I is for Ida

Ida sat at her kitchen table and scanned the morning newspaper. She sipped her coffee and took a bite of her honey-slathered toast. As usual the news was all depressing. “Screw this Noise” she said out loud, though there was no one around to hear her. She called information and got the phone number for the newspaper’s subscription department. When an associate named Wiley asked Ida why she wanted to cancel her subscription she said, “because there is nothing good left in this world, we have gone to Hell in a Hand Basket,” and she hung up.

After completing her morning chores, Ida put on her face, then drove to her local supermarket. With a short list in hand she walked slowly down the aisles with her cart. A young boy pushed by her on his way to grab a box of cookies, “young man, show some respect to your elders” Ida yelled. He looked at her, terrified and his mother glared at Ida. “Don’t talk to my precious boy like that” she said. “Precious?He’s hardly precious, he just about knocked me down. I could sue you!” The woman, dressed in drape-y expensive neutrals, accented by faux spiritual jewelry, grabbed her son and hurried away.  “I can hardly wait to see what kind of a nightmare he grows up to be!” Ida yelled after her.

She turned down the aisle marked “International Foods.” Ida felt superior to the schmucks who just shopped the “regular” aisles, as if she were more worldly and progressive. She placed a package of Italian cookies in her cart, then added a box of Abuelita Mexican style instant chocolate drink mix. “Es Muy Delicioso” said Ida loudly to a woman standing nearby. “Good to know,” answered the woman, quickly turning her cart away from Ida. “At least I know a little Spanish,” Ida grumbled.

At the check-out counter she stood behind a young man who had several containers of Tofu, along with many vegetables. “Are you a Vegetarian?”  Ida asked him accusingly. The young man eyed her, smiling slightly.  “Yes Ma’am I am,” he answered. “That’s why you’re so thin and pasty, you need to eat some meat. But you have good manners, so that’s something I guess.” The young man sighed, paid his bill and took his canvas shopping bags with him. The cashier started ringing up Ida’s purchases, hoping to avoid any conversation with her. “Did you color your hair yourself?” asked Ida. The cashier flinched. “Yes, I did, why do you ask?” “Well, I think you went a little overboard on the red, it’s too bright. People are going to see you coming from a mile away. You should stick with a nice light auburn.” The cashier gritted her teeth. If her Manager wasn’t standing nearby she would tell Ida to go jump in a lake. “Oh well, to each her own I guess,” she said cheerily.

On her way back to her car, Ida saw the most adorable little black dog tied up to a pole outside the store. “Unbelievable!” she exclaimed. She hated people who tied up their dogs while they were busy running errands. It was too dangerous, anything could happen – the dog could break free and get run over by a car, a mean kid might tease the dog, the dog could eat something and get sick…She would like to tie the dog’s owner to a pole and see how she or he liked it! Ida put her groceries in her car and then went back to the dog. She bent down and petted the dog and spoke to him lovingly. The dog seemed to take to her immediately.  “Your owner does not deserve you,” she cooed. And then, just like that, she untied the dog, picked him up and when he didn’t resist, she carried him back to her car. He rode shotgun with her back to the house, not seeming to mind one bit that he was with a complete stranger.

Back at the house Ida found an old frisbee in the hall closet and she and Sammy – the perfect name for him! – played in the backyard until Sammy was tired out. She then set down a bowl of water and made him a cozy bed from old comforters and pillows, though she knew she would let him sleep with her tonight. She figured he deserved a special meal, so she would cook him chicken and rice for dinner. Sammy, exhausted from the exercise and sudden life change, immediately passed out. Ida made herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and watched him sleep. He snored like her long dead husband, Earl. But Sammy was much cuter than Earl. Earl had had a face that not even his mother could have loved, but he had been a good man. Well, he had been a reasonably good man. Ida lay down on her beige chenille couch.  Actually Earl had not been a very good man at all, what the hell was she thinking?! He had been mean as a snake! Ugly and mean – there’s a winning combination for you! Ida chuckled to herself. She had been so happy the day Earl died that she had gone out shopping to celebrate. She had bought herself a pair of blue sandals, a matching purse and a perfume called “La Vie Est Belle.” Ida closed her eyes and was soon fast asleep. Sammy eventually joined her on the couch, jamming his face under her left armpit.

 

G is for Gloria

Gloria fished out a dime from the bottom of her shoulder bag and called Marty.  He picked up on the fourth ring. “Where the hell are you?!” screamed Gloria into the phone.  Marty sounded groggy, like he was still in bed. “What time is it?” he asked, yawning.  It’s 4:15, the movie starts in fifteen minutes!  This was supposed to be a date Marty – you were supposed to be taking me on a God Damn date!  Fuck You Marty. Fuck you!”  She slammed down the receiver.

Gloria pulled out a Menthol and started walking towards the movie theatre.  Two teenage girls passed by.  They were dressed in ripped black fishnets, mini-skirts and black leather jackets.  One had painted her lips black, the other had drawn a huge spider web on the left side of her face.  For The Love Of God, thought Gloria.  She walked a few more blocks then took a final drag of her cigarette, tossing it on the sidewalk and flattening it with her Candies clogs.  She went up to the box office where a chunky lady sat snapping gum.  The lady’s hair was teased into a tall rounded pouf, where Gloria imagined she kept hundreds of sticks of gum.  “One adult ticket please,” Gloria said.  “No date with you honey?  How come ya don’t have a boyfriend?  You’re a pretty little thing.  You should find yourself a nice man and settle down.”  She handed Gloria her ticket.  Gloria glared at her and said a little prayer that the woman would choke on her stupid gum.

After buying a large popcorn, pop and box of Jujubes, Gloria found a seat towards the back of the theatre.  Gloria took a big sip of Sprite, then tossed a couple of Jujubes in her mouth.  “The problem with Jujubes is that they get stuck to your teeth and then you have to kind of scrape away the gook with your fingernails, which is hard to do in public.”  Gloria turned to where the voice seemed to be coming from.  Behind her, two seats to the left, sat a tall shaggy haired young man.  He smiled at Gloria and showed her his own box of Jujubes.  Suddenly Gloria was very aware of all the Jujube-ness squished down into her teeth.  “When I take a girl out on a date I never get Jujubes, because you know, you gotta be cool, you can’t be sticking your finger in your mouth during a date.”  Gloria laughed, “black and red are my favorite,” she said.  “Really? I’m more of an orange and green guy myself.  My name’s Mike by the way.”  Gloria looked at Mike, noticing a large but beautiful gap between his two perfectly straight front teeth.  Gloria wondered if Jujube muck got stuck in the gap.  Mike moved seats, so that he was one seat closer, but still behind her. “It’s a good thing that we’re not on a date,” said Mike, “because this way we can both enjoy our Jujubes.  Feel free to stick a finger in your mouth, I probably will.  What did you say your name was?”  “I didn’t. It’s Gloria.  My name is Gloria.”  Gloria was smiling like a demented clown, a huge, wide smile, she couldn’t control it.  She was sure that Mike could see Jujube muck in her mouth.  The theatre lights went down. “Pleased to meet you Gloria, I feel like this is my lucky day.”

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.

 

 

February

The air smelled clean, like Ivory soap. But then you felt the wind, a cold hard slap on your soft skin. Like a strike in the face from your lover that you didn’t see coming.

Dirty snow crunching. Discarded cans, bottles and garbage seemingly everywhere. Who still litters? It’s 2016, not the 1970’s. The snow is angry. It should be pristine and wedding-dress white. Instead it is brown and mucky, like an old forgotten river.

Crunch. A mitten propped up doll-like on a tree branch. One boot, laces un-done, lying in a bush like a body about to be discovered by the special victim’s unit. A hoodie left lonely and abandoned on a bench. Maybe this was an urban art exhibit by one of those media savvy types, soon to be featured in The New York Times.

The snow actually does make a crunching sound, it’s true. Crunch. Crunch. “Is your dog a lover or a fighter?” asks the man. His eyes are both watery and wild, his energy a mixture of deep sadness and frantic rage. “He’s a Lover” you say, trying to act casual, even though you want to take your elderly one eyed dog and run away across the street. “Good boy, good boy,” the man says as he lovingly strokes your dog. His watery eyes no longer wild, but soft, like pillows. He walks off and you and your elderly one eyed dog watch him go, both suddenly missing him. Why didn’t he stay longer?

Mister Lover stealthily slithers up to a large pizza crust and starts eating. You consider wrestling with him to try and retrieve the dirty pizza, but change your mind. He is old. Let him enjoy his garbage picking, it makes him feel like the King of the streets he once was.

Crunch, crunch. A couple walks by, two women holding hands. They look content. They look like they know that if one of them gets sick, the other will take care of her. A guy wearing grey skinny jeans and a low ponytail ambles along. He is carrying a granny style purse with giant knitting needles sticking out of it.

We finally arrive home. “Slowly baby, slowly” I say to Mister Lover. The front porch steps are slippery and his once powerful legs are now just little twigs. We make it up to the door and he lets out a soulful howl. A “damn that was a good walk girl!” kind of howl. February is really not so bad.

 

 

Manhattan

“Manhattan is over.  No one wants to live there anymore.  It’s all about Brooklyn now,” Stan declared.  What a pretentious prick, thought Mark.  He put his earbuds in, trying to zone out with music while kicking salt off his boots.  Damn weather, he mumbled to himself.  He thought about his day and the Epic Fail it had been. His boss had reamed him in front of the whole team.  Then at lunch his usual sandwich guy had been out of pastrami, so he’d had to get a chicken wrap.  A freakin chicken wrap.  He hated wraps.  Only pussies ate wraps.

“Brooklyn is where all the artists live, the techies, the movers and shakers. Manhattan is just the old guard now.  It’s over,” Stan droned on.  Shut. The. Fuck. Up.  Mark thought.  What had he ever done in his life to deserve sitting next to Stan Kolonsky every night on the subway?  God had a twisted sense of humor.  He closed his eyes and thought about his mom’s meatloaf that he’d be eating soon.  She served it with a spicy red sauce.  It was a Saracino secret family recipe.  He loved his mom.  His mom rocked.  He saw Stan’s mouth moving but he couldn’t hear him.  The Guess Who flooded his eardrums. Searching his left pocket he found a PAM and popped it in his mouth like a tic-tac.  He thought about texting Sally to see if she wanted to hook up this weekend.  She was kind of dim, but she was hot.  His mom was on his case about asking out Carla Rota, the young widow down the street.  Carla was good-looking, but there was no way he was dating a widow.  With a widow you’re never their #1 man.  Their #1 man is always their dead husband.  Of that Mark was sure.  He started to PAM-out and it felt good.  He felt the sharp edges starting to melt away like he was a piece of plywood that had just been sanded down.  He smiled at Stan.  Three more stops and he’d be home.

Beauty Prep

It was six thirty AM, time for Sharon to start getting ready.  She liked to look good for her surgical oncologist’s morning visits.  She asked her nurse for a bowl of water and washcloth.  Later in the day she would get a proper bath, well, as proper as you could get while lying in bed.  But for now she just wanted to wash away last night’s grime.  She washed her face, neck and armpits.  She followed up with a moisturizing wipe, the kind used to take makeup off, it left her face with an attractive glow she thought.  Then she brushed her teeth, using a styrofoam cup as her sink.  As soon as she finished, a strong wave of nausea overcame her. Fuckety fuck fuck she muttered.  She rode the wave for a few minutes – “nausea surfing” she called it – then thankfully it passed.

She propped up her travel mirror on the table next to her hospital bed.  Looking in the mirror her first instinct was always to burst into tears.  Her face was pale and scarily thin, she looked like a refugee from some godforsaken country.  She had lost twenty-five pounds and her hair was falling out, shedding like a dog all over her pillow.  But her daily beauty ritual of “putting on her face” as her grandmother used to say, (may she rest in peace), was essential to Sharon’s emotional survival. It gave her a sense of normalcy and the tiniest feeling of still having some control over her life and body.  She applied blush to the deflated apples of her cheeks, plucked a few stray hairs, then added a tinted lip balm. Obviously she didn’t do a full red carpet look, if for no other reason than she didn’t have the energy.  She finished primping by putting on scentless hand lotion and wrapping her bright pink Pashmina over her bony chest.

Feeling completely exhausted from the effort she lay back down, but then noticed that her overnight drainage bag was full of urine.  Worried that it might overflow, she buzzed her nurse.  A different nurse appeared this time.  “You’re going to have to start urinating on your own, you’ve had this catheter in for too long, ” the nurse said with a bossy edge to her voice.  “My bladder nerves were damaged during surgery, they’re taking awhile to bounce back.” Sharon said, trying not to reveal any emotion.  The nurse gave her a chastising look, her expression suggesting that it was somehow Sharon’s fault that she wasn’t able to urinate.  Dear God, where was her sweet nurse?

Ten minutes later her surgeon and his team of oncology residents were staring down at her.  They always seemed very tall to her.  It felt like being surrounded by tall, large headed aliens who were staring down at their human specimen restrained on a metal table.  A very handsome resident, Dr. Josh Doukas, pulled her gown aside and inspected her ten inch long abdominal scar.  “Looking good, looking good,” he said.  She felt humiliated.  Her sad little tummy, all mangled and grotesque.  Why did Josh have to be so good-looking?  “Now let’s take a look at your stoma, how has your output been?”  If there is one thing a girl does not want to be asked by a handsome medical resident, it’s “how is the fecal waste matter that is flowing out of the red intestinal stump on your stomach?” Sharon wanted to disappear.  Instead she smiled and patted the hideous bag affixed to her belly, the one that was collecting her waste.  “It’s working well, though I’m still only eating soft foods.”  The surgeon and his team continued to ask her questions and discuss her case amongst themselves.  Sharon was a bit of a Cancer Celebrity, in that she had a very rare type of terminal cancer.  The doctors, though they made a decent effort to hide it, were actually quite excited to have her as a patient – she was a fascinating case.

After lunch the physiotherapist and her assistant came by to help bring Sharon on a walk.  They were both plain looking, lovely young women.  Makeup free, hair pulled back in ponytails.  The types who wore Patagonia jackets and comfortable European made shoes.  Along with Sharon’s bladder, there had also been damage done to the nerves in her left leg.  Apparently it had something to do with being splayed out on the operating table for twelve hours.  So much to Sharon’s surprise, when she had awoken from surgery she’d found that she couldn’t walk, one leg was fucked up.  The three of them walked slowly, Sharon’s urine bag attached to the walker, her giant splinted leg awkwardly inching forward and brutal pain shooting out from her incision area.  She had once read about doctors who performed “vaginal tightening surgery” and for a moment Sharon wondered if her surgeon had tightened her tummy while stitching her up. The pain was enough to bring on another wave of nausea.  She bent her head into the little plastic barf bowl that the assistant always brought on their walks and threw up a little clear liquid.

Sharon succeeded in making it across her room and halfway down the long corridor.  This was considered a victory and for her prize she was offered a pain killer drip and some frozen yogurt.  Sharon passed on the yogurt, but was excited about the painkiller drip.  Maybe this is what it felt like to be a heroin addict – you looked forward to it, it was the highlight of your day.  What if she became a drug addict?  Then again she thought, who cares?  I’m already dying, so why the hell not?  She laughed to herself as the drug hit her body. She felt warm and cozy and happy.  The sweet nurse – Louise was her name – stopped in and put a couple of pillows under Sharon’s legs so that they were angled upwards.  “Sleep well Darlin,” she whispered to her.