May 11, 2006

The next morning, Lois and I arrived at work simultaneously. However, only one of us was one hundred percent present, if you understand my meaning. Lois looked a teensy bit wan as she deactivated the alarm system.

"Great party last night," she murmured in sotto voce. I could see that she didn't have the energy to raise her voice any higher than sotto.

"I'm glad you had fun, my sweet," I replied as Lois summoned up a pasty smile. "What's the plan for today?"

"Pattern sale," Lois said. "Plus, I think we're getting a shipment later in the day."

What I really wanted to know, my bon bons, was whether the doody was going to hit the fan, but I was reluctant to press Lois so early in the morning, post-party and pre-caffeine. I decided that I would just carry on, business as usual, and respond to the inevitable crisis when it arrived. That's been my modus operandi for my entire married life, anyway.

I was setting up a display of the new Butterick fall line and admiring a pattern for a very fetching poncho when Taffy dashed into the store and then stood among the fine-wale corduroys, breathless.

"Darling, please slow down. That can't be good for Baby," I cautioned, but Taffy just flashed me a very un-maternal look.

"Never you mind baby!" shouted Taffy. "Have you looked at Jo-Ann Fabrics today?"

"I try not to," smirked Lois, trying to adopt nonchalance rather than queasiness as her dominant trait for the day.

But Taffy did not want to hear smart-alecky remarks just then, which was unusual, since she was the source of most of them. "Go look! Go look at those thieving bastards!" she cried, her voice breaking with rage.

At that, Lois snapped into action. She could tell Taffy was sincere, that something horrible had indeed happened. Even a wicked hangover wasn't going to prevent her from managing her store the best way she could. She strode out the door and up the street, a woman with a mission.

I went to Taffy to calm her down, but her sobbing had reached the pitch and violence of a jackhammer. It was callous of me, I know, but I couldn't help but wonder how much of her emotional upheaval was due to external circumstance, and how much was due to the chaotic hormones of pregnancy. Some pregnant women cry over anything- pictures of whale sharks, pie crust recipes, windy days.

"Taffy, hon, can you tell me about it?" I tentatively whispered in her ear, not wanting to stir up another storm. I handed her a tissue and led her to the nearest chair, but the poor woman remained mute and miserable. Feeling powerless, I knelt beside her and waited for Lois to return.

When she did come back, Lois was simply livid. "If those people at Jo-Ann think they can ruin us this way, they have another thing coming," she growled. And then she walked into her office and slammed the door.

Zut alors! We had to open in ten minutes, and it was obvious that I wasn't getting any answers before then. I returned to my patterns under a dark cloud of trepidation. I would see the Jo-Ann Fabric travesty during my break.

This Week, Mrs. Filthy's Reading:

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion