Excerpt

     I still want to figure out a way to visit the Valentine Museum looking like this. I’ll have to change my clothes, that much is clear. The only extra clothes I have in my car are a pair of cut off red and white gingham pajama boy shorts and a neon yellow midriff t-shirt that has, ‘Destin,’ written on it in huge, black letters. Crap. I grab them from my trunk and walk in.
      The two children working the front office look at me. I casually push my hair, which is stylishly stuck to my face like Carrie’s, out of my eyes, and stand and drip.
      “Are you here to see the exhibit?” One of them asks, as if the answer’s no.
      “Yes, but clearly I need to use your restroom first. I should change clothes.”
      A small pool of water is starting to gather at your feet – shift yourself around.
      What do you want me to do, a soft shoe? “Down here on the left? Thank you.”
In the restroom I strip all the way down and dry myself off with coarse paper towels as best I can. I have no spare bra or underwear so going double commando is my only option. I look at myself in the half mirror.
      You look completely ridiculous.
I’m paranoid that the boy shorts are too loose so I’m walking like I have an egg between my legs, and I keep tugging at the neon yellow midriff shirt, painfully aware that the ‘i’ in Destin is really inappropriately placed, to cover more of my stomach because I’ve pulled the boy shorts down as low as I can to make sure my “wiffle waffle,” as my grandmother used to call it, is adequately shielded.
      The girls almost smile at me until they hear the squishy squashing of my canvas shoes splashing across their floor. I think it best to keep moving and seem interested in their History of Richmond exhibit by asking lots of questions, but their eyes keep a sharp watch on my dripping clothes that I’m trying to hide under my arm. I need a bag.
      The hundred and ten-year-old lady that works in the gift shop probably goes to sleep at night praying no one like me comes in to purchase things, especially things on sale, but here I am. I find a small velvet pouch 75% off that I can put my Garmin car compass voice in. She deserves it, and at $4, it’s perfect.
      “Oh deeyah…Ahm naht shoowere ah kin fig rrr out ha to do thayat, to ring thayat uuup. It’s a sayell eyetem. Yooou doooo know yur tryin’ to bah a sayell eyetem?” I nod, “Weyell…ahh, layet me staaart ova.” Luckily she’s speaking slowly because I can barely hang on to what she’s saying. All this along side so much sighing it could have filled a hot air balloon. I cannot and will not back down even from the hundredth and one eye roll she’s shooting my way. I need the bag she’s going to put my cost effective purchase in for my wet clothes.
      “Can I have the bigger paper bag that you have? I have these wet clothes you see…I got caught in the rain and I…”
      “Wayell, we don’t giyave the bigga bayags out fur smal things - fur smal things on sayell.”
      “I have all these clothes you see dripping wet and I’d hate for them to make a mess of the floor. You’d really be helping me out.” She sighs, again, and reluctantly gives in. The longest twenty minutes of my day spent looking for southern hospitality. I head back to the entrance where one of the delicate girls is waiting to give me the tour of Wickham House.
      Bless her. She’s giving you the full tour as if she were leading a hoard.
      Spouting out her memorized Greek history, mispronouncing all the French words, but doing it with such charm and enthusiasm that I can’t really be annoyed. To her I’m just this woman pretending not to be homeless, squish squishing across her prized, refurbished wooden floors. I interject moments of intelligent conversation, and walk as slowly and lightly as I can, but the gurgling of water shooting out the sides of my espadrilles is sounding more pained by the minute. At the end of the tour she shows me the back exit and quietly shuts the door on me. I’m not sure how worth it that all was, but the sun’s out now.