Mrs. Beamon weighed 450 pounds. Well, at least that’s what Josh thought. He would always say something about her weight when he saw her out in front of her house which was directly across from mine. But then again his estimate was always changing. Last week it was 420, next week it would probably be up to 500. I never really thought she looked any different and usually would refrain from making similar comments.
Mrs. Beamon was a large woman (not as large as Josh joked) but she was nice, I liked her. She would always return the balls and balsa wood airplanes that would find their way onto her yard. Plus, she always gave out the best stuff on Halloween — the full sized candy bars, not the ones that were gone in two bites.
I think Josh liked her, too. Last spring he had fallen off his bike on the sidewalk in front of her house and skinned his knee. Mrs. Beamon had rushed out to clean up the cut and afterwards gave him some freshly-made cookies.
It wasn’t really meant to be mean; her weight was just a common topic of conversation. Another was her peculiar wardrobe. She wore a different color dress for each day of the week, with the pattern never seeming to change. If you lived on the block and by chance left your house in the morning forgetting what day it was, you could swing by Mrs. Beamon’s. If she was out front watering her marigolds and wearing a brown dress, you’d know it was Wednesday.
One day as we rounded the corner to my street, we saw Mrs. Beamon hanging up clothes on her clothesline. Six different colored dresses were hanging there. She was wearing the seventh—a green one—so naturally it was Friday and we were looking forward to the weekend.
“Looks like Mrs. Beamon might be up to 470,” Josh said snickering. I ignored him.
As we approached my house I noticed that Josh kept glancing toward her yard. She had gone inside and the colorful dresses were swaying gently in the breeze.
“What do you think would happen if we swiped one of those dresses?” Josh asked.
“Um, we’d get in trouble,” I replied.
“No, I mean what do you think she’d wear? She always wears the same dress on the same day. We’ve never seen the pattern change. So if one of those dresses was gone, what do you think she’d do?”
I was intrigued and thought about it for a moment. “I don’t know. I guess she’d just have to wear a different color that day.”
Josh shook his head. “I don’t think so. I think she’d just stay in the house all day. I think it would blow her mind that her system was messed up.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, maybe. Hey, you wanna shoot some hoops?” But I don’t think Josh heard me. He looked around suddenly.
“Cover me,” he said and then bolted towards Mrs. Beamon’s yard. Before I could say anything he was across the street and at the clothesline. He grabbed the first dress on the line — the orange one — and sped back to where I was standing.
“Don’t just stand there!” he said breathlessly running past me up the driveway. “Come on!”
I smiled and ran to catch up. We spent the next few hours and most of the weekend doing various things at each other’s houses (Josh lived a block away), and forgot about the orange dress. Josh said he had hidden it under his bed.
As I came groggily downstairs for breakfast Monday morning, I glanced out the living room window and saw Mrs. Beamon’s house. Suddenly it hit me. It was Monday. Josh had Mrs. Beamon’s orange dress — Monday’s dress — under his bed!
I flew down the stairs and inhaled my breakfast. Josh, realizing the same thing, was at my house two minutes later, about ten minutes earlier than usual.
“Orange dress,” was all he said when I opened the door. I smiled and nodded.
“Well,” he said taking a seat on the porch. “Let’s just wait and see what happens.” I sat down next to him. My mom appeared a short time later and told us that we needed to be getting to school.
We looked up at her surprised. “School?” I said. “Huh, I’d forgotten about school.”
The day went even slower than usual. When Josh and I met up in gym fifth period—our only class together — we were practically bursting.
“So what do you think?” he asked, heaving a dodge ball. “Has she actually come out of her house?”
“I don’t know,” I said and ducked, narrowly missing a flying red ball. “But I’m actually getting pretty excited to find out.”
We met up near the bike racks after school was over and practically jogged home. As we made the familiar turn onto my street, we were both straining to see if she was outside.
“I’m telling you, man,” Josh said. “She’s not coming out of the house. Her little pattern has been totally destroyed.”
“She works in her garden everyday,” I said. “She has to be wearing something.”
We were both wrong; even though I was a little more right than Josh. Mrs. Beamon was wearing something. I had expected one of her other dresses or perhaps something new to take the place of the orange one. But I didn’t expect this.
Josh and I learned two things on that fateful day when we stopped in front of my house. The first thing we learned was that to go along with each colored dress, apparently Mrs. Beamon had a matching set of underwear. There she was, watering her rhododendrons wearing nothing but a bright orange bra and barely visible thong.
We stood there, mouths agape, horrified but for some reason unable to look away. A man jogging by gave us a puzzled look and when he turned to see what had us so transfixed, he ran right into a tree. A woman walking her dog shrieked and for some reason covered the dog’s eyes.
The other thing we found out that day was that Josh could get from there to his house and back (stopping to grab something from under his bed) in 45 seconds.
I watched Josh stop abruptly when he got to the edge of Mrs. Beamon’s yard. By now she was bent over and appeared to be trying to remove some weeds. Apparently the weeds were being stubborn because she seemed to be having a difficult time getting them out. With each yank, her enormous rump jiggled.
I was immediately reminded of a line from that old Christmas poem about Santa Claus, the one about his belly shaking like a bowl full of jelly. But that was a pleasant image. The one in front of me now was not. It was in fact sickening. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to think about jelly or even Santa for that matter, the same way ever again.
Josh, clutching the orange dress in his right hand, slowly approached her. He looked nervous and a little nauseous. It was the same exact expression he wore last month when he had forgotten about the big history test.
When Mrs. Beamon noticed him there, she straightened up suddenly, which resulted in more quaking flab. He handed her the dress, acting as if there was something fascinating on the grass to which he needed to give his full attention. For some reason she didn’t seem very surprised that he had it. All I heard her say was “Thank you, Josh,” and she took the dress and went inside.
Josh slowly joined me across the street. When Mrs. Beamon emerged a few moments later, thankfully now wearing the orange dress, she looked over at us and waved. We waved back and turned to go up to my house.
We didn’t say anything as we walked up the driveway. But just before we went into the house, Josh turned and looked back across the street again.
“I gotta tell you, man,” he said. “I think she’s lost some weight.”
I laughed as we went inside.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
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