A Girl, A Dog, A Boat
fiction by
Audie Cockings
Chapter 2: Mrs. and Major Todd Wynne

Mom wanted to stay. She knew exactly what I was
feeling. Unspeakable loss. She had much of that in her life. Much more than mine. She lost both her very young
parents in a car accident. And of
course later she lost her best friend, my dear father, to mesthelioma.

Dad was entirely self-made. He turned a little sheet metal
fabrication shop into a very profitable business venture, then retired, only to
start consulting for prior competitors.
His first boss gave him the nickname "Johnny Hustle". Nobody worked harder than dad.

He and mom were the perfect
pair. She held down the fort when
Max and I were little so that Dad could pound the pavement and bring home the bacon. Mom was always alone with very little
money, yet she never complained.
She was fully schooled in the art of pressing on.

Forget making lemonade out of
lemons. Our mom make pate en
croute out of spam and smooshed white bread. The fact is that blue collar folks are remarkably creative
when it comes to feeding and entertaining young children on a dime.

Gas was cheap back then, less than
a dollar a gallon. Mom would drive us around in our rusty beat up brown Ford Pinto
with the windows down and the music up.
We were the only kids in town that knew every James Taylor song. Coincidentally, "Baby I’m a Steam
Roller" also introduced Max and I to the F-bomb. I still remember the shade of red on mom’s face. Of course, dad thought it was
funny. He was a big fan of four
letter words.

We’d go to Monticello, Mount
Vernon, and to George Washington’s childhood home in Fredericksburg. Gobbling up sugar-bomb picnics of PB&J
and Yoo-hoos. Not exactly healthy
eating, but that was thirty years before Michelle Obama crowned herself queen
of the cafeteria kingdom. Back
then kids could eat and play without government and lawyers.

If Max and I were really good
during the week, we would each get a nickel on Saturday mornings. Dad would take us to 7-11 for five pieces of penny candy each.
Life was lean but good at the Pritchett home. Even better when Dad was

Dad and Mom were best friends since
she moved in with her aunt Paula next door, following the death of her folks. They spent ten years as neighbors in run down row homes, long before it was chic to live in Montgomery County.

Dad was instantly smitten with mom
and decided that he was going to be her new best friend. I don’t know that he even gave her a
choice. He had his mind made up at
first glance. Thankfully mom
appreciated his unbridled devotion.
Even at the tender age of nine, Flossie knew that Johnny was going
places. They were married just one year shy of fifty years.

I say that Mom knew how I felt when I miscarried, it was an gross
understatement. She’d had twelve
years of heartbreaking losses. In
the seventies, women smoked and drank coffee all day while pregnant. They didn’t know any better. Mom’s eyes leak when she talks about

But she never once questioned that
she would someday be a mother. Mom
says that God made up for those childless years by gifting her two at
once. I envied Mom’s positive
disposition. I wanted to be more
like her and less like me.


Mom had planned on staying another
few days, but after the physicality of my loss was over I kindly asked her to
go. I was so confused. I didn’t know why I was mourning
someone I never knew. I couldn’t
talk about it . As much as I loved
Mom’s company, I felt a big cry coming on and wanted to be alone.

weeks following only further solidified my sorrow. Everywhere I went there were pregnant women and new babies. It was as if the cervically-gifted were
breeding with each other. Multiplying
themselves just to mock me. My
only solace was food and I was beginning to resemble a tub of salted caramel
truffle Haagen Dazs.


long months passed. Todd didn’t call once to ask about me or the baby. He didn’t even know that I wasn’t
pregnant anymore. But in my
sleep I rocked our child. His tiny
wrinkled hand curled tight around my finger. He bore Todd’s transparent fawn
eyes and weightless corn silk curls.

couldn’t stop looking at the photo of them, happy. Barbie Joe would officially be Mrs. Major Todd Wynne in less
than a year. I wish I could forget
him. But I knew he was it for me
the first time I shot him down at McGarvey’s Tavern.


Annie, Lilly and I were anxious to celebrate the
fact that we made it through surgical rounds without accidentally sewing
someone’s organs together. But
our next semester would be the true pressure cooker. Twenty-four hour shifts with no time for decent
provisions…or sleep. The chief was
a sadist and we were getting dogged, which made screw ups all the more
probable. During the obstetrics
and gynecology rotation, a classmate of mine was so tired that he used a tongue
depressor for a vaginal exam on a patient…Which would have gone unnoticed if it hadn’t been for the

We headed to McGarvey’s in Annapolis to unwind. It was nearby and Annie’s boyfriend was the head bartender there. He let us drink for free and Annie liked to watch him work the bar. By ten that night, Annie and I were
already half lit up and Lilly hadn’t even arrived yet.
Annie was facing the door
looking for Lilly when she began to nudge me. "Meatheads at two-o-clock" she teased, as Todd and his buddy,
Bruce, swaggered into the bar. They were Blue Angels numbers eight and nine, in uniform, and
pompous as peacocks.
Two overly bronzed females with
tight shirts and igloo chompers were standing next to me. Their jaws simultaneously hitting the
sticky floor as Todd and his wingman parted that sudsy crowd like the Red
Sea. The building’s temperature climbed
two degrees in a matter of seconds and nearly every woman there of
child-bearing age experienced spontaneous ovulation.
The alphas had arrived.
It was commissioning week at
The Naval Academy and the Blue Angels were in town to put on a show. Todd was the events coordinator, a
marine and a flight officer. And
he was hard to miss, although I did try.