Fiction by Edith Boyd
Surfing On My Left Foot
|Published January 5, 2017
|Eleventh Transmission: "Surfing on My Left Foot" by Edith Boyd
|Wax Poetry and Art Projects
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Surfing On My Left Foot
by Edith Boyd
It was shortly after the divorce when I met Jody. She was serving punch
at a party for the newly - single. My sons told me about the party which
jolted me. I prided myself on my devotion to them, watching my language,
dressing conservatively, and cutting off the perils of romance. They probably
knew I was lonely.
"Try some. It's got a nice bite to it," Jody said, pointing to the chilled pink
bowl. She was friendly, direct, and had a great laugh. " I have to drive,"
I said, and she let me know it was a soft drink. " The bite is just grenadine.
"... I needed a second opinion. The driving part was true, but I had to be
sure. Already needing to please Jody, I made sure she wasn't looking as I
asked another woman about the punch. "It's in the by-laws. Punch is soft.
Alcohol out on the sunporch."
I enjoyed her droll response, later learning that it was nearly true. The
group had been sued and needed full disclosure vis a vis alcohol. I walked
back over to the punch bowl and Jody. " How did you get this job?" I asked
her feeling brave.
"Punch bowl supervisor? Nobody else wanted it," she said, and I
reached out my hand to shake hers. "Michelle McGee. Nice to meet you."
"Jody Cooper." She moved from behind the table when she shook my
hand. I felt welcomed, yet shy.
She deftly pulled me toward a group near us saying, "Meet Michelle
McGee. I just did."
I noticed how well-liked she seemed to be by the small group leaning
against the mantle. The party was in an old beach cottage and some of it's
features reminded me of my grandparent's house in Philly. The mantle
especially, with the circular wooden grapes painted white on its surface.
Each of them gave me his name. Most were charming, and a few of
the guys were attractive. The avalanche of parenthood was a shared
feature among this group. Few things were worse on a date, than a neat
guy's surprise about your kids.
I noticed an attractive couple and wondered why they chose this
gathering. He pushed a strand of her sandy hair behind her ear. She
blushed and saw me checking them out. She walked away from him toward
me and introduced herself.
"I'm Amy Brewer. My husband Richard does business for the group."
In the course of the conversation, she told me she owned the gift shop
on Meade Street.
"The Cup and Saucer?" I said, trying not to giggle.
"I inherited the name. What can I tell you?" she said warmly. "The
tourists love it, especially the older ones. 'I'm sick of mugs' I've heard
mumbled more than a few times. "
Although the window display showed delicate dish sets, the store
sold nearly anything a tourist family might need. And plenty of mugs. My son
found a worn baseball glove there. We weren't tourists per se, but my sons
and I were new to this part of the sea shore town.
After Tom's decision to end our marriage, we sold our home and the
boys and I moved a few blocks closer to the ocean. They were both avid
surfers, and I loved the sea. Our rental could practically fit into the garage
of our old house, but we all needed the change.
They didn't have to switch schools which was a major consideration.
For all of us.
Jody guided me to the sun porch, pointing to the little step down to enter.
The windows were open and I could smell the ocean. And the booze.
"How bout I fix you something a little stronger?" she said.
"I don't drink."
While fixing herself a vodka tonic, she asked me about my kids.
She understood my simple response about drinking, and didn't push
I liked her. And told her about my sons.
Her children were girls and we shared i phone photos. There had been a
divorce. We spared one another the details, as we had been christened on
a similar journey. More like bludgeoned, but we liked each other for leaving
"Did you meet Amy Brewer?" Jody asked me as we both stepped
outside to breathe in the salt air.
"I just did. She told me about her shop."
"Amy is my boss." Jody said. "Part time. My girls don't push, but with
i-phones, clothes and stuff, it adds up."
"And surf boards," I added.
"Her husband Richard's law firm handled a few things for the group. She
and Richard were probably dropping off paperwork to the chairman," Jody
We exchanged contact information and I left the party with a slight smile.
My son Thomas broke from his tai chi to ask me how the party was.
My heart contracted for him...For us.
"I met a friend," I said, pleased with his attention.
"A guy friend?" he said with a wary look.
Good. I thought. My boys aren't ready for that either.
"No. A woman named Jody. She organizes these parties and works at
"The Cup and Saucer. "
"Where Sean got his glove," he said returning to his form.
"Mom. It's all in the balance. The big waves have no mercy," he said
looking like Bruce Lee. I was glad he was back to himself and no longer
worried about me.
The next day I kept checking my cell for a message from Jody, feeling
like a high school girl. I decided to be the grown-up and contact her first.
And then, I chickened out.
She sent me a text just when I pulled back, seeming to sense my absurd
"Great meeting you, Michelle. Coffee sometime?"
So she truly got the message of my sobriety. Coffee. Then my mind
started whirling into one of its orbits. Without the divorce, I wouldn't have
met her. Without the drinking, I may still be married. Without sobriety, I
would be insane or dead.
My son Sean opened the fridge behind me and I realized I needed to
text her back.
"Tuesday night work for you?"
There. I did it. Combined a sprinkle of assertiveness training with sales
tactics I picked up in a summer sales job.
Starbucks had made its way to our coastal New Jersey town, and it
was there that I met Jody to launch a friendship. As many women do, we
covered a lot of ground about our early life, families, likes and dislikes.
Although we were both parents, each of us faced different challenges, she
mothering girls, and I raising boys. We both were slightly wistful that we
wouldn't know the experience of rearing both genders.
"They say boys are easier,' she offered.
"And girls stay close." I replied.
" But what do they know?" We both blurted out simultaneously.
Before we finished, she told me Amy was looking for help at her shop
for the busy summer season. Jody already knew I was a teacher and would
be free this summer, and we were open about our expenses.
The next day after school, I walked the few short blocks to Meade
Street to talk to Amy. I was proud of my newfound spunkiness, emerging
from a lifetime of timid restraint. My ex was punctual with the child support,
but money was a strain since the divorce.
As I entered The Cup and Saucer, I was greeted with the scent of
lavender. Amy remembered my name.
"Michelle McGee. You found us."
Right on the spot, I was happy we had moved. People were friendly
and open. I missed my beautiful home farther from the coast, but not the
stuffiness of many of my neighbors. It seemed as if the ocean worked its
magic on the people close to it.
"May I help you find anything in this mess of a place? " Amy said,
obviously proud of her shop.
Feeling my shyness return, I smiled and asked to look around.
I took a few deep yoga-type breaths, reminding myself to get back to
The shop was far from a mess. Things followed a logical order with
beach toys and clothes being the most prominent. Most of the food was in
the same section, close to the toiletries that so many vacationers forget to
pack. Amy didn't hover or make me feel uncomfortable, so I repeated a
yoga breath, walked up to her and asked for a job.
She giggled and said. "Relax. I don't bite."
She did give off the confidence of a person who had never clipped a
coupon or drank store brand soda.
We went back and forth about how many hours I wanted, her biggest
rush times, and she hired me with a hand shake. I almost forgot to give
Jody the footnote, as I thought of the word reference, after years of
"Jody Cooper encouraged me to ask you. Thank you both," I said, after
we had exchanged contact information. I nearly skipped home as my luck
felt as if it were changing for the good.
I took a week off between the end of the school year and beginning my work
at the gift shop. Jody, though not a teacher, worked in the school
district too. Neither of us was free for full time work and Amy trusted us to
juggle our hours without involving her. Amy posted the schedule on a cork
board outside her office and the part-timers pencilled in changes as things
came up. It worked out well.
Almost immediately, Jody and I found ways to make our schedules
coincide. We were developing a friendship, enjoying one another's humor,
and loosening up Amy. When we were sure the shop had no visitors, we
tossed a small rubber baseball and threw a plastic basketball into a net.
They teased me that I could only throw with my right hand. They were far
more ambidextrous than I.
Jody, the most athletic of the three of us, sometimes stepped
outside to jump and touch the Cup and Saucer sign as so many young men
did to signs and awnings in town.
Sometimes I would notice Amy squaring her shoulders and pursing
her lips to remind herself that she was the owner and shouldn't be treating
her shop like a playground.
I pointed this out to Jody.
"Oh, please, Michelle," she said one day as we walked along the ocean
after our shift. "Richard makes a ton of money. Don't worry about Amy's
I winced at the comment finding it belittling and sarcastic. My balloon of
euphoria was pricked with unease about Jody. I didn't feel that our failed
marriages had any relationship to Amy's thriving one.
In her charismatic way, Jody diminished my doubts about her by inviting
me to join them for the six o'clock yoga class. Knowing that Amy was more
of a friend than boss to Jody made me feel better about Jody's remarks.
I left a note for my sons with instructions to re-heat the lasagna. Each
could program any techie device in the land with the exception of the
microwave. Battling my shyness, I grabbed my yoga mat and drove to the
Both Jody and Amy had already set up their mats, towels and water
When the teacher walked in I went into child's pose hoping she didn't
I knew her from other studios, which is so often the case with yoga
instructors. She had an annoying habit of calling me out on my weak left
"Michelle, you must trust your left side, your left foot."
During this class, I was spared a public call-out by the teacher, but she
did whisper to me during tree pose on our left foot. "Work on the left side
After class Amy said, "Join us for a beer at Langan's."
Jody's eyes widened and I knew she hadn't said anything to Amy about my
recovery. The Jody likability meter hit a gong over the top.
Not only was Amy incapable of guile, Jody had respected my privacy.
Wow. I was making friends.
"My boys are home alone, but you two have fun," I said, as I practically
skipped to my car, mat rolled under my arm like the cool yogis do.
During my third week of work, the Jody meter took a dive when I saw
her pocket a twenty that a tourist gave her. I was coming around the corner
and I saw she didn't ring in the beach towel the guy bought.
"That'll be $19.50" she said in her winning way while handing the
customer fifty cents change from her pocket. She slid the twenty into her
And then I saw her do it with a couple of ten dollar bills.
My reaction to this was extreme. I chose not to share it at my next
meeting and then found excuses to avoid meetings altogether. I found
myself walking by Mahoney's Liquor, eyeing a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Deep in my gut, I knew I had not grieved the death of my marriage and
expected my new friends to prove to me that life was still fun, that I was
worthwhile. In my zeal to protect my sons, and avoid being another divorcee
with a sob story, I had hampered my growth and thrown my expectations on
my new friend Jody.
This had to stop. I had work to do. I had to scream, wail, throw a few
glasses at a wall somewhere. Maybe I would blow up a pic of my ex's face
and throw darts at it. I would find the privacy when the boys were with their
I told Jody when we were alone in the shop, what I had seen. She gave
me the rant about Amy's rich husband, and I told her I may tell Amy. I
couldn't believe the courage it took me to stand up to her. Whether or not I
told Amy became less important to me than facing my fears, my need to be
liked, my life in recovery from the bottle and from losing the man I loved.
I nearly sprinted to a meeting that very evening saying little but preparing
myself for some changes in my life.
Maybe after the dart board episode, when my body was limp from
crying, I would begin the climb out of the dark hole of grief. Maybe I would
grab one of my boys' surf boards and take the damned thing into the ocean
and learn to surf, to balance and sway, my body having felt the pain of loss.
I was going to fall and get back up, to feel strength on my left side, healing
in my heart, to balance and surf on my left foot.
Edith Gallagher Boyd is a graduate of Temple University and a former
French language teacher. She is the author of " Dancing In Winter," "The
Flower Shop," and other stories. She lives in Jupiter, Florida.