It’s Pink, Get Over It!—Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I will be re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. The original “It’s Pink, Get Over It!” story posted back in September 2011. It’s been embellished a little since then.

* * *

The West Seattle neighborhood of Fauntleroy complained when the apartment building fell into disrepair. White paint peeled from the walls and paint flakes littered the sidewalk.

The building sold. The neighborhood cheered—until the new owners painted it bubble gum pink.

The neighborhood protested the pink. The owners posted their sign in a discrete location on the main entrance. ‘It’s Pink, Get Over It!’

It was the shot heard round the neighborhood.

After many protests, the owners compromised and made the building two-tone with white trim.  The sign disappeared from the door.

The Shot Heard 'Round the NeighborhoodSince then, whenever we see something pink, one of us says, “It’s pink, get over it.”

It’s tradition.

 *  *  *

“Fannie, I’m going up to Seattle, do you want to come?” Richard asked. He jingled the keys to the Love Wagon, a red Ford F150 with queen futon and disco ball in the back, like a carrot.

“Are you driving by the pink apartment building?”

“Of course,” he said.

“I’m in.”

 *  *  *

May 1st brought warmth, flowers, bees, and thoughts of barbecuing.

“Fannie, what do you think about fixing up the old picnic table, it could use a good coat of paint.” Richard rubbed his hands together. His blue eyes softening to the melt-my-knees look.

“That’s a great idea,” I said. My Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl would be thrilled we revived my grandparents’ picnic table the next time they dropped by. Of course, they didn’t want to move it when they sold us the house, so we have to match the color or Aunt Verla will hatch a chicken.

“Let’s get some paint,” said Richard.

The Love Wagon rolled into the parking lot in front of Gig Harbor’s Ace Hardware. I jumped down from the passenger side. If I was five inches taller, I wouldn’t have to leap. Thank god it’s not a 4 x 4.

Richard lead the way into the store. People stared at us. I know folks, we look odd together. He’s a foot and a half taller than me, we’re not the side show.

“May I help you?” the young man behind the paint counter asked.

“Yes, we need a gallon of reddish-brown flat exterior paint,” Richard said.

“Follow me,” he said, leading us to the paint chips. “We have several shades of reddish-brown to choose from. Which one would you like?”

“Oh, Richard, this one looks perfect. What do you think?” I could imagine my aunt and uncle doing selfies with the picnic table so they could one-up my mom and dad. Note to self call mom once the table’s done.

“That’s it,” Richard said.  Richard handed the clerk the paint chip.

“Do you have any more shopping to do?” the clerk asked. “I can get this mixed and have it ready by the time you’re done.”

“That’d be great,” Richard said.

We finished our shopping, picked up our paint, and checked out.

 * * *

We did not get around to painting the table until May 31st.

Richard walked out of the garage with the gallon bucket of paint. I followed with the new paint brushes, stir stick ,and a couple of rags. Our neighbor, Bunny Gutierrez, her long blond hair pulled into a pony tail, dropped by for a quick inspection. She followed us into the back yard.

When Richard opened the can of paint, a flood-light shade of hot pink glowed from the can.

Bunny took a step back. She said, with her refined Texas accent, “Whoa, honey, that’s pink.” The tone of her voice thudding like a dropped weight at pink.

The smile on my face ended up somewhere in Argentina. I raked my fingers through my short brown hair. “Richard, this doesn’t jive with our reddish-brown paint chip.” My family will never let me hear the end of this.

“Fannie, I am not waiting any longer to paint this table. Besides, it’s pink, get over it,” he said. His devilish grin spread across his face. The devil and the angel on his shoulders  high-fived.

Richard dipped the brush. He said, “It’s pink, get over it.” He’s tall lean frame shook, the laughter leaked through his pursed lips.

I grabbed my brush. If I’m gonna get hell for this, I’m gonna have a little fun.

With each stroke, Richard and I said, ‘It’s pink, get over it.”

We laughed until tears streamed down our faces and neither of us could paint in a straight line.

After ten minutes, Bunny said, with annoyance, “Darlings, there’s something seriously wrong with y’all.” Twang warped her refined Texas accent. Her blond pony tail wagging out of alignment.

The table morphed from ancient picnic table to Las Vegas showgirl. I should call my younger sister and borrow her Bedazzler.

I called my mother the next day. Aunt Verla called twenty minutes later. The scorching they unleashed faded after three days.

 *  *  *

Richard’s birthday appeared on the calendar. Still hung up on the pink paint, I wrapped Richard’s birthday present—a pair of Levi’s—in a hot pink bag. After searching the local Hallmark, I found a birthday card with a cow wearing a hot pink sombrero.

I wrote, ‘Happy Birthday, Richard, it’s pink, get over it. Love, Fannie’. How could he want for anything more?

The day after the party, I penned Richard’s thank you notes for him. I used a pink gel pen for writing my thank you note.

Richard thanked me for my creativity in wrapping and the generosity of the gift and all the wonderful years we’ve had together and a promise to wear the jeans every day until they could walk away on their own.

I handed him the cards to sign.

He signed my card last. The pink ink caught his attention. He read the note. “Hey,” he said, looking hoodwinked. “What’s all this crap about?”

“Crap,” I said, with a smile, “what crap? Weren’t those the exact words you would use, if  you wrote it?”

“Until the jeans walk away by themselves. And in pink?” Richard asked, his voice rose slightly. He leaned forward, waved the card, and stared at me.“It’s not working is it?” he asked, leaning back in his chair. He tilted his head to one side.

I laughed. “No, but I want you to know I shall cherish the card always.”

“You do that,” he said. He pinched his lips together.

“Besides, it’s pink, get over it.” My greens eyes danced. I know he won’t be able to let that go.

His face flickered. He smiled. “You know, we still have some pink paint left. What if we use it for a tombstone at Halloween?”

“That would get the neighbors talking,” I said. The image of Bunny’s pony tail going out of alignment when she saw it made me laugh.

“Let’s do it,” he said.

 * * *

In celebration of Halloween, we covered the yard in tombstones.

The neighbors followed the self-guided tour.  Above the laughter we could hear voices saying, “It’s pink, get over it!”

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Fannie’s Olympic Medalist List

This month’s contribution to the Blog of Funny Names. Olympic medalists, a short list.

The Blog of Funny Names

Greetings funny names fans! I apologize for the brevity, I’m running up against some unexpected deadlines on the home front and I’m not as creative as Dave is under pressure.

Now that the Olympics have come to a close, let’s recap some of the more memorable names in Olympic History.

Michael Phelps photo courtesy of Agencia Brasil Fotografias Michael Phelps photo courtesy of Agencia Brasil Fotografias

Even though Michael Phelps does not have a funny name, we have to give him a nod as the most decorated Olympic athlete with 31 medals to his name and because he talked about changing his kid’s diaper during an interview.

Larisa Latynina photo courtesy of www.kremlin.ru Larisa Latynina photo courtesy of http://www.kremlin.ru

Followed up by Ukranian gymnast, Larisa Latynina with 18 Olympic medals. Anyway you spell it, she has a great name.

Paavo Nurmi at the Antwerp games in 1920. Paavo Nurmi’s debut at the Antwerp games in 1920.

Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi is one of only 4 athletes to win 9 Olympic gold medals…

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Llama Poo Day—Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I will be re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. The original “Llama Poo Day” story posted back in May 2012. It’s been embellished a little since then.

* * *

“I want to thank everyone for coming to this year’s garden party and plant sale,” LuAnne said, waving lavender-colored garden-gloved hands wide like she was hosting an elegant dinner party. “Before you leave I have a gift for each of you. Follow me.” She waltzed to the back of her yard. Leading us to the light-gray, 8-foot by 12-foot garden shed with hand stenciled daffodils on the walls. She opened the sliding glass door, and pulled out a 32-gallon trash can filled with llama manure and earthworms.

“Everybody grab a container. I’ll shovel it in for you.” LuAnne plunged the shovel into the trashcan loosening the rich nutrients. A scent filled the air. One part earthy, one part decomposition, one part strong manure. “Fannie, grab an extra bucket, I want to give you and Richard one each.”

“You know LuAnne,” I said, my eyes watering, my throat catching, “somehow thank you doesn’t quite cut it. So in the immortal words of your father, ‘I wouldn’t normally take crap from anyone, but for you, I’ll make an exception.’”

“Well, you won’t thank me if you don’t get the lids locked down before you put it in the truck,” LuAnne said, laughing.

Richard, my six-foot five-inch husband, grabbed the forty-pound bucket. At a towering five-feet tall, I lugged the 30-pound bonus pack. Stopping twice, bruising my shins twice, and stubbing my toes twice on the way to the Love Wagon, our red Ford F150, with queen futon and disco ball in the back. Thank god we removed the futon to haul plants this trip.

“Fannie, this is great,” Richard said, placing the bucket into the back of the pick-up truck. “We can work the poo into the soil today. I can’t wait to get home.”

Handing him the bonus pack and wiping the sweat on the sleeve of my black and white striped rugby shirt, I said, “Well it shouldn’t take more than an hour to get home from here unless the traffic is backed up.”

Richard secured the plants we purchased and bungied the buckets.

The May sun warmed the air and the truck canopy. The aroma filled the truck cab. We rolled the windows down before we even merged onto Interstate 5 in Seattle. My eyes and nose channeled Niagara Falls. I glad we’re not famous, the paparazzi would have a field day.

“You know what my favorite part of llama poo day is?” I asked, trying to distract myself from the stench.

Richard shook his head.

“When we’re finished and the squirrels roll all over the ground like they just ate catnip and coffee beans.”

Laughing, Richard said, “If we only had a camera to film it.”

Forty minutes later we rounded the Fife curve heading into Tacoma. The Tacoma Dome came into view.

Just ahead of us, a white 1995 Cadillac DeVille drifted into the next lane clipping the front of an old blue Ford Ranger. Cars swerved out of the way. The sedan spun around ripping off its front bumper and clipping a black Suburban sending the Suburban across three lanes of traffic. It shoved two compact cars ahead of it like the cattle guard on a train. The cars and Suburban hit the median. The Suburban popped up. It straddled the on-ramp median and crushed the trunk of one of the compacts.

The 1965 red Ford Mustang coming down the on ramp, side swiped the Suburban, striking the lead compact car sending it spinning around to face on coming traffic.

“Richard, watch out,” I said, my voice reached a falsetto pitch that should break glass. I grabbed the dash board. My heart punched my ribs trying to get away.

Richard slammed on the brakes and swerved to the left, missing the spinning bumper as it dashed across the lane into the railing. The plants and forty pound container broke free of their bindings and hurled into the cab wall with a thud. The thirty pound container followed crashing into the forty pound bucket. A lid burst. Manure exploded into the canopied area.

Clearing the accident Richard pulled over to the side of the road.

“You okay?” Richard asked, shaking.

“Yeah, you?” I asked, my heart slowing now attempting to exit my throat back into my chest.

“Yeah, but I don’t even want to look in back.” Richard ran his fingers through his short, thick brown hair.

We looked over our shoulders.

“Oh god,” I said.

Ten pounds of manure re-positioned itself across the back of the truck.

“Can you tell if any of the plants were damaged?” I asked, craning my neck.

“I can’t tell from here. We’ll have to wait until we get home.”

With the traffic stopped behind us, we pulled back on to the freeway and headed home.

“I hope we don’t see anyone until we get this mess cleaned up,” I said, when we turned onto our street.

George and Bunny Gutierrez stood at the end of their driveway across the street from our house waving at us. We adopted them when they landed here from Texas. Bunny’s transition to the Pacific “north-wet” lifestyle akin to Dorothy visiting Oz. Why did they have to be standing there?

Richard pulled up beside them.

“Honey, I guess I don’t have to asked if you got your manure,” Bunny said, with her refined Texas accent. Her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail behind her head, crowning her statuesque figure. Her up-turned nose trying to crawl into her face. Her pony tail whipping figurative flies.

“What did you do Richard?” George asked, with his soft spoken Texas accent. A contrast to the bass voice emanating from his lineman’s frame. A pencil-thin, black mustache and goatee framing his mouth. He waved his ham-sized hand in front of his face, “Fill the back end of your truck?” He nodded toward the manure on the windows of the canopy.

“We avoided an accident on the way home, but the plants and manure didn’t do so well,” Richard said, shaking his head. His cheeks a fetching shade of pink. “Now we’re left with this,” he said, pointing at the back.

“Well, honey, let me get my dungarees on and I’ll be right over to help,” Bunny said.

Richard backed the truck into the driveway.

I hopped out of the cab. Standing on tip-toes, I peered through the side window. “It’s too dark to see for sure,” I said, biting my lower lip. “I’ll grab the coveralls and gloves.”

“I’ll get the shop vac and cleaning supplies,” Richard said, walking with me into a garage where even pine needles feared to tread.

Bunny arrived in time for the big unveiling. Richard opened the canopy door. We took a step back. The stench of hot manure wafted over us.

I experienced a sewer gas leak when I was a kid. My mom poured water down the pipe. No more smell. Mere water would not even come close to extinguishing this manure’s piquant odor.

“Honey, that’s not for the faint of heart,” Bunny said, her eyes watering beyond onion tears.

Richard lowered the tail gate. Two tomato plants lay on their side. Part of their dirt spread out in a fan pattern. The rest of the plants snug in their cardboard containers pressed against the far end of the truck bed. A tie-dye pattern of manure covered the truck bed and canopy. A dozen or so earthworms squirmed along the bed.

“I guess it could be worse,” I said, tucking my sleeves into my gloves.

“How?” Richard asked, holding his nose.

“It could have been all seventy pounds,” I said, commandeering my husband’s devilish grin for the occasion.

“Fannie, honey, what is that?” Bunny asked, pointing to the small brown and silver object hanging from the canopy ceiling.

“That’s our disco ball. It looks like it could use a bath too,” I said, frowning.

Bunny looked from Richard to me, one eyebrow taking the street car to the top of her forehead.

Richard laughed. “Now that you’ve opened that can of worms Fannie, you may as well tell her.”

I took a deep breath. “We bought the truck for hauling and camping,” I said. “When we camp, we use a queen-sized futon. It fits perfectly. Richard christened the truck The Love Wagon. I told one of the in-laws about it. She and I decided the only thing missing was a disco ball. So she sent us a miniaturized one. How could we not hang it?”

Laughing, Bunny said, “Well then we will need to make sure we get The Love Wagon clean enough for camping. I’m sure you’ll be able to restore the disco ball to its former glory.” Her refined Texas accent wobbling. She could not suppress her smile.

Bunny and I carried the plants and the unopened bucket of manure to the greenhouse.

Richard picked up each worm and placed them in the container. Using a hand trowel, he scooped the loose manure back into the bucket.

Bunny and I lugged two five-gallon containers filled with hot, soapy bleach water out to the driveway. Richard dipped rags into the water and passed them in. We scrubbed the interior of the truck until the earthy odor disappeared. Richard swiped Q-tips into every exposed crevice until they came out clean.

The disco ball soaked in its personal spa waiting to return to the spot light.

Disco Ball Day Spa

“Bunny, thank you for all of your help, it would have taken forever without you,” I said, sitting on the tail gate wiping sweat from my forehead on a clean dry rag.

“Fannie, honey, you two get into more scrapes than Tom Sawyer, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Bunny said, grinning. Her pony tail wiggled. “What on earth is wrong with that squirrel?” Her tone implying it was tripping on drugs.

Fifteen feet from the truck a large gray squirrel rolled over three times. Pausing long enough to scratch its ear, it looked at us. Rolling onto its back it used its shoulders and hips to scoot back to its original location.

“I must have spilled some of the llama poo over there when I carried the container to the back yard,” Richard said, laughing.

Bunny’s pony tail bobbed. “Priceless.”

“Welcome to the best part of llama poo day,” I said, with a wink.

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S.Imp.R.O.S.—Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I will be re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. The original “S.Imp.R.O.S.” posted back in October 2013. It’s been embellished a little since then.

 *  *  *

S.Imp.R.O.S. (simp′rös´) a self-imposed regulator of speed. A person who feels compelled to slow down traffic.

  *  *  *

The late afternoon rays of the August sun cooked the hilltops of Gig Harbor, Washington—for the fifth straight day—on its way to a small brown and gray rambler near the end of the cul de sac. The sunlight streamed between the cedars onto the driveway. It formed a backgammon board on the pavement.

Richard Cranium, with his hands in his pockets, stood at the end of the driveway talking to George and Bunny Gutierrez. Richard’s devilish grin spread across his face when I flopped like a rag doll out of The Love Wagon, a red Ford F150 with queen futon and disco ball.

“Fannie, I hear you had a good time with your dad this afternoon,” Richard said, laughing.

“Let me guess,” I said, looking at George, “that was you three cars back?”

“Darlin’, I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” George said, with his soft spoken Texas accent, a contrast to the bass voice emanating from his lineman’s frame. The grin on his face stretching the pencil-thin, black mustache and goatee framing his mouth. “Although, I’ve heard rumors of it happening around here with the same regularity of Big Foot sightings. You may make a Big Foot believer out of me yet.”

“Fannie honey, what exactly happened?” Bunny asked, with her refined Texas accent.  Her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail behind her head, crowning her statuesque figure. Her pony tail bobbed up and down with amusement.

* * *

The phone rang. The clock next to it read 8:58 a.m..

Richard sat at the breakfast bar sipping on a cup of steaming, black coffee. The phone rang again. He picked up the newspaper.

“Richard, aren’t you gonna get that?” I asked, walking around the counter toward the telephone.

He glanced at the clock. “Nope. It’s Saturday morning, it’s before nine o’clock, it’s your family, it’s your get,” he said, with a smile.

I picked up the phone on the fourth ring.

“Fannie what took you so long to answer?” my father asked.

“Good morning, Dad. I’m fine,” I said, laughing, “how are you?”

“Sorry,” he said, “but it shouldn’t take four rings to answer the phone in a house that size.”

“Unless you’re having a Jubilee moment with your kitchen appliances,” I said, winking at Richard.

Coffee jettisoned from Richard’s mouth with the scatter pattern of buck shot, taking out the Living section.

Jubilee? Do you want me to call back after you’ve finished?” he asked, his voice filled with appreciation and regret.

“Naw,” I said, “what’s up?”

“Your mom has a touch of food poisoning,” he said.

“Is she all right?” I asked, the pitch of my voice riding the scales to a high C.

“She’ll be fine,” he said, with a forget about it tone. “She left the potato salad on her plate a little too long yesterday afternoon when we were rating the car accidents on Olympic Drive.” Laughing, he said, “Otherwise, it was a humdinger of a day.” Clearing his throat, he said, “The reason I called, your mom wants me to bring the wrought iron bench back from the storage unit. No one else is available to help me. I’ll buy you lunch.”

Laughing, I asked, “How can I resist?”

“Good, you can be here in about fifteen minutes,” my father said.

“I’ll see you in an hour,” I said before hanging up.

Richard studied me over the top of the newspaper. “Have fun,” he said with his I’m-glad-it’s-you-and-not-me smile, “say hi to Conrad for me”.

*  *  *

The sky blue Mobile Land Yacht sat in the driveway of my parents’ home in University Place. The matching house reflected in its luminescent wax job. I pulled into the open space next to the land yacht. The Love Wagon glowed from the polish like the hair of a mole in a mirror.

My father, wearing his signature blue Polo shirt and khaki pants, leaned against the garage door. He glanced at his watch, “You made good time. Shall we go?”

“How’s mom?” I asked.

“She’s spending a little quality time with the porcelain throne,” he said, polishing the bald spot of his horseshoe hairdo, “let’s just agree she is a little less than thrill by the experience.” My father opened the passenger door of the land yacht. “Shall we go?”

Ten minutes later the land yacht parked in front of a bright orange door marked, 43. My father rolled up the door.

My heart belly flopped into my gut. Tightly stacked boxes reminiscent of a Rubik’s cube towered over us.

“Let’s get started,” my father said, handing me a pair of gloves.

One hour later—sweat soaked through our shirts—we removed the fifth and final row of the Rubik’s cube. Dust floated in a curious sunbeam, which snuck into the back of the unit for the first time in years.

The wrought iron bench leaned on one arm in the corner, held in place by an ancient exercise bicycle, a fake, potted palm tree, and some dumb bells. The pale blue, striped cushions teetered on top.

Using my sleeve to wipe the sweat from my face, I asked, “Can I call some charity to haul all this away?”

Laughing, my dad said, “Dream on. You wanna roll the dice like that with your mother?”

We squeezed through the maze of boxes. The cow-about-to-give-birth-weight bench slipped from my hands two feet from the Mobile Land Yacht—my arms shaking like Bond’s vodka martini.  The subsequent crash and ringing metal caused my father to drop his end. The echo bounced down the row of storage units.

“You okay,” my father asked, rubbing his hands.

“I will be in a few minutes,” I said, rubbing my quivering arms. “You?”

He nodded.

He opened the trunk, pulled out a red flag with a yellow cord, and tied it to my end of the bench. He laid a furniture blanket over the lip of the trunk. We lifted one end of the bench and lined it up with the opening.

With the judicious use of maternity grunts, we heaved the bench into a space large enough to fit my mom, two sisters, and me. The bench extended beyond the lip of the trunk, and rested on the furniture blanket. My dad tied the lid of the trunk down.

Two water bottles, two Gator Aids, and two hours later, the Rubik’s cube regained its original upright position. My body felt like overcooked vermicelli.

“How about that lunch now?” my father asked, “drive thru okay?”

I nodded.

We drove to the gate. Seven cars sped towards the intersection in front of us. The light turned green.

My father threw the Mobile Land Yacht into first gear. He plunged the gas pedal into the floor board like Van Helsing would drive a stake into a vampire’s heart. The tires smoked.

Rubber tracks traced the route of the Mobile Land Yacht when it roared out in front of a 1980’s Chevy Silverado. My body left an impression on the seat. And if I hadn’t sweat so much, it might have been more than an impression.

The G-force let go about the time he stepped on the brakes. We sloooooowed down to six-miles-per-hour.

The driver of the Silverado laid on his horn with the fury of Hurricane Katrina.

“Dad, what’re you thinking?” I said, gripping the dashboard. “This is a 35, you’re gonna get us killed.”

“No, Fannie,” my dad said, with his father knows best voice, “what gets people killed is excessive speed and not paying attention behind the wheel. It’s my sworn duty as a father to make sure that doesn’t happen here. These people will thank me later because I just saved their lives.”

“You’re giving me a heart attack,” I said. My right foot searching for the gas pedal.

The Mobile Land Yacht coasted down the center line between Mildred Street’s two north bound lanes. Cars packed the turn lanes like checkers stuck on the backgammon bar, which prevented people from passing. The horns ratcheted up to to the level of a heavy metal concert. Five minutes and one-half mile later we moseyed up to the drive thru window at McDonald’s.

*  *  *

Laughter filled the driveway. George and Bunny leaned against each other gasping for breath. Tears flooded down their cheeks when Richard snorted. They shook like Jell-O gigglers.

“So Fannie,” Richard asked, holding his sides, “I know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, does that mean the road to McDonald’s is block by a S.Imp.R.O.S.?”

If I could have raised my arm, I would have saluted him with the family sign. . . .

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Fannie, I Am Your Father—Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I will be re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. The original “Fannie, I Am Your Father” posted back in October 2013. It’s been embellished a little since then.

 *  *  *

Cool mid-morning rays of an August sun raced across the hilltops, which crowned Gig Harbor, Washington, on their way to a small brown and gray rambler in a cul de sac. The sunlight streamed through the windows. It illuminated the dining room table as Bunny Gutierrez walked into our home.

I poured Bunny a cup of coffee. She took the cup and breathed in before taking a sip. A smile spread across her face.

My husband, Richard walked into the kitchen to pour himself a cup. He clinked his mug with Bunny’s. Turning to me he said, “Fannie, I am your father.”

Darth Vader groaned, I joined him.

“Richard, honey, why do you torture poor Fannie with that Darth Vader voice?” Bunny Gutierrez asked with her refined Texas accent. Her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail behind her head, crowning her statuesque figure.

Richard laughed. His devilish grin draped his face like the Miss America sash.

I rolled my eyes. “Bunny,” I said, shivering from the memory, “don’t get him started.”

“Fannie, it’s your story, Richard said, winking, “you should tell it.”

“Bunny, before you and George moved to the neighborhood, we had an ancient furnace and hot water heater,” I said, “You may have heard me talk about Ol’ Betsy and the Bubblator. . .”

*  *  *

The morning sun bled through the freezing fog, which draped Highway 16. It rolled west across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and wrapped its arms around Gig Harbor, Washington. The temperature stayed in the 20-degree Fahrenheit range for the first week of March.

Fannie, do you smell that?” Richard asked. He walked down the hallway to the kitchen.

“It smells like ozone and burnt hair,” I said, wrinkling my nose.

“Look at the smoke detector. Is that smoke?” Richard asked, swiping his finger through the brown soot halo surrounding it. His finger left a streak.

The ring darkened around the smoke detector.

“Oh my god,” I said, running my fingers through my brown hair, “it scorched the paint.”

“Do you hear that?” Richard asked.

“I’ve got the dishwasher and the washing machine going. Why?”

“Look down,” Richard said, pointing at my feet.

Water poured in rivulets from the kitchen and the laundry room. Steam rose from the carpet as it raced by our shoes into the family room forming a tropical indoor water feature.

“What the hell?” I said, grabbing the dish towels from the drawer. I charged the dishwasher like Don Quixote charged a windmill.

“Forget the dishwasher, you need to get the water cut off. You grab the water key and get outside.” Richard said, the pitch of his voice dropping into the crawlspace with the water.

“What’re you gonna do?” I asked, sloshing my way toward the garage behind Richard.

“Turn off the electrical before the house catches on fire,” Richard said. His stride doubled and created a rooster tail. I trotted to keep up.

Richard opened the door to the garage. Water cascaded into the garage. Ol’ Betsy clanked like a ranch cook calling farm hands in for dinner. I grabbed the water key from the wall next to the Bubblator. He bubbled like an old percolator.

Richard reached the electrical panel. He threw the main circuit. A small tendril of black smoke escaped Ol’ Betsy like a sigh of relief.

Outside the garage, I broke the ice off the cover to the water main. Using the key like a lever, I heaved the lid off. Inserting the key into the handle and turning it until it stopped, the sound of water evaporated.

Richard removed Ol’ Betsy’s front panel. Scorch marks covered the motor.

I called our Insurance Agent.

“Oh my, Mrs. Cranium, that sounds bad, we’ll get an adjustor out to your place in the couple of weeks.  There are a lot of broken pipes this time of year, yah know. The adjustor’ll be able to help with the water damage, but I’m afraid you’re on your own with the furnace. That’s a maintenance issue and not covered.”

Try living without heat for an extended period of time.

On the bright side, our gas and electric bills migrated to less than $10 a month.

Three months crawled by before the insurance adjuster came to the house to view the damage.

We lacked heat. Part of the lights remained turned off since they shared the same circuit as the furnace. And our house smelled of mold. He took pity on us.

The insurance company cut a check three days later.

Richard held the check in his hand. “Fannie, we have enough money to replace the dish washer, washer, dryer, and carpeting with a little left over. We have a decision. There’s enough money here to cover the electrical or replace the furnace, not both.”

I massaged the back of my neck for a moment. “What if instead of replacing the carpeting professionally, we get floor tile and laminate, and install it ourselves,” I said. “My dad can help us. He loves that sort of thing.”

“Your dad huh?” Richard studied me for a moment. “That doesn’t answer the question about the electrical or heat,” he said, putting the check on the kitchen counter between us.

I filled up our coffee cups. The steam danced above our cups. “The only damage to Ol’ Betsy is the motor, right?” I asked.

Richard nodded.

“We replace the motor,” I said, tapping my index finger against my lips. “That should last a few more years. That’ll leave us with enough to repair the electrical without borrowing money. What do you think?”

Richard ran his finger around the lip of his coffee cup.  “Let’s do it.”

*  *  *

Richard and I unloaded the flooring from the back of the Love Wagon, a red Ford F150 with queen futon and disco ball removed for purposes of hauling.

The sky blue Mobile Land Yacht pulled into our driveway. The Love Wagon reflected in the high gloss wax. My father climbed out of the car—dressed in a white t-shirt with front pocket, black Bermuda shorts, black trouser socks and black sandals.

“Dad, that’s what you’re wearing to lay down flooring?” I asked, my eyebrows matching the peaks of the Olympic Mountains. “Are you nuts?” I asked.

“Fannie, I am your father,” he said with a smile, “I brought my coveralls, knee pads, work boots, and gloves. But who wants to wear that on the first warm, sunny day we’ve had since October?” Winking at Richard, he said, “And in case it gets too hot, I brought my Speedo tool belt.”

My stomach did a two and a half somersault with a twist before splash down. The vision of my father’s pot belly hanging out over a red Speedo bikini with twigs and dirt clinging to his skin flashed up from the archives of my mind. The bikini hanging low supporting a hammer, a tape measure, and two clippers never faded. Sweat acting like an adhesive allowing the bikini to defy gravity—gave me the heebie jeebies.

Richard laughed. “Well Conrad, it looks like you’re in time to help us unload while Fannie recovers,” he said, his devilish grin commandeered his face.

“So what happened with Ol’ Betsy?” my father asked. He picked up a box of tiles.

“Everyone wants to replace these days, no one wants to repair. It only took seven phone calls to find someone who would replace the motor,” Richard said, shaking his head.

We stacked the tile in a neat cube on the garage floor next to the left over pile of plywood. We staged the laminate next to the tile.

My father pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. He mopped his forehead. “Have you to rented a tile cutter yet?”

Richard and I looked at each other. “A tile cutter?” I asked.

“Trust me, you don’t want to score tile by hand,” he said, polishing the bald spot of his horseshoe hairdo, “it will save time and our knees. Where are the tile spacers, grout, backer board, membrane, and the rest of the tools?”

*  *  *

Two days later, the rented tile saw sat in the garage underneath the flickering fluorescent light fixture. Tile spacers sat on the work bench along with sponges, trowel, putty knife, bucket, rags, setting material, and matching grout. The backer board and waterproof membrane lay on top of the plywood in the corner.

Ol’ Betsy clanked when my father walked into the garage. “I see Ol’ Betsy’s back on her feet,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder.

“Yeah, now we have heat when we don’t need it,” I said, laughing. “And I won’t be able to help you guys beyond today. The manager of our Seattle office was in a car accident and will be out for the next six weeks, so I’ll be covering and commuting.”

“Fannie, I am your father. I’m sure Richard and I will manage somehow without you,” he said, mimicking Richard’s devilish grin.

Centipedes crawled up my spine.

The next evening, I pulled into the driveway. The garage door stood open. Richard’s back faced the driveway. He stood next to the tile saw using a shiny miter saw. He did not hear me approach.

I waited until he finished his cut, and tapped him on the shoulder. He jumped sideways. The shriek, which left his lips, would have challenged a mezzo soprano.

“Don’t scare me like that,” Richard said, clutching his chest. I could see his pulse beating in his neck.

“Sorry,” I said, stifling a laugh. “So what’s with the new power tool.”

Richard’s shoulders relaxed. He exchanged fright for the smile of an eight-year-old boy with a new train set. “Your dad told me I had to have this.”

“He did, did he,” I said, shaking my head.

“It’s so cool, look what it can do,” Richard said, grabbing a piece of flooring and running it through the saw at an angle. Counting on my love of all things power tools, he had me at cool.

“Can I try?” I asked, picking up a pair of safety glasses.

*  *  *

“Bunny, every night for the next two weeks, I came home to find new power tools that my father told Richard we couldn’t live without,” I said shaking my head. “They finished laying the tile and the laminate at the end of week three.”

Richard laughed. I stuck my tongue out at him.

Bunny laughed. “Fannie, honey, that doesn’t explain the Darth Vader voice,” Bunny said, her pony tail wagging behind her head.

“The voice,” I said, shuddering. “They finished on a Friday night. Traffic was horrible, all I wanted to do was come home and crawl in bed.” I crossed my arms rubbing them for warmth. “My dad’s car was still in the driveway when I got home. I walked in the house to find them enjoying a beer together.”

Richard and my father sat on the sofa in the family room. Both men dressed in white t-shirts with front pocket, black Bermuda shorts, black trouser socks and black sandals. Richard shaved his head to match my father’s trimmed horseshoe hairdo. Music from Star Wars played on the stereo.

I stood in the hallway. My jaw unhinged. The thud it made when it hit the ground signaled my presence. They raised their beers to me.

Darth Vader’s theme poured from the speakers. Smiling with his devilish grin set to red alert, Richard said, “Fannie, I am your father.”

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Forget Everything but the Epsom Salts Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I will be re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. The original “Forget Everything but the Epsom Salts” posted back in November  2014. It’s been embellished a little since then.

*  *  *

The fall season changed in Western Washington from mythical sunshine to drizzle and wind with regular dollops of thick fluffy fog—fog thick enough to write your name with a Starbucks swizzle stick. The mercury reached 50º F. The indigenous population celebrated by pulling out their rain skis, because no sane Washingtonian would consider snow skis in November or they’d have to cancel their REI membership.

* * *

Fog wrapped it’s arms around the fishing village of Gig Harbor, Washington, the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula, in the shadow of Mount Rainier, forty miles south of Seattle. The Sunday afternoon sun loosing the battle to the fog.

My husband, Richard Cranium and I cleaned up the front yard of our brown and gray rambler after the passage of another successful Halloween celebration. I surveyed our progress with satisfaction. Richard carried a string of lights inside the house for repair.

Nineteen-year-old Zack Taylor ran up our street. His strawberry-blond curls bobbing in pace. Riley, his two-year-old, black Labrador retriever at his heels.

“Hi Mrs. C.. I see you almost got all your Halloween decorations put away,” he said, panting in rhythm with his dog. Their breath blending with the fog. He wore a black Metal Church t-shirt from the 1990’s. It stretch across his chest. It was meant for someone a size smaller.

“I see you stole your mom’s t-shirt again,” I said, laughing, running my fingers through my short brown hair. If he knew what his mom did to get that shirt, he might never wear it again. It reminded me of earning beads during Mardi Gras.

“She finally gave it to me,” he said, with a fist pump.  “Do you want some help with that?” he asked, pointing to the life-sized zombie staked to the ground.

Riley wandered around the yard. He sniffed the moss, ferns, rhododendrons, fir and cedar trees, Oregon grape, and rocks. Leaving his mark on the non-existent grass and anything suspicious.

“Sure,” I said, pulling out the last stake holding the zombie upright.

Zack caught it mid-fall. It forced him backwards. Riley barked. The fur on the back of his neck rising.  “Down boy,” Zack said. “It’s not real. See.” He made the zombie dance in front of him.

Riley sniffed the air. He inched toward the zombie.

Zack yelled, “Boo,” and thrust the zombie forward.

Riley jumped back. His tail went between his legs. He whined, crouched, and circled us. A low growl for accompaniment.

“Zack, that’s enough,” I said, good lord, I’m live-channeling my mother’s official “Mom” tone, “stop teasing your dog.” Ouch.

Zack stared at me. Surprise flickered across his face. “Sorry, Mrs. C.,” he said, contrition flooding his voice. Lowering the zombie, he asked, “Where does this go?”

“Follow me,” I said, leading him into the double car garage. “He should fit on top of that shelf,” I said, pointing to the empty top shelf labeled “Zombie,” just above the shelf housing the candles and stemless wine glasses. I moved my white step ladder out of the way.

Zack tucked the zombie onto the shelf. “How do you get that up there by yourself, Mrs. C.? No offense, but he’s bigger than you are.”

“I may be short, but I’m scrappy,” I said, pulling up the sleeves of my black and white striped rugby shirt.

Richard walked out into the garage. He wore his favorite gray sweat shirt, the sleeves shoved up to his elbows. His tall, lean frame towering over me and Zack.  He shook Zack’s hand. “So what brings you over?” he asked, eying Zack’s t-shirt. His devilish grin spread across his lips.

“Riley and I were out for a run.” Riley laid at his feet. His head popped up. His tail wagged. “I spotted Mrs. C. picking up the last of your yard decor,” he said, shoving his hands in the pockets of his navy blue sweatpants.

“Zack helped me put away the big zombie,” I said, smiling.  Tapping my lips with my index finger, I said, “He also told me his mother finally gave him that t-shirt.”

“I see,” Richard said, nodding his head. The depth of his voice conveyed a double entendre which sailed over Zack’s head. “Well, since you’re here, you can help me shelve the last of these tombstones.” Richard handed him the Ogre Yoga tombstone.

Zack stared at it for a minute. He mouthed, “Tired of munching on human bones all day.” He looked up. “I have very fond memories of this tombstone,” he said, running his fingers across the white painted board with black lettering.

“You mean, like the time you lifted it from our yard and wired it to the back of your dad’s car?” I asked, winking. “And he drove to Seattle and back never knowing.”

Zack fair skin produced a pale shade of red. “Something like that.” He looked back at the tombstone. His head popped up. Hope spread across his face. “Can I have it?” he asked, the pitch of his voice left the basement and headed for 13-years-old.

“Zack, I’ll tell you what,” I said, glancing at Richard. “You graduate from college and it’s your graduation present. I’ll even frame it for you if you want.”

“You’re on Mrs. C.,” he said, clasping the board against his chest with his left arm. He shook my hand with enough vigor, I thought my teeth might fall out.

Little Black Kitty, the neighborhood vermin assassin, trotted into our garage. He carried a dead mole in his mouth. He froze when he saw Riley.

Riley sprang to his feet. He lunged for the cat.

Little Black Kitty leaped six feet up. He landed on the top shelf with the zombie.

Riley charged. Jumping at the shelf and hitting it with his body. Bouncing backwards—falling to the ground with a grunt.

The shelf tottered. It tilted forward.

We yelled, “NO,” in unison, and lunged for the shelve. Little Black Kitty dropped his mole. He leaped onto Richard’s work bench, knocked over the bags of Epsom salts and alfalfa meal sending them onto the floor, and raced out of the garage.

Riley sprang to his feet. Before he moved two steps down the driveway, Zack grabbed his collar and held him back.

Gravity over took the shelf.

Richard and I jumped backwards. The shelves crashed. My heart slammed into my dry throat looking for an exit. The boxes housing the wine glasses burst open spraying glass shards, sending echos down the street.

Richard threw his arms around me, spinning me out of the way. Pieces of glass grazed his left hand and arm. A curved piece of glass embedded in the back of his hand. Riley barked and dragged Zack down the driveway.

Colorful euphemisms flavored the air.

“Richard, are you all right?” I asked, my words ending in a squeak.

Blood trickled down Richard’s hand. It dripped from his fingers.

“We need to get you in for stitches,” I said, my voice quavering. My stomach churning a two-and-a-half somersault with a twist.

“No, Fannie, I’ll be fine,” he said, the color rising in his face. “I’ve had worse and you know it.” The inflection of his voice slamming the door behind him.

Zack walked into the garage, Riley at his heels. He stared at Richard’s hand. “Whoa, Mr. C., you really need to go to a doctor.”

Richard’s eyes flashed. “I’m not going to a doctor, and that’s final.” His voice smoldering on the border of anger. Leaning forward, cradling his bleeding hand, and speaking with a slow, deliberate pace, emphasizing each word, he said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll get this to stop bleeding, you start cleaning up this disaster.”

Zack stiffened. Riley whined. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck salute.

*  *  *

Two days later Richard walked into the house carrying the mail.

“Fannie, would you look at this?” he asked, his voice carrying wonder. He held up a hand-crafted, thick, blue-gray envelope with our address handwritten on it in Clarissa’s, Zack’s mom, artistic cursive. “It’s from Zack,” Richard said, handing me the envelope.

The envelope contained a letter on matching stationery and a $100 gift card for Pier 1.

In Clarissa’s handwriting, ‘Dear Mr. and Mrs. C, I want to apologize for Riley’s and my part in destroying your Halloween decorations. Please accept this gift card as payment toward replacing the wine glasses.’ Followed by a scribble meant for a signature and a post script in slightly better scribble, ‘P.S. I hope you haven’t changed your mind about the ogre tombstone.’

Our eyes met. Laughter poured from every orifice.

“Looks like we’ll be making a trip to Pier 1 this weekend,” Richard said, catching his breath and rubbing his hand.

Taking his hand, I asked, “Are you putting Neosporin on these cuts?” The mildly red, puffy cuts on his hand not healing well.

“Yes, I am,” he said, pulling his hand back. A defensive tone colored his voice.

* * *

I entered the house a moment ahead of Richard Thursday evening after work. We walked into the bright yellow and white kitchen. On the end of the yellow linoleum counter sat the white cordless phone. The indicator light on the phone flashed.

I pressed the button.

“Fannie, it’s Dr. Malarkey. I’m making a house call,” he laughed like Santa. “Okay, you got me, I’m calling your house. Velverlorn called. Give me a call back. And forget the Neosporin, get out the Epsom salts.”

I met Richard’s eyes. They darkened slightly. His lips pressed into a straight line. He drew in a deep breath, puffing it out his nose. His shoulders tightened. “Fannie, I thought it was a crank call until he mentioned your mother. Who is Dr. Malarkey?”

The words rushed out of me like they were running from a fire. “He used to practice here in Gig Harbor before he retired. He’s practically family. He grew up in George and Bunny’s house across the street. And he even delivered me when I was born.”

“And why does he sound like the Uptown Santa?” Richard drummed his fingers on the yellow counter top.

I put my hand on his arm. “You’ve already met him. He is the Uptown Santa. I didn’t want our pictures ruined if you found out he was a doctor. Richard, he’s really good—and not a pill pusher.”

“Is Malarkey really his name?” he asked, skepticism crept into his voice.

“Is Richard Cranium really yours?” I asked, my right eyebrow forming a pyramid on my forehead. “You didn’t corner the market on unbelievable names yah know,” I said, trying to squash my sarcasm. “His dad lost a bet to his uncle and had to name his first born, Phul O’ Malarkey. I’m sure YOU can imagine what he went through growing up.” I took a breath. “You should hear the story he tells about going before the medical board and receiving his M.D.,” I said, laughing.

Richard’s shoulders softened. “All right, call him back,” he said, the tone of his voice radiating doubt tinged with irritation.

YES. I gave myself a mental high five. I dialed Dr. Malarkey’s number.

“Fannie, you’re mom filled me in about you know who and the you know what,” Dr. Malarkey said, his voice filled with jovial conspiracy. “It’s one of the oldest cures in the book, forget everything but the Epsom salts.”

“Epsom salts, we use those in the garden. How do we use it?” I asked, glancing at Richard who sat on the kitchen bar stool next to me listening to the conversation. His face a stone mask—the New Zealand warrior kind, except he hadn’t stuck his tongue out at me yet.

“You’re gonna heat up enough water to fill up your 9” x 13” glass pan, cause with the size of Richard’s hand, the 8” x 8” I usually prescribe won’t work here,” he said, laughing with a tinge of Santa thrown in. “Put two tablespoons of Epsom salts into the water and stir until it completely dissolves. While the water is still hot, but cool enough to soak his hand in it, soak it for five minutes. Repeat this four times a day until the redness disappears.”

“That’s it?” I asked, surprised.

“Well, don’t drink the water, it’ll have small particle of puss floating in it,” he said, in doctor speak. “Although, if you do accidentally drink some, don’t drink too much, or you’ll quickly be performing a scene from ‘Colonoscopy, the Musical,’ If you know what I mean.” He laughed: Ho, ho, ho—snort.

Richard chuckled.

* * *

Richard parked the Love Wagon—a red Ford F150, with disco ball and futon in the back—next to a late model, silver Mercedes C-Class coupe with a personalized license plate, ‘BON VIN’, in front of Pier 1 Saturday morning.

We walked into the store. Sunlight filtered through the clouds and filled the front of the store with muted light. One customer shopped on the far side of the showroom. Four clerks dusted and stacked inventory.

The clerk closest to us, about my towering height of five feet tall, wearing a black apron, asked, “Can I help you?”

“Yes, we need a lot of stemless wine glasses. Do you have any in stock right now?” I asked, looking toward the glass wear on the left side of the store.

“Follow me,” she said, with a smile. She lead us to a wall covered with dark-stained wooden shelves. They supported a myriad of glass ware. Above my head, two shelves displayed stemless wine glasses in a variety of sizes.

Richard said, over the top of me, “We’ll take ’em all.”

The clerk faced him. Her eyes wide. Her tongue thrust just through her lips. “All of them?” she asked. She licked her lips.

“That’s right. I’ll help you carry them,” Richard said, a smile spread over his face.

She looked at me.

“He’s not kidding,” I said, shaking my head. “Do you have a basket or some boxes we could fill?”

“Okay, I’ll be right back,” she said, over her shoulder, her voice conveying resignation. She disappeared into the back of the store.

Richard found a couple of baskets. He handed one to me. We made our first trip to the counter. The store manager cleared a space for us. She pulled out a large box of gray wrapping paper. The clerk met us back at the shelves.

On my second trip to the counter, a slender woman in her late fifties—with a perfect silver wedge hairdo, diamond stud earrings, platinum bangle bracelets, an enormous solitaire diamond ring on her left hand, a platinum, champagne-bottle broach with diamonds for bubbles pinned to her jacket lapel and her nails manicured a soft lavender to match her outfit—stood at the counter.

I set my basket on the counter about a foot away from her.

Making eye contact, she said, in a warm, friendly voice, “Our daughter got married a few weeks ago. One of our friends gave her several stemless wine goblets like the ones your purchasing.” She waved her hand toward my basket. “So when they got back from their honeymoon, they invited us over for their first meal in their new home. We brought a couple of bottles of Verite La Joie to celebrate.” The smile lines around her eyes made her eyes glow. Her lips spread into a joyous smile. “What a generous gift you must be giving someone,” she said, her gray eyes dancing, complimenting her hair color.

Richard walked up behind me with the last box of glass wear. “Oh, these aren’t for gifts, they’re to put in our yard.”

The woman stiffened. Her chin shot up. Her nostrils flared. She set the items she held on the counter. She slid her purse up over her shoulder and straightened the lavender-color jacket of her suit. She marched out of the store, and climbed into the silver Mercedes. The engine started. The tires squealed in reverse.

Richard set down the box he carried. He put his hand on my shoulder. “What do you suppose got into her?” he asked, the tone of his voice full of amazement.

Scratching my head, I said, “I don’t know. Maybe she forgot everything but the Epsom salts?”

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Zero Mostel

This month’s contribution to the Blog of Funny Names. Zero Mostel, one of comedy’s brightest.

The Blog of Funny Names

Greetings funny names fans. Today we’re traveling in the “Not-so-way-back-machine” to a time when the world was in black and white, if you watched television, to visit with one of the greatest comedians of the 20th century.

If this man represents zero, we may have to rethink the numbering system. If this man represents zero, we may have to rethink the numbering system.

Born Samuel Joel Mostel, his mother, Cina “Celia” Druchs Mostel, nick named him Zero allegedly trying to inspire him to do better in school so he wouldn’t amount to zero. It must have worked be was able to speak four languages, English, Yiddish, Italian and German, helping him reach more of New York’s audiences.

Zero was also a prolific painter. While still in school his mom would dress him up in a velvet suit and send him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to practice copying masterpieces. He painted John Alexander White’s “Study in Black and Green” everyday…

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