My Girl, Your Boy

I was inspired to write the story below back in 1987. The images that flooded my mind as I pushed my baby daughter on a swing in the park were too vivid not to be developed into a short essay once I got home.

Over the years, my thoughts would return every so often to this story I’d written. I wondered about the very special boy who would someday steal my daughter’s heart. I would think about his mom, as well—and I just knew that she loved him as deeply as I love my girl. 

Yesterday, as I scrolled through my files, I stumbled upon “My Girl, Your Boy” again. And guess what? My story has become reality. That wonderful boy married my beautiful girl, and now, his mom and I are overjoyed to share twin grandbabies—a little boy and a little girl. 

My story has come full circle.

MY GIRL, YOUR BOY

I am pushing my baby girl in a swing at the park when you first enter my mind.

It’s a perfect spring day: watercolor blue sky, warbling Robins, a breeze as soft as a whisper carrying a hint of new blooms, mown grass, clean wash on the line. 

The park unfolds at the foot of our street, just a few steps from our front door. The ancient swing set, anchored between thick iron chains, has wide leather seats that have been worn smooth from use over the years. There is also a tiny basket seat, tailor-made for babies. This park is perfect for us.

My seven-month-old girl is strapped into the basket seat. This is her first time on a swing and her feelings are evident—downy head flung back, mouth gaping open in a grin that bares two tiny white crescents breaking through the top gum. Her dimpled, sausage-roll legs jerk about and she squeals with each gentle push that I give her. The purity of her joy causes my heart rise into my throat. Out of the blue, I think of you.

Perhaps you, too, are in a park right at this moment, as your mother pushes you on a swing… or chases behind you as you creep with surprising stealth through the grass. I can feel you. I also know how helplessly, hopelessly, heels-over-head-over-heels in love your mom is with you as her eyes capture these fleeting images and preserve them in her mind: the curve of your elbows, the creases behind your knees, your round eyes sparkling with mischief as you pause, mid-crawl, to glance back at her over your shoulder.

I hope that she will teach you all the things that are truly important: please and thank you, the value of honesty, respect for others, respect for yourself. I hope she will prepare her boy just as I am preparing my girl.

In my mind, I reach out to her and we share a smile. I know that someday, she and I will laugh joyfully together across a kitchen table set for tea, as we bounce the grandchildren we share on our knees. I know that you, baby boy, and my baby girl are destined to share a wonderful life together, pushing park swings of your own.

A very different kind of fairy tale…

Warning: The following fairy tale is NOT for kids.
No siree. It’s for all of us grownups who are sick and tired of reading about all the nasty shit going on in the world these days and would, for once, like to read a story with a happy ending.

So, go curl up on the couch with your blankie and a cold beer… ’cause it’s story time!

Jack And His Beanstalk

I was not amused when Jack developed a sudden zest for gardening. The last time he’d flexed his green thumb, it had got him thrown in the slammer.

He came home, not with news that he’d finally found employment, but with a ratty leather pouch containing a few seeds he’d won in a poker game. You heard me right. He won seeds in a poker game. When he added that they were magic seeds, I lost it.

“How much beer have you drank today, Jack? Are you into the pot again too? Those are marijuana seeds, aren’t they? How could you go back on your word like this?”

Clutching his silly pouch of seeds as if it were a sack of rare diamonds, he shook his head. “I didn’t smoke nothing. And no more than ten pints touched these here lips. I was a good boy today, Ida. And it’s gonna pay off in spades!”

I glared at the sorry lout that was my lot in life for the past thirty-six years, spun on my heel and stormed down the hall to our room, from where I sent his pillow and beddings sailing smoothly out the door to land magically at his feet. The slamming door was my exclamation point.

After a fitful night’s sleep, I arose early with a thirst for a good, strong cup of coffee. While I ran water at the sink, I caught my reflection in the windowpane.

I couldn’t help but despair at the tired face that stared back at me—old beyond her fifty years. (Yes, you figured the math right. I was just a bit of a girl when I was fool enough to marry Jack. Fourteen, to be exact.) My reflection faded as a movement out the window caught my attention. I nearly dropped the coffee pot at the sight that met my eyes.

There was Jack, crouched over a freshly turned patch of earth by the shed, planting his “magic” seeds. Turning away from the window, I slammed the empty coffee pot on the counter and stomped back to the bedroom to change. I had to get away. It was obvious that Jack had lied to me and was back to growing “the smoke” again, instead of hauling his rump out to look for work. There was a time when those plants had nearly destroyed our lives. I thought he had changed. I was wrong. And I was devastated.

***

After a morning spent rifling through the racks at the new Save-A-Dollar in town, I had cooled off considerably. It’s amazing really how therapeutic it can be to treat yourself to a comfy new pair of elastic-waist jeans. I was ready to go home and confront Jack.

I called out his name as I entered the house, but there was only silence. In the kitchen, I dropped my parcel on the counter… then dropped my jaw at the scene that greeted my eyes through the window.

There was Jack perched at the edge of the half-rotted Adirondack chair he’d “found” on garbage day, peering intently at his dirt patch which had sprouted a leafy green sapling about four feet tall.

“What in the…?” were the first words that came to my mind. How could seeds planted just this morning be producing growth already? Could Jack be playing some kind of mind game with me?

I flung open the kitchen door and stalked across the lawn, fists planted firmly on my hips to keep myself from punching him.

“Jack O’Toole. What the hell kind of game do you think you’re playing with me?”

Jack’s head snapped around, his eyebrows meeting his hairline as he gawked at me.

“What do you mean, Ida? What game?”

I took a deep breath to keep myself from exploding, and growled.

“I saw you planting those seeds this morning, Jack. Do you really think I’m stupid enough to believe that they could’ve grown this much already?”

Jack’s shoulders relaxed as he waved a hand and chuckled. “Oh. Of course. You didn’t believe me when I told you they’re magic seeds.”

He sighed, leaning forward in his chair to grasp both my hands in his.

“I know how crazy it sounds, Ida, but I’m telling you the truth. I swear on Stinker’s grave,” he said, motioning with his chin toward the small mound of earth under the kitchen window. The patch was marked with a cross I’d made from twine-trussed branches, a laminated photo of our beloved old mutt—bless his little I-love-to-roll-in-crap heart—duct-taped to it.

“I’m not growing illegal contraband. I’m not playing games. These seeds are one of a kind. Old Callaghan brought ‘em back from Ireland. He told me he bought ‘em from a wee odd man who appeared outta nowhere after he’d stopped to take a whiz at the side of a dirt road outside the village of Ballybeg. Paid three-hundred pounds for ‘em! Callaghan’s eyes were like a pair’a beer taps, he was cryin’ so hard when he had to hand ‘em over to me. In all our years, I’ve not seen him so distraught.”

Jack nodded toward his plant, which had sprouted another foot as I’d stood there listening to him.

“The wee odd man told Callaghan that these seeds are guaranteed to bring good fortune to and fulfill the wildest dreams of he who possesses ‘em.”

He released my hands and leaned back in his chair to resume watching over his magic plant.

“Trust me. You’ll see proof soon enough.”

I leaned forward to take a closer look. It definitely wasn’t a marijuana plant. I knew what they looked like, thanks to years spent watching “Farmer Jack” tend his precious crops in our back yard until the day Morris Dwick from next door—pissed off after Stinker’d chased his cat over to the next county—tipped off the cops. The day Jack returned home after serving his sentence, he swore up and down to me that he was turning over a new leaf. Excuse the pun.

And he had. Until now. Was it any wonder that little soldiers of suspicion were marching up and down my spine?

As he talked, the plant grew some more, right there before my own eyes. It looked just like a beanstalk, with identical leaves and lush, orange blossoms. It was now the same height as the shed and sprouting more vines as I watched it, dumbfounded.

Could Jack actually be telling the truth? It was certainly beginning to appear that way. I continued to stare at the plant.

“So, Jack, just how will this plant be bringing us good fortune? If it gets you a job that pays in tax-free gold bricks, I just may fall over with a heart attack.”

Jack shrugged. “I don’t know exactly how, Ida. I just know that our luck is about to take a turn for the best. Callaghan said the wee man promised that he who plants the seeds shall find paradise at the top of the world. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

I sighed. “All right then. I’d best go in and start supper. I don’t imagine that the plant will be taking over my chores anytime soon.”

I went back inside the house, now feeling a tingle of excitement as I busied myself preparing a big pot of my famous Canada goose stew. While I chopped and diced, thoughts of “happy dances” bloomed in my mind, and a good half-hour passed before it dawned on me to take another look outside at Jack and his beanstalk.

I gasped and the knife slipped from my fingers and fell to the floor, missing my big toe by a hair. The beanstalk was now the circumference of a thirty-year-old oak tree. I craned my neck in an attempt to see the top of the monster plant, but it had vanished into the low cloud ceiling. I was either in the process of completely losing my mind or this truly was magic.

I turned the burner down under the stew and hurried back outside to check things out. Jack’s Adirondack chair was vacant. I glanced around the yard. “Jack?”

I peeked into the shed. “Jack? Are you in here?”

I scratched my head and chewed my lip. “Where the heck did he go?”

I cupped my hands around my mouth and yelled, “JACK! Where are you?”

A distant voice on the breeze—Jack’s—responded from somewhere far above me.

“I’m just checking things out up here, Ida. Don’t you come up though. You might slip and fall. Just yell when supper’s ready and I’ll come right back down!”

Frowning, I reached out and touched a finger to the stalk. It was soft as velvet, but solid as granite. I looked up, hoping to see Jack, but my eyesight wasn’t sharp enough to locate the precise spot where the stalk had pierced the clouds. I backed up a step, frightened suddenly at the magnitude of the strange events that had taken place over the past twenty-four hours. Perhaps Jack really would find our fortune up there.

My curiosity finally won out over Jack’s orders to stay on the ground. I wiped my damp hands on my apron, took a deep breath and raised my foot to the first vine. The creepers that wound around the trunk were thick and sturdy—spaced as closely as the rungs of a ladder. I wasn’t as nimble as I used to be, but for some reason, I found myself climbing the plant with the buoyancy of my youth. Before long, I was ascending that baby as swiftly as a mountain goat in the Rockies. I even began to whistle a tune as I climbed.

As I made my way through the clouds, I wanted to shout, “Pinch me—am I dreaming?”

They may look like fluffy cotton balls from the ground, but they certainly aren’t so soft and cuddly when you’re climbing through them. I cursed as the heavy mist drenched my new pants.

At last, my head broke through the clouds to behold blue skies and lemony sunshine that drenched the emerald grounds of a palatial, breathtakingly beautiful mansion. And…

There was my Jack, his big belly propped atop his crossed bird legs as he lounged like a king on a mound of royal blue velvet cushions beside an Olympic-sized pool. The pool was filled with what appeared to be beer, a solid gold fountain in the middle spouting a sudsy amber geyser. In one fist, he clutched a crystal mug of ale, in the other, a fat Cuban cigar.

A twittering harem of diaphanously garbed floozies were clustered around him, some feeding him nachos and cheese, others fanning him with peacock feathers and palm fronds.

Across the way, a hockey game (with the Toronto Maple Leafs winning by a landslide) blared on a widescreen TV as big as a Boeing 747, while nearby, in a gem-encrusted gazebo, Jack’s poker cronies were hunched around a marble table that overflowed with gold coins. They were playing cards, draining suds, and basking in the attention of another flock of “I Dream Of Jeannie” wannabes.

I was SO stupefied… SO stunned… SO flabbergasted… I wouldn’t have been surprised had a clap of thunder and a lightning bolt erupted from my mouth once I was able to open it. Instead, it was my voice that burst forth, “Jack?! You slimy, bottom-feeding son of a…”

“Oh crap! Ida! What the hell are you doing up here? Oh crap!” Jack leapt up from the cushions, guilty as a politician defending his expense account. I couldn’t hold back an incredulous guffaw as I took in the tight white suit he was wearing—straight from the seventies—the jacket unbuttoned to display that his once beast-like chest had been shaved clean and adorned with ropes of gold chains.

“What the hell is this at the top of your stupid magic plant, Jack? A new sequel to Saturday Night Fever?”

I turned to glare at his cronies. They looked like a shoal of fish—eyes popping, mouths gaping open. The tarts hovering around them had become a frozen tableau, all eyeballing me curiously.

“And you! You gang of…” Oh, they weren’t worth my breath. I spun around to redirect my glare at the genies that huddled around Jack.

“You know what? You can have him! He’s all yours!”

I lowered a foot back onto a vine to begin my descent. Jack’s mouth was working but no sound was forthcoming.

“And you know what, girls? Jack-and-his-beanstalk, my ass! It’s more like a sprout!”

I descended as swiftly as I’d climbed until my feet hit the solid ground of our backyard. The anger boiling under my skin was the force that propelled me to the shed, where I dug out an axe and proceeded to chop down that blasted beanstalk… and Jack out of my life, once and for all. I have to admit—I was none too upset when it finally crashed down on top of Morris Dwick’s double-wide.

Once I was done, I pitched the axe back into the shed, slapped the dirt off my hands and felt some of my fury begin to dissipate. Stepping out of the shed, I paused a moment to rub my eyes. The fallen beanstalk had completely vanished (although it had left behind a huge crater in Dwick’s roof—heh heh).

I peered skyward for a few calming moments. Then I did a sprightly little two-step before heading back to my house for a heaping bowl of stew.

***

This being a fairy tale—Ida proceeded to live happily ever after, of course!

THE END.

 

ALTERNATE ENDING #2:

Once I was done, I stomped to the shed, pitched the axe back inside, slapped the dirt off my hands and felt my fury begin to dissipate.

Turning back toward my work, I halted and rubbed my eyes. The fallen beanstalk had completely vanished (although it had left a huge crater in Dwick’s roof—heh heh).

I crouched to get a closer look at the patch of earth where a massive beanstalk had existed only moments ago. It was now nothing more than a freshly turned patch of earth. Astonishing? Not really.

I straightened up and stretched languidly, raising my eyes skyward. The thick cloud cover had dissipated to reveal a limitless stretch of sun-washed, robin’s-egg blue.

I stood for a moment, my smile a radiant tribute to this picture of transcendence.

Prompted by the grumble of my appetite, I blew a kiss to the wind and turned toward the house, ready for a yummy bowl of stew on this, my first day of Happily Ever After.

THE END.

 

ALTERNATE ENDING #3:

Once I was done, I stomped to the shed, pitched the axe back inside, slapped the dirt off my hands and felt my fury begin to dissipate.

Turning back toward my work, I halted and rubbed my eyes. The fallen beanstalk had completely vanished (although it had left a huge crater in Dwick’s roof—heh heh).

I crouched to get a closer look at the patch of earth where a massive beanstalk had existed only moments ago. It was now nothing more than a freshly turned patch of earth. I peered a little closer… Perhaps there wassomething there.

Kneeling, I brushed at the earth then clawed at it with my fingernails. I scrambled into the shed, grabbed a spade and began to dig.

I struck it at the exact moment the sun sank beneath the horizon and the first evening star appeared.

***

Fast-forward one year…

I’m sipping the world’s finest champagne as I gaze out over the sparkling Mediterranean Sea from the yacht that serves as one of my vacation homes. Stinker II is curled up on my lap, dolled up in the most precious little custom-made cummerbund and bow tie. A team will soon arrive by shuttle to do my hair, nails and makeup for the dinner party I am hosting tonight in honor of my new best friend, His Royal Highness. Donatella is also arriving shortly with a gown she designed just for me. A nip here, a tuck there—I’m a whole new woman.

Good fortune and my wildest dreams fulfilled… I’m on top of the world thanks to the endless fountain of black gold I struck right in my own backyard. And thanks to a few magic seeds that provided me with the means to chop away a bad chapter of my life.

***

Of course, this being a fairy tale, Ida—or rather Princess Ida (as is her new destiny)—lives happily ever after with a real prince.

THE END

 

Here come goosebumps. A story on the dark side…

Together Again

 

Sadie ruffles the child’s copper curls before stooping to mop up the pool of milk splattered on the kitchen floor.

 

“I’m sorry, mama,” the timid voice pipes from overhead. Sadie sighs and her brow relaxes at the sight of the small feet dangling above the floor.

 

“It’s ok, Timmy. It was just a little accident. Finish up your dinner now.” As she wrings out the towel above the sink, her eyes dart toward the clock.

 

“Oh, God, he’s gonna be home soon,” she moans under her breath, spinning quickly to clean up the remaining mess. She has almost finished when she hears the front door slam. Her head snaps up and her heart flutters wildly at the thunder of boots against gleaming linoleum.

 

“Well, well. What’ve we here?” The low, lazy drawl slithers across her scalp, around her neck, along her spine, like something dank and reptilian. She scrambles to finish, sopping up the last of the milk, then tilts her chin upward. She blows at a few tendrils of hair that have fallen over her eye and smiles at the bear of a man towering above her.

 

“Oh, this? It’s nothing. I just knocked over Timmy’s milk by mistake. But we’re all good now.”

 

She jumps up quickly and on trembling legs, swivels to rinse the dripping towel at the sink. Attuned to the silence, she runs a dry tongue over her lips.

 

“So, Pete… did you have a good day?”

 

The blow to her head is sudden. It sends her stumbling sideways across the room, the wet towel sailing in the opposite direction to land with a thud by the baseboard. Her hip slams into the floor and the stunning surge of pain steals her breath and makes her curl into herself like a centipede.

 

The drawl becomes a snarl. “Yeah. I had a good day. Till now. Till I came home to my slob of a wife.”

 

Lucidity returns to Sadie in a great gush, at the sounds of the frightened whimpering that’s building in intensity from behind the kitchen table.

 

His roar is a clap of thunder sent down from the heavens, if there is such a place. “You are your mother’s child. Quit your whining, you little wimp. Either shut up or get the hell outta here.”

 

Fear leaches into every pore and parches her throat until she hears the fading patter of Timmy’s Sponge Bob slippers as he dashes down the hall and out the front door. The pool of relief that blankets her is deep and cool and soothing. And it revives her.

 

Swallowing against her nausea, her fingers inch up and over the face of the cupboard door to grip the lip of the counter top as she slowly pulls herself to her feet.

 

“You promised,” she cries softly, dabbing at the warm trickle under her nose with her wrist. “When we got back together, you promised you’d never do this to me again. I believed you.”

 

He weaves toward her, pitching forward until their noses are almost touching. The lingering scent of the woman he was with fills her sinuses and makes her gorge rise. Swaying slightly, he regards her through whiskey eyes that simmer with rage.

 

“You promised!” he apes in a high-pitched squeal. His upper lip curls into a familiar sneer that flushes her veins with ice water.

 

“You’re pathetic,” he spits, and twists away from her.

 

Closing her eyes, she begins to release the breath she’s been holding, as his arm strikes out and a meaty hand grasps her throat. With a mighty shove, he sends her slight body spiraling backward to slam against the kitchen wall. When she finally comes to and can open her left eye enough to clear a narrow path of sight, she sees him hunched at the kitchen table, slack-jawed and snoring. A smoldering cigarette butt burns a brown patch into the linoleum where Timmy’s milk had pooled earlier.

 

Willing herself not to howl with the pain that jackhammers every inch of her body, she pushes and squirms across the floor until, finally, she is resting at her husband’s feet. Slowly, cautiously, she inches her bloodied fingers up beneath his pant-leg to seek out the weapon she knows he has strapped there. He snorts in his drunken slumber but she is certain that he won’t awaken.

 

She releases the safety catch with trembling fingers and strains to pull herself up, leaning against the kitchen table for support. Her lungs are on fire and she takes a few good, rasping breaths before she touches the barrel to his forehead. Gives it a nudge.

 

No games. She pulls the trigger before he’s had half a chance to focus on the blackness in her eyes.

 

She sets the pistol down gently on the table, then crumples to the floor to wait for the help that she knows will eventually come.

 

As she fades into the welcome embrace of the cool, grey shadows, she is laughing inside; laughing and dancing and singing.

 

They will never be together again.

Why is everyone scrambling to get their hands on the fall issue of Readers Digest’s Our Canada magazine?

our canada_cover copy…Because a story I wrote is featured in the October/November 2015 issue!

The magazine—produced by the esteemed Reader’s Digest—captures the true essence of Canadian life through its compilation of interesting stories and beautiful photos contributed by Canadians from coast to coast.

You’ll find Our Canada magazine at most magazine newsstands, as well as at community libraries.

My story, Thanks for the Memories, is featured on page 59 of the October/November issue. For those of you outside of Canada, I’ve reprinted the story below.our canada_story copy

Thanks for the Memories

Today is the day I say farewell to an old girl who has been a part of my life for a long time. She has always been dependable, ready and willing to go anywhere, anytime. She expects nothing more from me than the sustenance she needs to keep her alive—the oil that keeps her old parts moving and the fuel that stokes her get-up-and-go.

Although she’s not much to look at, my old car has been a faithful companion for many years. A tug of war pulls at my heart, although I know the time to part with her has arrived. Indeed, the decision has been a long time coming. Still, my hand hovers over the phone. It feels too easy. A quick call and she’ll be gone. The lump in my throat swells as I think of the crushing end that awaits her.

So many journeys we’ve taken together. Sunday drives north of the city, cruising along ribbons of winding dirt roads, oldies playing loudly enough to make me dance in my seat. No air conditioning—instead, her windows rolled all the way down to allow the warm country air to flow in: farmland, freshly mowed grass, garden blooms and road dust—smells of summer.

She also delivered me safely through the most vicious of winter storms. Her wipers slicing through sheets of rain and sleet and snow; her heater warming away the chill as I inched along past bus stops crowded with commuters huddled and bent against nature’s wrath.

She was a companion on countless shopping trips, her trunk packed with Christmas parcels and bags, birthday surprises, wedding and shower gifts. A symbol of my freedom, taking me wherever and whenever I wanted to go.

The old girl embraced us with her seatbelts during milestone outings with my daughter, Jennifer…to purchase her first pair of school shoes; get her first haircut; enjoy her first baseball game; take part in her first dance recital; and attend her graduation ceremony. Enabling pivotal conversations to evolve thanks to the intimacy of her interior, she was a place where my daughter could crack open her aloof, adolescent shell to spill confidences normally kept secret.

My husband, Paul, and I sharing heartfelt conversations during our Sunday afternoon drives—lazy, rambling chats all too rare in our busy lives.

The makeshift refuge she offered for brief escapes…so many workday lunch hours spent curled up on her back seat with a good book, a cup of coffee and a fluffy pillow kept tucked away in her trunk. She served as a hideout, a familiar sanctuary, perfect for stealing away to be alone with my thoughts. She was a safe haven locking out the world, where I could rest my head against her steering wheel to have a good cry.

Really, she is so much more than just an old car.

It’s late afternoon when the tow-truck driver arrives. He hands me a sheaf of paperwork. I chew my bottom lip against the threat of tears, and sign. He looks tired and bored as he hooks her onto a heavy-duty chain and cranks up her front end. To him, this is just another job to complete before his workday ends. Gently, I touch her corroding paint. I turn away briefly as the driver barks a hurried goodbye and disappears into the cab of his truck.

As she fades away in the distance, I thank her for the memories—and then I move on.

When the baby bird spreads her wings for college

My girl has long finished her stints at both university and college, and has worked as an advertising copywriter at an agency for several years now. But I will never forget that turning point in our lives—her transition from my high school baby girl to my college big girl.

Just like that, I was no longer required to meet with her teachers, attend functions at her school, be on top of the day-to-day minutiae of her life. All of it came to an abrupt standstill on the late August afternoon that we dropped her and all her worldly possessions off at the two-hours-away campus dorm where she would live for the next few years.

I was still waving goodbye through the back window of the car as she dwindled to nothing more than a wide grin in the distance. I’d been anticipating my first taste of that glorious newfound freedom that’s part and parcel with being an empty nester, so it came as a huge surprise to find myself bursting into tears the moment my girl was completely out of sight. Mind you, my grief didn’t last long, but I know now that those tears were my final acknowledgement of our rite of passage from roots to wings.

With that said, here’s a glimpse of the college experience through a mom’s eyes.

college_courtesy of gratisography.comMy College Girl

Two years have passed quicker than a sigh since my baby girl left home to embrace campus life. The fact that she found it so effortless to sever what was left of the umbilical cord between us speaks volumes about my child-rearing skills. As they say, “It’s your job to give them roots and wings.” I know I’ve accomplished that task. The real hardship has been with growing wings of my own.

girl_courtesy of images.unsplash.com:by Julia CaesarShe doesn’t call as often as I’d like her to, caught up as she is in her exciting whirlwind of a life, so when the phone rings and I hear her voice chirping from the answering machine, I toss aside my newspaper, leap from my wing chair and scramble to reach the phone before she hangs up.

I greet her with laughter in my voice. It always happens like this: a cascade of questions flood my mind, surging dangerously like a tsunami toward my lips. I struggle to keep the dam barricaded. If I slip and my questions break free, I know she will fly quickly above the tide and recede with it back to her perch on the other side of the ocean that separates us.

Instead, I try my best to spin interesting stories about an uninteresting week. I hope this will be enough to keep her on my side of the ocean for now. In return, she spins stories of her own, feeding me safe snippets of a life that, I have no doubt, is far more exciting than I’d ever care to know.

We laugh together as she relates a lecture hall incident. Since I’ve been a pretty cool cat so far—no gifts of unsolicited advice to ruffle any feathers—the olive branch she extends is my reward. She tells me about a boy. A boy with soft, brown eyes and a talent for clever banter. He makes her laugh.1280px-Pāhoehoe_lava_meets_Pacific

Oh my. How the dam ruptures!

I need to know: his name…first and last…the color of his hair…his career aspirations…his family pedigree. Soft, brown eyes and a great sense of humor is simply not enough to keep the tsunami in check.

I can almost hear the squeak of her eyes as they roll in their sockets. I’ve blown it. There is nothing more to tell. He’s just a boy.

courtesy of Andrew SchmidtThe wave crashes onward. What about your test? Essay grades? You missed a class? Why? Walking alone at night? Are you mad? You spent how much this week? You’re not coming home till when?

She stops my barrage with a sudden urgency to prepare for her next class. Her tone is abrupt and final. The swell settles immediately into a drip, drip, drip of dismal regrets.bridge_courtesy of images.unsplash.com:by Modestas Urbonas

The phone lines bulge and ripple with hurried exchanges of I Miss You. I Love You.

We disconnect and fly back to our separate shorelines.

Pterodroma_cervicalis_-_SE_TasmaniaBaby bird has mastered the art of flight, but Mama bird still has a lot to learn.

 

 

 

Photo acknowledgements:
1. Courtesy of http://www.gratisography.com
2. Water baby, courtesy of http://www.morguefile.com
3. Courtesy of images.unsplash.com/by Julia Caesar
4. Pāhoehoe lava meets Pacific, courtesty of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Featured_pictures/Natural_phenomena
5. Wave, courtesy of Andrew Schmidt
6. Bridge, courtesy of images.unsplash.com/by Modestas Urbonas
7. “Pterodroma cervicalis, SE Tasmania” by JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons-https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pterodroma_cervicalis_-_SE_Tasmania.jpg#/media/File:Pterodroma_cervicalis_-_SE_Tasmania.jpg
8. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Featured_pictures/Natural_phenomena Pāhoehoe_lava_meets_Pacific

There’s that sunny with blue-skies-ahead, picture-perfect wedding day … and then there’s marriage.

wedding

 

 

 

Paul and Donna on their wedding day in 1980.

 

 

 

My husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary last Sunday. That’s right. Thirty-five years under the same roof. If you also count the three years we roomed together before the wedding, it’s actually been thirty-eight years. We started dating when I was sixteen.

When you’ve lived with someone for thirty-eight years, you’ve earned the right to refer to yourself as the Queen/King of compromise, patience and acceptance. I don’t think it’s possible to be in it for the long haul without both parties making a conscious effort to cultivate these essential virtues. Being able to laugh at yourselves is also a necessity.

It’s not even remotely easy. I could have packed my bags any number of times through the years and left over issues that I would today consider to be moot. I’m glad I didn’t. Every human being on this earth is flawed—you included. When you live with another human being, you live with their flaws too. That’s where a combination of compromise, patience and acceptance comes into play. Without it, your partner’s flaws become magnified until they are unbearable.

My husband and I both have our flaws (he has a lot more than I do, of course) but we are and will always be each other’s best friend forever. That makes the choice we both made to live our lives with compromise, patience and acceptance worth it.

Speaking of flaws, the subject brings to mind a story I wrote that illustrates a good example of choosing patience over murder. 🙂

Unfashionably Late, Thanks To My Mate

My husband’s pet name is Pokey. Shortened from its full spelling: Slowpoke.

There’s a generations-old myth that implies that women are guilty of taking forever to get ready to go out while the men wait impatiently for them. At our house it’s Pokey who takes forever to get moving. We are fashionably late for absolutely everything and it’s never intentional.

Here’s a typical scenario. We were invited to a friend’s wedding. On the same day that we received the invitation, I recorded the date and time on the kitchen wall calendar, updated the daily diary in my purse and set my email appointment calendar to send me an electronic reminder. Before the day was over I had map-quested the location, printed out detailed directions plus a street map, calculated the time it would take to drive from A to B with or without heavy traffic, and confirmed in my mind the dress and shoes I would wear. Only then was I able to relax and simply look forward to a fun evening out.

Pokey’s response to the news: “Just remind me the day before we have to go.”

I reminded him a full week before—and every day leading up to the event. You’d think he would have been prepared, right?

With the wedding procession set to begin at precisely three in the afternoon, I knew that we had to leave the house no later than two-ten in order to arrive in plenty of time to find prime aisle seating. Naturally, on the day of, Pokey decided mid-morning that the eavestrough, which had been overflowing with debris and on the verge of crashing down at any moment for the past several months, was in dire need of a cleaning… immediately. By one o’clock I had thoroughly aerated the lawn from stomping back and forth in my high heels, and our neighbours learned curse words they’d never heard before. Pokey finally climbed down after I threatened to pick him off the roof with his old pellet gun.

Sending clumps of mud, pine needles and bird poop flying in all directions as he slapped off a sopping wet pair of work gloves, he had the gall to smile. “Why are you in such a knot? I’m hopping into the shower right now and I’ll be ready in five.”

Pokey was, in fact, out of the shower in five minutes; I stormed upstairs to find him wandering around naked, trying to choose between two ties that looked identical. “Do you realize that we have to leave in less than an hour?” I shrieked, my blood pressure staining my cheeks more effectively than my blusher. “Don’t sweat it,” was Pokey’s reply. “Oh. By the way. Have you seen my white shirt anywhere?”

At two-oh-five while I stood near the front door giving myself a quick once-over in the hall mirror, Pokey was still upstairs ironing the white shirt that, though dry-cleaned since it’s last wearing, had been discovered in a crumpled heap at the back of his closet.

Leaning against the front door, trying my best not to look at my watch, I waited. Although my foot was tapping a hole through the ceramic tile, I’d made a pact with myself not to have a meltdown. I loudly whistled the Guns N’ Roses tune Patience in an attempt to drown out the creaking of the floorboards upstairs as Pokey loped about, searching for his wallet and car keys while trying to knot his tie.

At two-fifteen I was practicing the breathing techniques I’d learned years ago in Lamaze classes, while focusing on a hairline crack in a ceramic floor tile that Pokey was supposed to have replaced last year.

At two-seventeen my fists were flexing as my Lamaze breathing converted to hyperventilating. It was at that precise moment that Pokey appeared, literally leaping into his shoes and yanking his trench coat from the closet in tandem while ushering me out the door with a, “Why are you just standing here? We have to get going if you don’t want to be late.”

Believe it or not, we arrived at the church with exactly sixty seconds to spare. Of course I never did get my aisle seat, which explains why, in my one shot of the bride making her entrance, her face is obscured by the beehive ‘do of the lady beside me.

Whenever anybody says that marriage is all about compromise, my thoughts flash back to all the years I’ve spent tapping my feet at the front door. Compromise—hell, yeah! And a good supply of blood pressure meds too.
today

Paul and Donna today with our Jennifer.

I’ve whipped up a little time waster for lady travellers…It’s called fifty shades of greyport

Need a little something to stifle the boredom of sitting around at the airport while you wait and wait and wait to board your flight?

You’re welcome. 🙂

oiW6wsCA Brief Encounter

The airport. I sit hunched on a stiff plastic bench, chin on fist, wedged between strangers, listening for the boarding announcement.

Swinging one crossed leg, I peer at the sea of faces. All shapes, all sizes. Some snoring, some animated, some as bored as I. Ready to rise and stretch my limbs when…

Whoa, Nellie! Jackpot bells a-clanging! Lights a-flashing!
The faces and bodies around me dissolve faster than watercolours on a freshly painted canvas caught in the rain.

All but one.

He lounges against a vacant ticket counter, one thumb hooked through a belt loop on his well-worn blue jeans, the subtle outline of taut thigh muscles apparent beneath. Other thumb hooked at the collar of a battered brown leather aviator jacket slung loosely over one broad shoulder.

His glance catches mine and he holds my gaze as he pushes languidly away from the ticket booth. He ambles toward me like a cat stalking its prey.

I try to swallow, to breathe. The earth squeaks to a stop in mid spin as he halts before me. His stance is insolent and like steel drawn to magnet, I rise slowly until we are eye to eye.

I feel his warm breath on my cheek. No words are exchanged as he lifts a fingertip to trace the barest path along my jaw and over my lips, then brushes gently at a stray curl of hair fallen over one of my eyes. I am disappearing, disappearing into dark-fringed indigo depths.

He cups my face in his large, smooth hands and draws my lips ever so slowly toward his.

My eyelids are heavy, drowsy, and my breath is shallow as he draws me closer, closer still…until…

“Honey! C’mon! They’ve called our seat numbers!”

Poof. Adonis is gone. In his place stands my husband, squinting at me over a mound of golf clubs and carry-on luggage.

“Daydreaming again, huh? What’s that mind of yours spinning now?”

“That’s my secret.” I grin and wink at the lady beside me but she doesn’t notice.

She is lost in a daydream of her own.
woman2

Has the red carpet become a bit too orange?

While watching the Golden Globes the other night, I noticed that a lot more people than usual were sporting a carrot tinge to their skin. I guessed that either (a) jaundice is in vogue this year on the red carpet or (b) someone on Rodeo Drive is offering one helluva clearance on spray tans.

creamsicleRegardless, seeing so many fake tans triggered a sudden craving for Creamsicle ice cream, which really pissed me off since I’m still trying to lose my stuffing-and-plum-pudding weight. The bottom line: In my opinion, the most au naturel celebs (oxymoron?) looked most beautiful.

During the Hollywood awards season, I do enjoy jlowatching the parade of absolute perfection on the red carpet…perfectly styled coifs; perfectly made up faces; perfectly enhanced cleavage; perfectly Spanxed waistlines, hips and asses; perfect celeb-trainer-shaped legs; perfect spa manis and pedis; perfectly fitted designer gowns. No creases, no bulges, no split seams. What’s it like having to be so perfect? How does it feel to be examined under a microscope and judged by millions every time you go out your front door?

My guess is that it’s positively exhausting.

Every year, by the time the Academy Awards are over, I really am happy to be boring old me. I’ll take my plump ass and my roly poly abs and my bloodless
(as-a-dead-fish-because-I-live-in-Canada-where-I-can’t-remember-what-sunshine-looks-like-anymore) skin and my (tossed-up-in-a-lopsided-ponytail-every-day-because-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-go-and-get-it-cut) hair, and my nice comfy sweats that disguise the fact that I haven’t bothered to shave my legs in the past month. And especially my anonymity. Give me my paparazzi-free life any day.

Yes I know that they’ve got more money than I could ever fathom. But I’ve got normal. And you know what? That’s a fair enough trade-off for me.

While I’m on the subject of celebs and the alien world they live in, here’s a short story you might enjoy. 

Mama Mia!

When David Letterman announces her name, the audience goes ballistic for their beloved golden girl. Applause erupts with the force of a volcano as she ducks out from behind the curtain, strolling gracefully across the stage toward him.

Her lustrous hair has been carelessly (carefully) gathered into a ponytail by her personal hairstylist and her expertly made up face is fresh and youthful.
She glows.

A slip of gossamer champagne fabric hugs the toned curves of her body, shimmering under the hot studio lights so that she appears nude, almost ethereal. The delighted gasp of the male portion of the audience is audible while the females among them excrete a fusion of longing and loathing as their eyes track the subtle sway of her hips.

She transports a designer-clad toddler in the crook of one arm while maneuvering a towheaded preschooler, who stumbles along while peering down at the floor. The roar of applause persists as she settles into the guest chair, plunking the toddler onto one crossed knee while directing the elder child to climb up onto the chair beside her. She beams at the audience, sweeping them with her lilac blue eyes, then directs a dimpled smile at Dave.

“Nanny out on the town tonight?” Dave quips and the applause morphs into laughter.

“No nannies for me, Dave,” she purrs. “I insist on taking care of my precious babies all on my own, thank you very much.”

She punctuates her statement by warmly embracing her toddler, who squirms and whimpers. The audience laughs and applauds. Her knee begins to bounce as she tries to distract the fussing toddler. The preschooler continues to stare at the floor, sucking quietly on three fingers.

The very beautiful very bankable major motion picture star turns to Dave, bending forward slightly so that one can’t help but notice the luscious, surgically perfected globes not quite hidden behind the chubby toddler. She proceeds to dish openly about her quite average but exhausting daily routine: getting the kids up and dressed every morning, preparing their meals, ferrying them to play dates, all while having to get to the set on time…you know, just the normal working mommy stuff. As a matter of fact, just this morning, she and her very handsome, also very bankable motion picture star husband discussed their desire to begin work on baby number three as soon as they have both wrapped up their latest films.

The audience roars their approval and she smiles at them, draping her arms around both of her children. The toddler stiffens and his quiet mewling swells into a shriek. In a soothing tone, she shushes him while nuzzling his neck with her perfect nose. The assistant director signals a commercial break and Dave angles his body toward camera number two.

“We’ll be right back with the delightful _____ right after this message.”

The instant the camera pans away, a stout woman with a furrowed unibrow darts from behind the curtain and scrambles across the stage toward the children. Dave takes a generous sip of scotch from his mug while appreciating a perfect side view of his distracted guest’s left breast as her dress strap slips down on her shoulder. The grimacing star holds a now kicking and screaming toddler out and away from her.

“Hurry the hell up, Consuela,” she snarls from behind a tight grin. “And get this little prick off of me before he destroys my Versace!”

The preschooler shimmies from his chair and dashes to the clucking woman, throwing his arms around her legs. His mother’s stunning violet eyes shoot icicles in his direction, then glare up at the nanny. “And what in Christ’s name have you been doing with Jonathan? He just sits there like a mute. Make an appointment for him next week with my therapist.”

She turns away from the retreating nanny and children with an air of dismissal, smooths her dress over her thighs, re-crosses a ten-million-dollar leg, and leans in toward Dave.

“Effing kids,” she snorts. “Thank God I’m flying back to Rome tonight.”

The busy assistant director signals the countdown. Dave clears his throat, sets his mug down and grins.

Three, two, one…“And we’re back with everyone’s favourite movie star mom!

star

Do kids build snowmen (or shall we say snowpersons) anymore?

Where have all the kids gone? It’s been eons since I’ve seen a snowman on a front lawn.

snowman_finishing_touchWhen I was a kid, there was an entire clan of snowmen in my front yard from November until April. (Yes we had lonnnggg winters. That’s life when you live in Sudbury. When we stood at our living room window, we couldn’t see anything but snow banks. It was almost summer vacation before the rest of the street materialized once again.)

I recently took a drive through my neighborhood the day after a big honkin’ snowstorm and I did not see one snowman. I didn’t even see any kids. Now I know that scientists claim we’re in the midst of a whole whack of mass extinctions, but I’m pretty sure that kids aren’t one of the species on the list (though snowmen seem to be).

The modern decline in snowmen really concerns me and after that drive through the neighborhood, I was moved to write a short story on the subject.

If you have nothing better to do with your time right now, you can read it below.

 

EXTINCT

It is blessedly quiet in the car.

After spending the morning chiseling her three children away from their new 110-inch flat-screen TV, Jane has treated them to an afternoon at the Razor’s Edge Electronic Indoor Play Park. Now Jane’s head feels like it is being split in two by a lumberjack. The pinging, the zinging, the sirens, the shrieking. The place makes a casino sound like a yoga studio.

Not to mention the cost. She could have bought all the latest video games for them with the amount she’d spent on admission for four. Jane’s head spasms again at the thought. I suppose that’s the price of fun these days, she says aloud to herself, glancing in the rearview mirror at the three towheads bowed over their softly clicking PlayStations.

The windshield wipers swish away the thick flakes falling gently as Jane slowly guides the car through snow-blanketed streets. As they round a corner, she gasps at the sudden sight that meets her eyes in the front yard of one of the houses ahead. The car fishtails then rights itself as she pulls to a stop alongside the curb.

The clicking continues from the back seat as the car idles. “Well, will you look at that,” Jane says with a giddy chuckle. “I haven’t seen one of those since I was a kid.”

She wipes away the condensation left by her breath against the glass. “Boys! Take a look at that. It’s a real snowman!”

“You want me to bring up a snowman on my gamer, mom?” the middle boy asks.

“No!” Jane says, frowning. “Look out the window! Someone actually built a snowman on their lawn! Right there! See?”

The oldest boy scratches his head. “How’d they do that?”

“We used to build them when we were kids.” Jane smiles at the memory. “The first snowfall, we’d be SO excited. We could barely wait to get outside and build a snowman, or a fort, or have a snowball fight…”

“But wasn’t it too cold to go out back then?” the youngest asked.

Jane turns her head to look at them in disbelief. “Grandma bundled us up in snowsuits and sent us out right after breakfast. We were warm as ovens. We didn’t go back inside again till lunch.”

The oldest boy snorts. “Sounds like abuse to me. Being abandoned out in the freezing cold and all.”

“Look, mom,” yells the middle boy, shoving his handheld over the front seat. “I built a snowman too! I used white pixels!”

Jane groans, slumps in her seat, and regards the towering Frosty outside. It has a carrot nose, pebble eyes, and tree-branch hands. Exactly like the ones she used to build. She smiles. The memories warm her heart. She is about to turn around and tell the boys about the time she and her sister dressed their snowman up in grandpa’s expensive hat and scarf when she hears a fresh round of clicking resume in the back seat. All three heads are bowed once again.

Jane narrows her eyes, puts the car in drive and makes a U-turn.
“There’s been a change in plans, boys! We’re going to the mall right this minute to buy snowsuits. And then we are going to bring snowmen out of extinction.”

donna on snowman

 

That’s me—many many moons ago—sitting on what appears to be the carcass of a snowman.

Thanks a lot, George Clooney, for messing up my story

I wrote a short story not long ago—I guess you could call it a tongue-in-cheek yarn that combines thoughts of “the salt & pepper fox” with “what if?”

But then Mr. Clooney totally wrecked my story by getting married this past October.

black swan reading3Even so, when I was invited to do a reading at a Music & Literary Event in Toronto on Saturday night, keeping in mind the typical length of most Hollywood marriages, I decided to go ahead and read this particular story anyway.

WARNING: If after reading this story your spouse comments later about a faraway look in your eyes that doesn’t seem to be disappearing, don’t be concerned. That’s normal.

Picking Up George Clooney

A decent looking divorcette stuck in the ‘burbs leads an insular life.

Romantic prospects are limited to those men at the supermarket who look positively predatory as they squeeze the overripe melons in the produce department.

When I was married to Richard Rolland, MD, neighbor women hungry for over-the-fence chitchat homed in on me like heat-seeking missiles as I puttered around the yard in my Bermuda shorts and polo shirts. Today those same women clamp themselves like bear traps onto the arms of their melon-squeezing husbands as they stride quickly by my house on their evening strolls. It behooves me to sit on my veranda every night after dinner, dressed in my Victoria’s Secret tee shirts with necklines that plunge deeper than the Grand Canyon. Despite the sudden frost, I remain cordial, always raising my Tom Collins in friendly response to their tight-lipped greetings.

I often consider throwing my hands up in resignation and just unloading my cozy gingerbread house with its white picket fence (won fair and square in the divorce settlement along with my rather large alimony payments—Richard’s comeuppance for choosing the Intern Whore over the Doctor’s Wife). And move to a six-hundred-square foot condo in the city, which is what divorcettes with still lustrous hair, still shapely legs, and still perky breasts are supposed to do, right?

The problem is that Karen and James were raised in this house. If I blot out past images of the Intern Whore’s Boyfriend, I’m left with the most wonderful memories of my life here with the twins from their birth up to the day they left for college. I don’t think I’m ready to say my final farewell yet.

When Maggie Albright—a checker at our town’s only grocery market who has four kids and a husband she’s been begging me to take off her hands for years now—tells me the big news, I roll my eyes.

Although we are more opposite than alike, Maggie is the only confidante I have in this one-horse town.

As she scans my items, she leans forward so that Mrs. Beaufort, who looms behind me like an oversize vampire bat in her black mohair cape and sour pucker, can’t listen in. “Guess who’s staying at the Rosewood Inn for the next couple of days while they shoot some scenes here in town for his latest movie? George Clooney! Can you imagine? A fancy pants like him sleeping at a sixty-dollar-a-night ordinary little Inn! You should go rent a room there! Imagine the possibilities if you could meet him?”

I pause bagging my items and peer at Maggie over the top of my first-ever pair of Prada sunglasses, which I refuse to remove from my face until they have paid for themselves through the envy of others. “Oh, yes, Mags! I hear my destiny calling! Should I ring up Donatella now so she can get started on my gown for next year’s red carpet?”

Maggie sniffs with a haughty lift of her chin. “Fine then. Excuse me for giving you the tip of the century.” She holds up the carton of Ben & Jerry’s that she’s just scanned. “Then again, going home with this must be so much more exciting.”

“Actually it is,” I reply, grabbing my container of Jamaican Me Crazy Sorbet from her. “I’ve been looking forward to nothing else but.”

Maggie sighs as she takes my debit card and swipes it on the register. “I wish I could say the same. There’s lots waiting at home to make me crazy but it ain’t that sweet.” She hands me my receipt. “Have an extra-huge scoop for me, ok?”

“Promise!” I chuckle over my shoulder as I exit the store.

Upon arriving home, my first mistake is to glance at the answering machine. Hitting the play button is my second mistake.

“Abby, it’s Richard. If you think for one minute that I’m paying for you and the twins to gallivant through Europe this summer, you have another think coming. My lawyer…” I hit erase before my ex’s voice can put a damper on an otherwise pleasant Monday evening.

After putting away the groceries, I set my carton of Ben & Jerry’s on the counter and dig an oversized serving spoon from the cutlery drawer. I step back, crossing my arms as I regard the frosty carton. Thanks to Maggie, thoughts of the Rosewood Inn are gnawing at my consciousness. Not because of the rumors that Mr. Big Movie Star is staying there but because (A) I am beginning to feel bored with the same old nightly view from my front porch, and (B) Of my scant warm memories of Richard, the best ones are of our date nights long ago in the Rosewood’s cozy little piano lounge, scattered with cushiony club chairs that you could sink into with the most luscious Hazelnut Chocolatini in the world.

I shove the carton into the freezer and consider calling one of my book club cohorts to drive out and join me, then reconsider. They all live in the city and it’s difficult getting anybody out to Monotony-ville on a Monday night. Besides, I’m not interested in an entire evening out, just a brief change of scenery along with a little something sweet to rinse away the bitter aftertaste of Richard’s phone call. I touch up my lip colour, slip into my new Cavalli leather jacket (thanks, Rich!), turn my answering machine off, and exit my front door, humming a Bacharach tune to get me in the mood.

***

Richard is nothing more than a fading canker sore. Aside from the ponytailed, bearded pianist who looks like a Hell’s Angel in a tux but plays like an angel from Heaven, I am all alone in the Rosewood Inn’s candlelit piano lounge. I have died and gone to the Pearly Gates. Nestled deep into a plush crimson club chair, nursing my third round of a drink that would have been forbidden in the Garden of Eden, my eyes drift closed as strains of “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” eddy around me like a soothing breeze.

I feel rather than hear the presence of a body settling into the club chair beside mine. My eyes remain closed. I am away on vacation in my own little paradise with no desire to make small talk with any natives.

“Great song,” a male voice states. I ignore him, raising my martini glass to my lips for another sip of euphoria. Do closed eyes mean nothing to anyone these days?

He persists. “My associates were told that the only wild and crazy place in this town is a country and western bar called Mo’s Saloon, so that’s where they’ve all headed. Me, I prefer a nice quiet place like this with music to sip a fine scotch by.”

Quiet being the key word here,” I retort, expelling an irritated sigh as I open my eyes and turn my head to glare at him.

Though half my blood is Irish, I’ve never been blessed with the luck of them. My life is really not that bad but the bottom line just never seems to go my way. Here’s an example: In college just before graduation, juggling exams while embroiled in a windstorm of wedding plans, it suddenly became clear to my high-school sweetheart—the one true love of my life—that he was gay. I was driving his car at the moment that he chose to blurt this revelation to me (he had actually been giving me driving lessons) and I was so stunned by the news, I had no memory of removing my hands from the steering wheel and turning to face him in open-mouthed shock.

The next thing I knew, he was encased in a full-body cast in the intensive care unit (the tree had hit his side of the car) and I was in a hospital ward bed with my left leg in traction. Then, wouldn’t you know it? My “good luck” at work again; that’s where I met Richard, who, thanks to my salary as an admin assistant to the atrociously rich, atrociously horny CEO of a Fortune 500 company, coasted through med school and surgical residency only to, in turn, ditch me after two babies and twenty years of marriage for a twenty-six year old bottle-blonde floozy in scrubs.

My twins—the two bright lights in my life—were born at a roadside recess for buses in the backseat of an old 1974 Toyota Corolla because of the good doctor’s insistence on finishing up a paper he’d been writing before taking me to the hospital. I will never forget how he quipped, “Not to worry! We have plenty of time to get there,” while I clawed deep gouges in our dining room table. I could go on but why bother? I’ll just jump ahead and begin with the fact that: here I am again, Lady Luck, alone in a bar on a Friday evening, acting like an obnoxious bitch with none other than George Clooney.

His expression is one of chagrin but I also catch a glimmer of amusement dancing in those dreamy dark eyes.

I stare at him, lost for words. They say that when you die your life flashes before you. In this case, after being incredibly snippy to an über celebrity—especially one who is often your co-star in dreams so sordid, they can never be described aloud to anyone—a similar flashback occurs except it plays out in emotions instead of images. I am surprised, mortified, annoyed, embarrassed, impressed, annoyed that I’m impressed, and every other emotion in between.

I suppose he can’t help but feel sorry for me, gentleman that he is. He sets his empty glass on the small round table in front of our chairs and leans forward. “May I get you a fresh drink?”

Gathering my wits, I suddenly transform my posture into one of indifference. “Sure. Why not. A scotch and soda would be nice. Please and thank you.”

I watch his back as he walks off to the bar, and think to myself, “Are you trying to catch flies?” in an effort to keep my mouth from dropping open and locking permanently into that position.

His hair is more salt than pepper in the dim light of the lounge and he’s taller in the flesh than he seems in photographs. He’s wearing an ordinary, pale blue button-down shirt under a black sports jacket, and looks like a regular guy. Except that he’s only a hundred thousand million trillion times more gorgeous. So many times I’ve paged through the various tabloids, examining shots of him with women draped around his shoulders like starving Boa constrictors. All of them young and beautiful, much like the Intern Whore. I decide I want to hate George Clooney on sight.

My palms are sweating and I rub them dry over my new low rider jeans that make my ass look fabulous, if I do say so myself. The dialogue that surges through my head makes me want to scream: just shut up, already! “…Thank God I wore makeup! Just look at me, getting liquored up with GC! But I was so rude to him! I should probably apologize. Hey, why the hell should I? Who does he think he is? Just look at him. We all know he’s a player. He’s probably dropping date rape drugs in my drink right now! Don’t be ridiculous! He can have any woman he wants. Why would he want to incapacitate and rape me? Then again…He should be so lucky! He…”

“Your scotch and soda.” I jump slightly as I notice the glass held out in front of me.

“Thank you.” I make a show of swirling the liquid in my glass, one eye on him, the other on alert for any foreign objects floating around.

He settles back into the chair beside me and holds out his hand. “I’m George, by the way.”

I place my hand firmly in the grip of his large one, then pull away from him as if I’ve touched a leper. “Oh for Heaven’s sake. I know who you are. A shaman from the depths of the Brazilian rainforest would know who you are.” I snuggle back down into my chair and take a good, healthy gulp of my scotch. “And don’t for one minute think I’m some groupie who flings herself at any movie star who rides into town. As a matter of fact, I don’t care if you’re the Sultan of Brunei—if you’re a male, then you’re at the top of my shit list.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Sorry to have offended you. I am a male, but I’m just being sociable. Not trying to get into your pants or anything like that.” He takes a pull from his glass and grins. “By the way, I’ve met the Sultan. He’s a pig. You’d hate him.”

I am thankful that the lounge is dim because my face is on fire and, I’m pretty sure, the color of a really ripe tomato. I deflate into my chair, hold out my hand, and we shake again. “I’m Abby. A bitter divorcee. And I’m truly sorry to have taken your head off like that.”

George leans back and stretches out his legs. “Ah, another member of the been-there-never-gonna-do-that-again-in-this-lifetime club. I completely understand. Though you probably already know that about me.”

I laugh. “Touché, George.” Honest to God, he’s so smooth. “That’s one thing we most definitely have in common. I don’t believe I’ll ever get married again.”

He and I fall into a comfortable exchange. I begin to relax. He prompts me to tell him about the divorce and it feels really good to unleash the load. The big old movie star begins to dissolve faster than an effervescent tablet dropped in water. By the time I’ve drained three more glasses, he’s a dear old friend.

“Has anyone ever told you that you look like Michelle Pfeiffer?” We’re each nursing our fourth scotch and soda and although I’m not yet completely blotto, I am feeling rather merry. Laughter bubbles from my throat as I lean forward, touching my forehead to his.

“As a matter of fact, yes they have. But you’re still not getting into my pants, George Clooney.”

By two-thirty in the morning, closing time, our foreheads are still touching and so are our lips. And our tongues. And our hands. George is as great a kisser as you would imagine. The question of whether or not he’ll be able to get me up to his room is no longer in dispute. It’s a done deal.

***

Gradually, I become aware of warm sunlight bathing my eyelids like liquid fire. While logic tells me that I’m on solid land, my innards have sailed out to sea, tossing and churning in the boiling waves. I know I need to open my eyes, but I’m afraid that I’ll throw up if I move an eyelash. I haven’t felt this bad since college.

Through the fog, bits of an incredible dream I was having of myself with George Clooney drift into my consciousness. Such a lovely dream. So realistic. I roll onto my other side and my hand brushes against paper. I raise an eyelid and focus somewhat on a large post-it note that’s stuck to the top of the pillow beside me. Wait a minute. That’s not my pillow. And these aren’t my sheets. Where the hell am I? With a sickly groan, I pull myself up on an elbow and raise the note up to my eyes.

Abby,
You are a goddess! Please have dinner with me tonight. Can I pick you up at your house at eight? My cell number is below if you need to call, though I turn it off whenever I’m on set. See you tonight?

George

The note flutters from my hand to the floor like an autumn leaf.

That’s when all the memories come flooding back.
And they are good.

They are very, very good.

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