Gloria never saw herself as a revolutionary. And she sure as hell never saw the protesters migrating in and out downtown over the past few weeks as revolutionaries, either. She was just an angry old lady on a mission.
It was a Tuesday morning. A Tuesday morning strung at the end of a parade of countless Tuesday mornings. Tuesdays meant rice pilaf and beef stew, toenails clipped, and the weekly Wii bowling tournament in the rec room. She would miss beating Dolores and Synthia today, but it was alright because this Tuesday she had bigger fish to fry. She could let one of the them win this week. Hell, maybe even a newbie would win and take home the traditional grand prize of pocket-sized hand sanitizer. Gloria had won so many pocket-sized hand sanitizers over the years that she began sending them to her grandchildren and giving them away to the help. (One of the great things about being old was that she could get away with giving people horrible gifts, and people would just smile and gush as if she had given them the queen's jewels!) Personally, Gloria was skeptical of any washing that didn't involve good old running water.
Owosso Valley Retirement Community boasted a "suburban oasis for one's golden years". Gloria knew that this meant they dished out an extra penny to advertise with color brochures and installed fake lamposts in the entryway. Another service Owosso Valley Retirement Community provided was a free shuttle service downtown every hour on the hour. It was almost ten, and Gloria needed to hustle. She couldn't remember the last time she hustled for anything, and her heart skipped a beat of anticipation. It was a strange feeling, this urgency. Most people would assume that as one approached the end of their life, he or she would feel more urgency in getting things done, but Gloria found the opposite to be true. A lifetime had taught her that activities only marked time; that each second would come and go whether she was in church or the dentist's chair.
She took a drag of a Winston-Salem and stubbed it out hurridly. Bosco, her diminuitive poodle mix, jumped out of her lap and waddled to his doggie bed. Gloria put on her coat and picked Bosco up, looking directly into his eyes.
"It might be a while before you see mama, BoBo," she whispered, "but this is bigger than the both of us. I know you understand." Gloria set him down gently and shook a final finger at him. "Don't try to manipulate those new housekeepers into giving you extra baloney," she stated, "you're already getting fat as it is." And with that, she strapped the C4 around her waist and she was out of the door.
Hugo drove the Owosso Valley Retirement Community van carefully. He didn't want to get another ticket and God forbid one of these oldtimers crack an elbow or break a hip while in his care. He allowed Gloria to ride in the front seat of the minivan because he had a good feeling about her. She didn't seem like one of these quacks that would file complaints when they had nothing better to do. The buildings passed by as they drove in silence, casting shadows in a million different places. It was one of those days where the shadows play tricks on the glass, and everything is elongating or shrinking. Hugo popped a Tylenol.
Gloria's plan had come to her in the middle of shopping last week downtown. She saw a bunch of people holding "Occupy" signs and she wasn't sure what was going on because the last time she had heard the term "occupy" being used it was in regards to the Nazi assholes. She had been picking up some of Bosco's medicene at the vet next to the Bank of U.S. and chuckled at the demonstration. Gloria had lived through the Depression and a hundred wars it seemed like. She knew a protest when she saw one, and this was not a protest. Some of them were even distributing bottled water and lawn chairs. Imagine that! There were no lawn chairs during the civil rights movement. Gloria remembers the blisters she grew from marching when she was a young spitfire and was full of idealism. Watson's restaurant had not allowed Negros to use their washstands and made them use a hose in the back. Dolores, herself, and countless others had marched in front of their store for three days in the August heat before Mr. Watson broke and allowed his sinks to be used by anyone. Thank God pocket-sized hand sanitizers weren't invented before integration! We might still have a segregated nation!
Hugo pulled the van in front of the Bank of U.S. and opened the door for Gloria. "Be back in an hour, okay?" he asked.
"Certainly," Gloria winked. "You know I like to chat with the girls at the vet and sit in the sun for a bit. It's a lovely day, isnt it?"
Hugo walked around the van without looking back. There were so many protesters parked downtown that he had pulled in illegally to let the old broad out.
"Be careful, Ms. Clarke," he yelled out the open window. "People can go overboard with these demonstrations and I don't want you to get hurt. Crowds are unpredicatible. They're not allowed to block the bank entrance, though, so they have to stay on the other side of the street. Stay on this side of the street and I'll see you in an hour," and with that, Hugo was gone.
Gloria felt like a child again, right down to her arthritic kneecaps. She felt the bomb pressing against her belly and the familiar thrill of smuggling gave her energy. Yes, it was time. She was going to relive the old days one more time. The old days, when protesting something made a difference--not just a statement. The old days, when comfort was a luxury and the issues were life and death. The old days, when Milt was by her side and they were going to change the world.
She smiled in the direction of the throng of people and crossed Main Street, where she allowed a man in a business suit to open the bank's front door for her.