The enemies invaded the trailers. Many crept in alone; others arrived in organized platoons. They concealed themselves and built secret tiny nests and lairs. Some of them bit, stung, and pinched; others clogged, soiled, smudged, and polluted.
Lucky’s mom, Brigitte, faced these foes like a general in World War III. She mopped, swept, vacuumed, scoured, scrubbed, washed, polished, and sterilized. She was okay with the work. It was just part of living in the little desert town of Hard Pan, Pop. 43, which Brigitte had adopted as her home when she adopted Lucky as her daughter.
Lucky herself had a live-and-let-live attitude toward Brigitte’s enemies, those mice, ants, flying ants, tarantula hawk wasps, scorpions, beetles, crickets, spiders, flies, and moths, plus sand, dust, dirt, grit, and dog hair. The creatures were all just doing their jobs, trying to eat and not get eaten, make a home, have children, live their urgent tiny lives. Lucky tried to help Brigitte see things from their point of view, but it was no use. Brigitte did not care one bit about the point of view of a bug.
So Lucky was pretty conscientious about keeping the screen door closed and not tracking in dirt. She wiped down the tables on weekends, when Brigitte’s Hard Pan Café was open for lunch, and she bused and washed dirty dishes. But the problem with bugs is that they don’t care if a certain area “belongs” to you, like a shelf in your bedroom or a corner under the sink; all they know is, it seems like a good place to settle down. So Lucky had to be vigilant and keep up her guard, hunting and capturing the larger insects and releasing them outside.
She did her best. But sometimes all that cleaning and enemy-fighting wore Lucky out. It made her wish she were back at her old job at the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, which she’d given up because of having too much else to do. For that job, she just kept the patio clean and raked; she didn’t have to worry about dust or insects.
And then a certain realization bonked Lucky over the head: Nothing stays clean. Sooner or later the thing will have to be cleaned again. The floor, the stove, tables, pots, forks, napkins, feet, paws—the never-endingness of cleaning made a quick little what-if thought spring into her mind. The what-if was like an online pop-up, which you’re forced to look at even if you don’t want to. It wasn’t a wish that she hoped would come true, but still, there it was, blinking at her from the corner of the screen in her mind.
It was this: What if, for some reason, Brigitte’s Hard Pan Café just—poof—disappeared? Well, life would be way different. There would be so much less work! Brigitte could get a regular job. And they would have weekends just for themselves, to do fun things instead of working.
But then Lucky reminded herself of the good parts. Like that Brigitte wasn’t homesick for France, because here in California she had a strict boss—but it was herself. And every day when Lucky got back from school, she was greeted twice: first with a dog-kiss from HMS Beagle, who was waiting at the bus drop-off, and then with a hug and a mom-kiss from Brigitte. Plus, Lucky was proud that Brigitte’s cooking was famous for miles around, and all on their own, they were making the Café a success. Tourists who found them told their friends, and local people from Sierra City and other towns started coming every single weekend. It was a kind of miracle, and Brigitte said it could never have happened without Lucky. So Lucky felt ashamed about what-iffing the Café’s disappearance, even for a second. She put on her yellow rubber gloves and got to work.
But then a new enemy appeared, and started a different kind of battle.
© 2011 Susan Patron