Under The Steps


you can find inspiration in the strangest places 

When I was a kid our next door neighbor was a nice old lady named Mrs. Hanley Parsons.

She lived all alone in a house full of old fashioned furniture that looked brand new and she always wore black dresses and around her neck she worse a string of pearls and her wristwatch didn’t have numbers on it.

In fact none of the clocks in Mrs. Hanley Parson’s House had numbers on them.

Once I asked Mrs. Parsons about her faceless clocks and she said, ” Time and I had a parting of ways years ago, but I like clocks, I like the sounds they make. Do you understand what I mean?”

I nodded and said ” No.”

Mrs. Parsons laughed and she offered me a plate of cookies (almond) and I took one. ” I make them myself. In the old days I used to do a lot of baking and cooking. I stopped though.”

” Why’d you stop? ”

” Oh, I fell into a career. And in those days women didn’t have jobs outside the home let alone careers. So I lost my husband and my children and even my family. With no one to make a home for, my domestic skills…” she seemed to be looking for the right word on the ceiling ” suffered.”

” Just because you got a job? ” I asked in disbelief.

” A career ” Mrs.Parsons told me. ” A job is something you do for a living. A career is something you become.”

” Did you like what you used to do? ”

” Very much so.”

” Do you miss it? ” I asked.

Mrs. Parsons nodded and said, ” It gave me purpose.”

I liked Mrs. Parsons, she taught me how to read when I was only five years old and by the time I started Kindergarten I was reading at the first grade level. By the first grade I was reading two years up.

All because of Mrs. Parsons.

Mrs. Parsons also taught me how start pumpkin plants in Dixie cups and how to prune Roses.

But no matter what we were doing, or how well I learned her lessons she would always get a little sad when she talked about the old days and her career.

When I was about 8 years old my parents told me we were moving away from Seattle and I went next door to tell Mrs. Parsons.

” Well, ” she said, ” that’s very sad news. I’m going to miss you. You’re very good company.”

” Mrs. Parsons ” I asked, ” do you think you could teach me your career? That way I could remember you always.”

Mrs. Parsons laughed and she said, ” I’ll make you a deal, I’ll teach you part of my job and you decide in the end if it’s something you like doing.”

So Mrs. Parsons told me to go down to her basement and look under the steps and to bring up the little wicker basket. I carried the basket upstairs to the kitchen where Mrs. Parsons was dusting her fresh baked almond cookies with powdered sugar.

I put the basket on the table and she reached in and slowly removed the contents and sat them on the table in front of us. ” So, where to start.” she said to herself.

 I looked up at her and shrugged and said. ” At once upon a time?”

Mrs. Parsons laughed and that’s how it started.

I learned about Mrs. Parsons career every day for about a week, and then one day I went to Mrs. Parson’s house and a man answered the door.

He was Mrs. Parson’s son and he told me she had died.

Just as I was about to turn away he reached down and handed me the little wicker basket and said, ” I suppose this is yours.”

I nodded and kept my hands behind my back.

Mrs. Parson’s Son looked a little nervous and he sat the basket down and slid it towards me with his foot and when he stepped back I reached down and picked it up.

I didn’t say thank you and looking back on it, I don’t think he expected me too.

So now at the age of 42, I still have that wicker basket (my cat uses it for a bed) and on the top shelf of my book case pushed against the wall is a fully functional hangman’s noose.

It’s all that left of Mrs. Parson’s career.

Unless you count this story of course.