, he remembered a big cheese loaf on the counter; coffee? he’d seen Mildred’s five pound bag in the pantry, that left, that left, he sighed, everything.
Five minutes later the officers were gone and he started across again. The sun was in his eyes, it bounced off a windshield coming up the street, and Fred wasn’t in Point Reyes Station at all, he was in a field, courting Mildred, pressing a dozen fresh picked daffodils into her hand, and her face was radiant, her blond hair shining in the sun, a soft breeze fluttering her sunflower yellow dress. He put out his hand and she took it, those lovely soft fingers and she was his, all his, right there on this Sunday afternoon in Ferguson’s field and someone sounded a horn, not a sound he would consider romantic, and she looked at him with a dazed look on her face and he went down.
Mitch Fontloy, of Dillon Beach, had seen the man step out and had anticipated him going all the way, until he paused and Mitch had slammed on his brakes.
Deputies were already on the scene. Mitch felt terrible. Was the man on the street okay? Was he dead?
“Third time today,” Officer Kent said to his partner, the vivacious and thrilling Linda Feinstein.
“You’ll have to stay here and give a statement,” Officer Kent said to Mitch, while Linda went over to the downed man. She took off her jacket, lay it under the old man’s head and cooed. At least Fred thought she cooed. He had a good view down the front of her blouse and he wasn’t going to say anything to change the situation. From this view she looked so Mildred like, Mildred like she was younger, Mildred when she used to run in the grass and make him laugh.
By the time they got to the police station, Fred had come to the realization that no, this cop was not Mildred, which disappointed him but when the real Mildred came into the police station he wasn’t so pleased either. Her hair, once blond and luscious, was now white, and braided tight next to her scalp. She looked like a very busy squirrel. She marched right in, elbowed her way to Fred, who was sitting in the captain’s chair nursing a cup of coffee.
“We’re glad you’re here, Mrs. Rhinehart,” Linda said.
“I sent my husband to get chocolate and next thing I know deputies are at my house, ringing my doorbell and disturbing my ironing.”
“You can’t send him out alone, ma’am,” Linda tried to get Mildred to understand. “He almost got hit by a car.”
“But I wasn’t, was I, officer...” Fred couldn’t remember her last name, and calling her Linda just sounded too familiar.
Officer Kent sighed. “He can’t stay here, ma’am, we’ve got other calls.”
“Ready then, Fred?” Mildred asked, offering her bird-thin arms to his rather heavy body. Light as a feather he was, holding her. He waved any help away. “Shall we go get the steak?” he asked eagerly, just wanting to please his wife of fifty years.
“It was chocolate, you forgetful old thing,” Mildred clucked, as they walked into the sunshine.
It all seemed the same to Fred. He held his wife’s arm proudly as they crossed the street. She felt light as the day they met, years ago, his hands full of daffodils, her soft hands reaching for his.
Excerpted from "Carry the Light" with the permission of Sand Hill Review Press, the publisher. The book is available for purchase for $12 on Amazon.com.
Susanna Solomon gets her inspiration from the sheriff's calls entries in the Point Reyes Light. She writes short stories based on these entries. A collection of these short stories will be published next year by Harper Davis, Publishers. The Point Reyes Light newspaper, based in West Marin, has also published 13 of her stories. Check out more of her work at susannasolomon.com.