F is for Frannie

It was 5:00 pm, Frannie’s husband Gus would be home from work soon. Frannie checked on the pot roast in the oven and set the table. She added a little more butter to the mashed potatoes, then poured herself a glass of wine.

Frannie kept a box of Chardonnay in the fridge. Every evening at precisely 5:00 o’clock, she poured herself a large goblet-full and continued to refill it throughout the night. As Gus would ramble on about his day at work, Frannie would sip from her glass and respond appropriately. When needed she would gasp, other times shake her head, but more often than not she would simply nod approvingly.

From 7:00-10:00 pm Gus watched back-to-back episodes of those cop shows featuring tough talking NYC policemen solving heinous crimes. At 8:00 Frannie would bring Gus his dessert, which he would eat while lying down on their brown leather couch. He would balance the plate on his soft round belly and slowly shovel forkfuls of sweetness into his small mouth. On more than one occasion Frannie had asked him to eat his dessert while sitting up, she was afraid he would choke. He always refused, saying he worked hard and deserved to relax when he was home. Frannie didn’t know the Heimlich manoeuvre and she had no intention of learning it, so he was on his own.

Tonight’s dessert was pecan pie and vanilla ice cream. The pie was freshly baked, not by Frannie, but by the bakery at her local supermarket. Though Frannie considered herself a decent baker, she saw no reason to waste her time with it. A man like Gus didn’t know the difference between a home baked pie and a store bought one, so what was the point? Besides, Frannie enjoyed keeping up the ruse, delighting each time she discarded another bakery box.

While Gus watched television Frannie would tidy up and lay out clean clothes for him for the next day. Then, after refreshing her wine, she would go to their office and turn on the computer. Frannie collected garden gnomes – she currently had 39 gnomes displayed throughout their backyard – and she was always on the hunt for new and unique ones. Last summer Frannie had suffered a horrible loss to her collection: her red, white and blue 4th of July gnome had been stolen from their front porch. It had taken Frannie weeks to recover. What kind of a low-life steals a patriotic garden gnome?

Frannie was busy scrolling through websites when Gus called out: “Frannie, a little more please! It’s one of your best pecan pies ever!” “Ha!” thought Frannie. She went and retrieved the plate from Gus’s belly and re-filled it with more pie and ice cream.

“Thanks Frannie,” he said with his eyes glued to the television screen, as she placed the plate back on his bulging mid-section.

Frannie returned to her search and ten minutes later she scored: a bright yellow gnome on sale for $19.99. She quickly typed in her credit card information and address. The yellow would be a great pop of color for the back corner of her garden which was currently filled with darker shade plants.

“Frannie, I’m finished!” yelled Gus.

Frannie went and took the empty plate off of Gus’s belly, rinsed it and placed it in the dishwasher.  Then she went outside, turned on the sprinkler and watched as her gnomes enjoyed their nightly bath.

E is for Ethel

“Would you like to try a sample?  It’s our newest praline, coconut & chocolate coated, they’re just delicious!”  A very large woman wearing a pink felt hat – in June! – graciously accepted a sample.  Ethel smiled at her and then moved along, pausing to take a sip of orange Gatorade to keep her energy up.  She kept a small bottle in her apron pocket, though technically speaking it was more of a Gatorade Cocktail.  The vodka allowed Ethel to sail through her day and not be bothered by the loud tourists, the sticky fingered kids and the rich ladies who looked down on Ethel, even as they picked out the chocolates that they would later binge on.

“Ethel – it’s time for your break!” shouted her Manager, Mary-Jo.  Mary-Jo believed in crystals, colour therapy and past lives.  She dressed in purple because it was her “power colour,” “I’m a Goddess Warrior when I wear purple!” she was fond of saying.  She also wore huge cuff bracelets – Wonder Woman style – several ornate rings and dangly amethyst earrings.  “Ethel -” she lightly touched Ethel’s arm, “we need to get you dressing in your power colour – turquoise.  Your life will manifest ten times its beauty once you start honouring your inner Goddess!”  Ethel had absolutely no idea what Mary-Jo was talking about.  She continued on into the break room and opened the fridge to get her lunch.  Ethel ate the same thing everyday – carrot sticks and a tuna sandwich.  She figured this healthy eating cancelled out her daily vodka intake.

Ethel slipped off her Easy Spirit loafers and took a bite of her sandwich.  She looked forward to finishing her shift and getting home.  On Wednesday nights her friend Marg always came over.  They would order Chinese food and drink a couple bottles of wine, sometimes three.  Marg was twice divorced and lived with seven cats.  Ethel couldn’t stand the smell of Marg’s apartment so Marg always came to Ethel’s place.  They had met each other years ago at an AA meeting and had remained close friends.

As Ethel munched on her carrots and read a magazine article about celebrity dogs, a large crystal suddenly appeared in front of her on the table.  “Ethel, I bought you this sacred, healing crystal to help you start out on your journey of transformation.”  Mary-Jo was looking at her intently, like one of those zealots who were always handing out pamphlets.  “Christ on a Crutch!” thought Ethel.  Just then, Julie, a part-time worker, buzzed the intercom: “Mary-Jo, I need your help out here, I’ve got a line-up.” “Find your power Ethel!” said Mary-Jo as she raced out – Goddess Warrior style – to help Julie.  Ethel finished her sandwich and carrots, then stretched out on the old, white leather couch to take a ten minute nap.  She left the crystal on the table, next to the roll of paper towels and packets of sugar and salt.  “I’ve got my own damn power, thank you very much,” she said to herself as she dozed off.

Low-Rider Love

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Growing up, I was always the girl who dreamt of getting a dog, not of getting married. In the end I did get married and it didn’t work out.  The highlight of my marriage was meeting my first real love – a low-rider Corgi with a spirit like no other – I named her Quinny.

Everyone who met Quinny loved her.  It was impossible for anyone – even the grumpiest, most miserable souls – not to smile when she strutted by on her two inch stubby legs with her sassy wiggle bum.  She was pure Joy!  I remember gangbangers driving by in their vintage car and calling out “Hey Low-Rider!”  The same thing happened with tough mortorcyle riding men – they got such a kick out of her!  And the hipsters at Figaro Bistrot loved her too.  The one time she ran away – escaped from the backyard – she went around the corner to Figaro for croissant and Cafe au Lait!

I think of her often and I’m so grateful to her for sharing her spunky spirit with me.

D is for Deloris

Doloris waited for Porch Cat’s arrival.  Every night around 8:00 pm Porch Cat came to her house to eat dinner.  Tonight she had put out a bowl of canned tuna for him.  Porch Cat loved to be petted.  After finishing his meal he would saunter over to Deloris who would stroke his silky caramel fur, then he would curl up on her mushy thighs and nap for about ten minutes.  After that he usually scampered off, always turning his head to look back at her once – his way of saying good-bye.

Deloris checked her cell phone, it was 7:58.  She took a long sip of Rose, then lit a Menthol Light.  She watched the kids across the street play in their front yard.  It was late May so it was still light outside.  Deloris wasn’t a big fan of children, she found them noisy, messy and she hated how they always asked “but why?” about every damn thing.  She thought it foolish that anyone actually procreated these days. If a couple wanted a child they should adopt, there were thousands of babies and children wasting away in orphanages and hellish foster care homes. Deloris had watched an NBC Special Report on this subject matter, so she knew what she was talking about.  She took another long sip of Rose.  She was getting riled up now about the issue – the narcissism of people who insisted on having their own babies when there were desperate babies all over the world – blew her mind. Deloris scowled as she exhaled smoke – selfish pricks she thought to herself.

It was now 8:00 and no sign of Porch Cat yet.  Deloris checked to make sure she had remembered to put out fresh water then sat back down.  She smoothed out her colourful print tunic, it was one of her new spring purchases.  Deloris only shopped at one store – Chico’s.  Her favourite saleswoman was Jolene, they had become friends and occasionally went out for Margaritas together.  Jolene had taught Deloris about highlighting her best features and hiding her worst. According to Jolene, Deloris was pear shaped.  Deloris hated pears and she didn’t like the idea that her body was shaped like one, but Jolene had a great eye and soon after starting to shop with her Deloris started to receive compliments at work.  Even her boss, Mr. Elton, who never said anything to anyone, complimented her one day on her outfit.

A caramel fur ball swooshed up the steps – it was Porch Cat!  Deloris smiled as she watched him scarf down his tuna.  Porch Cat was starting to look a little chunky – Watermelon shaped – and Deloris figured it was because he ate dinner at more than one house.  Porch Cat clearly belonged to someone, he was friendly and looked well taken care of.  He had a collar with a tag, but Deloris never called the number on it because she didn’t want him to stop visiting her.  What if his owner decided to keep him inside?!  He needed to be out and about, doing cat things, so that his cat soul would be fulfilled.  After finishing his dinner Porch Cat hopped up next to Deloris and nuzzled her.  A watermelon and a pear, happy together.

 

 

 

C is for Charlie

Charlie activated the boutique’s alarm then locked the door.  She walked to her car and got in, but before starting the engine she got out and walked back to the door.  She tried opening it, but of course it was locked.  Okay, she thought, all is alright.

Driving home she listened to KCRW, while dangling a Belmont out the window. A Prius drove up next to her – “you’re killing yourself and polluting our shared air!” shouted a twenty-something.  He had a messy man bun, an even messier Grizzly Adams beard and though Charlie couldn’t see them, she was certain that he was wearing skinny jeans – probably with the pre-shredded knees. Charlie took a long drag of her cigarette and blew smoke towards his open window.  She smiled and waved as he roared off – well, as much as you can roar off when you’re driving a Prius.

Charlie sang to herself, “hold’er Jack, we’re headed for the rhubarb!” as she took a sharp corner into Trader Joe’s parking lot.  She grabbed her canvas shopping bags – God forbid you didn’t bring your own bags, the other shoppers would probably stone you to death with organic nuts – and headed in to do a little grocery shopping.

She filled her cart quickly – fresh flowers (every Friday she bought herself flowers), wine, pre-made salad, Louisiana sausages, Tortilla chips…In the frozen dessert aisle a handsome guy with salt and pepper hair smiled at her, “have you tried these Mochi?  They’re insane.  Last time I bought them I ate the whole box in one sitting.”  He was wearing beat-up black engineer boots – maybe Frye? – with faded jeans, a pricey looking sports watch and a ratty Motörhead tee. Hmm thought Charlie.  She smiled back.  “I like a guy who binges, I’ll try a box of those,” she reached over to get a box out of the freezer and their arms touched.  “I’m Max” he held out his hand to shake hers.  “Charlie,” she answered, giving his hand a firm shake after she placed the Mochi in her cart.

They walked down the aisle together.  “I forgot my shopping bags,” he said with a grimace.  “I’m dreading going to the check-out counter, they always give you that look, you know?”  Charlie laughed, “I know!!  I’m so over this ‘Ecowarrior, green smoothie drinking, politically correct, everybody is wearing glasses, retro crap!’ I can’t take it anymore!”  Max exploded into a fit of laughter.  He was so loud that several guys in the Craft Beer section looked up from their label hunting.  His laughter reminded Charlie of Rhoda Morgenstern from The Mary Tyler Moore show, it didn’t seem to match who he was and yet it was perfect.

 

 

B is for Beatrice

Beatrice spent her afternoons in the field behind her family’s home.  Under a giant weeping willow she had created the most beautiful little hideaway for herself.  Using odds and ends and some colorful sari fabric she had bought at a garage sale, Beatrice had fashioned what interior decorators would call a “boho-chic retreat.”

The day was sunny and warm, so Beatrice knotted the fabric doors to the tree so that the sunshine could pour in.  She curled up like a cat, cozy on her patchwork pillows and opened her journal.

May 16th 2008

School was lame – as usual.  I hate everyone except Denise.  Not that Denise is THAT great, but she’s ok.  We ate lunch together – as usual.  But somehow we ended up sitting next to Jessica and her gang of wannabes.  I would rather choke on a piece of steak than be friends with Jessica. Denise and I did our “thing” where we pretend to have a conversation but secretly we’re really eavesdropping.  All the girls talked about was the school dance and their dresses – lame!  Again, I would rather die – like someone could knife me in the gut – than be one of those girls.  They are an embarrassment to the entire race of females.

Beatrice paused and took a few bites of her bear paw cookie and sucked orange juice from a glass with a red licorice straw.  A ball of fur whizzed by the hideaway door – it was Len, her family’s cat.  Like most cats, Len did his own thing.  At times he would curl up next to Beatrice on her bed and purr like the cats do in commercials.  But more often than not he seemed to look at Beatrice and her family with disdain, as if he were King and they were his lowly servants.  Beatrice resumed writing.

Denise and I are OBVIOUSLY not going to the stupid dance – as if!  Denise is coming over here and we’re going to watch The Stepford Wives, it’s some creepy 1970’s movie where the men turn their wives into robot ladies.  Can you believe that?!  Men are lame.  They think they know everything and that they’re better than us.  But they better watch out! Girls like me – and Denise – we’re not going to put up with their CRAP!  Mom makes dinner for dad every single night, he NEVER cooks! There is no way that I’m cooking for my husband every night!   He can go to California Pizza Kitchen and pick up dinner twice a week.  Then HE will cook dinner twice a week and I will cook dinner twice a week.  That leaves one night for us to go out to a fancy restaurant for a fancy dinner.  That’s how it’s going to go down, otherwise I am NOT getting married.

Beatrice put down her journal and stretched her long, stick-like legs onto the grass.  She tried to imagine being a robot lady.  Just then Len strolled in, looked at her like she was useless and strolled back out.  We really need to get a dog, thought Beatrice.

 

 

 

 

 

A is for Annabelle

Annabelle stretched out on the park bench, hiking up her dress a little to try and tan her legs. “Sweet Jesus, I’m white as cake flour.” She tilted her head, sunflower-style, hoping that her tiny freckles would soon turn to Jennifer Aniston bronzed skin. She kept a tight grip on her purse. Her parents had warned Annabelle about New Yorkers – “they’re savages!” her father had hissed when she’d told him about her plans to visit the city. “Don’t let go of your purse for one second!” her mother had cried. Her mother had also secretly packed Annabelle’s bag with bandages, power bars and a “rape whistle.”

Ever since watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s as a child, Annabelle had dreamt of visiting New York City. Of course as an eight year-old she had not been aware of the dark undercurrent of the movie, she had simply been in love with Audrey’s style, her milk-filled champagne glasses and the glamour of Manhattan. So after earning a degree – and top marks – in Paralegal Studies from Emmerson Community College, Annabelle had decided to reward herself with her dream trip.

She was starting to get a little hungry, so she decided to take herself out for a chic lunch. Annabelle had made a list of all the fashionable restaurants that celebrities and style-makers frequented and she made her way to one of them, “Saint Martine” in Soho. On the subway downtown, Annabelle chatted with a young woman named Crystal who told her all about her cheating, no-good boyfriend. Annabelle advised her to leave him immediately: “Life is short and precious! Don’t waste one more minute on him!” Crystal had been moved by Annabelle’s warm demeanour and had giver her her phone number scrolled on the back of an old prescription. “If you get in a jam and need any help, call me!” she said as she hopped off the train.

Once on the cobblestone streets of Soho, Annabelle took a moment to fix her face and smooth out her Kate Spade floral dress. She’d bought the dress for fifteen dollars at The Salvation Army. Annabelle shopped thrift stores on a regular basis, but she only frequented the ones near rich neighborhoods. She also had a brand new Coach purse, a graduation gift from her Aunt Helen who understood the importance of dressing well. “Annabelle is going to be surrounded by high-end lawyers, she needs to look the part,” Aunt Helen had said when her mother protested that the purse was too expensive.

Though the restaurant was full, the hostess took a liking to Annabelle, there was just something about her face, it was like a friendly, round moon pie and most people couldn’t resist spending a few minutes with her. Before long Annabelle was seated at a corner table with perfect people-watching views and the hostess – Jaimee – was telling her all about her latest audition which had gone extremely well. “I think I nailed it, I really do. I think I’m finally going to get my shot and I’m sooo ready! Know what I mean about being sooo ready for something?” she asked Annabelle. “I totally know what you mean. I was sooo ready to get out of Chilton Missouri and now here I am! And you know what? You ARE going to get the part, I just know it. You have that star quality, that ‘je ne sais quoi!'” Jaimee put her hands in an emoji-style prayer position and then quickly walked off to seat two boho-chic model types. Suddenly a glass of champagne appeared in front of Annabelle, “it’s on the house,” said a beautiful waiter as he swept by her. Annabelle took her very first sip of champagne, delighting in how the bubbles danced on her tongue. New Yorkers are not Savages, she thought. And I’m not going home.