Click any letter for a look at my prize-winning essay from the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. You don't even have to buy a vowel.

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.