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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanks to Dale for reminding me of this memory. Thankful I didn't serve Bill up for Thanksgiving. (First published in Huffington Post.)


The Cough Drop

 Bill and I were sitting in that special kind of traffic jam that comes just before the holidays and is the result of a small town growing like an overdose victim of Jack’s magic beans, leaving mundane things like convenience and city planning behind.  The roads were packed like the straw in a peach milkshake.  Fruit gets stuck in the end, all movement stops, and nobody gets any relief.  With a milkshake you can pull out the straw and suck the peach pulp out.  With overburdened roads, the obvious answer is to block off one lane with orange cones and commit to a ten-year construction project.

We had dropped our kids off at a mega-bookstore at what seemed like a short time earlier, doling out the last bite-sized candy bars from Halloween left in the bottom of my pocketbook to hold them until we got back and could hit a nearby buffet extravaganza.  Sometimes eating out, even with two teenaged mouths to feed, is a better idea than a sound investment plan. 

 In the meantime, the Highway Patrol issued an all-points-bulletin to every mall-bound traveler in the area, describing our location, destination, and current state of irritability.  That’s the only reasonable explanation for the fact that our car began to attract morons like a pan of biscuits attracts men named Bubba.  Traffic stalled and Christmas shoppers begin to share the joy of the season with their fellow travelers one finger at a time.  I attempted to retain my normal good nature even though Bill was getting testy.  He always gets that way when he misses snack time.

 Bill:  Do you have any more candy in your pocketbook?

 Me:  Why?  Are you hungry?

 Bill:  No, I thought I would toss some out the window to lure people out of our lane.

 Me: You’re being sarcastic because you’re too hungry. (Pointing across six lanes of stationary traffic.)  There’s a Wendy’s.  And a Chinese buffet.  And a pizza place.

 Bill:  Are you hungry?

 Me:  (Fumbling through my pocketbook.) No.  Why do you keep bringing it up?  There’s that place with the wonderful barbecue ribs. 

 (I find a cellophane-wrapped object which I pull surreptitiously from my bag.  I wince as a tiny crinkling sound gives me away.)

 Bill:  What’s that?

 Me:  Nothing.

 Bill:  What is it?

 Me:  Nothing.  Leave me alone, willya?

 Bill:  You have food.

Me:  No I don’t.  It’s a cough drop.  (Here I wave the cough drop with a flourish.  It’s of a nondescript color somewhere in between magenta and pink eye.)

 Bill:  I want half.

 Me:  It’s mine.  I found it.  (I fondle the cough drop like it was the One Ring.)

Bill:  We can take turns licking it.

Me:  (Pensively) I don’t think I’ve bought any cough drops this year. . .not since I had the flu that year we had the big snow.

 Bill:  You can have it.

Me:  No you.  I can wait.

Bill:  I can wait, too.

We laughed together, the warm laughter of two people coming together over misfortune.

Under cover of the laughter, I shucked the paper off the cough drop like it was a peel and eat shrimp and popped it in my mouth.

Just then traffic parted like the men’s restroom line for a father-daughter combination.  Nothing clears the tracks like a man doing daddy-duty with a lace-clad toddler in tow.  We picked up the boys, and wheeled into a nearby restaurant.

Bill:  See, it all turned out okay because we made sacrifices and worked together.  That’s what Thanksgiving is all about.

We all smiled at each other like the Brady Bunch on the 29th minute of each 30 minute show.  And I secretly gave thanks for a cough drop appetizer that kept me from acting like a turkey.

 

 

Friday, November 11, 2022

 Love and Lawn Care


As hurricane-driven rain pounded the windows, I scanned an advertisement for getaway packages to my favorite hotel located on the shore of my favorite beach.

“Look,” I said to the Captain of my Love Boat who was staring out the window as the mole holes filled with water. “They have a holiday package for Jingle Bell lovers, a Paws package for Floof lovers, and a Romance package for. . .”

“Great Gophers! Can you believe that!?”

“So much for romance. What is it?”

“That guy next door is working on his yard again. In the middle of a Category 3!”

My guy doesn’t normally escalate above tropical storm level. He’s so cool, the ice in his tea doesn’t melt. The last time I saw him this upset was when the same guy took his new lawn tractor for a spin in our yard. I called it being neighborly. He called it trespassing and threatened to border our yard with the kind of spikes that make hay out of John Deere’s tires.

“He wants to make sure his yard looks nice come spring.”

“He wants to make me look like I learned lawn care on a seaweed farm.”

I waved the hotel brochure like a white flag.

“Why don’t we take a nice trip where someone else takes care of maintenance? They have a romantic getaway with chocolate covered strawberries and rose petals.”

“They have chocolate covered rose petals?”

“No, they sprinkle them around to look nice.”

“When they’re sprinkled around our yard you make me rake them up.”

“We could get the Paws Package and take the dog.”

“Remember when we let the dog sleep with us? It smelled like burning tires in our bedroom for a week.”

I tossed the beach brochure in the recycle-when-we-remember bin. "Let’s just order pizza delivery for the guy next door and turn in for a nap when he stops mowing to gorge on pepperoni.”

“Now that’s a romance package. I don’t have rose petals, but the rosemary in the yard is going to seed.”

It goes to show. The weeds in your garden just might be the spice of life.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

 CAT AND MOUSE



Some people retire to write the great American novel.

Some people retire to beautify their home or garden.

Some people retire and start a second career, helping the homeless in Martha’s Vineyard.

I play fetch with the cat.

I was relatively easy to train. Sort of like teaching Koko the gorilla to ask for a banana. But Koko caught on faster. Probably because she already liked bananas.

Coco, no relation to Koko but just as devious regarding takeout food, brought me the mousey, all white fluff with pink felt eyes and a distinctive death rattle. I tossed it out of the way. She brought it back again and gazed at me with the air of excitement I usually exhibit while perusing the dessert cart at a place where somebody with a fancy hat does the cooking.

I was engrossed in an intellectual pursuit on my electronic writing tablet. By writing I mean gaming. By gaming I mean trying to find the scarf in a hidden picture scene. Also, I was engaged in begging Siri to solve the day’s Wordle in less tries than my husband used.

Retirement is a very busy time for those who have multiple interests. And I’m pretty sure my husband lies about Wordle.

I tried to ignore her, with her big green eyes, quivering whiskers, and six-inch claws plunged into my leg.

I don’t like to brag, but because I was the only one not afraid to risk a broken nose by looking up to catch a fly ball, I was the star right fielder the year my church had a girl’s softball team, and therefore qualified to toss a few practice rounds of fluffy toy mousey with the cat.

I forgot two things:

1. That softball season hidden in the clouds of time took place in 1974. That's almost half a century in mousey years.

2. Cats have more persistence than a car warranty salesman.

I threw the mouse enough that I was eligible for Tommy John surgery.

Now if I could just get her to bring me a banana.


Wednesday, May 11, 2022


 STEPPING OUT


"I do what?"

“A half step. Like a baby step. But with bigger feet.”

The Captain and I are standing face-to-face in the living room. We’ve decided, after a half century of ignoring choreographed moves, that we should learn the proper way to do the Carolina Shag, the official dance of the South Carolina coast. Around these parts children learn to Shag before they learn to blame broken dishes on their little brother.

Just now we’re stuck at the most difficult part. Getting started. The Captain can slow dance smoother than morning fog on a bass pond, but when it comes to following directions, it's like asking a cat to walk a straight line.

“Which direction do we step?”

“I guess toward the beach.”  We are presently five hours and six more weeks of winter away from the shore. We pause and gaze serenely eastward in honor of the ocean.

“What are you doing?” The Captain wipes his eyes with the sleeve of his Jimmy Buffett t-shirt and peers at me.

“I’m gazing eastward.”

 “You’re gazing toward the kitchen.  East is the other direction.”

 “It’s the thought that counts.”

 “You’re thinking of the cheesecake in the refrigerator.”

“It reminds me of the beach”

 “Because it’s round like the sun?”

“Because they both remind me my swimsuit doesn’t fit.”

We observe a moment of silence in honor of the good things in life and traitorous swimwear.

He takes my hand.  “So where were we? Half. . .”

“Step.”

 “Okay.”

We immediately step in opposite directions, then back, then smash each other’s toes into the biological equivalent of strawberry jam. Our arms are locked around each other and we’re stuck together like purse-bottom postage stamps. Every time he breathes, my glasses fog up in a half moon shape.

I glare at him through a sliver of light at the bottom of my right lens. “The men on the video were light on their feet.”

 He grimaced and limped to a chair.  “I wish you were light on my feet.”

 “You need to practice. You’re supposed to look like you’re hovering just above the ground.”

“The last thing I saw hovering was just above swamp level in a bad science fiction movie.”

 “What happened in the movie?”

“The hovering thing got beat up before I got the butter on my popcorn.”

“So you don’t want to learn the Shag?”

“I’d rather line the bed of my truck in taffeta and throw an afternoon tea for the Sugar Tit chapter of the Hell’s Angels.”

 “The only motorcycle in town belongs to Old Man Pirkle, the Volunteer Fireman and Assistant Mayor.”

 “We could just watch You Tube demos and eat cheesecake.”

 “Turn on the laptop. We have six more weeks to buy a swimsuit.”


Tuesday, May 3, 2022

 

 


POTTY BLOSSOMS

I didn’t do it intentionally; I avoided it with tenacity for half a century, even when the neighbors added a creative touch. But somehow it happened without my consent, which is the sort of thing that will get your name in the news these days if you’re not careful.

I am one of those people.

Through no fault of my own and in a twisted turn of fate that makes me question my life choices, I’ve sprouted a toilet in my back yard. I've taken in many things over the years - cats, dogs, an escaped ferret, even a baby possum. But this is my first time to play host to a passing potty. The term Squatter's Rights takes on a whole new meaning.

A plain, white nonfunctional no-value-added porcelain pot is nesting by my back gate. It’s not situated in a cunning garden sunhouse that serves as the urban equivalent of a greenhouse/outhouse combination. This is a two-piece victim of a hasty removal job and a failed prayer, nestled in a bed of weeds and wild onions like an out-of-date Easter egg. A Peter Rabbit practical joke.

I can’t decide whether to plant geraniums in it or to top it with a beach-themed cushion for a jaunty seaside-inspired cabana spot. It’s sort of like a Kodak moment that you don’t want anybody to see.

I didn’t start out to be a plumbing failure. Life has a way of turning your best laid plans into sewage and before you know it – boom – you’re a casualty of a flush with death.

We are not Do-It-Yourself people. We’re lucky to open our own envelopes. My husband can build a supercomputer from the ground up with spare parts from a Waring blender, but faced with a simple flood of Biblical proportions in the bathroom, he acts like Noah had the right idea: hop a passing raft and row like crazy. This is not something you can turn off and on again to see if it rights itself.

So when the fixture in the bathroom put out enough whitewater rapids to start a rafting expedition, my team ripped the thing from its moorings and pitched it out the back door like a ninth inning fastball.

And time passed. And seasons changed.

Now it’s baseball season again. The tulips have bloomed, the dogwood has blossomed, and the crepe myrtle is fuzzy with new growth.

In the meantime, a leafy green vine awash in tiny white flowers has wound around my backyard porcelain, giving it an air of casual domestication, sort of like Mother Nature’s version of Shabby Chic.

I guess everybody celebrates Spring in their own fashion. In Augusta, the Masters has acres of azaleas, Washington is sprinkled with delicate cherry blossoms, and the Midwest is bathed in fields of sunflowers.

But in my little corner of the country--just below the Bible Belt and just above the Sweet Tea Bag--we have our pottied plants.


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

WONDER-FULL


Dear Wonder® Bread People,

First, let me acknowledge that I’m aware I eat wrong. You can generally view the day’s menu offerings cascading down the front of my shirt like Niagara Falls after the spring thaw. I consider gravy an accessory and ketchup splotches a classic look akin to Coco Chanel’s little black dress. So it could be my fault.

I checked the package. You said I could put all the toppings I want on your extra soft bun. You DID NOT say that mayonnaise would melt the fibers of the bread like hot butter on a brown biscuit. Imagine the difficulties involved in holding enough pieces of bread together to make a fair-sized quilt while keeping the meat from jettisoning out the back of the bun into the drooling mouth of the hippo-sized terrier waiting in hope beside my chair.

The onions, seasoned and grilled to glistening perfection moments before, oozed down my arms into my lap, and since onions are on the doggie no-fly list, I engaged in evasive maneuvers to prevent them from becoming dog chow. This action resulted in a perky elbow flap repetition reminiscent of the Chicken Dance that is so popular at parties.

As I was waving my elbows to prevent the onset of onion catastrophe and rearranging my fingers like I was playing a flute solo in order to keep my bun from launching into space, a potato chip dropped to the floor. Since it was covered in the sort of barbecue that elicits unspeakable lethal aromas from the dog in question, I shuffled my feet to keep dog and potato chip from joining forces. If I had those moves all the time, I would be champion of my Dance, Dance video.

Meanwhile, my son strolled into the kitchen just in time to catch my Bun Dance, and although your buns are enriched, mine are not, so I regret the video that is set to trend on all available social media.

Wonder People, let’s be friends. I’m not interested in achieving the status of Thanksgiving Queen Sharon, whose burnt Marie Callendar pumpkin pie set the Internet on fire along with her dinner. I just want to know the peace of launching into my lunch without having the bun split down the middle like the Earth in a dinosaur-era meteor strike.

Let's get together on this. All people could benefit from a warning label on your package right beside the picture-perfect hamburger overflowing with condiments.

“Caution: Cracked Buns May Go Viral!"

Thank You.

 

 

Monday, February 14, 2022

 

 

POINT AND SHOOT

I was born in February and I’m a little concerned that the symbol for my birthday month is a fat, naked stalker baby with underdeveloped wings and a bow and arrow. I don’t know about you, but I go some places a baby should be afraid to follow, even one armed with projectiles. 

Somehow the thought of an undiapered toddler, especially one packing a weapon designed to shoot warm fuzzies, accompanying me to the mall clearance sales and auto-flushers seems horribly inappropriate.  I still bear a French manicure-shaped scar from reaching for a cunning pair of Capri pants on the red dot clearance rack.  If that naked baby grabs the last pair of Prada pumps on the sale table, he’s likely to lose something more important than a finger.

I can see why he’s armed. Anybody named Cupid who goes parading around in his birthday suit here in the red mud section of the South is likely to suffer grievous knuckle prints from guys named Pork Chop or Tiny. And if he ventures out to watch the Nascar drivers go fast and turn left, he just may get tire marks someplace where parking is prohibited.

So just to be sure we’re on the same track, I checked with Cupid to see how he felt about his job.

Me:  So, Cupid, how does it feel to go to work naked every day?

Cupid, the God of Love: Well, I save a lot on dry cleaning and there’s no dress code, so it’s kind of empowering. I use an awful lot of Chap-Stick, though. I’m trying for a corporate sponsorship.  My endorsement deals keep me living in the lifestyle of my dreams.

Me:  You dream of flying naked for the rest of eternity?

Cupid:  Don’t knock it. Even in the weather that frosts my feathers, it beats a business suit and 80-hour work weeks. And I don't have any place to carry a cell phone, so the boss can't ever call me on my lunch hour.

Me:  But do you think it’s safe for a baby to fly around by himself?

Cupid:  It’s not like I’m unarmed. (He tested the point on a heart-tipped arrow.) Hey, I’m the one that made Kanye apologize to Taylor Swift. I just grazed him enough to let all the hot air out.

Me:  If you’re such a sure shot, why are there so many divorces?  You know, I was married and divorced before I settled down with the Captain of my Love Boat and I’d rather have my legs done in the hot wax section of the car wash than go through that again.

Cupid:  Hey, everybody makes mistakes. Actually I was aiming for someone else, but, when you bent over it was like a heat seeking missile and a barn fire.

Me: So you’re saying the whole fiasco was my fault?

Cupid:  Well every action has an opposite and equal unexpected consequence. That’s math, you know. Or science.  Whatever. I was a Liberal Arts major.

Me:  I can identify with that. I graduated with honors, but they don’t take GPA in the Express Lane at the Piggly Wiggly.

Cupid:  Well, don’t be eyeing my job. I had to knock off a guy with winged feet to get this gig.

Me:  So now that Valentine’s Day is almost past, it’s the off season for you. What keeps you busy the rest of the year?

Cupid:  Oh, there’s lots to do.  I like to spend part of the summer posing as a sculpture in a wishing well fountain.  All that loose change comes in handy for the bathroom vending machines. 

Me:  Is that all you do? Make people think their wishes will come true, then steal their money?

Cupid:  Of course not.  Somebody’s got to keep up with the Kardashian sisters.  And Jennifer Lopez. I think I’m gonna need a bigger box of arrows.