“Considering how foolishly people act and how pleasantly they prattle, perhaps it would be better for the world if they talked more and did less.”
- W. Somerset Maugham
I live in a small house on a pleasant, leafy street in a city by the sea. On occasion, during warmer times, people stop and admire my magnolia tree in full bloom. Nowadays, they’re stopping to puzzle over the downy buds that have been sitting there dormant since the leaves dropped last autumn. Thousands of buds cover the tree, and in spring, each one of them will be a fragrant blossom, the palest of pinks. I enjoy the interest perfect strangers take in my tree.
Then there’s the driveway. In and of itself, I have no problems with my driveway, but what I don’t enjoy is the frequency with which people park their cars in front of it, despite wide open, perfectly legal parking spaces on either side of it. The excuse I hear almost exclusively, as the offenders rush out from the corner store nearby, smokes and lottery tickets in hand, is “Oh, I only had to stop for a minute.”
Which means what?
On a recent evening, my family donned coats and gloves and hied ourselves to the car, theatre tickets in hand. Blocking our driveway, of course, was a car. In the back seat a young woman sat talking into her cell phone. I tapped the window. Cell-Phone Girl flipped her hair and waved at me. I pointed at my car, at my waiting family, and though I suspected it was futile, asked her to please move the car. Again, she flipped her hair and waved.
Not the right response.
I thunked on the window, and she snapped her phone shut. Her kohl-rimmed eyes glared at me as she opened the door.
“You’re blocking my driveway,” I said.
“We’ll just be here a minute,” she replied in a voice like a rusty hinge.
“You’re blocking my driveway.”
Cell-Phone Girl flung open her door and removed herself from the backseat to the front, but not before flipping her hair one last time and saying in her rusty-hinge voice,
“All ya hedda’ do was ask!”
During the drive to the theatre, I confirmed with my companions that I had, indeed, asked.
And then I thought about how great a word “hedda’” is, and how I’ll probably use it in a story someday.
Earlier today, a couple of teenaged girls stopped to look up close at the magnolia buds.
“Is it a pussywillow?” one of them asked.
“No, it’s a magnolia,” I replied. “Come back in May for the real show. I’ll snip you a blossom.”
I smiled; the girls smiled back.
All they hedda’ do was ask.