Betsy glanced at her mega, industrial watch that wrapped heavily around her left wrist. 6:32. This was no time for self-indulgent liquidation. Betsy gathered her willpower along with armfuls of Mark’s stuff and threw it all into the wheelbarrow. This load, too, was dumped into the guest room with a flourish and an extra oomph of determination. OK. Trade the wheelbarrow for the vacuum. A speedy run-through in the showable spots. A quick dusting of visible furniture. And because “there came a most deadly nausea over (her) spirit” Betsy grabbed a can of Dr. Pepper from the stash in the back of the pantry, and poured it hissing and bubbling into a glass of ice. She’d have to throw away the can discreetly so her kids wouldn’t see it.
She downed the Dr. Pepper like a pro, then ran into her room, shimmied out of her jean capris, and put on her semi-clean black pants and pulled a black and white polka dot knit shirt over her head. She blushed her cheeks and brushed her eyebrows and just started brushing her teeth when the doorbell rang at 6:50. Betsy stared at herself in the bathroom mirror while toothpaste foamed from her mouth. The early doorbell made her foam even more. “I foamed, I raved, I swore!” Sister Bryce. She knew it was Sister Bryce. She was always early. Who would come early to anything? What a waste of a potential-filled ten minutes! Didn’t Sister Bryce have something to dust at her house or a floor to sweep? Why, in ten minutes, she could read a whole Ensign article but instead she was standing on Betsy’s front door step cheating Betsy out of ten minutes of final straightening. Betsy cursed. Just a little curse. Nothing major. Just a little “darn, darn, darn!” is all. Betsy ran to the door tossing the living room pillows in place on her way.
“Hello, Donna,” she greeted sweetly as Sister Bryce stepped into the foyer and was led to the living room. “Sit down wherever you like—since you’re the first one here,” she added with emphasis. Then, “Excuse me for just a second.”
Betsy walked calmly from the living room and then raced to her bedroom, stopping for the wheelbarrow. Forget the tour. There would be no tour tonight, but someone might ask to see her new bedspread. Why had she said anything about it to anyone? Into the wheelbarrow went the piles of books and magazines that always seemed to find their way into the master bedroom. “Who was reading all these?” she wondered. It certainly wasn’t her. A couple of boxes of Kleenexes, some stray laundry, and the clothes she had quickly changed out of got thrown in, along with some framed pictures that never made it to the wall and some bags of Wal-Mart essentials that she hadn’t put away yet. At least she had already made her bed. She was the only one in the family who believed that a bed should be made first thing in the morning to create a bit of order out of chaos.
Down to the guest room she rolled the wheelbarrow for its final run. Betsy dumped the load quickly and laid the wheelbarrow on its side in the disastrous pile. More lines from Poe came to her: “You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing but you should have seen me.” And “I chuckled at heart.” And “I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness...for I had directed the ray as if by instinct precisely upon the damned spot.” And “I might as well have attempted to arrest an avalanche.”
The doorbell rang again. She hoped Sister Bryce would have enough initiative to answer it because Betsy still wasn’t ready. As she shut the guest room door firmly she seemed to hear “a low dull quick sound such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.” “More Poe?” thought Betsy. She felt “Poe-ssessed!”
She ran back to her bathroom for a quick brush of mascara and a swipe of Maybelline’s “On the Mauve.” She found a hair pick and attempted to lift her hair into order. Even the mirror seemed to be quoting Poe: “In vain I struggled to perfect—to regain it.” Whew! She only had to get through the next hour and a half or so, but she was feeling the crack “like the thread of the spider.”
Betsy found a sunny smile in her arsenal of expressions and walked sedately into the living room. She would have chosen to walk sedated into the living room but sedately would have to do.
Several guests were already there: delightful Sister McAfee—her face honored with wrinkles that crinkled with each lovely and frequent smile; Sister Branson—her head bobbing in time to her personal ill-health soliloquy; Sister Lansbury—comfortable as an over-stuffed chair and similar in dimensions. And there were others, wrapped in a variety of personalities and packaging.