F is for Frannie

It was 5:00, 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 on the stovetop, then poured herself a glass of wine.  Frannie kept a giant box of Chardonnay in the fridge.  Every evening at precisely 5:00, she poured herself a large goblet-full and continued to re-fill 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 at Gus.

From 7:00-10:00 pm Gus watched television, 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 fresh pecan pie and vanilla ice cream. The pecan pie was fresh because she had bought it fresh from the bakery.  Although Frannie knew how to bake, she didn’t see the point.  A man like Gus didn’t know the difference between a home baked pie and a grocery store one, so why waste her time?  Sometimes Gus would even comment on how sweet the house smelled: “nothing like the smell of freshly baked brownies!” he had said last week.  The brownie smell was actually from a Vanilla scented home fragrance spray.  Frannie had several home fragrance sprays which she kept under the sink and rotated using: apple spice, berry delight, peach breeze, tropical coconut and one that was called sweet bliss which smelled like caramel.

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 the desk in their spare room and turn on the computer.  Frannie collected garden gnomes – she currently had 39 gnomes displayed throughout their backyard – and she put aside an hour a day for searching online for new and unique ones.  Last summer Frannie had suffered a horrible loss to her gnome collection.  A few days before July 4th she had put out her Fourth of July gnome on their front lawn and someone had stolen it.  It had taken Frannie days to recover from that loss.  What kind of a low-life steals a patriotic garden gnome? The world was clearly going to Hell in a Hand-Basket.

Frannie was busy scrolling through various websites when she heard Gus call out to her: “Frannie, a little more please!  It’s one of your best pecan pies ever!”  Ha!  thought Frannie.  She went and retrieved the plate off of Gus’s belly and re-filled it with another piece of pie and a large scoop of ice cream.  She then placed the plate back on Gus’s belly.  “Thanks Frannie,” he said with his eyes glued to the television screen.  Frannie returned to the computer and was delighted to find a bright turquoise gnome on sale for $19.99.  She quickly typed in her credit card information and address.  The turquoise would be a lovely pop of colour in the back left hand corner of her garden, which was mostly a green leafy area.  Satisfied with her purchase she shut down the computer.  “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.  She then went outside, turned on the sprinkler and watched as her gnomes enjoyed their nightly bath.

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.

Leroy

Leroy, my precious street-dog, is on the decline & my heart feels like it is breaking into tiny little bits, like a crumbling cookie. People always say, “oh how wonderful that you rescued that dog!” But really, it’s how wonderful that he rescued me. When I found him wandering on the streets of Los Feliz, I lassoed him with my H & M shrug and brought him home. Because what else could I do? He saved me from an unhappy marriage. He brought joy into my life and into the life of my beloved Corgi, little Quinny. The two of them were inseparable rascals, always up to some backyard shenanigans. When Quinny became very sick and I had to put her down, Leroy and I mourned her death. We were partners in sadness.

For the last year as I’ve been recovering from cancer treatment Leroy has been by my side, but now it seems his days as my canine personal support worker are numbered. We are up every night with his “doggy dementia,” and I am well aware that those who love me are worried about my health. I am not sleeping because of his cognitive dysfunction and that leaves me with a weakened immune system. Not ideal for a cancer patient. And yet, he still loves his walks. He enjoys the rush of finding a pizza crust in a bush. At the dog park he is reserved, careful not to get in the way of the younger more agile dogs, but he still thrives on it. The other day he met a dog as big as a pony and that thrilled him to no end. He still has a little sparkle left in him, but less & less. My heart is starting to prepare itself for when the sparkle runs dry.

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Bright Ribbon

“I look like I’ve been pulled through a hedge backwards!” Brenda squawked, adjusting her bouffant hairdo.  She whipped out a coral lipstick and started applying it without a mirror, painting two large half circles.  Clown-Chic, thought Shannon.

“You look fine,” Shannon said, as she un-packed the bags of clothes dropped off by Mrs. Blackwell.  Mrs. Blackwell – one of their best clients – brought in high-end designer clothing almost every week.  Chanel, Valentino, Hermes.  Most of the items had been worn only once or twice, many not at all.  Last week’s haul had included a black Gucci dress with its Saks Fifth Avenue price tag still on, $6500.  A year’s rent for Shannon.

Brenda came around the corner, red stiletto pumps clicking on the floor, each click like an exclamation mark.  “You know about Mrs. Blackwell, don’t you?” asked Brenda leaning in, last night’s scotch masquerading as today’s perfume.  “No,” Shannon said, arranging Mrs. Blackwell’s Louis Vuitton luggage set, one on top of the other.  Shannon thought of her own luggage, a set of black hand-me-down Samsonite from her mom who’d told her to tie bright ribbon on the handles so that she’d be able to easily identify them at the airport.  Shannon had tied bright ribbon on the handles, but then everyone else’s mother had given the same advice and now luggage carousels were overflowing with plain black suitcases tied with bright ribbon.

Brenda took a swig of her coffee, leaving a ridiculous coral outline on the white cup.  “Mr. Blackwell, her husband, never gives her any actual cash because he’s a fucking control freak.  He makes her use credit cards for everything so that he can track her every move.  Bastard.”  Brenda lit the first of endless cigarettes, blowing smoke out the open window.  Shannon continued to hang clothes, admiring the fabrics.  Silk satin, wool crepe, cashmere.  To pass the time she often played a game with herself called “Name that Fabric.”  For every correct answer she won a quarter, which she took from the cash register.  Shannon was getting pretty good at the game and she wondered when Brenda would ask why they were always out of quarters.  Thankfully bookkeeping was not Brenda’s forte, though gossiping was.

“The funny thing is he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about how much she puts on her Saks or Neiman’s credit cards, she can charge up a storm and he doesn’t care.  But he never gives her spending money, she never has even one damn dollar in her purse.  He wants to keep her powerless because he’s an evil prick.”  Brenda sucked deeply on her cigarette, which was encased in a 1950’s style cigarette holder.

“So Gilda, that’s Mrs. Blackwell’s first name, Gilda buys tons of expensive clothing and then she sells it here.  She squirrels away the money she makes selling her clothes into a secret bank account.  Can you believe it?”  Looking satisfied with her storytelling, Brenda stamped out her cigarette and pulled a red pen from her bouffant.  She started writing out price tags and barking at Shannon.  “Dior floral dress, $785.  Missoni red sweater, $350.”  Shannon tagged the items as they went along, struggling to keep up with Brenda’s caffeinated pace.

Shannon looked at Brenda’s reflection in the gold vintage wall mirror.  Back in the day, the 1970’s Shannon guessed, Brenda had probably been one of those cute, button nosed, petite yet improbably busty blue-eyed blondes.  Most likely she had been a cheerleader, or maybe a baton twirler for the marching band.  Yes, definitely a twirler, thought Shannon.  Brenda was still petite with great legs.  “I’ve got killer stems,” is what Brenda always said as she pranced around in her high heels and short skirts.  But now Brenda’s cute button nose was overshadowed by her puffy eyes, which looked like two mini puffed pastries sitting high on her face.  Her petite twirler body now accented by a swollen booze belly.  Brenda was a well-seasoned alcoholic, destroying her good looks one drink at a time.

Brenda grabbed the ringing phone “Uptown Consignment, Brenda speaking,” she answered in her smoker’s gravelly voice.  “We DON’T do vintage, that’s for those young, trendy, Instagram-selfie girls,” groused Brenda.  “We only accept clothes that are 1-2 years old and in perfect condition.  And don’t bring me any mall crap, we are a high-end designer’s resale shop.”  With that Brenda slammed down the phone.  Well, that’s one way to approach customer service thought Shannon.

As Brenda stilettoed back to her office to refill her cigarette holder, Shannon took Mrs. Blackwell’s new Dolce & Gabbana strappy heels and put them in her tote bag.  She would add them to her eBay shop later tonight when she got home.  She could probably get $225 for them.  Shannon’s dream was to go to Paris next spring and she had already raised $925 towards her trip.  Although stealing was not the most legitimate way to raise funds, Shannon was surprised at how little she cared.  Plus, she only stole from ridiculously rich ladies like Mrs. Blackwell, ladies who would never know the difference.  In fact, now that Shannon knew about Mrs. Blackwell’s scheming, she felt a certain camaraderie with her.  They were both essentially doing the same thing and Shannon thought that Mrs. Blackwell would probably approve of her fundraising efforts.  The fact that Shannon was also stealing from Brenda didn’t faze her either.  Brenda’s father had made a fortune in the steel industry, leaving her a massive inheritance.  So why Brenda even bothered with this stupid resale business was beyond Shannon.

As Shannon waited for Brenda, she patted the Louis Vuitton luggage set like it was silky cat.  Sadly she wouldn’t be able to steal luggage from the store.  Brenda was clueless, but not that clueless.  Yet Shannon would not fly to Paris with her crappy hand-me-down Samsonite – I mean God, how ghetto would that be? – she would have to figure something out.  Shannon’s luggage thoughts were cut short by Brenda’s bellowing.  “I need you to go out and pick up some party supplies.”  Party supplies was code for Brenda’s weekend bingeing supplies.  “I need two bottles of Glenlivet 12, three bottles of Veuve and an assortment of cheese, crackers, grapes and olives.  And don’t get me that hideous blue cheese, that stuff looks grim.”  As Brenda went to find her car keys and get cash, Shannon stashed her incriminating tote bag in the back cupboard.  “We’ll do Mrs. Blackwell’s inventory when you get back” yelled Brenda from her office.

Just then two of their regular customers came in, both were secretaries at a big law firm.  They were always dressed impeccably.  In fact they looked almost as good as the female lawyers they worked for.  This pleased them greatly and irked their bosses.  How could they afford such style on their measly secretary salaries the lawyers wondered.  “Uptown Consignment” was their secret and they made a point of telling only the firm’s support staff about the shop.  Let the lawyers pay retail.

As Brenda chatted them up, Shannon went out the back entrance and slid onto the luxurious leather seats of Brenda’s Mercedes convertible.  Shannon didn’t have a car.  She took the bus to work, along with all the cleaning ladies and day laborers.  Growing up, her mother’s car had always had those grimy fabric seats that stuck to your clothes.  Shannon hated those fabric seats.  One time, her friend Lacy, who came from a well-to-do family, had commented on the seats.  “Oh weird, I’ve never sat on fabric seats before,” she’d said with surprise.  Shannon had felt humiliated.

Shannon put the top down and rooted around in her purse until she found her new Oliver People’s sunglasses.  Mrs. Stein had accidentally left them at the store last week.  When Mrs. Stein had called asking if anyone had found her sunglasses, Shannon had told her “no, but I’ll let you know if they turn up,” and then put them in her purse.  The thing was, they really looked better on Shannon, they just didn’t suit Mrs. Stein’s heart-shaped face.

Shannon drove so that she hit every red light.  That way the other drivers, especially the men, had plenty of time to admire her.  Her long wavy blond hair blowing in the breeze, oversized sunglasses, sexy car.  She was dazzling and she knew it.  Just then her phone beeped, it was a text from Brenda: “add to list: box of Parliaments, DARK chocolate – NOT milk!  NO blue cheese!!!”

At the next light a handsome young man leaned out of his convertible Porsche, “You need to go to lunch with me NOW.  Four Seasons Patio.  Meet you there in five.”  The light changed.  Shannon thought about it.  She WAS a little hungry.  I mean it was almost noon and all she’d eaten for breakfast was a Pop-Tart and a cup of coffee.  The Four Seasons was just a couple blocks away, she’d seen it before but never been.

She pulled up to the valet, smiling and taking her ticket like it was the most normal thing to do.  Like she always pulled up to 5 star hotels in her Mercedes.  Like the Oliver Peoples sunglasses now perched on her head truly belonged to her.  Like the blond streaks in her hair didn’t come out of a drugstore box.  She applied some lip-gloss, muted her phone and walked towards the patio.  Porsche-man was just being seated at a corner table.  Shannon breathed deeply, tossed her hair and smiled widely.

The Power of Sparkle

Yesterday I felt like the color beige: joyless.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  I was mad that I had cancer, a terminal cancer which no one had even heard of: Peritoneal Mesothelioma.  WTF?!  I was feeling depressed about how the cancer had affected my body.  And I was feeling pressurized by the Positive Thinking Cancer Crew: “Live life to the fullest!” “Make the most of each day!” “Live in gratitude!” F*ck off!

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Then I looked over at my vintage dresser, (painted fuchsia – my poor boyfriend, lol!), and I saw my Sparkle filled vintage tea cup.  It made me happy, it really did.  So I took a picture.  The sparkle zapped the wretched Beige out of my system & suddenly I did feel grateful for everything: my life, my partner, my dog, my family & friends…All I needed was a little Sparkle!