Friday, May 8, 2020

Part 4: The Making of a Mask Maven

The story thus far: Miss Irene, Julie's 90-year-old landlord, is assembling a crack team - some more cracked than others - to provide pandemic relief services. So how did Muffy become the Machiavelli of Masks? Read on...

Muffy Smith wasn't Miss Irene's first choice to head the Pleasant Glen volunteer face mask sewing group. She wasn't even in the top ten.

Then again, heading up the volunteer sewing group wasn't Muffy first choice either. Her first choice would have been Miss Irene’s job as head of all Pleasant Glen's volunteer virus-relief efforts. It wasn’t that Muffy didn’t think Miss Irene was capable, or that Muffy was fond of doing anything remotely resembling work, she just preferred to be the center of attention – not orbiting slightly off center.

Muffy was meeting with her clique (Bunny, Poppy, Bitsy and Chip) when she first learned of Miss Irene's efforts to organize donations and resources to help those affected by the virus and resulting closures. Prior to that, Muffy's only virus-related concern was locating a manicurist and beautician who would make house calls. She found the restrictions to be quite inconvenient and thought the governor was going overboard with some sort of personal vendetta against her.

Case in point: before the pandemic, Muffy and friends met each Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning at Coffee Olé, Pleasant Glen's combination coffee shop/Mexican restaurant. (Tuesday mornings were reserved for Pleasant Glen Women's Religious Council meetings, Thursdays for beauty shop appointments.) From their booth in the cafe's front window, the women could observe the comings and goings at the shops surrounding the town square and pass judgment on it all: the unfortunate clothing choices, disastrous hair styles, and the frequency with which certain people visited PeeGee's Bakery.

When businesses closed because of the virus, the women were forced to get their lattes to-go, and sit in Muffy's Camero coupe. Although it was small, it was new-ish (Muffy's son “gifted” it to her when he defaulted on the payments) eye-catching and sporty, and it made them feel almost like they were back in high school (except for the difficulty they had climbing into and out of the backseat). Sitting in the car had other advantages, too: they didn't have to pretend to hide their bedazzled flasks (Bailey's Irish Cream Mondays, RumChata Wednesdays, Kahlua Fridays), and they could linger as long as they wanted without being pressured (which they ignored) to move along.

Their parking space on the town square put them right in the middle of the action, providing an edgy thrill – like the shark tunnel at the aquarium. Unfortunately, there wasn't much action to be a part of, or to comment on. In fact, by the end of the first week, the whole situation was losing its appeal. Ridiculing the few shell-shocked citizens still out and about was like shooting fish in a barrel. That didn't mean Muffy and friends didn't try: “I can see her split ends from here.” “Spandex is a privilege, not a right.” “Only a man would consider that six feet of distance.”

But Muffy could tell their hearts weren't in it. Between snarky comments, the women would sigh and twirl the ponytails protruding from their Lululemon caps (a necessity now that the salons were closed). Muffy knew if she didn't chum the water soon, they would turn on themselves. While she was willing to sacrifice any one of them, she couldn't run the risk of mutiny. She was about make them walk the plank when Julie drove by on The Scout, the sidecar filled with grocery bags.

“Well! That seems like an excessive amount of groceries for a single woman living alone!” Muffy said, her eyes lighting up at the scent of fresh prey. “Looks like 'Miss Goody Two Shoes' is Pleasant Glen's biggest hoarder!”

“She's probably just doing deliveries for Miss Irene,” said Chip, not bothering to temper the boredom in her voice.

“Deliveries?” Muffy watched Chip in the rear view mirror closely. In her experience, the quiet, bored ones were the most dangerous.

Chip, sensing a weak spot in Muffy's leadership and – as Muffy expected – hoping to improve her position in the food chain, sighed and flipped her ponytail before continuing. “Ehh-vry-one's who's ehh-ny-one is talking about it,” Chip said.

Was it Muffy's imagination, or did Chip's eyes roll back in preparation for an attack?

To be continued.

For more stories about Julie and the gang, check out my novel "Scout's Honor" and the soon to be released "Scout's Redemption."