Sunday, December 30, 2012

She Is Where, Part 25

She was keeping her eyes out for Kevin, Handsome, and the flesh-toned Fiat 500 as she went about Christmas shopping.  The family had decided to have a grab-bag for adult gifts and she'd drawn her nice cousin's husband, a man who lived, breathed, slept, and ate for two things:  his family and woodworking.

"A Dremel tool.   That's the word from the basement.  He wants a Dremel tool," she told her when they spoke on the phone.

"Okay!  That's great!" she said, her life being made easier.  "What's a Dremel tool?"

"Now you want to know too much," the cousin answered.

"Did he say a particular model?" she asked.

"Oh!" she said.  "Something about 12 volts being plenty."

"That's good information.  Do you know where I can get one?" she asked.

"Again, too much," the cousin said, "but I've seen the word Dremel at every major hardware store in town."

"Solid info, thanks," she said.

"Oh!" she said.  "He also used the word 'kit.'"

"Good, great," she said.  "I'll go this weekend.  Care to join me?"

"Oh, sweetie, it's bad enough when I have to go as the dutiful wife.  I get in there and I feel so stupid and inadequate and small.  It's nothing he says or does -- you know he's lovely -- but there's so much stuff in there I don't understand that it's just frustrating to walk through the door," she said.

"I feel the same way so I look for a woman working there because she'll explain it to me and I don't feel like I need to buy a clue, too," I said.

They rang off and she scribbled "Dremel tool" on a piece of paper and put it in her purse, which she picked up along with her keys and decided to just walk to the local super-ultra-mega hardware store that was just four blocks (two blocks of which were parking lot) from her house.

She was thinking about maybe getting a small Christmas tree and lights and some new ornaments and a garland and maybe a new Christmas tree blanket and she thought about it so much that she walked right past the flesh-toned Fiat 500 that was illegally parked in the fire lane by the door.  She was almost run over by the very large man carrying bungee cords and a big Christmas tree.

Then she noticed both.

"Kevin!" she exclaimed.  She'd been practicing saying his name in her head so when she came face to face with him, his name is what came out.

"Oh, hey, hi.  Yeah, the wife sent me for a tree so I'm gonna bungee it to the roof and not drive too fast and hope for the best.  I think it's nice.  How about you?" Kevin asked.

He held the very large tree straight out.  She had to admit, the man could pick a tree.

"Nice tree, Kevin," she said.

"Yeah, thanks.  Nice to see you.  Merry Christmas," said Kevin.

"Happy holidays, Kevin.  Happy new year, too," she said and managed to smile.  "Please excuse me.  I need to buy a Christmas gift."

"You live around here?" Kevin asked.   "I've never seen you here before."

"Sorry, Kevin," she told him.  "I have to run. "

"Yeah, okay, sure.  Nice to see you," she heard him say as she ran into the store.

She went directly to the ladies room where she washed her hands, then her face, then used the facilities, then washed her hands and face again.  Then she looked at how she'd smeared her mascara washing her face and spent another five minutes trying to remove the streaks from her cheeks.  She washed her hands one last time, grabbed a paper towel and opened the restroom door, discarded the paper, and headed for the power tools aisle.

She wasn't watching where she was going and almost knocked over a man carrying many boxes of stringed lights in varying colors, ornaments, and a rope of pine garland around his shoulders like a stole.  People could say he was very handsome.

"Well, Merry Christmas!" said Handsome.  "I can't believe I'm seeing you here of all places!  How are you doing?"

She started crying right there in the store, turned around, and ran back into the women's restroom.  Had she been watching the security camera, she'd have see a handsome man watch her run away, then shrug, pay for his merchandise, go out front where he helped a giant get a big tree to stay on a small car, put his items in the back, then point at the store and look genuinely worried, re-enter the store and approach the security guard, gesturing toward the back of the store.

As she stood in the handicapped stall leaning on the wall and cried from frustration, a female security guard entered the restroom and asked how she was.

"I'll be okay," she said through sniffling.  "I just saw someone I didn't want to see."

"Your friend asked about you.  He told us you were in here and asked us to check to make sure you're okay," said the guard.

"My friend?" she asked.

"The white man.  I guess he's good looking.  Icy eyes, though," advised the guard.

She gasped and cried harder.

"Is he still here?" she asked the guard.

"No.  He and the big guy drove away.  He thanked me and gave me his first name.  He said to tell you Brian hopes you're okay," the guard said.

A puzzle piece willingly falls into place.

"Can I help you?" asked the guard.

"I need a Dremel tool.  Twelve volts.  Comes in a kit," she said, feeling oddly relieved.  "Can you help me get a salesperson?"

She came out of the restroom, washed her hands, dabbed at her eyes, and grinned at the security guard who was clearly puzzled.

"Sorry," she told the security guard.  "It's been a heck of a few weeks.  You know?"

"I know," said the guard.  "Sometimes it comes all in bunches."

"It does," she said, sniffing one last time.  "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas to you," said the guard as they walked out of the restroom toward power tools.  "And have a blessed new year."

She managed another grin as the guard turned her over to a female salesperson.

"This lady needs a kit with a 12-volt Dremel tool.  Maybe like that one I got for Clarence for his birthday," said the guard to the salesperson.   Then to her, "It's got different attachments.  Clarence -- he's my husband -- just loves it."

She hugged the guard who returned her hug.

"There, now.  You just forget the bunches and remember the whole thing.  You're fine," said the guard as the saleslady looked on with a smile.

When the guard walked away, the saleslady said, "They made her and broke mold.  Having her in my life makes me feel like I won a lottery."

She got teary again and the saleslady told her, "Christmastime is too stressful.  It'll be January and we can look forward to icy cold weather that will drive out all the bad thoughts and sour business."

The saleslady placed the Dremel kit in her two hands.

"You can pay up front.  Merry Christmas," said the saleslady who smiled at her.

She smiled back and whispered, "Merry Christmas."

After she paid for the kit, she walked to the door where she was met by the guard again.

"Where's your car?" asked the guard.

"I walked," she told her.

"You live close by then?  Can I call a cab for you?  It's looking like it might snow and that's a nice kit and I want to make sure you get home with it.  Is that okay?" asked the guard.

She nodded and stood with her arms around the kit while the guard made the call.  They waited all of thirty seconds.

The guard helped her into the backseat and said, "Be safe.  Have a blessed holiday."

She waved through the window and told her cabbie her address.  Five minutes later she was home and she gave the driver a huge tip.  A minute after that she was inside her home with the Dremel kit but feeling like she'd just lost her mind.

What the hell was happening?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

She Is Where, Part 24

And then it was Christmas and planning for the annual office party.

Unlike most companies, she worked for a very cheap bunch that never acknowledged the holiday season in any way than to pay them for Christmas Day and January 1st.  They all accepted the stinginess of the company owner and since he and his wife wintered in the South of France, they never had to worry about him strolling in to see how his employees were faring.

They had a sign-up sheet for their party and people brought in their best creations or their favorite store-bought items to share.  It was a nonstop eating festival from the time they came in until the time they went home.  A co-worker made a ham every year and she gave him half the money and that was their contribution.  One year there was ham, Puerto Rican pork, fried chicken, with sides like marinated green beans, guacamole, goat cheese crostini, and tater tot casserole (which was a pound of bacon, a pound of breakfast sausage, cream of celery soup, cream of mushroom soup, cream, and tater tots and tons of tastiness).  Breakfast offered up neighborhood danishes and coffee cakes and mid-afternoon desserts were from supermarket bakeries and home kitchens.  Coffee was kept freshly brewed all day.

The most exciting event of the day was the white elephant.  Everyone brought in something from home that they thought was ghastly, ugly, useless, or just no longer wanted, wrapped it up like it was Christmas (which it was), and it was a valuable gift.  There were people who brought in extra gifts for those who couldn't get it together to find something in their closets or were just too lazy.  She started advising people that they didn't need to bring something in but they would be taking something home.  When someone suggested that sounded like a threat, she replied, "Tee hee."

Some years almost everything was horrible garbage and people were in bad moods.  Some years almost everything was great and no one could believe someone would give up what they did.  There was behind the scenes trading (in case someone got the heart-shaped drinking glasses and really wanted the pink glitter styrofoam skull) and even white elephant remorse like when guy who brought in glass candleholders had to do a six-way trade to get them back.  Whenever someone opened their gift -- you had to sit in a particular chair and unwrap it in front of everyone -- the group applauded and everyone smiled and laughed.

Their manager made candles which she sold at craft fairs on the weekends.  Candles were her passion.  There were crazy shapes and fantastic scents and she packaged up candles with gift cards and client-donated offerings and they all picked those right after the white elephant.  Last year she had gotten a raccoon skull candle; this year she got a set of six navy blue tapers and a Target gift card worth $10.  She held the box of tapers above her head and turned so everyone could see them.  The gift card would fill a prescription the next week.  Everyone always seemed to like what they got.

Right before she was due to leave, her coworker transferred a call to her from her cousin's husband.  She'd almost forgotten she'd asked him for his help.

"Hey, hi," she said.  "Happy holidays."

"Oh, yeah, you, too," he said.  "Listen I have that information you wanted."

"What can you tell me?" she asked, her stomach having flipped.

"His name, his address, his weight, height, age," he said.  "I excavated his drivers license."

She paused.  She thought.  She thought some more.

"Hello?" said her cousin's husband.  "You still there?"

"Once I hear this I can't unhear it," she said.

"Correct," he replied.

"Will you still have the information?" she asked.

"I will," he said.

"Tell me his first name," she said.  "Just his first name."

"Kevin," he advised.

She paused again.

"Hello," said her cousin's husband.

"Yes, I'm here.  He didn't look like a Kevin."

"Yeah," said her cousin.  "You expect giants to have different names altogether."

"Like George," she said.

"Or Marcus," he said.

They both paused.

"Andre," they both said, adding, "Jinx!"

"So now you have some information.  Think about how much more you want," he told her.

"Thanks very much for what you did.  It was very nice of you," she said.

"You're welcome," he said.  "So if you see Kevin on the street say, 'Hello, Kevin,' and watch him shit himself."

She smiled and giggled.

"That's probably very good advice," she said.

"Glad you think so," he said.  "Take it."

"Thanks again.  My love to the family," she said.

"I am not telling the family I talked to you today.  This is between us," he told her.

"You are the best," she said.

"Damn right.  Good night," he said and hung up.

Kevin.  Never in a million years would she have thought Kevin.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

She Is Where, Part 23

They had a nice long walk around the neighborhood.   In the mid-afternoon light, they were able to look at and, of course, criticize the Christmas displays that had already made their way to lawns and houses.

"What the heck?" she asked at a home that offered up Santa and his reindeer dashing in the front of a row of yew, a snowman as tall as the two-story house, a jack-in-the-box with the clown out and waving int he breeze, a single giant Rudolph, and an inflatable Nativity scene, complete with camel, three wise men, and an inflatable manger that was empty, awaiting the birth of the inflatable Jesus on Christmas eve.

"It's actually not an inflatable baby," her cousin advised.  "There's one of these in my subdivision and the baby is actually a doll for those who like to add the baby on Christmas Eve.  There was no way to get the baby in there and have him inflate so the company added a doll that was weighted to stay in the manger."

She stopped and looked at the electric cords and how there was no spot left at all for anything else.

"I wonder where that was made," she asked aloud.

"China, of course," said her cousin.  "Subdivision guy is pretty friendly and more than willing to share info.  He keeps hoping someone else will challenge him to a Christmas lawn battle but no one's into it.  The Hindus think it's crazy.  The Muslims think he's crazy and keep to themselves.  The Buddhists keep to themselves, too, and don't say anything about the craziness.  The Christians in the neighborhood are mostly older folks whose kids have moved away so they don't feel compelled to decorate but don't find him particularly addled.  The Jewish families think the Christians who decorate big like that are crazy.  Atheists and agnostics and the generally unobservant?  We're certain he's crazy.  There is a Wican family and she doesn't think he's crazy, just wasteful.  The craziest thing is that he assumes everyone's a Christian."

"I like your neighborhood," she said.  "I like some religious diversity.  We just have Christians of differing varieties.  The next block has the inflatables and lights and giant pines with lights and porches laced with lights and those nets you toss over bushes to make your life easy.  My block does it big or else it's an apartment building.  Next door has ten of those Christmas-tree-shaped spirals of lights and five ropes of lights coming from the roof and a 50-year-old plastic creche."

"I remember that place," said her cousin.  "Don't they also pipe in music for everyone to hear?"

"Yeah," she said.  "Music box Christmas music and what sounds like fifteen harps.  On a steady loop after dark from 5 pm until 9 pm.  Not loud but loud enough.  There used to be an artist across the street -- you know the yellow brick building with the wrought iron fence? -- who decorated during the year with strings of Christmas lights that he must've gotten for nothing the day after Christmas.  He had a light installation covering a wall that's about 20 feet long and eight feet high.  The whole wall!  I saw it once when I was talking on the phone with my lights out and he had his shades open.  Blink blink blink blink blink and every now and then all the lights would catch up to each other and the whole thing blinked."

"Wow, I'd love to have seen that," said her cousin.

"His building was pretty old and his landlord was ancient and forgetful and kind of lax about building maintenance and they had an electrical fire and he moved away," she advised.

"The artist's fault?" asked her cousin.

"No," she answered.  "It was the landlord himself.  He only had one outlet in the whole kitchen and had the refrigerator, toaster, microwave, coffee maker, hot plate, toaster oven, and a blender all hooked into the one outlet with a bunch of extenstion cords.  He didn't even have three-pronged extension cords for the fridge and microwave -- the third prong just hung out, all wild and free."

"Good grief!" exclaimed the cousin.  "But I know that building.  It's still there.   What happened afterward?"

"His daughter got him declared incompetent and since the fire department got there so fast, the damage wasn't too bad.  They were able to fix what needed fixing and rewired everything.  She made her dad come live with her and her family -- I guess they're not all kinds of nuts and get along -- and she rented out that unit for a fuck ton of money," she said.  "I went and looked at it, which made my landlady freak out.  It was lovely but they wanted $600 a month more than I could afford.  When I got home my landlady said, 'Expensive, yes?' and I agreed."

"And you hate moving," said the cousin.

"I really hate moving," she said.

"So how is that job of yours going?" asked the cousin.

"Fine.   The office I'm in is pleasant, my coworkers aren't too nutty, everyone works, and our manager is quite sane," she replied.

"What happened to that other manager?  The guy in the other building?" the cousin asked her.

"Still there," she said.  "But people got sick of working for him and started transferring out.  The clients are mad because they have new people to work with all the time.  He's such a jerk that no one is loyal to him.  They might like the client -- I know I did -- but he's a despot and no one can stand that.  His bosses are not pleased because the client isn't pleased.  He's squirming, I hear."

"Ha," said her nice cousin.  "Serves them right."

They had wound their way around and were back at the host cousin's home.  They walked up the walk to the door.

"Brace yourself," said the nice cousin.

Sometimes in life, a dynamic will change for one reason or another -- your mom gets a job; your neighbor whose kid mowed your lawn and shoveled your walks moves; you take evening classes to learn French -- and nothing is the same again.  Sometimes it's a horrific event but sometimes it's a simple thing that makes everything work out for the best.  She and her cousin experienced just this.

Everyone in the house was laughing and having a good time.  The football game had been turned off and adults and kids were sitting around enjoying themselves, swapping stories and telling corny jokes.  Smiles were from ear to ear and when they walked in, everyone howled with joy.

"Here you are!" screamed her aunt.  "We need you two to tell about the bottle rockets when you were kids."

They swapped a look and her nice cousin sweetly told about their affection for the whiz and the bang and how they especially cherished the 8-ounce Coca-Cola bottle they found in the alley that was perfect launching pad.  She told how they scoured the neighborhood for empty bottles and cans which they would turn in at a recycling center, using the money to buy more bottle rockets.  They had to trust the working older brother of their friend from ballet class, but he never let them down, always giving them change along with their explosives.  They saved the change for more bottle rockets.

At the end of the story, her cousin and aunt leaped to their feet and shouted, "Let's eat!" and they all poured into the dining room.

She never found out what had happened that day, and the Crazy Train found its way back onto its track, but the rest of the day was filled with love, mutual respect, and stories she'd long forgotten that brought tears to her eyes.  She put Handsome and the giant into a cave that day, put a boulder in front of the entrance, and let them suffocate for the rest of the weekend.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

She Is Where, Part 22

She had a dream sitting there in the TV room near the snacks.  In it, she was getting married.  She'd was wearing a cream-colored dress with a full, ballet-length skirt, cream colored flats, and a silk, fitted bodice with long sleeves.  Her hair was in an elaborate updo.  She turned this way and that, looking at herself over her shoulder in the dream, smiling at her image. 

Her two cousins were there, wearing dresses that were best described as "Hooker's Lime Green Dream" with black patent stilettos and her aunt was also there, wearing a witch's pointed hat with a black Chanel-style suit and mid-heel leather pumps.

"Why the hell did it have to be lime?" her less pleasant cousin asked in the dream.  "And it's so short and tight you can almost see the outline of each pubic hair."

"I have to agree," said the nice cousin.  "It's a bit, well, revealing.  You look so pretty and demure and we look like we're going to the reception to earn the rent money."

"And lime," said the unpleasant one.

"I'm digging the lime," said the nice one.  "Very different."

"Is there a reason for this hat?" asked the aunt.  "You know what people are going to say when they see this hat?"

"You chose the hat," she told her aunt in the dream.  "You said, 'Oh, well, look at this cute, different hat.' Then you bought the hat."

"They're going to say I'm a witch!" her aunt said, ignoring what she was saying in the dream.

"Mom" said her daughter.  "I was there.  You picked the hat.  And you said this dress was different and sweet.  The skirt's a belt mom.  It hardly covers my rump."

"Oh," said the dream aunt.  "I thought you meant the dress you'd had one two dresses before this one."

"How would you think that?" asked the nice cousin.

"Honestly," said the aunt.  "What difference does it make?  They're not going to look at either of you or at the bride.  They're all going to be looking at the groom and wondering how the hell she scored someone who looks like him."

"Yeah," said unpleasant cousin.  "They are going to be screaming how they're a facially mixed couple."

"Yeah," said the aunt.  "How did you convince him to marry you?"

They all looked at her in what she knew was supposed to be her special day.  Neither of the cousins had the thighs for this dress.  It turned her stomach in the dream.

There was a knock at the dream door and a male voice on the other side asked if he could come in.  Before she could reply, her aunt answered for them all.

"Might as well come in.  This hat and the bridesmaid dresses have already cursed the occasion," the aunt advised.

Then her aunt spit.

"Spitting on the truth," said her nice cousin.  "No one can say we have class."

The door swung open and the handsome man walked in wearing a beautiful tuxedo.  As soon as he saw the cousins and the aunt, dream handsome started laughing.

"You three look ridiculous!  That's a riot!" howled the handsome man.

After a full minute of laughter where they thought he might fall down and where he actually snorted, he had to add one more thing.

"That lime green is very attractive," he said.

"Thanks," mumbled the cousins.

"And that hat brings out the real you," he told the aunt.

Dream aunt's mouth went into a line.

In the dream she wasn't horrified that he'd somehow found her and was going to marry her.  She was relieved and pleased that the man she was going to marry was speaking up for her.

His eyes found her in the dream.  He gasped and tears came to his eyes.

"You're beautiful!" he said.  "That dress makes you look like a member of a royal family."

"The royal pains in the ass clan," muttered the aunt.  The unpleasant cousin snickered.

Handsome whipped his head and glared at the aunt.

"My bride has never been married and from this second onward, you are going to make her smile and be glad that you've been invited," he said sternly.  "Or please leave now."

The aunt sputtered.  The cousins looked at the floor.

"I think we understand each other now," said Handsome.  He swept up to her and pulled her close for a kiss.

"See you in a few, honey," and left the room, closing the door behind him.

The nice cousin snickered.

"I'll have none of that," said the aunt.

"Yeah, you will," she and the nice cousin said together.

"JINX!" they cried out and embraced.

She awakened right then with a start.  A team had scored a touchdown and the kicker had gotten the one-point conversion.  People were extremely pleased.  The smell of the roasting turkey wafted into the room.  A lot of snacks had been ingested.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty," said her nice cousin.  "Want to take a walk?"

She stretched her arms out and then up, first to the right, then back up.

"Sure," she said.  "I had just had a lovely dream."

"Great," said the cousin.  "Lovely dreams are such a relief."

They each got their own coat and put it on.  Her cousin's was lime green wool.

"That's a color you don't usually see in a coat," she told her.

"But it suits me, right?" asked the cousin.

"It sure does," she told her.

"I'm digging the lime.  It's different," her cousin told her.

She shuddered a little at what her cousin had just said.  They walked into the kitchen to say they'd be back pretty quickly, that they were having a walk.

Her aunt was having a cackle over the hat she found in the basement when they were putting away the toys.  It was a pointy witch hat.

"Do I need a cauldron?" she asked and cackled some more.

"No!" she exclaimed and she and the nice cousin walked out into the November air.