What’s life like for a baby boomer who turned in her Chicago stilettos for rain boots in a small town on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula? Most of the time, pretty routine. But for fiction writer Linda Myers, one day it all changed. Sort of. It was during Flattie Season.
The auditorium door opens. Four men enter and take seats in front of us. They’re young, all wearing jeans, expensive shoes, and t-shirts with humorous sayings. Our chairwoman brings us back to attention. She wouldn’t want to lose control of the garden club.
I’ve seen these young men before in the marina where I keep my husband’s boat. I’ll sell it one day, but I still enjoy it during flattie season. The four men called the flat-bottom feeders halibut when they were talking to the captain of a charter boat. That proves they’re out-of-towners. What are they doing now at the garden club?
The chairwoman says, “We have visitors. They’ve come from Los Angeles to talk to us. Gentlemen?”
One of them walks to the front. “I direct television commercials. We’ve come to film one here, with one of you ladies starring in it. It’s a commercial for Pacific Northwest seafood. We’ll film in the home of the woman we select. She must be a very good cook. Can you nominate anyone?”
Club members murmur and begin nominations. I hear my own name. I don’t think of myself as a good cook anymore because I don’t do it much now that the kids are gone. I usually just nuke something for myself. One of the men takes pictures of all us nominees as we smile self-consciously. Another writes down our names and addresses.
The next day I tend my roses, deadheading and pruning. When I look up, the men from Los Angeles are standing on my lawn. I invite them in, and they walk around squinting at walls and furniture. They are most interested in my kitchen’s white enameled gas stove. The director says, “Only two women are still being considered. You’re one. Have you done any public speaking?”
I reply but have the feeling he doesn’t care about my answers, just wants to hear me talk. Finally he says, “We’ll be in touch.”
I realize I could actually be seen all over the country. Millions of strangers will stare at me. I’ll be a public person. I call my kids in Seattle. My daughter says, “It will be fun, Mom.” My son is not enthused. “They’ll bring film equipment and tear up your house.” I wonder what my husband would have said. By bedtime, I decide to do it. I must have qualities I’ve never recognized in myself.
The next day is one of those sun-filled beauties that is my reward for putting up with Washington rain. The mountains and islands shine and seem to have moved closer somehow. The four men appear in the late afternoon, discuss the weather until it becomes awkward, then the director says, “We chose the other woman. But I appreciate your time.”
The men leave as I watch. I sit on my porch until the sun begins to fade, then I go inside and lock the door. The days are beautiful, but the nights can produce a chill.