OKAY! OKAY! I Wasn’t Watching my Step!

On Saturday morning, I took my eyes off the driveway where my two Jack Russells, Eddie and Lucy, and I were walking—to wave at a neighbor, Nicole, who was walking her greyhound, Ike, and had paused at its entrance as we approached. At that moment, Lucy took it into her little head to stop cold at my feet so that I tripped right over her and fell hard on my knees and hands. Not good—but at least I didn’t hit my head or break anything. I rolled off my knees onto my side where I lay winded and hurting—both dogs anxiously licking my face. Nicole ran to me, and said she had spotted a police car moments earlier on our road—and after checking me out—took off for assistance. After she returned and with her encouragement—but without her offered help—I got up, then realized I couldn’t stand—by which time she had disappeared—I suppose to lead the policeman to where I was—and so I somehow made it over to lean against a tree, but found I still couldn’t stay upright and slid down to the ground where I felt myself starting to pass out and become nauseated.

 Moments later I had no choice but to give in to the nausea but, by then, Brian, the policeman Nicole had hailed was in attendance and in no time another policeman also named Brian joined him. Then the dog warden and two men, Jim and Chris, from my town’s volunteer ambulance corps complete with ambulance arrived—all extremely pleasant and helpful and, indeed, personable. In fact, it was a great pleasure to meet them even if the circumstances under which that happened were less than desirable.

 I was asked and successfully answered questions as to my name and address, the date, and who was President of the United States; the dog warden finished walking the dogs and secured them back in the house; Chris took my blood pressure—it was low but then it’s always low; and everyone encouraged me to take a nice ride to the emergency room. Perched on the ambulance stretcher, I explained that, in fact, I didn’t have time to do so and they allowed as that was not an acceptable reason not to go.

 Eventually, after further badinage—I told them about my newly published Ebook of short stories for the Kindle and warned the policemen that murders were committed in some. “But,” I said, “don’t get any ideas.”

 “Hmm,”said one of Brians, “if there’s a crime in town we’ll know just where to go.”

 I signed the EMT release form, listened to their kind admonitions and then the other Brian walked me home.

 After a restful day or so I find myself as good as new—if a nearly eighty-year old woman can so qualify.

 Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Curious about my new eBook? You can find http://bit.ly/TheDevilsNewspaper on Amazon. It contains a collection of four deadly and two disturbing stories.

Alayne

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Alayne wanted me to love her intensely. “I found you in a rosebush” she often reminded me, “and gave you to your mother.” I believed her absolutely though sometimes I wondered why, if I really was her angel child, she didn’t keep me for herself when she had the chance. Of course, that wasn’t a question I was supposed to ask and so, angel child that I was, I didn’t. We never got into who put me in the rosebush or whether I was supposed to have been a flower that miraculously bloomed into a baby but it suited Alayne to have had such an experience and it pleased me to have had so unlikely a debut. Hearing this probably annoyed the hell out of my mother and the time came, perhaps after I stopped believing in Santa-Claus, when Alayne no longer told her magical story although she continued to refer to herself as my “other mother”. Like my mother and her friends Alayne was far more gorgeous and glamorous than the average husband required of a wife although for Lyman, her husband (a connoisseur of art, antiques and fine books not to mention women), she was probably just the ticket.

They lived with their miniature schnauzer, first Jeep then Buttons on Park Avenue, — the upper 70’s.in a spacious apartment filled with paintings, rare books and some priceless treasures I had to be careful not to touch or, more likely as I skipped by, jiggle. She held court of a morning in the master bed of the master bedroom where,  however, the master did not sleep. He camped out in his library and possibly paid visits when he was of a mind to enjoy the conjugal rights for which he was paying so dearly. (Yes, I know it’s none of my business but who wouldn’ t like to know?) When I visited overnight I was the one who slept in the library and Lyman went to his club. Or so I now reason because if he ever tucked in for the entire night next to his luscious wife why wasn’t he around early the following morning?

The walls and nearly invisible closets that lined each side of the bedroom were covered in a pale blue silk moiré. The bed and headboard were upholstered in blue satin, and the sheets were ivory satin between which Alayne was, mornings, magnificently ensconced wearing an embroidered, beribboned bedjacket. Over her lap was an enormous bedtray with curving cabriole legs and cubbyholes for the mail and newspapers. There would be a softboiled egg in a china eggcup, toast and coffee.

She would send the dog to stand in the corner for some unknown failure to obey the rules. After a while she would whisper, “if there’s a little dog in this room who would like to say he’s sorry he can come here now and ask for forgiveness..” And little Jeepor Buttons, would pad over looking crestfallen, put his paws on the bed with his little head between them and wait to be absolved and fed a bit of toast.

Her dressing room was lined with mirrored closets and a large round mirror was attached to the back of a swivel chair in front of the long, mirrored vanity so that she could see her face and hair from every angle.

When I was about six Alayne went to an Episcopal orphanage to adopt Rosemary (a name immediately changed to Barbara), a little girl about my age –who, in the pictures I have, is beautiful and looks as if she’s about to cry. Alayne transformed the maid’s room, a small cell near the kitchen with one high window and a tiny attached bathroom, into a bedroom for her. We were to be friends and, I realized at dinner one evening when we were having a spelling bee, competitors. When I realized that I was being shown off to Barbara’s belittlement I stopped playing but it wasn’t soon enough.

After a year Alayne sent Barbara/Rosemary back to the orphanage.

She wasn’t me.

A New Life

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No Rings on My Fingers

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Jewelry is not my thing especially when it comes to rings. Not only are they a cinch to misplace, they get in my way when I’m at the sink, in the shower or out in the garden which is why I can’t find them for the week following. Although at present my hands are naked, they have been clothed with a ring or two along the runway of my exotic life and could be still if there were a reason to pluck one from the safety deposit box where I have placed treasures, including several knock-your-eye-out finger encirclements, left to me by my mother.

When he was my fiancé, my first husband, the eventual father of my four children presented me with a small box and ring within. The stone was sallow and loose despite the four prongs that held it down and it glittered darkly. In fact, it was a fake, a stand in for the real thing, the perfect metaphor, though I had no way to know it at the time, for what my marriage would be. I wore it back to college and, for a while, pretended it was a diamond in the same way I pretended almost everything. In defense of my then self—a now unfathomable person— she lived, as did many others of that time, in the world of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ hoping to please everyone, and thus never got the hang of pleasing herself. As that young woman I should love the young man who pursues me relentlessly, who loves me or says he does, whose friends say he does, whose brothers, aunts and uncles are eager for us to plight our troth, whose future mother-in-law, my mother, says to me when I want to break up with him,

“How could you do such a thing to that poor orphan? He loves you.”

Ergo I should love him, shouldn’t I? It suits everyone. Approval abounds. And then in the winter before the marriage planned for August I go all the way with him.

What? Do you mean you had sex?

Sort of and having performed this act not only should I love him but also I must love him otherwise how could I have done that? And now I had to marry him.

A month later the stand-in ring was discarded in favor of a 2.5 carat round cut diamond with diamond baguettes on the sides mounted in platinum. On my thin finger it was top heavy owing partly to its size and partly to the setting which was placed high up in a way I considered ostentatious; light came from underneath the stone; it floated in space rather as if it was on display. I was appreciative but embarrassed. I would have preferred something more modest. I disliked being set apart, longed to be exactly like everyone else but I pretended I was thrilled especially since the sight of mine was usually greeted with, “What a rock!” When I told my mother what I really thought—that it was too showy, she said, “You’re crazy,” According to her there was no such thing.

Poor girl—possessor of a lovely diamond ring not exactly to her taste. Fortunately I had a kind of distance toward myself. I knew this wasn’t something to obsess about but it was a better focus than looking toward the future when I was set to marry a man who bored me to tears, slumped like a rag doll when he sat down, wasn’t funny or a great dancer, didn’t give me the time of my life and nearly always failed to hold his end up in a conversation. Because he was so silent and unresponsive I believed he must be very wise. Certainly he seldom agreed with me or found anything I had to say of interest and I concluded therefore he possessed superior intelligence. Also I thought at the very least we would have a great sex life though I can’t say why and, of course, I was wrong.

I knew I couldn’t make it to August when mother said she planned to tie a ribbon on every blade of grass and where certain people related to my stepfather would be in attendance. My stepfather said he’d rather give me the ten thousand dollars my wedding would cost—please note this was the 50’s—and suggested we elope. Also I thought I might be pregnant. We took off for a three-night, two-day honeymoon in Williamsburg, Virginia.

I got my period as we were saying “I do.” but it didn’t matter—I had to marry him because we’d slept together. I had to be as true as possible to my standards—a rigid set of commandments constructed with the help of nuns, fundamentalist relatives, my mother and the romantic movies of Hollywood where the smiling bride on her way down the aisle at fade-out was almost always a virgin, madly in love and headed for bliss.

None of it described me and I never got the ten thousand dollars either.

The first glimmer of wondering, what did he pursue me for? entered my mind when he asked for twin beds at the hotel. Later I realized he wasn’t going to kiss me goodnight—I was, after all, bleeding, but he did, finally, without enthusiasm. He played eighteen holes of golf both mornings, then daily we had lunch, saw the sights, took a few pictures, had dinner, a sexless night, no cuddling, and I returned home the same untried near virgin I’d been before except now I had two rings, the newest a plain, slender platinum band.

Those rings accompanied me through twenty years of marriage though I only wore the diamond when I got dressed up, put on contact lens, mascara and heels and went somewhere other than the schools or supermarket. I soon loved my “rock,” forgot about size and setting and often soaked it in ammonia and water to remove residue and enhance its brilliant sparkle. Alas, the ring had to go when following the divorce and after the last child graduated from high school I was forced by my ex to sell the house, half of which was mine, and needed money for fixing up my co-op. It paid for five ceiling fans, and a new kitchen built on the cheap. I should have kept the ring. Its plain consort still hangs around in my jewelry box.

My second fiancé did not burden me with a floating diamond, a down-to-earth sapphire or for that matter an engagement ring of any description. When another ring of importance was placed on my finger it was a wide wedding band of gold and platinum. Handsome. I picked it out myself, by myself and paid for it, the perfect metaphor, though I had no way to know it at the time, for what my marriage would be. Several years later the ring was so tight I doubted I could get it off—and once I did with the help of Vaseline and my husband’s determined twisting—it was unwise ever to put it back. As for a replacement, it would never occur to him to buy one and, don’t look at me, I’ve been there, done that.

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Are You Ready Yet, Darling?

 

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It is a given that you will marry the very person designed to cause you the most stress. Having been married twice and a participant in at least one long term relationship, I can go on record that anyone at all will serve–or is it just that I am truly impossible to live with? Some have put forth such a hypothesis–where they now lie buried is a mystery I won’t share until my upcoming tell-it-all potboiler “He Just Made Me So Mad” is on the shelves at your local bookstore.

What has upset me enough to write about? Answer: Everything-but to begin with—I do hope you’ll be in this for the long haul–timing—I mean timing as to when we should leave for a doctor’s appointment, a funeral, a wedding or a dinner party. When it comes to the last two my husband wears his why-do we have to go-to this damn thing for Chrissakes?-face. This means his disapproval is so great he won’t be ready on time. Moreover, he makes it clear that had he realized I came equipped with a plethora of friends who had marriageable children or gave parties, he would have walked off in the direction of the Hudson River smart as you please doing us both a great favor before the ceremony uniting us some years ago.Thus up until the last minute of our departure, he is mumbling and grumbling about having had to change out of his much loved ventilated sneakers and khakis.

When he finally joins me–I am the driver, by the way–but then we both want to live–it is already past time to leave, he asks how long we have to stay once we’re there–anything over thirty minutes is greeted with a protesting growl and then the demand of a commitment as to the exact time we will start for home. Mind you we haven’t even left the driveway and may well have an hour or more before we reach our destination. Were we in a court with a reasonable judge and I threw my pocketbook at him don’t you agree I’d be exonerated for cause? Your vote will be gratefully accepted under Comments. Thank you.

When it comes to funerals, he is perfectly agreeable–you might almost say –delighted to accompany me because it is a guarantee there will be some good cheese things to eat minus a whole lot of chit-chat. People are subdued and all he needs to do is look glum, be appropriately uncommunicative in the presence of the bereaved, pat many backs sympathetically, excuse himself to smoke his pipe as often as he likes, and after consuming as many delicacies as possible, make a fast getaway before anyone notices he has devolved into Elmer Fudd.

However, when it comes to doctor’s appointments this same individual wants to leave early–very early–nearly an hour early because it’s okay to arrive early–very early–nearly an hour early. It’s okay if he has to sit and wait on some uncomfortable chair because–please don’t ask me why–he’s happy as Saturday night to be there, and–you’re probably way ahead of me–I’m not. Mind you I want to be on time—not early—not late—but on the dot—the stroke of the hour—give or take a few seconds.

When he has an appointment, exasperated sounds start the day before as my husband demands a departure time from rather than to our hide-away. When the day arrives this inquisition continues:

“Are you ready yet, darling? he asks and asks with a one minute interval on either side.

“It’s early–we have plenty of time,” I might say–or “I’m almost ready. I just need to brush my eyebrows, find my sunglasses, charge my cell phone.”

He finds this strangely maddening and so by the time we are set to take off together—earlier than I prefer, later than he can bear—neither of us is speaking except in monosyllables. He turns off the radio set to my favorite station and, because he refuses to wear a watch, asks me for the time. I pretend I haven’t heard and, according to him, were we in a court with a reasonable judge and he threw his briefcase at me…

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Pas de Deux

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I have a thing about fire. Ask my ex-husband. The first time I had some money of my own, I put in a fire alarm system. He wouldn’t pay for one because he said, “Houses don’t burn down in Scarsdale.”

I already had an escape ladder, three fire extinguishers and a plan, sort of. We had one staircase and four small children. Of course I was insane during those years. This did not escape my husband’s notice.

“You’re crazy!” he would say.

He said it on Christmas Eve of 1963. It was the first Christmas all of my children were out of diapers—and I thought they were in need of a couple of pets.

“You’re crazy!” he said.

A golden retriever puppy and black and white kitty awaited me in the next town and after the children were asleep, I set forth on a snow and ice-packed road. As I neared an intersection, the car hit a patch of ice and pirouetted three hundred sixty degrees–slowly enough so that I could imagine my husband’s wrath if the car and I were totaled while on an unapproved mission.

My husband looked almost as irate when I returned and told me I needed to see a psychiatrist and then added, “but I’m not going to pay for one.”

A couple of hours after the pets were bedded down in the basement playroom and the presents, assembled and wrapped and I had joined my husband in bed, I heard my elder son’s voice in the hall calling to his older sister.

By now, everyone was awake except my husband. I threw on a robe and accompanied the two littlest down the stairs to what was to be much excitement and confusion. I suggested they just play with the pets and not unwrap presents until the sun came up and their father came down, but instead I put a medley of Christmas songs on the stereo to muffle any sounds that might penetrate the second story of our unburnable house.

As each gift was exposed, I took the paper and stuffed it into the fireplace. We were expecting guests for champagne at ten, others for dinner at four, and my husband would be in a far better mood if the nitty gritty of Christmas was out of sight upon his descent. I checked the damper. It was open. I lit the papers and, hurrah, the flames leaped up and out, Aargh, above and beyond the screen, scorching the mantle.

Not open.

I gathered my flock into the front hall and called up the stairs in the tone of someone announcing a delightful surprise.

“Fire,” I sang.

Pajama bottoms flapping, my husband sped down the stairs and into the living room; he had never moved this quickly before. By now the flames were subsiding while the smoke collected around the perimeter of the ceiling where it left a gray mark not to be painted till spring when we ‘d saved enough money. He opened the damper, the windows, the door, groaning, and shaking his head in disbelief.

Who could blame him? It wouldn’t do much good to explain –although I tried, and, in the telling, had a laughing fit–to the delight of the children and the mystification and disgust of their father who didn’t like laughing to begin with.

“You one crazy woman,” he pointed out without a verb.

Tears rolled down my cheeks, and I collapsed on the stairs while the children held the animals and danced.

My husband, a man of few words, muttered one of them several times, “Shit,” he said again and again, stepped over my body, climbed the stairs and disappeared into the bedroom.


My present husband builds a great fire but is on the surly side when one is requested. “A fire? We don’t need one and the kindling’s up in the corncrib,” he often says.

This time, the day after Christmas, he said, “Hell, the Abernathys won’t be here long enough to make it worthwhile.”

No question it would make the Abernathys feel welcome, something he was not entirely keen to do. I persisted and once logs, kindling and newspaper were perfectly piled and tucked around one another, he could hardly wait for the Abernathys to arrive and forthwith praise his flames.

Than he disappeared. As the Abernathy’s car came down the driveway, I called his name twice. And again. He didn’t answer so I did the sensible thing—I lit the fire. He had said it was good to go. Wonderful! The wood responded immediately. So gratifying. Flames leaped up and out, Aargh, above and beyond the screen.

My husband materialized—his face redder than the fire—choking out half his barracks dictionary. He bounded to the kitchen—he had never moved this quickly before—grabbed some oven mitts, returned to the living room, thrust his arms into the fire and moved the damper to the open position while shouting the other half of his marine-polished vocabulary in my direction.

Smoke filled the living room, somewhat disguising the scorched mantel, then moved up around the ceiling perimeters of several rooms where it left gray marks not be painted till spring when we’d saved enough money. We opened the front door to assist its departure only to discover the Abernathys standing there wreathed in gray. They coughed. We couldn’t invite them in or leave them on the doorstep and since the fire still smoldered we couldn’t go out for Chinese.

As I waved goodbye, I heard my husband, a man of many words, mutter one of them repeatedly before he disappeared into his office. “Shit,” he said again and again and again.

La plus que ça change, la plus que c’est le même–mot.

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Continue reading 'Pas de Deux'

I Believe Therefore Let’s Talk

 

Now and again the furniture goes on attack and I’m done for. Tables hit me on the hipbone, chairs trip me, and our bed throws me over its side. I end up near or on the floor wondering what I’d ever done to them. I have bruises as proof so please don’t scoff like my husband. I am against scoffing and never do it myself unless I’m responding to the promise of an elected official. When I was young I thought such individuals were doing their best for the country and guileless as newborn pups—I truly thought they were next to God in their goodness and wisdom. So I’ve come by my scoffing at them the rocky uphill way. In all other regards I’m pretty much a believer.

For example: I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows. You may believe the same— although I doubt either of us has a garden with enough flowers blooming to show for it. A true believer, as you know, doesn’t need proof. A true believer for good reason or no reason has embraced a philosophy or a point of view and will stick by it no matter what. And so, too, the true unbeliever. In fact there may be more true unbelievers than their antonyms. True unbelievers do not believe in evolution, global warming or leap year and some thus can be identified without confrontation when you ask them what day it is.

What difference does it makes what anyone believes or doesn’t believe? Either way whatever is or isn’t remains the same and at the proper time the Almighty, in whom I believe, will let each of us know what’s what and what’s not what. I can’t wait. Can you? Of course that implies I think my beliefs and unbeliefs will prove out, an unbelievable form of hubris for someone who purports to be reasonable, even sane.

On the other hand, what we believe or don’t believe makes a difference in the here and now, as you know perfectly well, because of what we do or don’t do to edify students, protect the shoreline and insure the integrity of the calendar. I can’t believe I had to explain that.

You may have run into the category of people who are neither believers nor unbelievers—they are the I-could-care-lessers. They are seldom interviewed or polled because they could care less. The extremists on the far right of this group are the I-don’t-give-a-s—tters and if you want my advice I suggest you stand back when you run into them because they really, really don’t, which means they could give you a surreptitious pop in the eye for which you probably don’t carry insurance. The extremists on the far left are the I-haven’t-the-faintest idea-ers. They often say, “Whatever.”

One redeeming quality of the latter category is that they are all non-scoffers since you have to believe or not believe in order to scoff. My husband believes what his nanny told him, which is you can’t take a bath until an hour past dinner for fear of drowning. I don’t believe it and yet, unless you count a half-hour laughing fit, I don’t scoff. Never. Oh all right. Twice.

I thought the inanimate objects in the house had given up their aggressive acts for the day, but a door that did not look the least bit menacing just flew back and hit me on the shoulder.

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