"Plowing Through Frustration"
[Monday, May 18, 2015]
Charli wanted to go the mall.
It had been a month since
she and the other centaurs
had been rescued from
the Umsetzung Complex
and moved to Conrad's farm.
It was a very nice farm, but
she wanted more than that, and
she had heard that Bluehill
had a wonderful mall.
Munsell Mall had
one main hall between
Sears and Macy's with
three side halls leading
to the entrances.
"You should check out
the Jade Lion," Turq said.
"It's the Chinese restaurant in
the mall, and the food is great.
There's a food court, too, if
you don't like Chinese."
"I love Chinese food,"
Charli said. "I haven't
eaten any in years, though."
"Take it easy, then," said Turq.
"Maybe try one dish at a time,
and see how it sits with you,
before you try another one."
"Yeah, the medics warned us
about digestive issues," said Charli.
"Some of the other folks have it bad.
Me, I eat everything in sight."
"High burn," Turq said.
"What else do you like?"
"Me and Lilita have been
decorating stuff," Charli said.
"Kim Van ordered a bunch of
imports, but I like to see what
I'm getting before I buy it."
"There's the Bluehill Bazaar,"
said Turq. "That has lots of booths
selling all kinds of different things.
Country Lane Fabric and Crafts
has art supplies and stuff."
"I'd like to look for bargains
and maybe make some things
for myself," Charli said. "I just
don't know how I'll do in a mall ...
it's been so long since I've seen one."
"They have a Junior Citizen program,
too, if you're worried that you missed
too much growing up," Turq said.
"It helped me learn the place
and fill in some gaps."
"I'm fifteen ..." Charli said.
"I'm older than that, and
they let me do it," Turq said.
"It's even open to adults who
have mental disabilities."
"Okay," Charli said.
"I'll keep it in mind."
She really wanted
to go to the mall.
So when Conrad said
he was heading into town,
Charli convinced him to let her
ride in the back of the pickup truck.
It reminded her of doing that with friends
as a girl, although now she took up
half the truck bed all by herself.
Charli talked Conrad into
dropping her off at the mall,
since his errands were elsewhere.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?"
Ansel said, frowning a little.
"Nope," Conrad said cheerfully.
"But this is Charli's idea. If it's
a good one, she'll have fun. If not,
she can call us to pick her back up."
Charli loved the way Conrad was
supportive without smothering her.
She walked toward the mall,
the crisp clip-clop of her hooves
echoing in the parking lot.
The place wasn't too busy
of a Monday morning, though
the people present did stare
at the centaur in their town.
When Charli got to the door
of the mall, though, she froze.
There were just too many decisions.
Which way should she turn inside?
Which store should she visit first?
What things should she buy?
How much should she spend?
She had gone too long
with no choices at all, and
now she was out of practice.
At the farm, she had chosen
simple things, like what color
of blankets to put in her stall.
She wanted to visit the mall,
but it was just too much.
Miserable, Charli wheeled
and cantered away.
She slowed to a trot
as her path approached
two of the satellite shops,
one a supermarket and
the other a dollar store.
Maybe she could handle
just one store today.
The supermarket would
have housewares and
craft supplies along with
produce and other food.
Lifting her chin, Charli
entered the supermarket.
Then she froze again.
Under her hooves,
the polished concrete
felt smooth as glass --
with as little traction.
Charli was stuck.
She couldn't move
forward, and she
couldn't go back.
A step in any direction
could slip and break a leg.
"Miss? Are you okay?"
asked one of the clerks.
"No," she squeaked.
"What's wrong?" he said.
"How can I help you?"
"The floor," Charli said.
"It's too slick. I-I can't move."
"Ohhh," he said. "Yeah,
that happens when it gets wet,
people can slip and fall on it.
I guess even dry it would feel
slippery to hooves. We have
traction mats for wet weather.
Do you want to try those?"
"Yes. Please," Charli said,
clinging to the sudden hope.
"Stay right here," he said.
"I'll be back in just a minute."
It was humiliating and terrifying
to stand just inside the door,
with a few shoppers trickling
around her, but at least they
weren't making fun of her.
The clerk came back with
a big gray mat rolled up
underneath each arm.
With an expert flick,
he unrolled them.
"Okay, just step up
on this mat, one foot at
a time," he said. "Then I'll
slide the other one under
you from the far side."
Picking up her feet took
some serious willpower,
but Charli managed to do it.
Once she stood on the mats,
the tension drained out of her,
released by the secure footing.
"There, that's better," said the clerk.
"I'm Benvolio, but my friends call me Ben.
You want to tell me your name?"
"Charli," she said. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Ben said.
"So what do you want to do now?
Step onto one mat and I can move
the other one wherever you want to go,
whether that's back out or into the store."
Charli heaved a sigh. "I wanted to go to
the mall, but it was ... just too much."
"Okay, the mall is cool," Ben said.
"What were you looking for?"
"Chinese food, and something
for -- for my room," Charli said,
not wanting to admit that now
she lived in a barn stall.
"We're right in front of
housewares," Ben said.
"Can you narrow it down
a bit? Bedding, cookware,
appliances, furniture ...?"
"Baskets," Charli blurted.
"I have things now. I need
a way to organize them."
"Big laundry baskets
and hampers are in with
the other laundry stuff,"
said Ben. "We've also
got stacking baskets and
some that go on shelves."
"I'd like to see the shelf kind,
please," Charli said softly.
"Coming right up," Ben said.
"Step onto one mat. I'll move
the other one ahead of it, so you
can walk on them one at a time.
Baskets are ahead on the right."
Carefully Charli picked up her feet
and shifted onto just one mat.
As promised, Ben dragged
the other one ahead of her.
"Come on," he said. "It's not
a red carpet, but it is safe."
Hesitantly Charli stepped out
and walked to the end of
the long narrow carpet.
Ben scampered back
to drag the first one
farther ahead of her.
In that manner they
moved into the aisle
that held the baskets
and wooden shelves.
Some of them were
too bright, clearly meant
for children's rooms, but
one set of white shelves
held baskets woven of grass
dyed in soft pastel colors.
"I like this," Charli said.
She could put it at the foot
of her bed, along the wall.
"Maybe a rug? A real rug?"
At home she only had
black rubber stall mats.
They were comfortable,
but they were so ugly.
"We have rugs down here,"
Ben said, dragging the mat
into place. "I figure you want
something that'll stand up to
your hooves. These are
indoor-outdoor area rugs.
They're really durable."
Some of them were
drab black and brown,
others with simple stripes.
A few had brighter patterns.
Charli ran her hand over one
with green vines and pink flowers,
big enough to cover most of her floor
beyond what the bed already covered.
"This would match my baskets."
"Yeah, I think so too," Ben said.
"Let me get us a trolley to haul
your stuff. The rugs are bulky, and
so is the shelving for the baskets."
The trolley was nothing more than
a steel platform with wheels and
a handle, but it got the job done.
When Charli turned around, though,
she found the end of the aisle
clogged with gawkers.
"Are you here to buy
rugs?" Ben demanded.
They shuffled around,
trying to evade the question.
"Yeah, that's what I thought,"
he said. "You know better than
to stare at people! You ought
to have heard Turq's message
about the centaurs too, which if
you didn't was: leave them alone.
Now beat it, or I'll call security."
The small crowd scattered
under the lash of his disapproval.
"Thank you," Charli whispered.
"I wanted to come out today,
I really did, but this is ... hard.
I can't do all of the things I want,
and that's just so frustrating."
"All successful people learn that
success is buried on the other side
of frustration," Ben said. "Unfortunately,
some people don't get to the other side.
They allow frustration to keep them from
taking the necessary actions that would
support them in achieving their desire."
"What else is there?" Charli muttered.
"You get through this roadblock
by plowing through frustration,
taking each setback as feedback
you can learn from, and then
pushing ahead," Ben explained.
"You sound awfully sure of that,"
Charli said. "What would you
know about it? Your life is fine!"
"It's fine now," Ben said quietly.
"It wasn't always. I tried going to
college full time, and it crushed me.
I learned that I do better taking
just one or two classes at a time.
That was hard to admit, and it's
still tempting to overdo it."
"Oh," Charli said. "I'm sorry.
Everything has been so awful
for me, sometimes I forget that
other people have problems too."
"Everyone has their own challenges,"
Ben said. "Some are just bigger than
others. Compassion is always key."
"So what were you studying in
college?" Charli wondered.
"I hadn't chosen a major yet. I
dropped out after the first year, when
I was still taking core classes and things
that would apply widely," Ben said. "I thought
I might go into social work or human services."
"I could see that," Charli said. "You were
so nice to me when I got stuck earlier."
"Well, I've been studying nonprofit work
since I left full-time study," Ben said.
"Most of that involves helping people."
"You're good at it," Charli said. "A lot
of folks try, but they don't get it right.
"I'm happy to help," Ben said.
"Shall we celebrate with Chinese?
The freezer section stocks boxes of
egg rolls in shrimp, pork, or vegetarian."
"One box of each, please," Charli said,
then smirked. "I kind of eat like a ... horse."
"Let me set you up at the nearest register,
if you're ready to check out," Ben said.
"I can run and grab the egg rolls while
you're ringing up the other stuff."
Charli was rapidly running out
of energy. It was nice of him
not to mention that she probably
looked somewhat the worse for wear.
"Yeah, take me to the checkout lane,"
she said, carefully walking along the mat.
Ben had the knack of moving the mats by now,
so it didn't take long for them to reach a register.
Ahead of them in line, an old man with a cane
glanced at Charli, looked down at the mats,
then said, "Excuse me. I'll clear the lane
for you and find another one myself."
"Thank you, sir," Ben said as he dragged
the loose mat into place for Charli.
With that for traction, Charli could pull
her trolley of purchases to the counter.
"Leave those things where they are,"
the cashier told her. "I can use
a handheld scanner on them."
"Thanks," Charli said. "I have
a few more things coming --
Ben's picking up egg rolls."
"No problem," said the cashier.
"It'll take me a minute to scan these."
The scanner gave off cheerful beeps
as she waved it over the merchandise.
Ben came back with her egg rolls
and added those to the tally.
Charli paid the bill with
a cash card that she had
gotten from Victim Services.
"Shall I help you take these
out to your car?" Ben said.
"I don't have a car," Charli said.
"I came here in Conrad's truck."
Suddenly she realized that she had
a trolley full of stuff and nowhere to put it.
"Okay, you came with someone," Ben said.
"Are they outside waiting for you, or do you
need to call and tell them you're done?"
"Call," Charli said slowly. She hadn't
thought of that, but she was wearing
a vidwatch. That would do fine.
She punched in Conrad's vdress.
"Hi, it's Charli," she said. "I'm at
the supermarket across from the mall.
I bought some stuff. Can you pick me up?"
"We're almost done here," Conrad said.
"Sit tight. We'll be there in about ten minutes."
"Thank you," Charli said. "I'll be waiting."
"I'll sit with you and make sure that
nobody bugs you," Ben offered.
"That's nice," Charli said. "I could
use the buffer. People can be
hard for me to deal with."
"Yeah, me too," Ben said.
"I like people, but sometimes
it just gets to be too much."
Charli sighed. "I know, but
I have to get out and do things."
"Well, if it's shopping, just come back
here and ask for me," Ben said. "I work
weekdays, then I have class a few nights
a week. I'll be happy to help you get around
or collect purchases. If you want to make sure
I'm available, you can make an appointment."
"Oh, that would be wonderful," Charli said.
"You've been great, and not everyone is."
"It's my pleasure," Ben said. "I'm glad I
could help you plow through frustration."
Soon Conrad pulled up, and Ansel
hopped out to help load Charli's stuff
into the back of the pickup truck.
"How are you gonna fit in
that truck?" Ben wondered.
"Like this," Charli said as she
clambered into the back, then
lay down on the tent mattress
that lined the truck bed "It's not
a bad way to ride. I used to do
this as a kid, sometimes."
"Okay, have a nice day,"
Ben said. "I'll see you later."
"Yes," Charli said. "You will."
* * *
This poem is long, so the notes appear separately.