Humidity sinks down the back of my neck and presses my shirt to damp skin but some things are more important than air conditioning, like making nice with my mother-in-law.
Which is a trial.
So I take a shallow breath of fetid air, toss two pair of navy blue polyester pull-on pants into the red texas clay at the side of the clapboard house, and grind my heel into the fabric.
"Ya got the laundry?" Asks Bubba shuffling onto the porch and scratching his belly. "Mom's making dinner."
Oh Joy. I remember the last time Anne cooked. Canned chili, which is fine, but I watched her add eggs and lard to the pot and my tolerance for new and interesting food shot to an all-time low. I wonder if I should pack an orange.
"Hey," Bubba watches me lift the pants and shake the excess dirt into the drive. "You don't like Mom's gift?"
I study the sturdy elastic waist and shake my head. "Not exactly."
He snickers and I laugh. For six months we've gone to Anne's house for Sunday dinner and for six months I've tried to wear out the knees of these pants but polyester is impervious to damage. Annoyed, I toss them into the laundry and load the basket into the back seat of the pickup. "I'll drive."
"I don't think so," Bubba grips the keys and climbs into the cab, "you'll ruin the tires running over curbs."
I set my chin and ignore him, which is easy, because blue bonnets, poppies and buffalo grass undulate along the side of the road. Sun blazing across my cheeks I prop bare feet on the dash and drift asleep.
Before Bubba can set the break, Anne lowers the tail gate and hauls out the laundry. "Like the pants?"
"They're perfect for work." I say, but instead of calling me on a lie she grins and jerks her chin toward the house. "We've been paintin. Think you can climb up there and finish that bit below the eaves?"
I peer at the house. An eight by four is suspended across a pair of ten penny nails. "Not exactly." I say.
"Well, maybe after dinner. We're having chili." She plants her hands on ample hips and studies me out of the corner of her eye. "Hungry?"
Well shit. I study my options and decide death is preferable to dinner. "Tell you what," I say, "You save me an extra yeast roll and some of the beef steak tomatoes from the garden and I'll finish painting."
"Well that's nice." She says but when she turns to Bubba, and gives him a broad wink, I know I've been played.