Category Archives: Stories

Double feature

Thanks to the Girl Scouts, Rob and Lynne were having a grand Date Night. They’d dropped the kids off at the local school where the Scouts were hosting a Parents Night Out. They’d kissed the heads of their children and admonished them to behave for the babysitters. Before too long, Rob and Lynne were sipping their Pinots at a local bistro, enjoying the first, second and dessert courses, and discussing upcoming opportunities.

With plenty of time to spare, they arrived at the multiplex to see Lynne’s pick, The Blind Side. The theater was sparsely populated, so Rob led Lynne to the front-row center of the main level. They sat together and put their coats on adjacent seats. They talked more as the pre-show ads played on.

~~~~~
Cecil’s excitement eclipsed even the pain in his hip. He and Mildred were going on a date tonight. A real, live date — dinner and movie with his life-love. He picked her up at the door of their retirement community in their old Caddy, now rarely driven. He hoisted himself out of the driver’s seat, shuffled around the car and opened the door for her. She unsteadily lowered herself into the seat and as they drove away, he thought, “Sprung!” He was glad to leave all those old people behind.
Cecil drove 23 miles an hour across the town to their favorite place to eat, a chain cafeteria. It’s strange that they would choose a place just like the cafeteria at the retirement home, but the cottage cheese really was better here. Cecil had chicken-fried steak, and Mildred had meatloaf. Doused in sauce, with creamy mashed potatoes.

They paid the bill and eventually got back into the Caddy. At 23 miles an hour, they headed a few parking lots away to the theater. The Blind Side was their choice. He fumbled the bills out of his wallet to pay the lady. Criminy. Even the senior prices were outrageous!

~~~~~

The elderly couple entered the darkening theater just as the previews began. They stood at the entrance for a bit, unsure where to go and leery of the dark. There were plenty of seats up the stairs, but their preferred front row was filled.

Rob and Lynne both turned their attention to the newcomers. Simultaneously, Rob and Lynne moved their coats into their laps. Lynne stood and crept over to the older couple. “Sit here,” she whispered loudly, and motioned for them sit in the newly available seats.

~~~~~

Something was nagging at Lynne. She was trying to pay full attention to the engaging movie, but the old lady beside her had been gone awhile. She’d left the theater, oh, 15 minutes ago.

Just watch the movie, Lynne told herself. She took a few mental notes for the review she was going to write about it. She didn’t want her attention to wander any more.

But it did. Unable to quiet the uneasy feeling, Lynne leaned over and asked the old man if he wanted her to check on his wife. “Nah, she just went to the bathroom. We’re 90. We’re slow.”

Two more scenes passed. Lynne whispered to Rob that she was going in. “Tell me everything I miss from now until when I get back.”

Lynne got to the mostly empty bathroom, and the older woman was at the sink, washing her hands. Lynne took this opportunity to go to the bathroom herself.

She opened the first stall, clanked the latch and was committed to that stall, when she was assaulted by the smell of sick. The toilet had only one tell-tale sign of a mini-tragedy — a tidy bundle on the back of the toilet rolled up in toilet paper. Well, that and the smell of sick. Without touching anything, Lynne relieved herself, then washed her hands.

The older lady was still at the sink, dabbing her face with a paper towel. “Are you OK?” asked Lynne.

“Oh, Sweetie.” the woman said, without eye contact. “I’ve never been so sick in my 90 years. Cecil wanted to eat at his favorite place, but I just don’t feel well at all.”

“Would you like me to bring your husband back out?”

“No, Sweetie. Would you take me back to him? Here, please take my arm.”

The two women twined their arms and began the long trek back to the theater. “It’s a shame to ruin our date. But I am so sick, in the bowels. I am afraid I made quite a mess. I tried to clean it up.”

Lynne was torn. She wanted to let the lady talk if she needed to, but she also wanted to resume her own date. When they got to the correct theater, Lynne asked the lady, “Here’s a bench. Would you like to wait here while I let your husband know what’s going on?”

“Oh, yes, Sweetie. God bless you. I don’t know why I got so sick.”

~~~~~

Lynne’s eyes adjusted to the dark theater. She got to her own seat and whispered loudly to Cecil the news about his wife. He slapped his hand down in frustration. And did not get up. Lynne briefed Rob about the events of the last 10 minutes. They looked at each other in the dark, wondering what to do, trying not to create any more commotion for the other theater-goers.

Finally, the old man got up and walked toward the exit with a deep sigh. Rob could see a trail of coat, hat, and scarf, items that were about to be left behind. He leapt up, gathered the dropped items, and escorted the old man into the light.

“I’m so sorry,” said Mildred when Cecil emerged. “Gah!” said Cecil, with that same frustrated hand gesture. “We never get out! And when we do, bad luck!” Cecil said, more to Rob than to Mildred.

Their coats on, Cecil and Mildred shuffled away to the parking lot, bracing for the cold air and the trip back to their reality.

Rob returned to the theater. He and Lynne never did fill each other in on the parts they missed, but they did decide on the spot to buy the DVD when The Blind Side is available.

And young. Boy did they feel young.

*Thisclose*

I am face-down on the floor, the life force ebbing from my body. Must. Dial. Phone.

“9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

I croak but can’t speak.

“Ma’am? What is the nature of your emergency?”

Can’t. Catch. Breath.

“Ma’am, are you choking?”

“No,” I manage.

“Are you bleeding? Is there an intruder in the house? Are you on fire? Is there a Doberman hanging from your jugular?”

“No,” I whisper.

“Ma’am, I would like to help you. Please tell me the nature of your emergency.”

It takes every ounce of life left in me to blurt:

“Lego.”

===========================
death by legoWhile picking up over the weekend, I got down on all fours to swipe under the couch.

I fell onto a Lego. An itty-bitty Lego.

Right in the “funny-bone” part of my knee. If I hadn’t already been on my knees, it would have brought me to them. The pain was sharp and excruciating, and the shock to my nervous system on that reflex-point made the room go white.

I slumped down to the floor, almost passed out. Roger was out on a bike ride, and I felt badly that he’d come home to find his beloved wife dead by Lego. That the kids, fighting with each other obliviously elsewhere in the house, would feel guilty about their role in my accident, and that Lego creatures would forever haunt their dreams.

But apparently it was not my time, and within about 5 minutes, I caught my breath and was able to re-join the ranks of the living. No one even knew how close I came to the. end. And there’s not even a bruise to prove my near transition from the quick to the dead.

Let this be a lesson for your knees.

(Tip of the hat to my sister, Tami.)

Image courtesy of Idea Go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Festival: Judgy McJudgerson

Marni’s version
My version

I was bothered by our night at the Festival even as the next morning dawned. Regarding our interloper, I was incensed. I was indignant. I was irritated way out of proportion to anything Marni had done, any fallout that came from our interactions with her.

So why the lingering, massive annoyance? The only thing Marni may have been guilty of was an astounding (but harmless) ignorance of social boundaries. According to me.

As I drove the kids to school, I mentally listed her transgressions:

  • She made arrangements with Tessa rather than with me.
  • She smoked.
  • Her boyfriend was intoxicated.
  • My children viewed their affection as a prelude to “doing sex.”
  • Once we got moving, she delayed us with popcorn.
  • She left her kids in my care. Twice.
  • She bought things for Tessa and Reed that I would not have bought them.
  • She indulged my children at every turn.

And yet. She was nice. She was guileless.

Hers were sins of a young, eager puppy — untempered exuberance. A zest for life. What’s so wrong with that? Living in the moment is something I strive to do. I meet someone who does just that and…?

I feel superior to her.

Slowly, the accusatory finger that made me feel so self-righteous began to point toward me. What about my sins?

I may have seemed, in contrast, to be a snobby, uptight, fun-dousing wet rag. My sin was one of arrogance. Yet she didn’t judge me.

After I deposited the children at school, I reviewed the evening in my mind, this time from Marni’s point of view.

And doing so gave me clarity.

I concluded that the nagging feeling I’d carried into the new day wasn’t due to Marni’s behavior. It was that my sin far outweighed hers.

And once I was able to coalesce that thought, to bring out that feeling with awareness and examine it in daylight, I could forgive the sinner inside me.

And be grateful to my interloper.