Keys, Marbles, and My Mind

My keys dangle from the ignition of my escape, taunting me. Son of a turtleneck sweater. I promised my boss I would quit cussing. It isn’t as easy at it seems, especially when I can see my keys through the thick glass of the window, but I am helpless to retrieve them. Fuck him. I press my forehead against the heated barrier.

At least I know where they are. This is better than the time I thought I’d locked my keys in my office. I’d sent one of my students to borrow a set of keys from the art teacher, Michael. I’d needed to pee like a racehorse (the reason I’d realized my keys were missing in the first place), so I used the keys to let myself into the staff bathroom before I opened my office to find my set.

Relieved of the gallons I’d been carrying, I exited the bathroom and heard the door slam shut before I realized was no longer holdingĀ Michael’s keys. Panic set in as I turned around and jiggled the knob ineffectually and then sheepishly returned to my room and grinned at the students who’d borrowed them for me.

“Go borrow the Dean’s keys; he can get into my office and the bathroom,” I instructed. “And for the love of Pete, don’t say anything about my having borrowed the art keys.”

They scurried off and returned with Jack’s keys, and with explicit instructions not to let me use the keys at all. The little rats had told him the entire story. We opened the bathroom, eager to rescue Michael’s keys, only to find no keys. What the hell? A confused pat down of my pockets revealed not only the art keys but my set as well. I swore the students to secrecy once more and sent them out to return the keys and, no doubt reveal the secret they’d just vowed to keep.

The next day I found this gem on my desk:


No one claimed to have left her there, but I saw the laughter in Jack’s and Michael’s eyes every time I passed them in the hall, and I knew it was one of them.

This time, I am stuck. I have no students to send to retrieve my keys, and I lack any sci-fi gadgets or useful super powers. The late August beats down on me, reminding me that my keys are not the only things marooned in my car. From my current vantage point, I can also see my wallet, writing journal, and cell phone. I can’t even call my husband to rescue me, not that I would if I could. Doing so would result in a lecture as if I were some misbehaving child that did these things just to irritate him.

Tears shimmer in my eyes. I’ve loathed crying in public ever since the second grade when Mr. D dismissed my tears, saying I was “overly sensitive and a bit of a cry baby.” Besides, tough girls don’t cry, right. I’ve held people at gunpoint, been in fights, controlled a classroom of hormonal middle school students wielding power tools, and broke young horses. At this moment, however, I am not seizing the day. The day is seizing me, and it currently has me in a chokehold.

As a last stitch effort, I decide to check all the doors before collapsing on the sizzling asphalt and wilting away into nothingness. To my surprise, the back passenger opens. Damn it all to hell. How does that even happen? How do you lock only the front door with the automatic lock button? Or did I even push that? I can’t remember. Hot, embarrassed, and in no mood to admit my folly to anyone, I decide to write from the dark corner of the Barrel Thief Lounge until my cheeks return to a somewhat less rosy color and I feel I have the fortitude to face the world once more. With any luck, I will remember that my keys are in my pocket and I will find my marbles at the bottom of a glass of whiskey. My mind is already a lost cause.