Small Town Talk
December 6, 2019 – Elfrida, Arizona
Elfrida, Arizona is not much more than a speck of dirt in the desert—sneeze driving through, and you could miss it completely. As of July, 2019, it housed 435 folks, a 17% decline from 2010. Driving down main street, it resembles a ghost town, with rows of stores abandoned or burned to the ground. There’s a motel, a trading post, a hardware store, and a gas station, but no restaurants, though one is rumored to be opening soon. The most recent addition is a Family Dollar Store, a scaled-down version of Walmart that’s leaving its footprint in almost every small town in the area.
Our “new” manufactured home sits near Hwy 191, about a mile south of Elfrida. We’re living there now, and it’s a big step up from the tiny trailer we arrived in. Though we have to carry in water, and our power is limited to what we get from the inverter and a small battery, it’s wonderful to have a place with room to walk around, a place where Loki is free to wander. Our living space consists of a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room. There’s another bedroom adjacent to the living room, but it’s badly damaged from the fire that began in the water heater on the other side of the double-wide trailer.
The rooms we’re living in are mainly smoke-damaged, and I’m cleaning them little by little. Though the bathroom is about as far away as you can get from the actual fire, it suffered most from the smoke. Every square inch was covered with black grime that had to be scrubbed off. I’ve finished the bathtub, toilet and sink—now I’m tackling the walls and floors.
This being a small town, just about everyone is familiar with the trailer fire. My yoga instructor’s son used to rent it out before the fire—the owner of the motel where we stayed was one of the fire fighters who put out the blaze.
Brent and I are back together and doing well, thank God, since my stay with Ed came to an abrupt end on the third day. Ironically, Ed was talking to me about the power of the number three. Whenever I feel tense or worried, I repeat my key word three times, the one he linked in my mind with peace and tranquility.
I failed to mention in my last blog entry that Ed has a daughter. Three months ago, she moved from the Midwest to escape from the problems she was having with her daughter and son-in-law and she’s ostensibly taking care of Ed. However, they’ve had numerous clashes since she arrived due to differences in temperament. Ed is the kindest, wisest, most positive guy I’ve ever met—I’ve never once heard him raise his voice. Sam, his daughter is fiery, hot-headed, negative, and quick to anger—“just like her mother”, Ed says, referring to the Italian woman he was married to for almost 20 years.
That third day, I emerged from Ed’s shed carrying the battery I’d charged overnight, and almost tripped over Sam’s feet. I could tell by the scowl on her face she wasn’t happy—it was a far cry from the smile and hug she’d greeted me with the day before.
“You’re still charging that thing?” she asked, rhetorically, staring at the battery.
“Yep. It’s our only power source right now,” I replied, though I’m sure she was aware of that.
“You know, you’re using my Dad’s power.”
“I talked to your Dad, and he’s fine with it. I even offered him money several times, but he refused to take it.”
If her black eyes were hot coals, they would have burned a hole in my chest. “My dad’s too nice,” she replied.
Yep, I thought to myself, you could take a few lessons from him.
Not satisfied, she tried another angle. “I thought you said you were hardly talking to Karen. So why were you going to yoga class with her this morning? Why don’t you stay with her?”
Try as I might, I couldn’t remember ever having said that to Sam. “I’ll just go back up there and stay,” I replied, referring to my property. It was quite obvious she didn’t want me there, for whatever reason.
I headed back to Ed’s house to get my stuff, and explained the situation to him. I didn’t want him to think he had anything to do with my leaving.
He apologized for his daughter, assuring me I could stay as long as I wanted, but I no longer felt comfortable there.
The next day, I came over for coffee, hoping Sam had cooled off. Good timing has never been my forte, however, and I ran into her as she was leaving Ed’s house. “Thanks for causing problems between me and my dad,” she glared at me. She stomped off to the guest house, turning briefly to add an insult…”You bitch.”
I didn’t throw anything back at her. What was the point? I sat down with Ed in his small kitchen, picking up the cup of coffee he’d made for me. We’d barely begun talking when she barged in the house once more. She wore a green plastic bag around her chest in an effort to fend off the falling snow. Reaching for my coffee cup, she grabbed the handle and deposited it in the sink—no coffee for me.
“That’s my cup,” she growled, and I was wondering if it was a jealousy thing. Apparently satisfied, she walked back up to the guest house.
Finally, I thought to myself, but as Ed and I resumed our discussion I found myself looking back over my shoulder every few seconds, waiting for something to happen. Sure enough, Sam came back, this time through the back door.
“You’re still her?” she asked rhetorically. Walking back to the temporary room she’d set up lovingly for me the other day, she grabbed two of my suitcases and set them down near the entry. She pulled open the big wooden door, then the metal screen door, and unceremoniously threw the luggage outside into the snow. By now she’d reached a new level of fury and I was hoping she didn’t have any concealed weapons on her. “Get the fuck out!”, she screamed.
Ed apologized profusely for her behavior, but I was already headed towards the door. Time to get out. Let her and her dad work it out. He no longer allows her inside his house, but won’t ask her to leave. She may have a nasty temper, but she is his flesh and blood. The following morning he showed up at my property wearing one of the metal crosses he fashions from wiring. “I think she’s possessed by the devil,” he pronounced, looking profoundly sad.
Ed’s refrain came back to me, and I thought of his daughter who, like many others, brought her baggage with her to the mountains. “They will either heal you or toss you out,” he’d said, and I hoped it would be the latter.
There was a time following this incident that I wanted to run—get in the car and drive back to Washington. But today I feel happy once more. We have a warm dry place to stay, Brent and I are getting along better than ever, and life is looking pretty good.