Mary Crum made lists. Lists for all sorts of things. Lists made sense to her and she made the world make sense through lists. The satisfaction she derived from crossing things off her lists was her greatest reward in life.
7 things I need at the grocery store:
And those were the exact seven things she would buy, marking as done each item as she set it in her basket. This was how she gauged herself, because she could see the carefully preserved evidence of her accomplishments. She could show anyone who questioned her that she had done exactly what she had intended.
6 chores I will do tomorrow:
Sweep the floor
Fold the laundry
Wash the dishes
Clean the windows
Dust the figurines
Open the mail
When she sat down at her desk in the evenings she would write her lists, little road maps to keep her on task. She would plan out what needed to be done, or wanted to be done, and that way nothing would be left undone.
5 lists I need to make:
Bills I need to pay
Errands I need to run
People I need to visit
Birthdays I need to remember
Letters I need to write
Of course, she rarely made lists for things that were uncertain or for things too far in the future. She never made lists for things she could not be sure of, for the most upsetting thing in her life was to have a list with lines left uncrossed.
4 interesting things I will do:
Draw a picture
Sit in the park
Bake a cake
Visit a book store
She made her lists and her world felt secure. She never forgot important dates, she never failed to post her Christmas cards, and she never did anything unexpected.
3 books I will buy today:
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Emma by Jane Austen
The first warm afternoon of the year found her sitting in the park with her new books. She pulled out her list and drew a line through the last item, smiling.
2 people I need to talk to:
The bank teller
Just then, a dog came bounding up to her and dropped a slobbery ball in her lap. The dog was followed closely by a young man with a leash, thick curls, blue eyes, and a very apologetic smile.
“I’m so sorry, miss!” the man said as he tried to get his hands on the dog’s collar. “He’s a little excited today.”
“That’s alright,” she said, picking up the ball and holding it up for him. “I like dogs, and he is quite pretty. What is he?”
“He’s Australian Shepherd and something. I forget. A mutt,” he said, at last getting the leash clipped on.
“What’s his name?”
“Austin. He’s a sweet dog, but a handful. He isn’t mine; I’m just taking him for a walk.”
Austin panted happily as Mary stroked his fur. The man knelt beside them and picked up Mary’s new books, glancing at the titles.
“Are you reading these?”
She nodded her head. “Yes, but I’ve only just bought them.”
“Don’t read Animal Farm before you go to bed,” he said, feigning earnest warning but with a smile. “It will give you wicked nightmares.”
“You’ve read it?”
“Oh yes, I love reading!” He sounded quite eager to discuss it. “My father owned a used bookstore when I was young, and I must have read thousands of books. I keep a list of all of them.”
“You keep a list?”
He blushed, a little embarrassed. “Silly, I know-“
“No. It isn’t silly at all.” She smiled, and he smiled back at her. “What’s your name?”
“I’m sorry, how rude of me. My name is William,” he said, holding out his hand, which she shook. “And you are?”
“Well, Mary, I have to get Austin back home. But- may I see you tomorrow?”
She reddened and nodded. Yes, she would come back to the park tomorrow.
“Goodbye,” she said.
He gave Austin’s leash a tug, waving back over his shoulder as they walked away. She kept watching until they were out of sight.
That night Mary sat at her desk and thought. She drew out a piece of paper, and wrote a new list; then she smiled and crossed it off.
1 thing I did not intend to do today, but did:
Fall in love