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JOLLY GOOD

At Minerva Graphics, which is just off Old Bond Street in Bath, England, I bought a sketch journal and a folio. An elderly couple were watching me as I fumbled with my umbrella and my backpack, fishing for pounds in the pocket. When I spoke, they nodded in recognition, as if to say, “I knew she was an American.”

The couple asked me where I was from.

“New Mexico,” I replied.

“How do you like this weather?” the woman asked. “A pity,” she said, answering her own question by way of apologizing in that way the British have of taking their national welcoming committee responsibilities seriously. She said “pity” like it had two t’s.

“I love it,” I said.

There was rain in my hair and a dampness soaking through my raincoat. My umbrella glistened.

“In New Mexico, all we get is warm and sunny. Or hot and sunny. Sometimes we get hot and sunny and windy. Or warm and sunny and windy.”

Her husband trained a steady gaze on me. I detected a slight turn of a smile.

The woman waited for me to indicate I was joking.

“Really,” I said. “It’s so rare that it rains in the desert that when you get a day like this, it’s refreshing. A joy.”

Turning to the man, I said. “We have 330 days of sunshine a year. We wish for days like this.”

The woman fluttered a forced smile. The man stood like a woodpiece whittled to smoothness. I was aware of being a curiosity.

Finally, the woman said, “I guess when you live with one, you yearn for the other.” She spoke more certainly now, having located the solid ground of politeness. “We’re always thinking about what we have too much of.”

“It’s really wonderful,” I said. I noticed the rose in the man’s cheeks, which sagged long from his cheekbones. His eyes were blue and watery. He was starting to look like a teacup. “I plan to enjoy it as much as I can.”

“You do that,” said the woman, cheered now. “Have a jolly good day.”

I’ve always wanted to hear someone say that.

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