I rolled my cart, loaded with six bags of pool salt, air freshener, and a smoke alarm, through the parking lot, enjoying the cool air and grateful we were graced with such clear blue skies this morning. I walked to the back of my truck and couldn’t help noticing the shiny new cream-colored Lexus in the next parking space. A lady was standing next to it, doors and trunk closed, smoking a cigarette.
At that moment another woman walked by and recognizing the smoker said, “Hey girl how you been?”
“Hey you! I’m doing fine Jean. What you been up to?”
“Ah, not much. Same old, same old. What are you standing out here smoking for?”
“Well, I don’t want to mess up the interior of my new car.”
“Yeah, girl! That’s some good-looking wheels!”
I unlatched my tailgate and began loading the heavy bags of salt.
“How you been feeling, Phyllis?”
“I’ve been a little tired lately,” she said, stifling a cough. “We just renovated our kitchen and den and I’m so glad that’s done. It just about wore me out. Y’all need to come over and see what we did! It looks and feels so nice!”
In loading the second bag, I realized how thankful I was to be able to do so without back pain or shortness of breath. The wind blew smoke in my direction. I looked up and saw it was one of them long skinny cigarettes.
“I might do that. But we been running in all kinds of directions with the kids playing soccer and football. They’re traveling a lot.”
“Ok. But y’all need to come over!”
“We will. Promise. Hey let me see what’s on the inside of this good-looking car you got! Is it loaded?”
“You know it!”, Phyllis said as she opened the driver's door. Jean walked around and peered in, then sat in the driver’s seat. Phyllis stretched out the hand with the cigarette, careful to not let the trailing smoke enter her car.
“Ooh, girl, it smells so good. Got that new-car-smell.”
“Yeah, and I hope to keep it that way. Even bought some leather preserver, wax, and Odor Terminator.”
“Why don’t you just quit smoking them nasty cigarettes and you won’t have to do all that?”
“Yeah, I know. I need to quit.”
I loaded the last bag and closed up the tailgate.
“Okay, girl. It’s so good to see you. We gonna come over soon, okay?”
“Okay. And give Danny Boy my love.”
“I will. You take care now and enjoy that new car! We see ya!”
I stepped into my old Ford F-150 whose new-truck-smell had long ago vanished since before Katrina and slowly drove out the parking lot, but only after Miss Phyllis, following a coughing attack, drove away, realizing she had a metallic taste in her mouth or something like it. Maybe blood.