Marina Ch. 03byjjcole©
Chapter 03. Marina and I go to Felicity.
On the Monday after our graduation Marina and I traveled to Felicity and checked into a Super 8 motel. We drove around the town and noted that Felicity was a smaller version of our own hometowns.
The following day we called Martha who told us she was at the high school and to come over and get our classroom keys. It was still just the 2nd of June so that bit of information surprised us. Our call was social; we were calling to ask her to join us for lunch.
We had driven past the high school the previous day so we knew where to go. When we met her there we saw that she was in the midst of a conference of some kind. She gave Marina the key to her classroom and asked a younger version of herself called Karen to walk Marina to her room.
Martha invited me into the office and introduced me to a tall redheaded guy called James. He was the head of my science department.
My first impression of him was that he had probably been to all the places I had always wanted to go. That impression turned out to be right. He and Martha were debating the causes for the demise of Costa Rica's golden toads. He was going on his third expedition to find them in mid-July. He had never seen one. Martha had. That reminded me she was a science teacher and had likely also been to all the places I wanted to go.
The curriculum committee was not supposed to begin work for two weeks but they had obviously already started on it. I was glad to have come early. I put in my two cents as I covered the theory that it may have been volcanic emissions that weakened the toads enough for the fungus to finish them off. There were lots of volcanoes in Costa Rica.
We were often interrupted by people wandering in to collect hugs and kisses from Martha and James. They were all introduced to me then sent down the hall to meet Marina. I could not keep all of them straight because many were small redheads like Martha.
One that definitely was not was a statuesque black policewoman that was introduced to me as Felicity's chief of police, Shawna. Martha asked her to make sure and say hello to Marina before she left too.
James then Martha kissed the chief of police on the lips and Martha patted her butt. I never thought I would see such a thing and Martha saw the amused smile on my face.
She said, "The town in general and the teachers in particular believe that you should never keep the people you love in the dark about how you feel. My very extended family which includes our chief of police make our point each and every time we see each other and we go out of our way to make sure we see each other.
Shawna, our police chief, was going by the school and saw one car she did not recognize, yours. She came in to check if everything was OK. All of us in here are her family. She will protect us with ferocity but as you saw she is a very lovable person."
At about that time a blonde came into the room, wrapped her arms around James and kissed him passionately. As soon as she released James she gave Martha a big sloppy kiss on the lips. Then she noticed me.
"Hi, I'm Lucy. You must be Jay. I just met your wife down the hall. Shawna wants to arrest her for being taller than she is. She told me you do not have a place to live here yet. When did you plan on moving?"
"As soon as we put down the deposit for the apartment we found which will happen next weekend."
"The ones by the state highway, near the chemical plant. They are the only ones with vacancies."
Lucy looked at Martha. Martha was looking at me as if I was out of my freaking mind.
"Has Aunt Wendy done anything with her place yet?" Lucy asked Martha.
In answer Martha picked up her phone and speed dialed a number.
"Pardon me you selfish hussy but have you done anything with your townhouse yet? I have a couple that will be teaching for us and I do not want them in the Hardass Apartments.
Thank you sweetheart, just for that I will not remind Jim he picked the wrong sister, for at least a couple of days."
Martha held the phone away from her ear for a few moments then said, "I love you anyway," and hung up.
She found her purse and fished out a business card for a jewelry shop and handed it to me.
"My sister has a townhouse she rents out. Her last tenant left last week and the ads for a new tenant have not been put out. She said the cleaning crew just finished with it this morning so it's ready She will not ask you for a deposit since you are a teacher and will work with you until you get a paycheck. Do not be disturbed if she makes a pass at Marina, or you. It will be a few weeks before you are in real danger."
Lucy slapped her butt and said, "Shame on you. That is nearly defamation of character. Just because she will not loan you Jim for your trip to Europe does not mean you can say that about her."
Martha defiantly stuck her tongue out at her, which Lucy promptly kissed.
"Although, she probably will make a pass at Marina," Lucy added as she turned to me.
Martha and Lucy burst into giggles and even James had to laugh. "It must be a family thing," I thought.
I recognized Marina's laughter among the several approaching us. The number of ladies had multiplied and now included a small redhead and a miniature Lucy, both about seven.
Martha said, "Housing problem solved. Karen sweetie, take them down to your Aunt Wendy, she agreed to put them up in the manger."
"Cool, lets go."
We got into the very small woman's very large pick-up and held on as she sped us to the center of town. As she waited for a light to change someone banged on her window. She quickly rolled it down and received a kiss from a Hispanic lady and her teenage daughter before continuing on.
As soon as she walked into the jewelry shop she jumped into a redheaded woman's arms and kissed her enthusiastically.
"Aunt Wendy, these are Jay and Marina."
"Hi, welcome to sedate city. Oh, nice ring. Do you have a wedding band to match it?"
"No, not yet. We have not been able to find one."
"Do you want complementary or matching?"
Karen and Wendy showed their rings to Marina.
"Oh man, definitely complementary. Are those from your shop?"
Karen jumped in and answered with obvious pride, "She made them. She is our town artist."
"Come back to the workshop so I can photograph your ring and take measurements. Jay, write down an IOU note for me with what you can handle in terms of the townhouse. I mean easily handle. Don't put yourself in a bind. We will be right back."
I shook my head and wondered about the legality of the paper I was writing. Karen saw my disbelief and said, "Aunt Martha trusts you enough to give you a job. Aunt Wendy trusts her sister's judgment so she trusts you.
So do I, and James, and Lucy, and Shawna, and about fifty other people you have not met. One more thing, we will all want to kiss Marina as soon as she gets comfortable around us. We do not stand on formality very well and we do not trust our second opinions nearly as well as our first. Everyone she met this morning already loves her. No one is trying to steal her, seduce her or anything, at least not yet. It is just what the women who are family do. I expect Marina to be considered family any minute now."
Sure enough just as they stepped back out to the shop I saw Wendy give Marina a light kiss on the lips. I gave Wendy the paper with our "lease agreement' and she put it in her cash register without looking. She then handed me a key and asked, "How much stuff do you have to move?"
"Not much, I said. "What we had in our apartment at school was mostly borrowed stuff. We have money to buy a bed and kitchen stuff then we will go from there."
I saw Karen and Wendy look at each other and say at the same time, "Juanitas."
Karen picked up her keys and kissed her aunt softly and waited for Marina to kiss Wendy, which she promptly did.
Juanitas was a Mom and Pop furniture and appliance store. Felicity did not have any of the large furniture chains.
As soon as we walked in women of three generations came over to kiss Karen. She introduced us to the ladies, all named Juanita, who promptly complained that Marina and I were blocking out the sun. They told Karen not to let us come in with James or Allen or we would block out the sky. James was bout an inch taller than me and I assumed Allen was too although I had not met him.
None of the ladies seemed to be terribly close to five feet tall. Compared to them Karen looked to be nearly normal size. The eldest Juanita took my hand and led me to where the bedroom sets were.
She pointed at three sets and asked which one I liked best. I thought it would wise on my part to ask Marina and she just pointed to one that to me seemed a bit old fashioned but sturdy so I immediately agreed. We did the same thing with the living room furniture and the dining set.
They invited us to sit at a table and I began to calculate how much of that I could afford.
But we were not at the table to negotiate; we were at the table to eat. Karen fast dialed a number and said one word, "burritos," and hung up. Sure enough the best burritos we had ever put in our mouths suddenly appeared in great quantities.
A few minutes later a guy came in and quickly kissed his way to our table. Karen jumped into his arms and kissed him hard enough and long enough that the elder Juanita slapped her butt and said, "Basta, sucia," then kissed the guy herself. His name was Mike and he was Karen's husband. He was also a science teacher but at the intermediate school.
We talked as we stuffed our faces with burritos. Someone brought out a salad, which Mike and I looked at in disdain as we grabbed more burritos. Our ladies looked at us and as if they had rehearsed they said in unison, "You'll be sorry."
Shawna suddenly rushed in, kissed the ladies, (including Marina), grabbed a bag of burritos and dashed out.
A few minutes later Mike hollered "Dad!" and waved at a man walking in. He walked up to him and hugged him as Karen ran to him and kissed him. Mike introduced us to him as his Dad Jim, Wendy's husband.
The middle Juanita brought a small and a large bag for Jim and said, "Para la peliroja" as she handed him the larger bag. "Yours," as she handed him the smaller one.
Jim kissed the Juanitas and Karen and rushed out.
"He is going to the jewelry shop. Wendy's bag has a burrito salad you will need to try sometime," the middle Juanita said to Marina.
"Who cooks?" I asked.
"Her sister Rosa," Mike said pointing at the elder Juanita.
"Please tell her she just earned two more big fans in us. We will always heed the whisper of "burritos."
A slow stream of people came in and each was handed a bag by the Juanitas. Several kissed the Juanitas and a few also kissed Karen. We were down to two burritos at our table and I graciously allowed Mike to eat both. I was stuffed which made being gracious easy. Soon Mike stood and said he would meet us at our townhouse and left after kissing his way out.
Karen stood and said we had one more stop to make and kissed each Juanita enthusiastically then ran towards what may have been the kitchen. Marina kissed each Juanita while sitting then we stood to leave. We followed Karen out but when we got in the truck we saw tears in her eyes. Marina kissed her cheek and we waited on Karen.
"Rosa, she is going blind. She did not see me until I was right next to her. I startled her when I hugged her. I am glad she can still give the town her rare treat but worry it will not be for much longer." Karen let out a sigh and smiled. "She still loves her kisses and that's the important part."
Marina softly asked Karen, "Take me to her please."
Karen jumped out of the truck and led us back into the store and back to the kitchen. In impeccable Spanglish she announced us to Rosa, a small frail lady with beautiful silver hair. Karen told her that she had two more people that loved her. We kissed her as Marina complemented her hair and I called her a kitchen genius. Karen was right; Rosa loved her kisses and caresses. The Juanitas seemed to be very emotional as we left. In fact so were we.
Our next stop was Felicity's version of a department store. It looked to me that at one time it had been a Woolworth's.
"Where is Bernice?' she asked the man at the front.
"She is at the police station. We got robbed this morning and Shawna caught him. Bernice went over to identify him."
"Damn, what did he steal? Karen asked.
"Pillow cases. Ran in, grabbed an armful, ran out."
We turned at a commotion behind us. A terrified teenager was being escorted into the shop by two angry black women, Shawna and I presumed Bernice. His troubles had just started. When Karen saw who it was she rushed to him, got right in his face and just lit into him.
The man with us introduced himself as Bernie and asked us to follow him commenting, "If you think he has it bad now just wait till his mama gets here."
"Wendy said you needed some linens and towels and kitchen stuff. They are over here. You two are going to need the big towels, they are on the top shelf. The king size bed sets are over on that shelf over there. The best cooking ware set we have is that one with Wolfgang Puck's picture on the box. Plates, glasses and silverware to match are next to it. Help yourself to what you need, I am going to go see if Ronny is still wearing his skin."
Marina and I picked up what we thought we could get by with for a while and walked to the front of the store where we saw a formidable woman trying to rip Ronny's ear off.
Marina and I placed our items on the counter next to the register and waited to check out. When Karen saw we had what we needed she kissed Ronny's mom, Bernice and Shawna, then gave Ronny one more piece of her mind before she hurried us out the door. After we got in her truck I reminded her that I had not had a chance to check out.
"No problem, Bernice will write up your bill when you are ready for it. Did you hear what that little fart wanted the pillowcases for? He and his brother were going to put pigs in them. Incredible."
"They were going to steal pigs?"
"No, their own pigs. They are very active in FAA. We could not get the why from him but his mother is going to have Shawna throw him in the slammer until he does talk. The pranks those boys pull are far out sometimes but stealing has never been a part of them."
"So, he is a prankster, not a thief," Marina said.
"Well, he is now," Karen said. "He is just fourteen so there will not be a record in any case and I suspect the paperwork will get lost, Bernice's memory will fail and his mother will let him live. This time we may be able to get a school year of peace and quiet out of this. He will be your problem now, he will be a ninth grader this fall."
"What kind of pranks?" I asked.
"On the first day of school last year he walked into Mike's classroom leading a calf. He claimed that the calf's babysitter had not shown up."
"What did Mike do?"
"First he made him teach the class all he knew about raising a calf. Then he handed Ronny a trashcan and a roll of paper towels and told him that babysitters clean after their babies. Thirty seconds later the calf took a dump.
Mike opened the windows then taught his lesson as if nothing of interest had happened while Ronny cleaned up the cow poop. After Ronny was done he asked permission to go home and check to see if the babysitter was there. Ronny had obviously not thought the whole thing through.
As soon as he left with his calf Mike called his mother who was waiting on Ronny when he got home. When he made it to my class he looked like he had run all the way.
The best part of the day for us was when Mike and I convinced our classes to act as if nothing had happened. Of course when he got to gym class all his friends were all over him so he got the reward he wanted anyway."
As Marina and I laughed at the story we pulled up to a very nice townhouse complex and Karen said, "Jay, you stay in case somebody shows up. I will take Marina to your car and lead her back here."
I did not have to worry about who was going to show up for very long. Mike came in with a twelve pack of Dos Equis and before we finished our second ones a van from Bernice's with our kitchen and bathroom stuff appeared. I signed the delivery list and as Bernice's van was leaving the Juanita's truck arrived. The furniture Marina had pointed to was inside the truck and soon inside the house. The only paper I signed for either was a delivery inventory. I figured that was how Bernice and the Juanitas were keeping track.
I was very glad to see we would not need appliances; Wendy had a complete array of state-of-the-art stuff. I was very, very glad to be able to kiss my Laundromat days goodbye.
Almost as soon as the furniture was inside Karen and Marina returned. They put the linens and the towels in the large washer then after they unpacked the kitchen items enjoyed themselves by having Mike and I reposition the furniture to their liking, often.
We got a break from their whims when we were interrupted by a whole lot of people carrying items for us. There were lamps, household cleaners, wall clocks, mirrors, coffee maker, groceries, paper towels, more beer, wine, chips, and salsa. The last four items did not survive the night.
Marina was giddy and I was nearly so. It seemed that every time two people left three came in carrying stuff. A few of them asked us about meeting Rosa, and many of them wanted our description of the Ronny incident. Marina came up with a very funny version of the event that featured Karen spitting fire at the terrified boy and her amazement that his ear had stayed attached.
By the late evening there were just a few left, Jim and Wendy, Mike and Karen, and Lucy and James. We finished off the last of the three orders of pizza we had delivered. The guys were finishing off the beer as the ladies finished off the wine.
It was then that it hit me; Marina and I were entertaining guests at our home. These were our friends. We lived in Felicity.
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