“Die-Hard Eager Beaver” by Mary A. Berger

This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Woman.” 

Years ago, when the highlight of my day was vacuuming flower designs in the carpet, I knew it was time for a change. As a newly-retired woman, I thought there should be more to life.

“I’ve always wanted to make clay pots,” I told a friend. “You know, carry on the work of the old masters.”

“And play in the mud?” she teased.

“Yes, and I know the perfect place.” Before my friend could say “mud pies,” I was off to our local college where I signed up for a pottery class. Loaded with confidence, I felt certain that making pots on a potter’s wheel would be a cinch.

On the first day, I was ready for the challenge. Dutifully, I listened as our instructor showed us how to knead our clay to prepare it for the potter’s wheel. Meanwhile, the S.A.P.s (Smug Advanced Potters, I called them) looked on.

“Brute strength isn’t necessary,” our muddied-up leader explained, demonstrating the kneading process. “Technique is the key.”

It was time to get my hands dirty. I reached for a wad of clay and punched at it. Nothing happened. I gave it a hefty kung-fu whack to let it know who was boss. The clay seemed to stare back at me as if to say, “You’ve gotta be kidding.”

But I persisted until at last the clay was ready to use. The instructor had us seated on benches facing our wheels. Then, with a flamboyant wave of his muddy hand, he ordered, “Throw the clay!”

I wound up, tossed the clay toward the wheel . . . and missed. It went sailing into the lap of one of the S.A.P.s seated nearby.

“You’re supposed to throw it onto the wheel,” the young man rebuked.

So, my aim was off a little. After gingerly—and I do mean gingerly—helping to remove the clay from the young man’s groin area, I started over.

A container of water sat alongside the wheel. We were to use it to help keep the clay moist. Reaching inside, I drew out a handful and dribbled it over the mound of clay. Then I set my wheel turning. To my surprise, the wheel got stuck on high speed and globs of mud flew out in every direction. Wouldn’t you know it, at that moment the instructor came by, leaned over to give a few pointers, and got a face full of sopping, wet clay!

I cringed, while everyone within mud-slinging distance wiped themselves off. With clay still dripping from his face, the instructor headed the other way, shaking his head and toweling off his face.

Talk about embarrassing. Still, I was eager and determined.

My next glob of clay had a mind of its own. After veering sideways, it slid right off the wheel, landed on the floor with a plop, and stuck like a plunger. Blushing up to my eyeballs, I scraped it up with an old comb I found in my purse.

Things got worse.

We were shown how to center the clay and form it into a tall cone. My attempt looked, well, obscene, in a phallicky way, if there is such a word. So I sneaked over to the reject bin and tossed it in, hoping no one would notice.

“Not a keeper?” one of the S.A.P.s asked, strolling by.

“Uh, no, not a keeper,” I said, throwing off the jargon with an air of confidence.

At last, in a surge of triumph, I slapped some new clay into shape like a pound of hamburger. What a thrill! I felt like Napoleon. But then I met my Waterloo.

A couple of S.A.P.s had wandered over to the reject bin. They were giggling and joking among themselves while holding up my discarded clay creation for the whole class to enjoy. Sagging, I wondered if I should’ve stayed home with my creative vacuuming.

But then, ever eager for a challenge, I perked up. Another class was forming across the hall: Glass-blowing!

Now that didn’t sound too hard.

Women 250_rgbMary A. Berger is a humor-mystery novelist of the Mattie Mitchell Mystery series. Her writing has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Lady’s Circle, various small press and writer’s publications. But with all that, she says she still finds time to “get muddy!” Visit her at mattiesmysteries.blogspot.com.

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Woman.” The book features 62 stories only women can truly appreciate! Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1o9yZtl) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/1Ctd6eK).

To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.