The Guides, Karen

When Karen Peterson arrives home that evening, she finds several shopping bags piled in the corner of the kitchen and in the midst of them is a small woman with greying hair, dressed in a warm-up suit, a large T-shirt, a sweater, a man’s suit jacket, with an overcoat covering it all, a knit cap, and heavy work boots at least a size too big for her, with the laces untied, rocking, with her arms crossed in front of her and mumbling to herself. Karen’s husband, Billy, is seated at the table.

“Mercury in retrograde,” the woman says.

“Who’s this?” Karen says.

“This is Agnes,” Billy says. “I’ve told you about her, remember?”

“Why is she here?” Karen says.

Billy rises and touches Karen’s arm. “Let’s step into the living room for a minute, okay?”

There, he outlines the events of the morning, the bombing of his office building, and how Agnes cajoled him to take a different route. 

“But why did you bring her home?” Karen asks.

“I didn’t want to leave her out there,” Billy says.

“You know the troubles I’ve been having with Darla,” Karen says. “One difficult person is more than enough to have to deal with.”

“I’m sorry, honey,” Billy says. “She just seemed to need someone.”

“That’s why there are agencies,” Karen says.

“I know,” Billy replies. “They don’t seem to ever get the job done, though, do they?”

“They haven’t been much help with Darla, that’s for sure,” Karen says. “But they’re there. They know how to deal with folks like this.”

Billy finally convinces Karen to give Agnes a few days. 

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