Teaser 048: Mildred of Gilroy, California


I had packed everything except my overnight bag and my computer. I had no room for the futon but I grabbed the mattress. It would be a little better than sleeping on the floor. I also took a cooler, mostly for use as a standby table or seat and my two swivel chairs, with up and down and lean. I could actually get both in the back seat and throw stuff around them. Little Boy and his stuff would be in the front seat. Up at five, shower and get the rest of it packed and I was on my way to Gilroy before six.

I arrived at the garlic festival late in the afternoon. It took a while to find her, though I wasn't looking for a him or a her, only someone who knew how to grow garlic organically, the right way, the potent, kick-ass way. She happened to be named Mildred and what a character she was. Her booth was ornate all right, tied-dyed colors everywhere, a hanger-on from the sixties. I told her I would bet she could tell me a story or two about growing up in the sixties in California. She said I wouldn't believe them anyway. She knew Erhard, the EST man himself. I told her I had an apartment down the hall from his daughter while she attended Stanford. This got us going and soon I knew her garlic was my choice. Mildred asked me what I intended with the garlic I was buying from her, since I seemed to be buying more than personal consumption. I told her about the claim good garlic can't be grown in the valley around Los Angeles. She laughed. She had already done it decades before. She knew what a crock it was.

“Here, come with me.” I followed her as she left her booth and walked the long distance to the vendor parking lot to her van, as colorful as Mildred herself. She opened up the back of her van and climbed inside, crawling on her hands and knees. It was a bit comical watching this woman crawl around in her fairly stuffed van with hats, colorful, weird hats everywhere, all at her age, now pushing seventy. She pulled open a drawer from a box on the side, almost hidden by hats, and retrieved a large burlap sack. Mildred looked at me with a devilish grin. “This is it! My special stash for next year. I was going to hold these unless someone I liked wanted to start their own garlic patch.” She frowned a bit. “But I don't know if I like you that much, Gregory.” When I frowned she broke out into a smile and cackled. “Had you going, didn't I?”

“You had me going the moment I met you, Mildred.”

She crawled out of the van and patted my arm. “I do that, 'specially to good lookin' men.” She winked at me. She meant it. “How many do you need?”

I counted it up out loud. “Assuming eight cloves per bulb, conservative, don't you think?” She nodded. “So I want two hundred plants and divide it by eight and I would say I'll need at least twenty-five.” Mildred reached in her van for a sack and set the burlap sack on the edge of the van, pulling out big garlic bulbs and putting them in the other sack.

When she finished, she proclaimed, “Gregory, there's thirty bulbs. That should do it and at two dollars a bulb, it's fifty dollars.”

I reached into my pocket for the cash, when I realized she was only charging me for twenty-five bulbs. “Now, Mildred, you're only charging me for twenty-five and giving me five extra. It should be sixty.”

She frowned and made a big gesture while holding the sack. “Can't put anything past you, can I?” When I said, “No,” she added, a devilish smile planted firmly across her face, “Well, those extra five aren't free, Gregory. You can have 'em for a roll in the hay.” She turned and pushed away some stuff to show me hay on the floor of the van. She turned back with her same devilish grin. “See? Got the hay. Got the time, too.” I stood a bit perplexed, not knowing if she was kidding or not. Mildred gave me a few seconds to think about it. “Ah, got ya again. You thought I was serious, didn't you, Gregory?”

“You know, Mildred,” I said, giving her my devious smile, “for a woman your age, you've still got one nice body, and in my experience, there's only one thing better than rolling in the hay with some young babe, and it's rolling in the hay with an older woman who knows what she wants, and I'll bet you do know what you want when it comes to rolling in the hay.”

Mildred looked up at me a little sheepishly. “Ah, you're only saying it to be nice.”

I looked her up and down, knowing she was watching me. Mildred had a very nice body for a woman her age, with full, round breasts, and hips which hadn't widened into an expressway, and a thin waist tucked between both. I knew her breasts probably sagged way down her chest but breasts are not a deal breaker for me. “No, Mildred, you can still hold your own.” She smiled. “I'll bet you were quite the looker back in the day.”

“Well, let's see.” She set the sack on the edge of the van and walked around to the driver's door, opened it and climbed in. Reaching into a holder on the far edge of the seat she pulled out a book, a photo book. She flipped some pages and held it out for me to take. On the right page, the left of the page, was a five by seven picture of a woman with long, dark brown hair halfway to her hips, an hourglass figure, with shorts and a V-neck T-shirt, ample breasts, fantastic legs, all tanned and fit, and a face that would halt an aircraft carrier.

This is you?”

“1966. I was almost twenty, gardening, too. Loved it. Always have.”

I looked up at her, across her wrinkled, weather-beaten face. The tone in her arms was gone, her skin wasn't tight and I assumed it was true all over, with plenty of wrinkles. It's what happens when you age. It's hard to stop the march of yearly progress. But there was still a sparkle, the same sparkle in the picture. I handed the book back to her. “I knew you were a looker. That woman's right here sitting in this seat, too.” I smiled and she smiled back, turned and put the book back. “Mildred, I don't meet many like you, who still have a figure because they take care of themselves, they're well-kept, and they have a great attitude, and you're all of it. I've met a few beautiful women in my time and walked away from them because their attitude sucked. If I had the time this trip, I'd enjoy a roll in the hay with you, but only if you wanted it.”

Mildred patted my arm as she started to swing her leg out and I backed up a couple feet. She flashed her devilish grin. “I still have some sex appeal.”

I pulled out a hundred and handed it to her. “Here.”

“We'll have to go back to my booth for the change,” she advised, as we walked to the back of her van. She handed me the sack of garlic bulbs.

“I don't want change. I want you to keep it.”

Oh, she got uppity then. “No! You're gettin' your change, Mister! Don't be takin' pity on me. I don't need it and I won't stand for it!”

I smiled, ignoring her show. “I figure one of those crazy hats is worth fifty. I want one of those.”

Gone went her anger. “One of these things?” she teased me.

“Pick one of the craziest, although it may be hard. They're all about the same level of crazy, far as I can tell.”

Mildred laughed and grabbed one of the floppiest hats in there. “I collect 'em.” She turned and pushed it on my head. “Most are made by a friend of mine. I advertise 'em for her and we split the sales.”

“Is she as crazy as you are, Mildred?”

“Now, I don't rightly know,” she replied, deep in thought. “It's a tall order for anyone, to be crazy as me.”

I looked at the sack of garlic bulbs. “This will do the trick, Mildred, and next summer those people are going to be in shock, though you and I know it's a walk in the park.”

She agreed. “Yep, you just can't understand some people.”

“May I ask you a question, Mildred?”

“Shoot, Gregory.”

“If I come up this way again, I'd like to visit with you, if it's alright with you.”

“You don't drink, do you?”

“Well...”

“My husband of thirty years,” Mildred explained, “was a drinker, and I took my fair share of abuse from him for it. I wasn't really sad to see him go when he crashed his car, drinkin' away like always.”

I looked at her as sincerely as I could. “I promise you I won't drink while I'm visiting you.”

She looked me up and down and reached into her purse. She wrote her phone number on a slip of paper and handed it to me. “Here. Give me a call some time. I'd at least like to hear how the garlic turned out.”

I took the slip of paper and shoved it in my pocket. “You got another piece of paper in your mountain valley of a purse?” Mildred laughed. She pulled out another slip and handed me her pen. I wrote out my cell number and handed it to her. “Call me if you're ever down Los Angeles way.”

She laughed. “Don't count on it, Gregory.”

With my big, floppy hat almost covering my eyes, I smiled and asked, “You object to a hug from a man you just met?”

Mildred brightened and shouted, “Hell, no!” We hugged and for some reason she gave me a peck on my left cheek. When we separated, she said, “I like your beard. Don't shave it off.”


- Just Desserts, Segment SixLet’s Get This Party Started” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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