Mrs. Horton

(by Oldie and Better, 03 April 2002)


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Mrs. Horton's Special Summer
By Oldie and Better

I guess I was 10 when the Hortons moved into a new house next to ours. We
lived in a subdivision a few miles from town. Our part of the subdivision
was on a curve and the lots were rather typically sized in the front and
large in the back.

We had live there a couple of years when the Hortons move in. I watched as
they observed the progress of their custom built home. They were from up
north but had lived in Houston for a few years.

Mr. Horton was a traveling salesman. No joke. Mrs. Horton never worked when
I knew her. They first appeared with a boy who was about three and a girl
still in her mothers' arms.

My parents talked to them and related that Mrs. Horton was only 26 and Mr.
Horton was "a little older than we are." My parents were in their early
30s. Until mother related that Mr. Horton had a daughter by another
marriage, I did not think the new neighbors offered anyone I would be
interested in.

By the time school started that year, Betsy, two grades ahead of me, came
to live with her father and very kind stepmother.

We rode the bus to school. Kids of all grades from our subdivision got on
the same bus nd rode to elementary school, junior high or high school.

Things rocked along with the new neighbors. Becca, my younger sister would
play with the Horton's kids. She was fascinated when Mrs. Horton added
another girl to the family. She was a big help. I got paid to mow their
lawn and Betsy always made sure I had some lemonade to quench my thirst.

When Betsy got into high school, I was in the seventh grade. We were
friends. I would help her with her Latin. She had to learn the numbers and
we always laughed when we got to six. I never took Latin.

Well, before that school year ended, the neighborhood added another family.
Sandra was a sophomore in high school and her brother was between Becca and
I in age. Her brother allowed that Sandra smoked.

Pretty soon Sandra would visit Betsy and they would walk to Sandra's house.
Betsy would come back. One day while waiting at the bus stop, Betsy opened
her purse and a pack of cigarettes was exposed. Kents, of all things, as I
recall.

"Sandra smokes and I'm starting," Betsy said, telling me something I
already knew. "Don't tell my parents. Larry (her brother) knows and he's
keeping it a secret. I know you will be a sweetie and not say anything."

I never told. Before the school year ended, Betsy fell off the wagon in a
sad way. It was her 15th birthday. Cindy was among the kids on the outing.
They were on a hayride and Betsy fell off and the wagon rolled over her,
fracturing her pelvis.

My mother found out and tried to be as gentle as possible in telling me.
The news was sad but mom really didn't have to be so careful about skipping
around a description of the pelvis.

Anyway, mom said that Betsy was doing well. She would be home from the
hospital in a couple of days. It was a simple fracture and no surgery was
needed. She would be in bed for about six weeks.

This happened with about a week of school left. I could visit Betsy when
Mrs. Horton had the house fixed up. As soon as everything stableized, Mr.
Horton went back out on the road. He was gone from home about three out of
four weekdays.

He left Sunday afternoon and would not be back until Saturday, Betsy said.
Mom felt sorry for Mrs. Horton who had a lot of responsibility and was
expecting yet another kid.

I had figured that out through visual observation. Finally, I get back to
smoking. Betsy did not smoke during the time she was bedridden but
mentioned to Sandra in my presence that it would only be a temporary
situation.

Here comes the shocker. That Sunday night when Mr. Horton left, I was outside
shooting baskets. Mrs. Horton stepped out and lit a cigarette. Now Mr.
Horton smoked but I had never seen Mrs. Horton smoke.

Needless to say, I shot baskets at dusk or under the light dad had
installed each night. Mrs. Horton smoked two cigarettes each night.

Mr. Horton returned for the weekend and they sat outside Saturday night as
they often did with him smoking and her not smoking.

When he left she repeated the process for another week. I was really
getting to be a good shooter. Mr. Horton spent the next week around the
house. After that, Betsy could sit up and go outside in a wheelchair. She
even came over and shot a basket once. Her parents were not too pleased.

They would not have been too pleased if they had known that Betsy returned
to smoking as soon as she was up and around. She related some problem when
her smoking became apparent.

Mrs. Horton had her little girl, another eight pounder. For her 16th
birthday, Betsy was presented with a carton of cigarettes.

I've never known Mrs. Horton to smoke again. They still live in the same
house but my parents moved. Both Tom and Mildred Horton are the nicest
people. Betsy became a heavy smoker and went off to college. As far as I
know, Mrs. Horton's last child has never been a smoker.

Betsy married a guy and only moved back here about five years ago. She
arrived as a reformed smoker but that has changed. I no longer shoot
baskets but we don't live next door to the Horton's either.


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