It was the summer of 1962 and for the third day, temperatures would be in the triple digits.
Marylou didn’t usually mind spending her days at home with their four children. But today by mid-morning, she had broken up three fights, doctored a bloody knee, and cleaned grits off the ceiling.
And Mrs. Gordeau, their neighbor and landlady, had been particularly demanding this morning. Very few days went by that Marylou was not summoned next door to carry out a chore of some kind. She always went cheerfully, and spoke kindly to the older woman, though her efforts seemed to go unnoticed. But Marylou believed that a merry heart was good medicine, and she kept hoping that someday Mrs. Gordeau would smile back at her.
To avoid the midday heat, she was baking a cake this morning. She was measuring out the cooking oil when she heard the children yelling. She dropped everything and ran.
When she came back in, she found grease all over her stovetop. In her rush outside, she had knocked over the oil. What a mess!
She cleaned it up, fed the children, and put them down for a nap.
Then the fan quit. Without it, there was not a breath of air stirring in that house.
Oh, well. She was baking a cake today, and that was that! She began mixing the flour and sugar, sweat running down her back, and dripping off her nose. Finally, she popped the two layers in the oven.
Fanning herself with her apron, she was headed for the porch swing with baby DeeDee, when Mrs. Gordeau called from her back porch. “Marylou!”
“I need you to come help me.” Without waiting for a reply, Mrs. Gordeau went back into her house.
Sighing, Marylou propped the baby on her hip and walked across the yard. Thirty minutes later, she was heading home when she saw the smoke wisping out from the screen door. Relieved to spot the children on the swing set, she left DeeDee with them and ran into the house.
Her cake!! She snatched open the oven door and saw the oven and the cakes ablaze! That oil she spilled! Somehow it must have leaked through the oven and dripped onto the cakes!
She searched frantically for a way to remove the cakes. She grabbed the rake from the porch, and slid the two flaming pans onto the tines. Slowly she backed out onto the porch.
She made it down the first step. On the second step, her foot slid neatly into the back of a Tonka dump truck. It started rolling. She grabbed the rail with one hand, but the weight of the cakes drug her other hand down. Then the handle of the rake slid in between the two porch steps. She let go of the rail so she could put two hands on the rake. Unfortunately, the truck took off, the rake swung like a catapult, and both fiery cakes were flung to the roof of the wash house situated between the two houses.
She began searching for the water hose, trying with every other step to shake loose the Tonka truck.
“Is my wash house on fire?” Mrs. Gordeau rose up from the chair on her back porch. “Get those things down! Put that fire out!”
By the time Mrs. Gordeau’s tirade had slowed, Marylou had thoroughly doused the cakes. She was standing there with the water hose in her hand when Mrs. Gordeau got her second wind. “You’re going to fix that! After all I’ve done for you….” She gasped and sputtered as the water hit her full in the face…. for about three seconds. Then she just stood there looking at Marylou.
Marylou was horrified with herself. She threw down the hose and stared at her wet neighbor, waiting for the condemnation to come, waiting for her family to be ordered out of their home.
Then Mrs. Gordeau said the most amazing thing. “That sure did feel good.” And she began to laugh, a deep belly laugh.
Marylou couldn’t move at first. The water from the hose had been running all over her tennis shoes, but she didn’t notice. She squished her way over to her neighbor’s porch, and stood there, mesmerized by the strange sight.
Looking down at Marylou, Mrs. Gordeau chuckled and said, “Come on up here and set a spell. You look like you need to cool off a little bit. Me, I’m done cooled off.”
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