Smelly Lady, Take Two

O.K., I indulged in one more fantasy of Smelly Lady (sparked by Tara Sparling’s post). This will be the last one…I think.


Smoothing down her silver hair, Mrs. Vanderhorse shuffled down the isle, steadying herself on the rail overhead as the bus jolted into gear and leapt back into traffic. She smiled at a mother and baby as she passed, but didn’t sit in the empty seat next to them. Scanning the bus, her eye caught a young woman bent over a book, her nose nearly touching the pages; a seat stood empty beside her.

Knowing her destination now, Mrs. Vanderhorse hurried down the isle, settling herself in with a satisfied sigh.

“I just hate trying to walk when the bus is moving. It makes me feel I’m on an ocean-liner and am going to be seasick, just as I was on my honeymoon in 1951.” She spoke in the direction of her seat-mate who had glanced up from her book, her face wrinkling in disgust. But the expression was fleeting; the young woman only struggled for a moment before forcing a tight smile and nodding in response.

“Yes, it is awkward to walk while the bus is moving.”

The young woman was holding her nose shut at the back of her throat as she spoke, giving her a stuffed-up sound, and Mrs. Vanderhorse had to looked down, smoothing her worsted skirt as she hid a smile behind the fall of her shining bob. How long would this one last? She guessed two stops.

“What are you reading?” She shifted to lean a little closer to the young woman, who almost imperceptibly scooted closer to the window.

“Um, 50 Shades of Grey.”

“Oh, I’ve never heard of it. Is it a book on charcoal drawing? Are you an artist?”

The young woman’s mouth was clamped shut; she shook her head, but didn’t offer any other explanation. Mrs. Vanderhorse leaned back into her seat, stretching her legs out in front of her, trying another topic.

“I’m taking the bus all the way to the wharf. Going to meet my granddaughter and have a high tea at Oleander’s Hotel. Doesn’t that sound lovely?”

The young woman’s eyes were now watering, and she swallowed several times before responding.

“Lovely. Yes,” she gasped, then stood abruptly, pulling the cord to signal to the driver that she wanted the next stop. “Excuse me. My stop.”

Mrs. Vanderhorse waited until the young woman had fairly leapt from the steps before catching the eye of the old man at the front of the bus. Three stops later they both climbed down the steps, careful to hold the rail as their balance wasn’t as good as it had once been.

“Honey, that was brilliant!” Mr. Vanderhorse squeezed his wife’s hand after the bus had pulled away from the curb. “You should be on Broadway in New York!”

“Did you see her face?” Mrs. Vanderhorse was gripping her husband’s elbow, laughing so hard she could scarcely stand. “That girl was trying so hard to be polite, but she looked positively ill.

“That was even better than last week!”

Both old people howled with laughter, holding each other up as they tried to catch their breath. A moment later, a curt voice made them clamp their mouths down over their hilarity.

“Mother! Dad! What in the name of all that’s good are you two doing?”

Mrs. Vanderhorse turned, shoulders inching up to her ears. She bit her lip—Cripes, what the hell was Gina doing on 56th St. and Aiken at two in the afternoon?

“Hello darling,” Mr. Vanderhorse said quickly before she could answer her daughter’s question. He moved to intercept Gina with a hug, gesturing to Mrs. Vanderhorse with a quick jerk of his head.

She followed his direction, stepping back a pace or two, even though she knew it was futile. The reek of the Limburger cheese she’d ground into her slip wouldn’t disappear just because she’d put a couple paces of fresh air between them.

Gina’s brows came down. “Wait a minute. What is that smell…Mom! Dad! You haven’t been at it again, have you?”

Mr. and Mrs. Vanderhorse stood sheepish and silent for a moment, but then Mr. Vanderhorse elbowed her and she began to giggle, just as she used to do when they were young and he’d make faces at her from the pew across the isle in church. Mr. Vanderhorse joined in, and soon they were gripping each other again, tears in their eyes as they tried to stifle their laughter as their daughter’s face grew increasingly stormy.

Finally Gina threw up her hands. “I give up. If the retirement home I found for you two doesn’t have enough to keep you entertained, there’s nothing I can do about it! Get yourselves arrested for all I care.”

She turned and strode away nearly half a block before turning back and shouting. “Just don’t show up smelling like that at Sarah’s piano recital tonight!” With a muttered curse, Gina spun back around and disappeared around the corner.

“Dammit.” Mr. Vanderhorse wiped a tear from his eye, and sighed. “She’s gonna be mad for a month.”

Mrs. Vanderhorse shrugged. “She never had a sense of humor. Got that from your mother, poor thing.” She laughed again. “And as though anyone would arrest an old lady for smelling like rotten cheese. So melodramatic.”

“All this talk of cheese is making me hungry, honey. Whadd’ya say we go to Lupes Market and get ourselves deli for a picnic?”

“Perfect. Happy 50th  anniversary, darling. I love you.”

3 thoughts on “Smelly Lady, Take Two

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