August 16, 2017 (Wednesday)

by Yule Heibel on August 15, 2018

Yesterday morning, walking back from the Depot, I decided to take a closer look at the “We love Deb” poster on the C.-Diner’s exterior wall. The poster included photos, and I realized with some considerable shock that Deb was the owner of the C.-Diner, and that she was someone I knew.

The shock had a dual edge. First, the usual – that someone you know, who happens to be your age, has died – and died apparently very suddenly, unexpectedly. The second, that I never in a million years suspected that she was the proprietor of this popular joint. I first interacted with Deb years ago in the late 1990s, early 2000s, when I’d see her out with her dog while I was out with Jigger. She had, if I recall correctly, a rather fierce looking, large dog, the kind of breed of which people are afraid – and she herself was formidable: extremely tall, and a defiantly unfashionable, “don’t give a damn” woman. It was the kind of combination (this woman with that dog) which many people would have avoided, but not Jigger, nor his human. I think Deb appreciated the spunk of my friendly little Cairn, and besides, appearances were deceiving as she was a very kind, gentle giantess. Which meant her dog was, too.

After we moved back to B. in 2012 and Jigger was still alive, we saw her again from time to time. After Jigger died I continued to see her out and about, and we always said hello. We never stopped to talk – I didn’t know her name, nor she mine. She had a couple of different dogs now, too.

I always thought she must work in some trade – she came across as masculine. Totally no-nonsense, nothing coy. Ever. I saw her a few weeks ago: she had a ton of bandages around one leg, which suddenly looked a lot skinnier than the other one. She had skinny legs anyway, compared to her otherwise chunky torso. Imagine a woman with a matronly torso wearing mannish shorts, sandals, an ill-fitting blouse, her long gray hair carelessly tied at the nape of the neck in a ponytail. Blazing blue eyes, a square-shaped face, still pretty (but never made up), typically ready to smile. “Oh, my, what happened to your leg?” I asked. “Burned it – it’s already a lot better, though,” she replied.

I saw her before that at the supermarket. I was in a hurry and didn’t bother to make eye contact or wave across the open-top freezer compartments separating us as I barreled along on one side and Deb stood leaning against the fish case next to the lobster tank. She was talking with the woman who usually mans that department. Deb was a great “leaner.” It gave her this air of being a worker, temporarily at rest, and simultaneously of a person interested in observing things. The outpouring of grief in the community has been high.

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