Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Oregon Myrtle

my A to Z - every day of the challenge I will find a word by flinging my finger into my American Heritage Dictionary and then riff on it. The posts may be essays or poems or stories or memories. Who knows what will happen when we give Serendipity her wanton way?

Daphne becoming a Laurel (Myrtle)
Oregon myrtle n. The California laurel

"Geesh now, get over here - don't be shy! We've got lots. Lots to eat and lots to share. My daddy always said it wasn't ever worth cooking just for your family - always cook as if you were getting visitors. You don't even have a fire going and besides the smell of bacon will make you crazy. Well, it would me if I couldn't have it that is. It was my first word. Bacon was. When I was just not quite two and my daddy and mama took us all - all eight of us - on a camping trip."

Penny felt she had no choice but to come over. Truth was the bacon did smell good. She had intended to only eat vegan on this camping trip - she was calling it 'a cleansing retreat' but perhaps she could start that part tomorrow. She was going to be here for two weeks anyway. She wasn't sure why the older woman had referred to 'we' because as far as she could tell there was just the one of her. Penny tried not to stare at the woman but instead steal little glimpses. There was quite a bit to look at. She was a square plug of a woman - about five feet tall and wearing a pork-pie hat jammed down on grey curly hair. She was wearing bib-overalls with a pink and orange plaid shirt underneath and she was bare-foot.

"Well, thanks. I really appreciate your invitation. My name is Penny and I live in California. I'm here for a couple of weeks to...uh...figure out what I'm going to do next." Penny put out her hand and the woman grabbed it with both of hers and pumped it up and down vigorously.

"Well my name is Myrtle but it would be Laurel if I lived in California."
Penny wasn't sure how to respond to such a bizarre statement but she was a polite girl so she did her best.
"Well, where do you live?"
"I live here in Oregon. I live right here actually. In my tiny trailer. Do you want to know why my name would be different if I lived in California?"
"Sure. I'm game."
"Because I'm from Oregon and my daddy named me after the Oregon Myrtle which he thought was the prettiest tree ever. An Oregon Myrtle is really a California Laurel. Get it?"
Penny chuckled. Well, she tried to chuckle but it came out more like a chicken squawk.
"My dad named me too. He named me after Penelope who  is the faithful wife of Odysseus, who keeps her suitors at bay in his long absence and is eventually reunited with him. She's known for her marital faithfulness. And Laurel is part of Greek mythology too isn't she? Wasn't she a girl turned into a tree? Oh wait - I remember - the girl's name was Daphne and she refused all lovers and got turned into a laurel tree so she'd quit being hassled. Ha! So your real name is Daphne."
The woman looked none too happy about this news and Penny wished she'd kept her mouth shut. It was probably why Tim had left her in the first place. Though he said it wasn't. He said it was because she was so predictable - so stalwart. He was bored. That reminded Penny of the 'we' question. Might as well ask, she'd already stuck her foot in it.
"Uh...when you asked me over you mentioned 'we' - do you have a husband or...uh partner staying with you?"
The woman's face crinkled up in giddy pleasure. Whew! Penny was back in her good books.
"No. Just like whatshername - Daphne - I never wanted any suitors. I didn't marry. Didn't see the point of it. I meant my old dog, Joseph. The thing is he's dead. Has been for years. I just got in the habit of including him. Well now that we've got all that figured out let me pour you a cup of coffee and start the eggs. Isn't being outside just the best thing?"
And Penny had to agree that it was indeed.
Penelope unravelling her day's work


Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - I really, really like the character of Myrtle/Laurel/Daphne. Such an alive character! Wow! And I love the way you include backstory in this; just expert.

Liza said...

I have such a visual of Myrtle. Well done. I laughed, the blog I visited just before yours today wrote about Odysseus also! I feel like you have the beginnings of a real story here. Would love to see you keep this going!