By Kirsten Smith
Ginny has visions. What does the latest one tell her to do? Can she do it?
Ginny was standing in the grocery store cereal aisle trying to decide between the kinds that tasted good and the kinds that tasted like straw, but were ‘healthy,’ when a five-point-five earthquake hit. It lasted for seven and a half seconds. Finding herself starfished on the tiles beneath a half dozen boxes of both healthy and unhealthy cereals, Ginny too, was hit by a familiar certainty. A big change was coming. She knew she needed to get home post haste to receive the accompanying vision.
She ditched her cart, which contained just a king size bag of Twizzlers, microwaveable mini quiches, ingredients for baking cookies, and a head of organic cabbage—which she hadn’t known what to do with anyway. She’d added it only upon recalling her doctor’s insistence that she eat more greens and ‘healthy’ stuff. Making toward the exit, Ginny hiked up her faded brown dress and hopped carefully through the store aisle, which was scattered with goods and dazed shoppers like downed bowling pins.
Arriving home to her tiny and slightly askew cottage halfway up a mountain porcupined with spindly sequoias, Ginny felt vigorous like she hadn’t in ages. She hummed a little tune as she brewed a mug of ginger tea, then sat in the chair at her kitchen table next to the window, waiting for the vision to reveal itself.
The visions showed up only when Ginny was home, and generally they were conveniently speedy. It was aggravating when they took their sweet time. Once, it had been several weeks, and because she couldn’t risk going to the grocery store, she’d gotten down to the worst canned beans and vegetables in the pantry. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that this time. She thought wistfully about the abandoned Twizzlers, cookie supplies, and mini quiches.
After forty minutes, the tea was drunk and the vision had yet to arrive. Ginny glanced again at the clock, picked at some lint on her dress, then anxiously pulled herself to her feet and began to tidy up.
The wood plank floor in the main room was littered with the shattered corpses of objects that had taken nose-dives off shelves and tables during the quake. Irregular bowls and vases crafted during last year’s potting phase (brought on by a vision). A lamp shaped like a koi fish, from a local garage sale. Several smooth glass bottles she’d recovered over many years from the banks of the town’s river. Two bad self-portraits she’d made (another vision prompt) had jolted from their nails, bounced off the squeaky springs of her twin bed below, and crashed to the floor where their cheap frames had busted apart.
As Ginny tossed a heap of fragments into the trash bin, the phone on the wall trilled. She knew before answering that it was her neighbor Edwin. Unless it was a wrong number, which didn’t happen much, it was always Edwin. He was the only person anywhere who had her number, and she wished she never gave it to him.
“Of course, I’m alive. And I’m busy.”
“I called after the earthquake; you didn’t pick up. So, I came over, but you didn’t answer the door.”
“I was at the store, not that it’s your business.”
Edwin let out a whistle. “Bet that was a mess for sure. Well, I’m very glad you’re alive. Hey, you making cookies?”
“You said you were busy and just came from the store. So I figure: cookies.”
“No cookies. Cleaning. And waiting for something. As I said, I’m busy.”
“Ooh, you expecting a package? Is it a gift? Hold on.”
“Hold—don’t you come over here, Edwin. I mean it. Stay at your own damn—hello? Hello?”
Took the kid twenty seconds to trot over from his little shack to Ginny’s front door. Muss-haired and reeking of fish as usual, on account of he worked part-time at the local trout and salmon farm, Edwin was forever attempting to befriend the nearest person to him. Those with poor olfactory senses were likeliest. Most of the young folks in town immediately took off for someplace bigger after high school, but Edwin was content as a banana slug on a log living in the old shack his dad left him when he passed, so he stayed put. The setup didn’t lend itself to socializing, though. So, since Ginny was conveniently located, Edwin had adopted her as his best friend, despite their fifty-year age difference and the fact that she didn’t like other humans. Nature? Yes. People? No.
“So, what is it? What’s the gift?”
Ginny sighed and shuffled toward the kitchen, leaving the door open for him. Edwin wouldn’t dream of leaving until she’d explained herself. She hadn’t told many people about her visions, but that was largely due to the fact that there was seldomly anybody to tell.
As the water heated for ginger tea, Ginny explained that it was not necessarily something physical she was awaiting. Though it could be. Hard to know, really. But more like an idea, in picture form. Inspiration that would change the course of her life in some way. She told him how the visions had been appearing since she was young.
“Neato. Do you see lottery numbers?”
The woman said “Psh!” and flicked her pale, wrinkled fingers toward the slumping surroundings.
Edwin shrugged. “Guess not. So, what kind of visions are they?”
Ginny gazed out the kitchen window and absently patted at her fuzzy white dandelion hair. “They sorta…point me in the right direction.”
“Like self-help visions? Like Oprah and such?”
“Well, what do you mean, then?”
The tea kettle gave a high-pitched protest. Ginny took down an extra mug from the shelf, one of the two lumpy earthquake survivors, added water and a tea bag and handed it to the kid. Then she filled her own mug and leaned against the counter.
“They lead me to do things that make me…a better me. Take up pottery. Become a painter. Learn bookkeeping,” Ginny stared into her tea, thinking. “Let’s see, going way back, there was…move to Costa Rica to save the monkeys. Stow away on a Russian oil tanker and learn to write in Cyrillic—tricky alphabet, that one. Live with a Bedouin tribe and teach the chief’s wives the art of Western-style lovemaking—”
Edwin sputtered ginger tea and shot her a pained look.
“Well. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Was a time I liked people somewhat more. Occasionally, anyway.”
“But how would some kooky thing like that make you a better Ginny?”
“It taught me patience,” she replied. “And that there’s not really a Western style of lovemaking.”
Several cups of tea later, hunger set in. Ginny whipped up a batch of pancakes with extra butter, whipped cream, and real Canadian maple syrup for them both. She was in the midst of slicing a perfect syrupy square when the vision appeared. A bloom of blinding light filled her mind’s eye and shadows and colors began to gather into shapes like spent fireworks in reverse.
The colors were forming…
They were looking like…
Her smile melted into a scowl. “No, no, no. That can’t be right!”
Edwin paused, fork and pancake raised, eyes wide. “Is it the vision? What’s it saying?”
Ginny let the silverware clatter to her plate and sat back in her chair sulkily for a long moment. She worked her mouth as if it were coated in a bitter residue. At last, she closed her eyes and sighed.
“The vision mandates…from here on out, I must…eat healthy.”
“That’s the worst vision I’ve ever had. Really. I thought it would be something artsy like crocheted appliance covers or seashell jewelry.”
They sat in splintery silence. Then Edwin leaped up.
The young man hustled out the door, and a minute later, hustled back in carrying a trash bag, which he handed to her. It was packed with paper-wrapped trout and salmon fillets, the aroma of which swam swiftly throughout the cottage. Then Edwin picked up Ginny’s plate of pancakes, plopped them onto his own plate, and dug in with a smile that said, I’ve got you, friend.