Mary B. Loves OpheliaJoy

Mary B. Loves OpheliaJoy

by Jenn Helms McCord

Mary B. woke early with a slight headache from the six-pack of beer she’d drunk the night before. She pulled her patchwork quilt to her chin and wondered why it was that she had awakened before noon. Something must be special about this day; something must have happened last night that she needed to take care of, but for the life of her she couldn’t remember what it was. She turned her head toward the window where pale light was struggling to get in the alley, past the hulk of a building just a few feet away.
Then she saw it. In a black plastic pot on the windowsill stood the plant she had rescued last night from an alley trash can. She lay a while studying it, wondering why she had brought it home. A tall, scraggly geranium with a few yellowed leaves clinging to its ugly stalks, it looked like a weed. She spoke to the plant from the edge of the bed. “I don’t even like plants,” she said. “Even if I did,I wouldn’t want one as homely as you.”

She rose unsteadily and shuffled to her tiny portable fridge, poked around inside until she discovered that last night’s beer had been consumed. Every last drop. She spoke to herself in disgust. “Now Why’d I go and drink it all up. Couldn’t save a one for this moming. I never think of anything but right now.”

Grumbling, she washed a glass and took several pills from an assortment of vitamins next to the sink, poured them into her hand, and spread some sugar over it all while she sang to herself in a high-pitched voice. “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down . . .” She washed it down with a glass of water. “That takes care of breakfast. Now what?”
It was after twelve, time to get ready for the day and figure out something to do with the long hours before dark. In the bathroom mirror she made faces at herself the way that young woman on the exercise show had done, promising that, with regular sessions of facial contortions, the wrinkles would never get any worse. “Who’s she kidding?” Mary B. said. “Seventy-two is seventy-two.” She made a few more faces and turned away.

The noon broadcaster’s voice filled the room as soon as she flipped on the television. “Morning, darlin’,” she called as he continued his breathless commentary on the brush fire that was raging in the San Fernando Valley.

She clucked in sympathy as clouds of dark smoke and racing tongues of fire filled the tiny screen.
How pretty that would he in color, she thought, as she did every morning while watching the black and white figures dancing on the set. The television was getting old. too, and it was hard at times to make out anything except blurred movement. “Anything as old as you is bound to be a bit blurry,” she said aloud, wondering who she meant, herself or the television.

If Scotty were alive he would get me a new one. That boy would be thirty-five by now, she thought. He would be pampering his old mother and coming by to see her every day. Her thoughts had become rituals and she repeated this one, turning to glance at the corner where his photograph perched on a shelf, flanked by a small statue of the Virgin Mary and the Infant on one side, Saint Joseph on the other. There he was, the darlin’ boy, smiling as always and greeting her with that happy expression. She frowned momentarily, acknowledging a well of anger she didn’t much want to draw from.

“Why’d you go and leave me alone?” she whispered shamefully. “Didn’t you know I’d need a new TV someday? What did you think, this one would last forever?”

She whispered a Hail Mary to cover over the anger. She smiled at his picture. It wasn’t his fault that he died. Who would ever guess that a healthy, handsome young man like him would die so suddenly? “Sorry, darlin,” she sang to his picture. “Don’t worry your head about that old TV.”

The tiny room was cluttered, she had to admit it. Papers and pieces of junk mail were piled high on the scarred table. The holy statues were dusty again. Cups, empty beer bottles. It would all have to wait. Once a week, that was her rule for dusting and cleaning. The rest of the week, she made the bed, got dressed and was ready for the day.

Then she remembered the plant. “Ugly thing! What am I going to do with you?” She tried to retrace her steps from the night before, but only blurred images came. Coming out of Angela’s, she had talked to someone in the street, come up the back alley on her way home, and . . . that was it! The trash pile in the alley. She checked it periodically—you never knew what you’d find—and what she’d thought to be a discarded plastic plant caught her eye. It would look nice in her window, she’d thought, only to wake up this morning to a dying carcass, this folding-up life with its leaves curling as if

in a prayer for their own demise. She would send it back to the trash pile.

She cranked open the smeared window and looked down into the chasm that separated her apartment building from the big one across the
way. The alley was cleaned up, the trash gone, the cans neatly stowed against the building. “Too late,” she moaned. “And no pick-up till next week.

I’m stuck with you.” She thought fleetingly of just tossing the plant out the window and

letting it lie in’ the alley until next week’s pick—up. But her landlady Mrs.

Rapin ski might go out in the alley and see it there; if she looked up, she might figure out where it came from. That wouldn’t do. Mrs. Rapinski was still mad at her for tossing a beer can out the window at some rowdies last week. She had warned Mary B. to behave herself. If Mrs. Rapinski got mad enough, she might just kick her out of the apartment, and then what would

she do? “It’s all your fault,” she said crossly to the plant. “And I have other

things to do so you’ll just have to wait.” She busied herself getting ready and was soon eager for the day’s

venture into the world. She put on her winter coat, not only for warmth but for the feeling of security it gave her. She could wrap her coat tightly around

her in’ case of a sudden change in the spring weather. Before leaving, she completed her morning ritual. Picking up the

rosary that lay in front of Scotty’s portrait, she prayed for all the souls in Purgatory and then made her supplication to the Blessed Virgin. “Mary, Mother of God, protect me on my day’s journey into the wilderness. Care for my little home while I am away. Keep me from muggers and rapists. Watch over me while I am crossing the streets,” and, she added with a mischievous

‘ wince, “Please bring me home safely if I am staggering drunk.” Her ablutions finished, she threw a kiss around the room to include all

the statues and pictures and said, “ Goodbye all. I’m off. Be good and don’t make any noise.” She almost forgot the plant but then she went to her kitchen and mixed up the same mess of vitamins she had made up for breakfast, put it in a cup of leftover coffee, and mashed it into a glutinous mass. Then, lifting up the withered leaves, she mixed it with the soil.

She checked the three locks on her door and walked down the long dark hall, the two flights of stairs and let herself out the front quickly, just in case Mrs. Rapinski was lurking about to jump on her for some misdeed she may have committed and forgotten. At the Social Security office she asked if there had been an increase in her payments; there had not been, but it never hurt to ask. She stopped at the dimestore for a small box of chocolate-covered candy; at the grocery store for a jar of instant coffee. The price had gone up

on the coffee again and she swore softly as she dug in her change purse for

the extra pennies. “Always up,” she moaned softly to herself. “Why don’t the prices ever-
:ocoon s for a few hours during the day to wander and visit before dusk forcer .hem back into the safety of their homes.

While watching the children she thought back to the days, so long ago when Scotty was little and she used to bring him to this same park when he lived across the way. He had climbed these same trees and chased butterflies through the bushes. An image of him in a white sailor suit scrambling through the bushes after a colorfiil butterfly flittered into her mind and hovered there.

She left the park when her backside began to complain about the hardness of the bench. She wandered down the street eating chocolates and washing them down with a tepid cup of coffee from the hamburger stand. Then a stop at the deli for a six-pack and into Angelo’s for a quick one.

The few people at the bar ignored her as she stood and drank her beer. Angelo nodded curtly as he slid her second beer down the polished bar. She knew he didn’t like her much because she had a few too many at times and wept sadly as distant memories flooded through her and it was almost too much to bear as today was blotted out and yesterday came rushing back tc overwhelm her. Angelo had escorted her to the door a few times and told her to go home and sleep it off. She understood and forgave him since it wasn’t that he was cruel, just that it was bad for business to have a drunken old lady weeping at his bar.

Finally, it was dark. Her day was over and there was nowhere to go except back to the apartment. She felt Mrs. Rapinski watching as she Fumbled with the key to the front door.

“Nosey old nag,” Mary B. whispered to herself. “I’he Holy Ghost himself couldn’t slip by that door without her knowing it.” The image of Mrs. Rapin ski wrestling with an unseen holy spirit over came her until she lean ec‘ against the wall and shook with silent laughter.

In her apartment she switched on the lights and sang, “Wake up, darlins. Mama’s home. We’re going to have a nice evening of TV and beer.’ She drank all but one of the six pack, carefully stowed it in the fridge before

she staggered to her lumpy bed and fell asleep in the middle of her nightly prayers.
come down? How in hell do they expect us little old folks to get by if they keep raising the prices?” No one answered as she grumpily put her precious money down and stalked out.

The sight of some children playing in the park brightened her mood and she sat on a nearby bench to watch and delight in their antics as they climbed trees and rolled in the sparse grass. She stayed a long time, exchanging pleasantries with a few ladies who, like her, came out of their cocoons for a few hours during the day to wander and visit before dusk forced them back into the safety of their homes.

While watching the children she thought back to the days, so long ago, when Scotty was little and she used to bring him to this same park when they lived across the way. He had climbed these same trees and chased butterflies through the bushes. An image of him in a white sailor suit scrambling through the bushes aflzer a colorful butterfly flittered into her mind and

hovered there. She left the park when her backside began to complain about the

hardness of the bench. She wandered down the street eating chocolates and washing them down with a tepid cup of coffee from the hamburger stand. Then a stop at the deli for a six-pack and into Angelo’s for a quick one. The few people at the bar ignored her as she stood and drank her beer. Angelo nodded curtly as he slid her second beer down the polished bar. She knew he didn’t like her much because she had a few too many at times and wept sadly as distant memories flooded through her and it was almost too much to bear as today was blotted out and yesterday came rushing back to overwhelm her. Angelo had escorted her to the door a few times and told her

to go home and sleep it off. She understood and forgave him since it wasn’t that he was cruel, just that it was bad for business to have a drunken old lady weeping at his bar.

Finally, it was dark. Her day was over and there was nowhere to go except back to the apartment. She felt Mrs. Rapinski watching as she fumbled with the key to the front door.

“N osey old nag,” Mary B. whispered to herself. ‘The Holy Ghost himself couldn’t slip by that door without her knowing it.” The image of Mrs. Rapin ski wrestling with an unseen holy spirit over came her until she leaned against the wall and shook with silent laughter.

In her apartment she switched on the lights and sang, “Wake up, darlin’s. Mama’s home. We’re going to have a nice evening of TV and beer.” She drank all but one of the six-pack, carefully stowed it in the fridge before she staggered to her lumpy bed and fell asleep in the middle of her nightly prayers.
She woke early, long before noon, and was taking down her breakfast when she remembered the plant. It was still there on the sill and it did look a bit better, not very healthy but definitely nicer looking than it had yesterday. She stared in surprise and said, “Why you old ugly. I do believe you’re feeling better. Did you like the breakfast I gave you?”

Some of the plant’s browned branches were straighter and a few of its leaves had stretched out of their curled position. She shook her head in wonder at this. The damn thing was still alive and struggling! She mixed up another vitamin meal and poured it into the still-damp dirt and then curled up in the armchair in front of the television with her one remaining beer, to concentrate on the early talk show. The guest this morning was a plant expert who was showing how to repot and rejuvenate sick plants and she only half-listened since it was not too interesting, but then something the plant man said made her stop, beer in mid-air, just as she was about the swallow the last dregs. ’

“If you want your plants to really perk up and take notice, give them a h’ttle beer every few days,” the expert exclaimed. “Honest folks. I’m not kidding, although I know it sounds kind of funny. Most plants like beer and it’s good for them. Not too much, of course, but a little drinkie now and then. Try it on yours and see if they don’t stand up and look alive. Then you’ll have drunken plants on your hands, but who cares as long as they are healthy and happy?”

Give beer to plants! The very idea. What would they think of next? A Two bucks and a quarter for a six-pack of and they wanted her to waste it on a dying plant m’stead of drinking it herself. Swishing the last of her precious brew around in the bottle, she was about to down it when she glanced at her windowsill. “What have I got to lose but a few extra sips?” She dumped the bottles upside down and shook the last drops into the earth around the moribund plant.

“You better appreciate that, old ugly. That’s the last until I get to the store again’. Now don’t go and get drunk on me and get us into trouble with Mrs. Rapinski.” The vision of Mrs. Rapinski coming upstairs to complain about a drunken plant raising an uproar made Mary B. collapse into the armchair and roll with laughter.

“A potted old lady is bad enough,” she giggled, “but a potted plant

would rupture her.”

That evening, having made her usual rounds, she was about to turn in after her next-to-last beer when she remembered the talk show. Looking the plant over, she was surprised to see that it appeared to be better than it had been in the morning. Maybe her eyes were playing tricks on her, but it sure
did look happier and stand much straighter. “I’ll be darned. The plant man was right. You really did like the beer

and it’s gonna make you well again.”

She rolled up her quilt and stared a bit uneasily at the silhouette of the plant in’ the darkened room. I don’t know about all this, she thought. V.-Iaybe it will drm’k up all my beer and then what’ll I do? I can’t afford to buy the stuff

for two of us! She pictured the scraggly plant growing more demanding ofher precious stock and she drifted off to sleep feeling somewhat ambivalent

about her role as the Good Samaritan.

Dunn’g the days that followed Mary B. dutifully carried her 51x’-pack home to share with the plant which was definitely recovering from its brush with death. Its stalks were tuming a lovely green and its leaves were now flat as if to gather in and absorb the diluted light that filtered past the shadow of the building across the alley. Mary B. even washed her window, inside and out, so that the plant could get all the light available.

One morning, to her surprise, she saw a tiny new shoot was burstm’g open on one of the stalks and she stared in wonder at the new miracle. “I’ll be,” she whispered “You’re having a baby and I didn’t even know you were in a family way. No wonder you were so worn out and bedraggled. Poor

thing.”

A new idea hit her and she smiled, wagging a finger at the plant.

“Of course,” she giggled. “That’s why you liked the beer so much. Pregnant ladies like a lot of weird stuff so why shouldn’t you?”

She began to look at the plant with new eyes as the tiny bud broke through its mother skin and spread its tender leaflet in imitation of its elder. On the morning it was fully open Mary B. got up early and sat in her chair to witness the birth. She was so overcome with emotion that she poured at least half of her last can of beer into the plant’s ever thirsty soil.

“You deserve it, dear,” she said generously. “Now you just relax and don’t strain yourself. I’ll take good care of you and your little one.” Then she took Scotty’s picture down from the shelf so that he too could marvel at this

new event. “I’ll be darned,” she whispered. “I never knew that plants had little babies like that.” In exasperation with her mental lapses, she scolded herself gently. Of course they have babies. How else could there be new plants if they didn’t? That night she lay awake a long time staring at the plant and reliving the mornings experience. It will have to have a name now, she thought. I can’t go on calling it plant. Romantic, exotic names flitted through her mind and she sounded each out softly, rejecting most, and finally, from the
memory of a book or maybe a play she had read in the past, a lovely name rolled off her tongue: Ophelia; Of course. That was just right. Such a charming name for a plant but now there was the little one. Only fair that it had a name too. Then it came to her, the perfect combination considering the miracle of what had happened. Ophelia-Joy. That was perfect.

But then another rather frightening thought came and startled her. Now that she was a mother, Ophelia-Joy would need to have more beer. She never seemed to get enough. Every day it was at least several spoonfuls and today she gulped up half a can. Then there were the vitamins, too. It was getting to be quite an expense.

“I don’t know,” she mumbled a bit angrily. “I brought you home but I didn’t know you were going to like beer so much. I don’t think I can afford it. I didn’t know you were in the family way. That’s not my fault.”

She fell asleep without saying prayers and had bad dreams about monstrous plants growing up the wall and each in turn silently demanding a share of her precious nightly six-pack.

The languid summer wore on but the plant continued to thrive on its unusual diet. One morning Mary B. discovered that Ophelia Joy was growing out of the pot as roots were poking out of the bottom hole. She was puzzled for a bit until she realized that plants grew from inside up and this one needed a new home now.

There was only one solution so, after getting dressed, she picked up Ophelia -Joy and put the plant next to her chest, inside of the voluminous coat, being careful not to bend any tender leaves and walked down the stairs, tip-toem’g past Mrs. Rapinski’s door. She wore the coat all the time so it wouldn’t look strange, but what if Mrs. Rapinski popped out and demanded to know what she was carrying under it? There were no rules against plants in the apartment, but it might seem weird if Mrs. Rapinski found out that Mary B. was taking her plant for a walk! She giggled at the thought and whispered at Ophelia-Joy: “Now you be quiet and don’t wiggle your leaves and she’ll never know you’re under here.”

She deliberated a long time in the plant department of the dime store, studying each container while trying to decide which one would look best and finally selected a nice white one which seemed exactly right. She was shocked at the price, though, and mentally figured out what she would have to give up if she bought it. . . more than two six-packs and no more candy for a week!

Finally, she sighed deeply and dug the money out of a special board in her purse.

“Damn it, Ophelia,” she spoke rather crossly into her coat as she left the store. “You’re really beginning to be expensive.”
She went on to the park to rest and sit awhile. She set Ophelia— Joy and the new pot on the bench and then carefully lifted the plant out of the old pot and put it in the new one and sat back to admire her handiwork. Several of the regulars came by to talk and Mary B. introduced each of them to Ophelia- Joy and explained why she was out with her plant. None of them thought it was at all strange and everyone commented on how nice the plant looked

m’ its new home. Mrs. Rogers, from across the park, lingered for a time before she made

her daily excursion. Mrs. Rogers didn’t think much of plants as she had more important things to worry about than sitting around a park, but far be it from her to say anything about it. Inside of her rattan handbag Mrs. Rogers carried a dog collar and leash and took it out each day before she went

searching for her little white dog. “Penny might come back today and I’ll have her collar ready to slip

back on her,” She explained to Mary B. Mary B. nodded m’ sympathy and understanding as though she had not

heard the story a dozen times before and knew all the words by heart. Little Penny had slipped her collar and wandered into the bushes by this same bench and although it had been more than seven years since that fateful day, Mrs. Rogers never gave up hope that one day her little dog would return. Mrs. Rogers looked a bit disdainfully at Ophelia-Joy before she went _ searching in the bushes and said in a rather petty tone, “At least you don’t have to worry about your pet wandering off and getting lost. You know it’s not going to go away.”

Mary B. agreed and felt a bit of guilt for beingirritated about the money for the new pot.

On the way home she decided to stop at Angelo’s even though she had Ophelia- Joy along and didn’t have much money left. It wasn’t every day one got to celebrate anew home. She put Opehelia-Joy on the bar and explained to Angelo and the customers why she had a plant with her today. They were all fascinated by Mary B’s story of rescuing the bedraggled plant from the trash pile and nursing it back to health with beer. They bought beers so they could watch her take a sip and then pour a generous splash into Ophelia- Joy’s pot.

Angelo was a bit removed from the fun, though, and he commented dourly when Ophelia-Joy’s dirt was saturated with beer and the run-off came out of the bottom hole and collected in a big brown puddle on his newly polished bar. The customers howled at this and told Angelo he had better get a special rag to wipe up plant pee. Finally, he too got into the spirit of things and even gave Mary B. a free beer while she danced around the bar and sang,
“Give me one for my baby and one more for the road.”

While the hot, muggy summer wore on, Mary B. took Ophelia-Joy out with her often on her trips to the park because, she reasoned, plants like a change of air as much as people do, even if the air in the park was not much better than in her apartment.

If on occasion Ophelia-Joy seemed to droop a bit and look worn out, Mary B. would attribute it to the fact that the plant was again in labor, and in due time the plant would come forth with tender leaflets that burst out on the now strong green stalks and made it look like a prize plant from an expensive nursery. Each new leaf was greeted and proudly shown off to everyone in the park and the customers at Angelo’s, who continued to ply her with free beers. She reveled in the attention and it reminded her of the days when she used to take her darlin’ son to the park to be admired.

As summer gave up its smoggy grip and fall began to set in with cooler weather, some of the regulars disappeared from the park. At Angelo’s a few of the customers started to get a bit weary of buying Mary B’s beer and some of them taunted her a little and made teasing remarks when she came in with Ophelia-Joy. This hurt her feelings a lot as she had thought it was all in good fun and wasn’t prepared to be greeted with things like,”Here’s the crazylady with her drunk plant.” Or, “Here’s the nutty plant lady with her beer- drinking pet. Let’s see it pee on the bar.” She didn’t think things like that were called for but didn’t say anything, of course. She just smiled and went through her act.

But her attitude toward them began to change and she didn’t enjoy it as much anymore and she began to notice that Ophelia-Joy was looking abit droopy in the mornm’gs and didn’t seem as perky as before. Then Angelo began to act unfriendly toward her and one night said curtly, “You gotta stop that damn plant from peeing on my bar ‘cause it’s beginning to leave a stain.”

The next morning she had a long talk with Ophelia-Joy and explained why it would be better if she went out alone from now on.

“But don’t worry, darlin’,” she added brightly. “I’ll rush home every evening and we’ll have our own beer, just like we used to. We don’t have to depend on those grumps for free ones.”

It was shortly after that on a chilly fall evening when she was hurrying home at dusk and had almost made it into the safety of her building that the ever-dreaded happened. She was searching for her front door key when the mugger ran up the steps and grabbed for her purse. She wrestled with him and held on to her purse which contained her last five dollars, but he was young and strong and finally got it away from her. When she saw that he

actually was going to leave with her purse, she was so angry that she jumped
after him and gave him a kick in the ass as he was going down the steps. That made him mad and he turned and swung and hit her in the face with his fist. She fell and cracked her head with a resounding thwack on the concrete doorstep and woke up in a hospital bed to find out from a nurse that the

landlady had heard the scufi’les and had come out to find poor Mary B.

unconscious by the front door. She didn’t feel too bad, but her head did hurt and the nurse told her she

had a concussion and would have to stay in several days for observation. Thm‘km’g about what had happened upset her since she was sure it was because she had rushed of? in such a hurry that morning and forgotten to say a prayer for safe journey and this was her punishment. In general it was fun being in the hospital, though, and getting all that attention; eating good food was a pastime she’d almost forgotten, and she had the company of several

other ladies on the ward. She worried about Ophelia-Joy home all alone with no one to give her

vitamins and daily beer or even a drink of water, until finally, gathen’ng up her courage, she phoned Mrs. Rapinski to thank her for calling the ambulance and then, reluctantly, blurted out her request that the landlady use the pass key, go into her apartment and water her plant. Maybe Mrs. Rapinski would even break up a vitamin pill and sprinkle it around on the top of the soil? There was a long pause while Mrs. Rapinski thought it over,

probably considered some nasty remarks, and finally agreed to do it.

Mary B. sighed with relief. Then, she thought of what the landlady might have said if she had added, “Oh, and would you please open a can of beer and give my plant half of it?” She laughed until her head hurt, thinking of Mrs. Rapin’ski holding the phone at arm’s length while she looked up the number of the “nut farm”where she’d commit Mary B.

Finally, it was time to go home. Mrs. Rapinski came to pick her up and soon she was back in her apartment. Ophelia-Joy looked fine, strong and green. And there, on one of her uppermost branches, was the most beautifiil and colorful blossom Mary B. could imagine. She opened her last can of beer, thankful that she had not asked Mrs. Rapinski to give it to the plant, and sat in her armchair to survey their new addition.

The flower was a delicate pink, shaded with white around the edges and it stood up proudly as if it were the first flower ever to bloom in plantdom, instead of just a common one found everywhere. Mary B. wept with gratitude at this exquisite homecoming present and then smiled at Ophelia-Joy and said, “Now, darlin’, wouldn’t you like some beer after your long fast?”

The lovely flower nodded in agreement. Mary B. was about to pour the
beer when she stopped, can in mid-air. Sure enough, the little flower was nodding gently. N o doubt about it! Mary B. collapsed in her chair and almost

screamed with fear. “I’m going crazy, she whispered. “That blow on my head made me see

things. Flowers can’t talk. I’m going nuts. Oh dear. Oh Mary, Mother of

Jesus, protect me.” She huddled in her chair with arms wrapped around her legs for

several minutes until curiosity got the better of her and, leaning forward, she

saw a thin silvery line extending from the flower up into a corner of the

window and realized what it was. A whole circle of lines were suspended in mid-air and attached in several places to Ophelia-Joy’s stems. In the middle of the circle, furiously wrestling with a wayward moth, was a big black spider. Obviously, during her absence the creature had wandered in her window, God only knew from where, had spun its web and made. her plant part of its home. That was what was makingthe flower nod. Oh, thank Mary and all the saints of Heaven. She was not going crazy after all. But a spider? The black legs working up and down, as if they were dancing on sticky, surgarcoated threads, made Mary B’s skin crawl. So black, that spider. So

grim. After giving Ophelia-Joy a generous drink, she sat back to watch her

uninvited tenant enjoy that beer after a long dry spell. She didn’t know

whether to laugh or cry so did a bit of both. “Imagine that,” she whispered as she watched the drama of the now

exhausted moth and the agressive spider which was busily wrapping its future dinner around and around with silvery strands. “I won’t have to worry

about moths flying around in here.” Then a rather darkening thought came and she paused before she took

that last swallow of beer. She stared fearfully at the new interloper and leaned toward Ophelia-Joy, whispered behind her hand, conspiratorial, mocking distress.

“Mother of Jesus, do you suppose spiders like beer?” Ophelia-Joy seemed to be considering the possibilities, but Mary B.

broke in, gently stroking the edges of the dark-rimmed leaves. “If they do, let’s pray to all the saints that this little bugger is a teetotaler”

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