I hate Susan Amis. I haven’t always hated her, but I hate her now. Susan Amis was our co-worker before she came up with her (our) new ideas and rose above it all to become a supervisor at the fabric shop.
It’s how she did it that angers me.
“Those new fashion ideas were sketched by all three of us,” Marion sputtered. We tried to ignore the sight of Susan Amis draping yet another newly stitched fashionable garment on a female mannequin.
“Yes, I know,” I whispered. “But Susan Amis took it one step further and actually sewed up those samples. I can’t believe that she’s taking credit for ALL of it.”
“Terry, I can’t stand Susan Amis.” Marion frowned and blinked back tears. “I hate her so much, it takes every ounce of strength I have to be civil to her. The thought of going to her New Year’s Eve party tomorrow is more than I can take.” Marion charged out of the break room and into the store, but not before I heard her muffled sob.
Several hours later, I caught sight of Susan Amis talking to Marion next to the new bolts of polar fleece. Her finger stabbed the air before Marion’s expressionless face and Marion nodded and shook her head with each new stab of that digit. My friend did not look happy.
At lunchtime Marion and I ate our sandwiches out on the loading dock to avoid Susan Amis. “I swear she searches me out on purpose,” Marion began. “She’s so busy playing with her new samples that all of the heavy work gets shoved on us. I’m going to make her pay . . .” Marion cut off the sentence and looked away.
“What do you mean, you’re going to make her pay?” I asked, watching Marion’s face carefully. “Anything you do or say will only look like sour grapes. She beat us to the punch and we’re stuck with it. She’s our boss now. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Marion turned toward me . . . she seemed to be looking through me instead of at me. Finally her eyes focused and she chuckled . . . “There might be a way,” she whispered. “Just between you and me, there might be a way. Are you busy after work?”
At three o’clock the two of us maneuvered out of the store without running into Susan Amis. “I need to drive out to Farnums,” Marion said. “Come with me, Terry. I’m a little nervous.”
“Nervous -- why” I almost shouted.
“Shhhh.” Marion said, finger to lips and quickly glancing from side to side. “Come on, I’ll tell you on the way.”
Curiosity got the better of me so I slid in beside her for the hour and a half drive to Farnums. I had forgotten that Marion grew up in the Farnums Hills. Her family were what my mother called “hill people.” Hill people, a peculiar tribe of gypsy folks, lived very simply in the cabins and shacks of the Farnums Hills. They grew their own food, took care of their own problems, and pretty much kept to themselves.
“I thought of it when Susan Amis was wagging her finger at me because I tried to back out of her New Year’s Eve party.” Marion began.
“I was hoping that you’d bring one of your special cakes,” Marion whined in a fairly good imitation of Susan Amis. “Do I have to pull rank?”
“No, no,” Marion had said. “I’ll bring the cake.”
”That’s when I remembered Tansy,” Marion continued. “She makes the best cakes in all of Farnums. Cake with a kick is what we always call Tansy’s cakes. They’re irresistibly tasty and very practical.” Marion laughed and gave me a quick sideways glance.
“Are you kidding me right now?” I asked turning toward my friend.
“Watch and learn,” Marion said seriously as she pulled up before a tiny cabin tucked so far back against a rocky ledge, it appeared to be hiding from the world.
The inside of the cabin smelled of turnip and peppermint . . . there was an underlying danker aroma I couldn’t quite identify. Tansy looked like Jack Sprat’s wife. Her dried apple face split into a gape-toothed grin when she saw Marion and she hugged her warmly, but her dark raisin eyes never veered from my face.
Marion had brought Tansy a hank of bright cotton fabric as a gift. I also saw her press a banana, a folded sheet of paper, and a small plastic baggy containing dark bits into Tansy’s hands.
I pretended to inspect a shelf full of mysterious jars, but watched from the corner of my eye as Tansy peeled back the banana, broke away half of the fruit, and dropped it into a chipped china bowl. She then tore the scrap of paper in two and tucked one half down into the banana. The other half was shredded into the bowl. The dark bits in the baggy (chocolate chips? raisins? newt’s eyes?) plinked into the bowl also. The banana was then reformed, tied closed with a hank of red ribbon, and laid carefully into Marion’s hands. Instructions were quickly whispered (chanted?) to Marion.
An hour later we were driving back home with the mouthwatering aroma of freshly baked banana cake wafting through Marion’s car. I seemed to have lost track of time. I couldn’t remember what happened after the tied up banana.
Marion’s tasty cake was a huge hit at Susan Amises company party.
I did not eat any.
The tied up banana with its jaunty red ribbon still hangs from a hook in Marion’s locker. It is a dry brown husk. I’m amazed at its complete lack of odor.
Susan Amis wasted away as slowly as the banana had. In February she stopped coming to work. Several weeks later we learned that she had passed away in an auto accident. There were rumors that her body didn’t even bleed.
I will probably never again eat cake of any kind.
Note: If you decide to try this, here is a link for a Good Banana Bread Recipe!
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