Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vache d'Or - part C

This is the third part of Vache d'Or, a short story I'm serializing on this blog. Posting this is somewhat awkward because you must read the previous two entries to get up to date in the story. Please comment

“Then why are you marrying Charlene?” Matt asked.

“Hell if I know.” Frank ran his tongue across his front teeth. “I guess because she asked me. And she got that big insurance policy.” He smiled into the mirror, certain his teeth were reasonably clean. “CeeCee, my vache d’or.”

“Fashion door?” Matt asked.

“No. It’s French. Vache d’or. Cash cow.”

Matt’s mouth dropped open. Frank said, “Shit! Wait. Really it means cow of gold, not that CeeCee’s a cow. It’s just a term of endearment. French.”

Matt closed his mouth, smirked, shook his head, chugged his coffee after cooling it with too much two per cent, and took off for work.

Frank had almost two hours before he opened the deli, and he knew the cleaner had finished and Jason would sleep till at least noon. He opened his cell and dialed. “Take your break yet?” He nodded and waved his hands around even though he knew the gestures didn’t show up through the telephone. “Yep. Right now.” He folded the phone and set it on the counter next to the coffee pot. He lifted one arm and then another and sniffed his pits. He brushed his graying hair and put in drops to clear his eyes, smiled at the bathroom mirror to double check his hair, found a couple of condoms, and took off, optimistic.

At the diner on the corner, Toni poured him a cup of coffee. “You want one of my sweet rolls?” she asked. She licked her lips and leaned over so her breasts jiggled in his face. They were enough to smother a man, especially a thin one like Frank.

“I’d like a sweet roll with you. Ready for your break? We just have time for a quickie.” Frank took a sip of coffee.

Toni sighed. “In the back of the deli again?”

“It’s not so bad. It’s got a couch. And a shower.” Frank took another sip. “It’s a lot more comfortable than the back seat of my Accord - or your fuckin’ bicycle.”

Toni glanced over Frank’s head at the clock by the door. Nine thirty. She glanced around the diner. No “guests” at any of her stations. “It’ll take me five minutes.” She rang his bill up at the cash register by the door and pocketed his meager tip, then untied the strings on her apron while Frank ducked into the alley and unlocked the back door to the deli.

“Bonnie?” Toni called to the other server. “I’m going on break. Be back in a few.” She stepped out the back door and trotted down the alley to Frank waiting for her.

Eighteen and a half minutes later, damp tendrils of red hair stuck to her forehead, she dashed back into the diner. “I’m getting too old for this shit,” she whispered to the wrinkled cook leaning against a counter. “Quickies just ain’t as quick as they used to be.”

“Course not. Your men get older and older.” The cook’s laugh shattered her face like black glass.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Vache d'Or - part 2

This is part two - of many -of the serial story Vache d'Or, Cash Cow. Begin the story one blog entry earlier. Enjoy. And please comment.

Frank could sympathize with Jason because an occasional snort of coke gave him energy to fuck CeeCee after working all day. He could read her mind. She always saw his euphoria in bed as adoration. When he crashed, well, he worked long hours, and lots of men fall asleep after making love. CeeCee sparkled after dinner if she rubbed just a little of the white powder on her gums every half hour or so. And didn’t drink too much wine.

CeeCee had a job with a non-profit as a social worker. That made her a Cash Cow, too, but Frank never said that aloud. In their small suburb west of Cleveland, he knew it would get back to her. She counseled addicts. No irony there, Frank thought. She took occasional private clients on the side, if said occasional clients could pony up the cash and then submit insurance claims themselves. CeeCee didn’t deal with health insurance companies. She even took a stab at working with high-functioning mentally ill young adults. No irony there, either.

Ben, Jason’s younger brother, was bi-polar, and a mean one at either extreme. His keen sense of smell sometimes helped his mischief. He ate asparagus then pissed in the liquid soap container in the men’s room at the diner on the corner - that Frank knew of - and he would have taken a turn in the ladies’, but Toni the waitress was always sneaking a smoke. Ben dropped casual marbles at the top of handicap ramps and spilled used motor oil and dog shit on the inclines. He made mutts across the neighborhood howl when he blew his silent whistle in the middle of the night. All good, clean fun.

You get the whole fam damily, especially when they were as fucked up as CeeCee’s boys, Frank thought. Still, he moved in with CeeCee and the boys. But gradually, carefully. Ben didn’t seem to care who fucked his mother, but Frank always inspected the condoms in the bedside table because Ben poked needles through the packages when he thought no one would notice. After working with Frank all day, Jason didn’t give Frank a second thought at home in the evenings. Frank didn’t mind being kind of a fixture to the boys, an invisible sex toy for their mother, her soon-to-be husband. Frank didn’t think of himself as a stepfather. And neither did the boys.

Frank and CeeCee set the date for a shoes-optional wedding to be held at a park on the shores of Lake Erie, in September, hopefully on a warm-ish day when the lake didn’t smell too bad. The park was convenient for the family. And for Mrs. Herman, who fluttered that she “just wouldn’t miss it for the world.” It would depend on who they could get to officiate, who had an internet license to minister and marry.

Dawn, the ex’s trophy, didn’t get an invitation in the mail. Neither did Toni the waitress, who sometimes hung around the deli and accompanied Jason when he dipped into the muscular dystrophy jar and then wandered with him down a couple blocks to the dealers on a corner.

September neared, and in August Frank moved in with his buddy Matt. “We’ve declared ourselves encore virgins, and we aren’t having sex with each other for six weeks before the wedding,” Frank told his friend. “We aren’t sleeping in the same house, let alone the same bed."

“I’m glad for you to pay half the rent, but the only times I see you are mornings when you show up to take a shower and change clothes. Where do you spend the nights?” Matt asked on Tuesday of Frank’s second week as he made coffee.

“Well,” Frank said. “What do people get married for? Lifetime sex? Boring. Someone to do laundry? Hire a housekeeper. Love?” Frank frowned at the thought. “Children? She’s already got some.” He sucked air through his front teeth and made a squeaky whistle. “Two can live as cheaply as one.” He considered a minute. “But only if one of them is dead.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Vache d'or / Cash Cow

This is the first part of a serial short story. I have broken it up at random moments. Enjoy. And be sure to write any comments you have.

Charlene Carlson divorced her husband after twenty-five years and two adult sons, Jason and Benjamin. Then her ex died. Did that make CeeCee a widow? Frank didn’t care whether she was a widow or divorced. A virgin, even. That would have been a bonus, but then she wouldn’t have had the insurance money because her ex hadn’t changed change his beneficiary before he died. His new wife screamed at the insurance company, at the sheriff, at God. It didn’t do her any good. The law was the law.

Dawn, the ex’s trophy wife, was younger and cuter than CeeCee, with blonde hair and perky breasts. She could touch the tip of her nose with her tongue. Frank would have liked a go at that tongue, but the insurance policy was signed and sealed and the insurance company already delivered. Anyway, he met CeeCee first. He liked her red hair, pouty mouth, and deep cleavage. Too fair to tan, she didn’t have turkey skin yet, and he’d deal with that when it happened. If he were still around.

CeeCee’s older son Jason got a chunk of the insurance too, or he wouldn’t have been able to give Frank an overpaid job in his new deli. The store should have been a Cash Cow, but Jason had a couple of nose problems. First, he had no sense of smell. He couldn’t tell what meat was going off, what was totally gone. He couldn’t smell mice in the back room, and he didn’t know the evergreen air freshener he stuck in the toilet overpowered the whole fuckin’ deli. Worse, Jason snorted coke. He paid for it with cash he stole from the till, if he could steal from himself, so there was never a profit, and vendors dunned him for the arrears, and the sales tax guy was on his tail, and the health inspector, the sales tax guy’s brother-in-law, was screaming for a pay off or he’d shut the deli down by finding mouse turds in corners of the little kitchen in the back. And he could.

So Frank became Jason’s Do-Bee. Or rather Jason’s Don’t-Bee. He hired himself as General Manager, Overseer, CEO, Foreman: “Jason, you need you in the kitchen,” Frank told Charlene’s son. “No one can make those ribs the way you do.” Frank kissed the ends of his fingers and threw the kiss into the air. “Oh, my God.” Jason preened, and coke got him through a hundred pounds of ribs each day.

Or “Jason, a salesman’s in the back. Can you take care of these orders? You always know what we need, and we sell everything you buy. I have customers out here, now. Old Mrs. Hermann likes the cut of my brisket.” Frank winked. “She keeps coming back.” He flirted with all the hennaed senior widows buying just enough thin-sliced pastrami for their lunches. Funny how blue rinses had gone out of style.

Frank hired a cute young gal with a sensitive nose and gave her the mission of making sure the deli smelled better than clean when she finished her scrubbing before the deli opened every morning. He added a rotating password to the cash register and reconfigured the combination on the safe every couple of days so Jason couldn’t pilfer. “Somehow we kept ending up short. I think someone figured out our system so I changed it,” he told Jason.

Frank made bank deposits daily, moved the deli out of the red, started paying debts, and finally showed a profit. Jason still snorted coke, but he paid for it from the muscular dystrophy jar on the counter and from Frank didn’t know where else. Or want to know.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cookies and Conversation

A couple of weeks ago I made an off-hand reference in this blog to my friend Cynthia T. who thought about me – but didn’t visit while I was housebound with my broken ankle.

Usually those off-hand comments come back to bite me in the tuchas. This time was no exception. Two days later she called, asked if I were going to be home, and showed up in ten minutes with a gift to shame me for being so mean spirited about her. She brought the most amazing, delicious oatmeal-raisin-chocolate chip cookies I have ever eaten.

And that wasn’t the best part. She came in, sat down, and we had great conversation that solved all the problems of the world in less than two hours - when she had to go pick up her son at pre-school. She didn't even mind my two apparently love-starved dogs who kept their heads in her lap so she'd pet them.

When she left, we agreed to have more play dates. I’m looking forward to them. And next time I’ll bring the treat. It will be impossible to bring any cookies as good as hers were, so I’ll have to figure out something else.


It amazes me how much physical therapy saps my energy. My sessions are now down to two a week, but last close to three hours. On my “off” days I try to do all the PT things I can, but the home version.

The one thing I cannot do at home is tease or be teased by Amy, the receptionist slash PT assistant slash One Who Must Be Obeyed.

When I talked to Amy on the phone to set up my initial appointment, I tapped into my years of teaching and included her voice in my mental image of her. In my head I saw a blonde, freckled, perky eighteen year old in one of those print blouses receptionists in pediatricians’ offices wear. I made the appointment for St. Patrick’s day, and she told me to be sure to wear green. She’d pinch me if I didn’t. That reinforced my blonde, freckled, perky image of her.

I don’t really own green, at least not emerald green. As a matter of principle I would choose to wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day to indicate my touch of Ireland, but the protestant part.

I was surprised when I went in for my first appointment. Amy’s hair is dark. She doesn’t have freckles. And she’s not exactly perky. She’s a little cynical, a little sarcastic, a lot funny with a sly sense of humor, and pretty much in charge. She isn’t eighteen. She’s in her twenties and has a beautiful little girl whom I met during spring break when she wasn’t in school. And I didn't see any green in her clothes. Her father is from Croatia.

Her sense of humor showed up on April Fool’s Day. “Here, have some chips,” she said and handed me a Pringle’s like can. “They’re really good. I can’t open it, but it’s OK if you do.” I declined. Her eyes twinkled.

“You just want me to open the can of chips so you can eat them. I don’t eat chips,” I told her, realizing everyone’s eyes were on me. I suddenly knew. Later, when the afternoon receptionist came in, she absently opened the can, screeched when the spring snakes popped out and we all laughed. Amy had hit again.

Most of all, Amy is unflappable. When one of the other patients whines at her, “Aaaaammmmeeeeeeeee. I need a magazine to read. No, not thiiiiiis one. I already read it,” Amy smiles and finds her a magazine and then takes it back and brings the current Tribune. The patient can’t have read it yet, and Amy is right.

When one of the other patients talks about his invisible friend Ima, a very mean man who wants chocolate in the bowl on the reception desk instead of little suckers, Amy smiles and explains the chocolate is gone. She finds instead some red licorice and puts it out then takes some to Whiny Tribune Reader.

Ima doesn’t upset Amy – she just laughs. Nor do cancelled appointments, the person who shows up thinking it’s Wednesday instead of Tuesday and complains that she waited for 45 minutes, the jokes her brother Joe, a PT assistant, pulls on her, or the demands of the three or four or five therapists and their patients.

Amy is the perfect receptionist for the physical therapy office. Everything gets done, and we all have a laugh. Thanks, Amy.