The next morning I met my best friend Ginger at The Diner for breakfast. Kodiak businesses had a fondness for simply naming a business after what they do. The Diner is a good example. The business has a limited menu of basic foods, serves breakfast and lunch only, and employees the most efficient waitresses in town. While the view inside the restaurant was nothing special, the lakeside building’s many windows opened onto the charter airport landing strip so patrons were entertained by small planes taking off and landing on the gravel strip.
Ginger was well rooted in the community having been a school nurse for twenty years before accepting one of those early buy-out retirement offers. Now she was my one friend who had as much free time as me for volunteering, clubs, etc. We shared many common interests and were both raised in the south and went to college in Seattle. She held a master’s degree from University of Washington and I attended Cornish College of the Arts.
Ginger was kind in that she tried to always see issues and events from another person’s perspective. That may be why she seldom trigged my lie detector – her mind was open to multiple truths. One of Ginger’s most important attributes, from my perspective, is her discretion. You could tell her anything and know that it went nowhere. That is why she is the only person who knows about my ability to tell fiction from truth and she’s never asked me to do it for her benefit.
I’ve also entrusted Ginger with my family and financial history. My parents were songwriters and fairly successful but hard living and a two-year separation took a toll on their bodies. They died within a month of each other and shortly after I moved from Anchorage to Kodiak. I received an inheritance that I used to buy my house and fix it up with new plumbing fixtures and flooring. I also receive mechanical royalties from their songbook whenever their songs are played on the radio or find a new life in commercials, television shows, or movie soundtracks.
My parents wrote several hits in the seventies and lucky for me, those songs have found a new popularity and have been rerecorded by a new` generation of country stars. I receive just enough income to cover my basics and provide a little spending money. I accept the occasional odd job for the extras in life, such as a vacation. Prior to losing my parents I worked a series of jobs, including a prolonged stint at substitute teaching, but I never settled into the right one. I guess I am happier being able to pick and choose projects that interest me.
“You going to the quilt guild meeting this afternoon” I asked.
“I don’t know” she said. “Being the weekend before Crab Festival it conflicts with so many other events in the works. I should be calling all the volunteers today to verify they will be at the festival to work the booth for the women’s shelter. I also need to inventory all the supplies and make sure we received everything because if we don’t reorder by tomorrow there is no way we will have it by the Thursday.” Sometimes just listening to Ginger talk about her commitments tires me out. “Plus” she added, “I’m hosting a wine and hor’dovoures mixer for the historical society’s endowment benefactors tonight.”
“Oh, that’s tonight? I forgot all about it. I believe I offered to help you when you mentioned it a month or so ago. Do you still need help? Is it too late?”
“I can always use your help” she responded, “but let me think about how to best use your talents. The food is already taken care of by volunteers and will show up about 6pm. They will plate it and leave the rest in the warmer or refrigerator for restocking. The wine was delivered this morning and Mark Black, who is acting as our wine steward tonight, will return this afternoon to start letting the bottles breathe and whatever else a wine steward does. The glasses, tables, chairs, and linens are probably being delivered now. Hubby is home directing traffic bless his heart.”
Mark Black is a local newspaper columnist and my mind wondered as I tried to figure out how Ginger convinced him to serve wine tonight. Perhaps he was doing community service? Nah, Mark was a good guy. He’s involved with the community and is, without a doubt, Kodiak’s most eligible bachelor.
“You know I will do anything for you and I’m sorry I forgot all about it” I said.
Ginger responded that we should order and by the time we were finished with breakfast she would have a job for me. She was absolutely right. No sooner had I eaten my last bite of reindeer sausage when I became the flower and candle designer. Turns out the town’s only certified interior designer had to leave town abruptly when her daughter went into labor three weeks early. She left the key to her storage unit with Ginger to retrieve candles and vases. Someone also needed to pick up the flowers from the florist.
A couple hours later I drove past Ginger’s house on the way to the guild meeting. I wanted to see if she had reconsidered attending. I saw her in the front yard directing her minions like an orchestra conductor as they unfolded tables, covered chairs, and strung twinkle lights around large willow creations on the front porch. I would have to get a closer look at those large decorations flanking the door but for now I drove past her house and on to the meeting leaving Ginger to prepare for tonight.
Someone, other than Ginger, was missing from the meeting. I felt like there was someone that I wanted to sit by or talk to today but I just couldn’t recollect who it was. All through the show and tell portion of the program, where members held up what they were working on or had recently finished, I had a nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. When the business meeting started, and everyone wondered where the secretary was to read the minutes from the previous meeting, I realized the secretary was Libby and that is who I wanted to see today.
It wasn’t like Libby to miss a meeting of the Brown Bear Quilters and especially not without informing someone that she would not be there. For years the group had read the minutes of the previous meeting and then voted to accept them or amend them and if a secretary was not available to attend, she gave the minutes to another officer to read. Two of her close friends were there and had not spoken to her since yesterday morning just before she dropped her kids off at her estranged husband’s apartment. That might explain the tears I saw that day.
I didn’t know that she was separated from her husband but the gossip at the guild was that her husband was giving her a hard time regarding custody of their two young daughters and that he wasn’t willing to help her with the house expenses even though she only worked a part time job. Libby’s friends further shared that she had supported her husband for two years as he received training to be a licensed marine mechanic. He now had a well paying job working for a very successful businessman who owned several fishing boats. It was his job to keep these large trawlers in the water making money.
Aside from the absence of Libby, the meeting went on as normal and I volunteered to help hang quilts in the windows of all the downtown storefronts in the square during Crab Festival. Most downtown businesses were scheduled to close during the festival due to parking problems, people bringing food into the stores, and parents with children sick from pre-ride overeating who were only interested in using the businesses’ bathrooms. During the Crab Festival no one was interested in insurance, airplane tickets, high-end clothing, or Mary Kay cosmetics when there was an abundance of new ways to spend money at the festival.
The guild recognized this as an opportunity to do a quasi outdoor quilt show. It wouldn’t compare with the famous outdoor show in Sisters, Oregon but in our little piece of Alaska it would turn out to be a popular attraction. The square is a u-shaped shopping venue with a covered walkway. All the windows are big enough to display a large quilt or multiple small quilts. Every window would also display text explaining the specifics of the piece such as the maker, pattern, and the price if it was for sale.
After the meeting I picked up the flowers from the florist, spent a couple hours creating arrangements at Ginger’s mini mansion on Monashka Bay Beach, and then helped her place the candles and flower arrangements in just the right spots. We used common cardboard boxes under the beautiful linens to create different elevations for placing trays of finger foods. The candles fit nicely in the valleys created by the boxes and each table had one large, fabulous flower display. I must admit it was a classy presentation.
I had just enough time to get home, clean up, and get dressed for the event. I had no idea what to wear. If I was simply an invited guest I would wear something appropriate for after five. If I knew exactly what tasks Ginger would have me perform tonight, I might choose black pants or something equally comfortable yet nice. I finally decided on a long tunic pant suit, in black, with a mandarin collar and ruching details on the front. I looked in the mirror and decided I was going to make an impression on someone tonight. The question was, on who?