Yoga is not for Sissies

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 “Yoga is not for Sissies” posted back in July 2011. It’s been embellished a little since then.

 * * *

Rain mixed with snow fell from the night sky over Gig Harbor, Washington.

Crack. The Yule log split sending sparks up the chimney. Two orange cats formed a fur knot in the far corner of the living room sofa.

Flames reflected from the red, silver, gold and green foil wrapped boxes under the Christmas tree. The smell of hot apple pie battled with the fruit, brandy and spices of the mince meat pie, the undercurrents of roast turkey faded to the background.

My family filed into the living room after dessert.

Lenora Jane, the oldest—a towering five-feet tall in heels—with an attitude to match the altitude, tucked her shoulder-length brown hair-model locks behind one ear. She handed me a long, slender box wrapped in silver foil dotted in small, white snow flakes. A two-inch-wide white-lace ribbon held a small cedar bough, miniature cones, and dried red berries in place of a bow.

“Fannie, I want you to open my gift first,” Lenora Jane said, smiling. She rocked back and forth on her heels. Straightening her blouse, she asked, “Well?”

I slid the ribbon from the package. It slipped from my fingers. Eleanor, my younger and tallest sister by one-quarter of an inch, dove for the ribbon like bridesmaids in The Hamptons dive for a coveted bouquet. “Whatever you do, don’t rip the paper, I can re-use it,” she said, holding out her hand.

I rolled my eyes. I slid my finger under the two, slender strips of tape. Pop. Pop. The paper fell free. Eleanor caught it. Gary Bromley’s Yoga Class in a box. Contains instructional book, DVD and Yoga mat.

“I know you’ll love it,” Lenora Jane said, beaming. “I saw it written on your bucket list at Thanksgiving.”

My bucket list resides in an envelope taped to the back of a rolling, two-drawer file cabinet tucked underneath Richard’s desk. Dust bunnies keep twenty-four hour surveillance. The dust bunnies told no tales of tampering. Professor Moriarty wouldn’t have lasted one round with Lenora Jane.

I gave her a big hug. Check another item off the bucket list.

Two months later during my annual physical, my doctor said, “You shrank one-half inch. You might try Yoga.”

Coming from a vertically challenged family, I watched the video. Yoga is not for sissies.

I rolled out the aquamarine Yoga mat that matched the box, DVD and companion book.

“Relax back into Peaceful pose extending out one leg at a time.”

Richard limped into the room. He sat in the swivel rocker and watched me work through the video. Ten minutes in he joined me.

“Now let’s do Eagle folding its wings.”

Pop, pop, pop.

With each new pose, Richard’s hip moved closer to the anatomically correct position.

“From Downward Dog, move your right leg forward between your arms.”

When we finished, Richard walked out of the room. No limp. I ordered a Yoga mat and two carrying cases.

 * * *

Yoga, week three. Towering over me, Richard recovered more than an inch of height. I yearned for a Yoga-induced yoctometer.

“…taking the counter posture, holding Palm Tree.”

For the first time ever, Richard’s knuckles grazed the ceiling. I touched my toes.

“Relax back into Child pose.”

Richard’s yoga mat arrived along with our carrying cases. Have Yoga mats, will travel.

The next day we visited an orthopedic surgeon.

“Richard, there is a half-inch difference between the two hips joints. We’re going to take you off the arthritis medications and schedule you for hip replacement surgery,” the doctor said. “I can get you onto the books in late May.”

“Fannie, why don’t we go on a road trip before the surgery?” Richard asked, rubbing the back of his neck. “You know, just in case. . .”

Searching his eyes, I said, “You’re on.”

Two weeks before our trip, Richard brought in the suit cases. “It never hurts to be prepared,” he said.

The next morning, while I held monkey pose—snap, snap, snap, snap—like Robert Wallace yelling freedom with his last breath. Richard grabbed the chair next to him, his eyes bulged—my bra committed suicide.

A devilish grin spread across his face. “Now that’s what I call a wardrobe malfunction.”

Grasping my chest with both arms, I said, “Well I guess I know what I’ll be doing later.”

* * *

As I listened to the phone ring, the memory of sun-warmed lavender tickled my nose.

“Hi, it’s Fannie. I need some bras.”

“Fannie, I am out of your size right now, let me order them and I‘ll call you when they come in,” she said. “What colors do you want?”

“Colors?” I asked. The pitch of my voice climbed the stairs in the Statue of Liberty “Just beige.”

“What? You need to live a little. They also come in cocoa latte, purple, black—and red.”

“I’m not sure I’m ready for color,” I said, my legs bouncing on the bar stool rest.

“Yes, you are. Every woman, no matter who they are, needs a little excitement in their lingerie. You’ll just feel better. Now what colors do you want?”

“I’m leaving on a trip in two weeks,” I said, squeezing my eyes shut, “how about black?”

“Come on,” she said, infusing the force of a lead weight dropping from the Tower of Pisa into her voice.

“All right,” I said, shaking my head, “one of each color.”

* * *

The day before we left, Richard placed the giant, analog sports timer on the wall of the family room and set it to count down the next twenty-four hours before we left.

Ring, Ring.

Richard answered the phone. “Fannie, it’s the Bra Lady.”

She said, “Fannie, your new bras arrived and you can’t leave town without them.  Where can I meet you? I’m not at my shop.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m driving back from an errand,” she said. “I’ll be cutting down Peacock Hill on the way back into town.”

“That’s perfect. I have to drop my cats off at the kennel, Where do you want to meet?”

“How about the parking lot of Merle Norman. Say, in ten minutes?” she asked.

“I’m on my way,” I said, ushering the two cats out to the Love Wagon. A red Ford F150 with a queen futon and disco ball.

A late model white sedan waited in the parking lot. I drove up next to her and rolled down my window.

“This is so clandestine,” she said, winking. “I even put them in an unmarked brown paper bag.  Where else are you going to get service like this?” she asked, handing me the bag through the window.

We laughed.

If the police saw our little transaction, imagine the fun of showing them bras.

* * *

3 a.m., the alarm clock crowed like a rooster avoiding castration.

“Mom, I just want five more minutes. I promise I’ll get right up . . . zzzzzz.”

3:10 a.m. the second alarm heralded the second coming.

“All right already, we’re getting up,” I said, waving my hand in the general direction of the alarm clock and catching nothing but air.

Richard leaped out of bed with the enthusiasm of a morning person. He turned the clock off. My zombie avatar clanked as the motors revved my body upright, wool socks muffling my feet thumping while moving around the house pretending humanity.

4:30 a.m.. The sun still asleep in bed. We burned pavement. The longest vacation of our marriage. Two days later we arrived in Sturgis, South Dakota, with the rising moon.

Richard pulled into the parking lot of the Super 8. The clerk handed us a key for a room on the first floor. Richard and I fist bumped when we reached our room at the end of the corridor.

“Feel like a little Yoga to work out the drive?” I asked, winking.

Richard and I rolled out our mats.

“Well at least we won’t wake the neighbors,” he said, grinning.

When we checked out the next morning the young man behind the counter stared at Richard and his towering frame.

“You can do Yoga?” he asked, scratching his chin. “I tried Yoga once. It nearly killed me.”

Richard said, “You’re doing it all wrong.  Do you have a girlfriend?”

“Yes,” he said, blinking his eyes.

“Here’s what you do,” Richard said, leaning his arm on the counter, “dress your girlfriend up in spandex. Get out the Yoga DVD. Put her mat in front of yours. Better yet, have her invite some of her girlfriends over. Its important they wear spandex as well. Stand in back. Ten minutes in, you won’t feel a thing. Trust me.”

He whispered into my ear, “Or you can wear really great underwear. That did it for me.”

Three days before Richard’s hip surgery, my doctor measured me again. We found the missing half inch.

* * *

If the male population in Sturgis dies from Yoga, we didn’t do it. If the population surges outside of Rally week, they’re on their own.

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Farewell to the Bubblator—Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I have been re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run.

The original “Farewell to the Bubblator” posted back in September 2011. It’s been embellished a little since then. The story was re-posted last summer, and here it is again like my favorite re-run of Gilligan’s Island . . . thanks Little Buddy.:)

* * *

The summer’s heat faded from the shores of Gig Harbor, Washington. The air crisp and yellowing leaves meant one thing, time to fire-up ol’ Betsy.

Her pilot light disappeared after several months of slumber.

“Richard, do you know how this thing works?” I asked, staring at the furnace, running my fingers through my short brown hair.

“Haven’t the foggiest,” he said, clearing cob webs from the outside of the pilot light housing. He wiped his hand on his faded blue jeans. It left a trail of dust and rolled cobweb on his right leg.

“Can you see instructions anywhere?” I asked, tugging up the sleeves on my favorite, faded forest green sweatshirt.

“Hand me that flash light,” he said. He pointed the beam inside the housing.  A spider commune and remnants of past feasts clung to the walls. “Nope, no instructions. Do you want to wing it?” he asked, winking. His devilish grin commandeering his face. His blue eyes twinkling.

“Yeah right. I’ll start calling contractors and see if anyone is available to help us,” I said, shooting him look number 10 from my mother’s arsenal—redirecting jokester husbands with a glance.

The Bubblator, located next to ol’ Betsy, burbled his agreement with a hardy, “blub, blub, blub.”

Fifteen phone calls later, my left ear resembled a cauliflower.  “Richard, I found someone who can be here tomorrow morning.”

 *  *  *

Erick, the contractor, in his well-worn, blue service coveralls, stretched a little too tight around his middle, stood in front of our vintage furnace—his eyes wide. He blinked in rapid succession. He shook his head. His fingers traced the name plate.

“I’ve been working in this field for over 30 years now and I thought all these had been replaced years ago. Look at this date stamp. It was manufactured in 1977,” he said, rubbing his chin.

The Bubblator gurgled his agreement.

Erick jumped backwards. The wall stopped him.

“What the . . . ,” he said. His chest pumped up and down. His breath in short spurts. He pushed his wire rimmed glasses back up his nose.

“That’s our hot water heater. He talks,” I said, smiling. “Bubblator meet Erick. Erick this is the Bubblator.”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Erick said, rubbing his right elbow. “Hot water heaters are only designed for 10-years of life.  This thing has got to be over 30-years-old. And it shouldn’t talk.”

Two loud glubs exploded within the Bubblator, followed by a series of small bubbles bursting, reminiscent of someone blowing a raspberry.

“See, what did I tell you,” I said, my hands on my hips.

Erick eyed the Bubblator. “That thing’s a hazard and should be replaced,” he said, the tone of his voice like a scolding great aunt.

From any room in our house the sounds of the Bubblator and ol’ Betsy—working away in cheerful mechanical harmony, bubble, bubble, chug, chug, whir with an occasional rattle thrown in for good measure—kept us company.

My Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl installed them both when my grandmother left them the house in her will. The Bubblator never leaked in his three-times normal life.

Very impressed with the craftsmanship and unintentional life span, I said, “Bubblator, you rock.”

Blub, blub, blub.

Erick took a step back.

“Come on,” I said, the tone of my voice filled with exasperation, “according to my Uncle Carl that’s what he’s supposed to do. It’s our first gas powered hot water heater, I assumed he made those noises because of the higher water temperatures.”

Richard—expressing his doubts for a couple of years now—said, “You can lead a horse to water.”

Erick tore Ol’ Betsy apart. He cleaned her and re-lit the pilot light. The house exhaled as it came up to temperature.

“I’ll be surprised if this furnace survives the winter,” he said, wiping his hands clean on a faded red shop towel.

My stomach dropped into my knees.

Not ready to fork out that kind of cash, we decided to wait.

Three days later, the pilot light disappeared in the manner of D.B. Cooper. We still didn’t know how to relight her.

 *  *  *

“Richard, have you seen the cats?” I asked, walking into the living room. My breath creating cartoon speech balloons. “I can’t find them.”

“Check the bedroom,” he said, his tall lean frame wrapped in his grandmother’s patchwork quilt. He sipped his coffee while tendrils of steam caressed his face. “I turned on the electric blanket for them.”

I called Erick’s office. “Could you give us a quote on a replacement furnace, hot water heater and a heat pump?” I asked, wearing the matching forest green wool hat, scarf, and gloves my mother knitted for me last Christmas.

Erick said, “I can come by in three days.”

I neglected to mention the pilot light issue. What’s heat when you have two orange cats coiled in your lap? What’s heat to native Pacific North Westerners? What’s heat to descendants of pioneering stock?

What’s three-days without heat?

Clank, whir. Burble, burble, burble.

*  *  *

Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl stopped by to pay their final respects.

“Fannie,” Aunt Verla said, in her clipped tones. She wore a floor length, dark-brown, goose-down coat, which on a taller woman would have ended at her shins. Her black boots lined with turtle fur. And an imitation brown fur hat—in homage of Zsa Zsa Gabor—in place of her favorite Betty White Wig, “they just don’t make them like that any more.” Running her gloved hand over the Bubblator. Glub, glub. “I tried to talk Butch and Bud into coming over so we could get a family photo, but they both have to work. Would you take our picture? I know you won’t mind. I brought over pictures of the boys so they won’t feel left out.” She drew a breath.

Uncle Carl wore a brown squall jacket and a fisherman’s hat. His smile plastered in an indulgence which did not match the smirk in his eyes.

Aunt Verla handed him the eight by ten head shot of Bud with Uncle Carl’s square head. Bud’s hair a wavy, slicked-back, dark-brown. The neck of a weight lifter, Uncle Carl’s smile and my aunt’s eyes. She held Butch’s photo, lean jawed, narrow nose, and thick, curly brown hair. The male version of my aunt.

The photo shoot took an hour. Ol’ Betsy and the Bubblator provided the musical entertainment.

Blub, Blub, Blub. Clank.

*  *  *

When Erick arrived, he asked, “Fannie, why are you wearing a coat indoors? Did the pilot light go out again?”

Shivering, I said, “I need a lesson in pilot lighting.”

Ol’ Betsy knew something was going on, because her motor would not turn off when we tried to relight her. Erick tore her apart again.

Two days later Erick faxed us the quote. And the grand total made a boing sound. Five minutes later he faxed over the rebate and tax credit information raising the quote to the much more comfortable ouch level.

Sticker shock is a terrible thing.

Armed with a butane camping lighter, I practiced my pilot lighting skills every other day.

We asked two other contractors for quotes. The boing sound we heard from Erick’s quote turned into the ping of a pin drop.

We hired Erick.

*  *  *

The alarm clocked sounded off at 6:30 a.m., followed by the Bubblator’s morning off-gasses and Ol’ Betsy clanking a pan.

“Richard, I think they know something’s up,” I said, pulling the cover over my head.

“Fannie, they aren’t alive, they don’t know anything,” Richard said, putting his left arm around me.


“But I could be wrong,” he said, laughing.

The fog lifted. Wisps still clung in the space between the giant red cedars highlighted by the early morning sun. The temperature dropped five degrees by the time Erick’s installers arrived with our much-anticipated equipment.

Richard put his arm around my shoulder when I photographed the Bubblator and ol’ Betsy, basked in sunlight. He handed me his handkerchief.

Burble. Burble. Purr.

They disconnected the Bubblator first. Water poured down the driveway in steaming rivulets. The house fell silent. Its voice lost.

Four hours later, volcanic-steam-vent-temperature water ran from the taps.

Ol’ Betsy emitted her last rattle, clank, and whir. A final farewell before the younger model replaced her—the second wife.

By the end of the first day, the house felt cozy like an Irish hand-knit sweater.

 *  *  *

Day two: Heat pump installation. A two-stage heat pump, this bad boy dwarfed me. Richard, a foot and a half taller than me, took a picture with me posing in the manner of Vanna White.

The job supervisor kept wringing his hands and repeating, “I’m so sorry it’ll be so noisy.”

He spent little time in the company of the Bubblator.

A technician charged the heat pump with refrigerant. He walked over to the circuit breaker panel.  With his pointing finger, he energized it.

The compressor roared to life with the ferocity of a sleeping field mouse.

We waited for the tell-tale sounds. Something to lessen the void. It hummed along in near silence.

After a few hours, the smell of recycled dust disappeared, along with the parched hints of Death Valley in winter. The living room invited warmth, no longer ice cold as though inhabited by the spirits of my dead relatives.

Two orange cats planted themselves on top of the sofa in the living room. They stared out the window they way first timers look at Crater Lake.

 *  *  *

The sinus headaches stayed for two days as we acclimatized. After that we didn’t even wake up in the middle of the night to pee.

Yet the silence felt strange with no Bubblator to keep us company.

Farewell Bubblator, we miss you.

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The Caber Toss—Redux

Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I am re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. The original “The Caber Toss” posted back in January 2012. It’s been embellished a little since then.

* * *

“And for your wedding gift, I’m giving you my ironing board,” my mother said, three month before the wedding. “It’s stood the test of time. That should satisfy the something old and something blue categories. You know they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

She’d set her sights on a sleek five-pound ironing board.

“Richard will appreciate the luxury of ironed sheets,” she said, nodding her head. Her 1978-style Suzanne Pleshette wig tied into place with a pale blue silk scarf. It matched her pant suit and sandals.

The 40-pound blue-anodized aluminum ironing board circa 1947, with optional iron rest, arrived with my parents’ blessing, a large bow and a box of gilded thank you notes.

The next day the phone rang.

“Fannie, it’s been two days,” my mother said, “I haven’t seen a thank you note yet.”

I could feel the look travel through the phone lines from Gig Harbor to Seattle.  “Mom, I wrote it on the new stationery you sent me and mailed it the same day.”

The following day, another phone call.

“Fannie, I got your note, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the ironing board. It’ll last forever,” she said. She took a breath. “You know, your Aunt Verla gave it to your father and me as a wedding present.”

“Well, you can let Aunt Verla know we’ll take good care of it,” I said, running my fingers through my shoulder length brown hair, waiting for the the punch line.

“She’ll want visitation rights,” my mother said, no longer burden with custody of the gift.

Two days later the sympathy cards arrived from my sisters, rejoicing they dodged that particular bullet.

Richard read the sympathy cards. His forehead crinkled. His smile dropped about an inch.

“Fannie, I forbid you from ever ironing my sheets, EVER,” Richard said, rising up to his full height, bumping his head on the door jamb. Ire flashed in his blue eyes. “And if a sheet looks pristine I’ll crumple it up on general principle.”

He kept his word.

* * *

One parking space remained outside of the pink and white building with the cursive sign reading Chantilly Manor, Gig Harbor’s best kept secret. Wigs of every description adorned the display windows draped with off-white lace. Large french doors with polished brass knobs crowned the entrance.

The buzz of two dozen women filled the lobby and salon. The smell of hair spray commingled with perfume.

“Fannie darling, I haven’t seen you in years,” Suzy said, wearing her signature pink and white smock. “Your mom and aunt I see regularly.” She stood behind the counter. Her blond beehive hairdo tied with a pink and gold scarf rolled into a tube.  “To what do we owe this unexpected pleasure?”

“Suzy, I’m getting married and I want you to do our hair and make-up,” I said, walking up to the counter.

“Oh, we love weddings here, don’t we ladies,” Suzy said, batting her over sized black lashes at me.

A cone of silence spread over the salon. Everyone nodded.

“We’re getting married up at the Salish Lodge in two months.”

“You don’t say,” Suzy said, leaning onto the counter, resting her chin on her interlaced fingers.

“I want to do something special for my mom and aunt to thank them for all of their help,” I said, grinning. “I would like to purchase two gift certificates for six wig stylings each, it would mean the world to them,” I said, reaching for my wallet.

“Fannie darling,” she said, “I’ll make you a deal and only charge you half.”  Using her famous stylized calligraphy, Suzy filled out the certificates.

“Suzy, thank you, thank you, thank you, this will mean so much to them.”

Facing the crowd, I said, “Remember ladies, this is top secret.”

Laughter followed.

Suzy looked into the crowd. “Trust me, no one will breath a word, or I’ll refuse to do their hair. You have my word on that.”

The room went silent.

* * *

“Richard, I’ve got an appointment with the florist and the musician this afternoon, do you want to come?” I asked, putting on my rain coat and grabbing my purse and umbrella.

“No, I’ve got a bunch of stuff I’ve got to get taken care of for work so we can go on our honeymoon,” he said, kissing me on top of my head. “I trust your judgement.”

“I’ll be gone about an hour,” I said, giving him a hug.

Richard walked the five feet down the narrow hall of our new West Seattle apartment. He knocked over the forty pound ironing board leaned against the wall. It hit him in the thigh en route to the floor. The air in the apartment turned blue.

Hopping on one leg, he pointed to the ironing board. “You need to find a home for that or I swear it will disappear never to be seen again.

“Richard, I’ll unpack the boxes in the hall closet when I get back so I can put it away,” I said, shaking my head. My guts hosted a brigade of butterflies. “We cannot get rid of it. It’s a wedding present. My family will not let us hear the end of it.”

Richard hobbled to the second bedroom where we set up his office the week before. The window faced a sixty foot high basalt retaining wall covered in English ivy. As I walked down the stairs below our apartment toward the parking lot, our phone rang over the sound of rain pelting my umbrella.

* * *

Richard stood in the living room when I walked in the front door. “Fannie, I have some news for you.”

“Richard, you look horrible. Is everything all right?” I asked.

Dark circles under his eyes replaced his mischievous twinkle. “My manager called from Omaha, our company has been purchased. They’re having a mandatory training session in three weeks. I have to go to Omaha or loose my job.”

My heart landed somewhere near my ankles with a hollow thud. “Oh my god, Richard, did you tell them we’re getting married in three weeks?” I asked, twisting my ring. “We’ve already paid for everything.”

“They’ve agreed to move the meeting out two days so we can still get married, but we can’t go on our honeymoon. And they won’t reimburse us for the costs. We’ll have to see what we can salvage if anything.”

“Well,” I said, giving him a hug, “who needs to go to Australia?” The ironing board landed on my heart—squish.

My mother and I spent the next two days canceling the honeymoon.

* * *

Eight years later we saved enough to buy a home. It coincided with my aunt and uncle downsizing.

“Fannie, Richard, we’re so glad you’re buying the house, I couldn’t bear it leaving the family.  You know your mother and I were born here.  Your Uncle Carl added a hook to the wall in the broom closet to hold your ironing board,” Aunt Verla said, in her clipped tones never taking a breath, “as our way of saying thank you.”

On moving day, four cars sat parked in the cul-de-sac waiting for the moving truck to arrive.

When we arrived, my family poured from their vehicles to help us move in.

Overwhelmed by the audience, one of the movers asked, “Would you please move out of the way so we can finish our job?”

Richard pulled one of the dining room chairs from the moving van. Aunt Verla blocked his path.

“Richard, have you seen the ironing board?” Aunt Verla asked, tapping her foot.

“Not since this morning when we packed it into the truck.”

“Well let me know the minute you find it. I want to see how it looks hanging in the closet.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Richard said, rolling his eyes. He went in search of the ironing board.

From the corner of the garage between aisles of stacked boxes, my older sister—the professional amateur detective—Lenora Jane, called out, “Richard, I found it.”

Richard pulled it from the corner. The family crowded him.

“If you give me some room,” he said, staring at me over their heads, his eyes pleading for help, “we can get this put away.”

My mother held the door open. Following my aunt, Richard entered the house. The rest of us filed into the cramped hallway.

My aunt opened the broom closet door. The hook waited for its prize. Richard placed the board on the hook while the women of the family held their collective breath. The board stayed in place.

Two minutes later a succession of tail lights disappeared down the street.

“Thank heaven that’s over with, now we can actually move in,” I said, wiping my hands on my dusty blue jeans.

“Fannie, some day I am going to get rid of that ridiculous ironing board,” Richard said, his jaw muscles tightened.

“You mean the 40-pounds of pure ironing pleasure that falls on you almost every time you get near it? If you do get rid of it, I want to be far, far away because Aunt Verla will birth a cow and two cotton kittens.”

Two hours later, the movers left, leaving a trail behind them.

“Fannie, I am going to clean up a bit of this debris. Have you seen the vacuum?” Richard asked, looking around.

“Yeah I put it in the broom closet next to the ironing board,” I said, opening the linen closet door, “I wanted to make sure we could find it when we needed it,” I said, exhaustion catching up to me.  “I’m gonna make the bed so we can fall in when we’re ready.”

Richard grabbed the vacuum from the closet hooking the bottom of the ironing board. The board tottered, slipped from the hook. He threw his arm out to catch the board pinning his arm between the board and vacuum.

A scream ripped down the walls. I ran into the hallway.

“Would you get this bloody ironing board off me?” he asked, pain radiating across his face.

I lifted the board off him. We examined his arm.

“You’re gonna have one heck of a bruise but nothing else,” I said, relieved.

Richard glared at the ironing board for a moment. His shoulders stiffening, he rolled the vacuum down the hall. He disappeared around the corner. The vacuum roared to life. I made the bed.

* * *

The telephone rang somewhere in the house.  The clock read 6:18 a.m..

“Don’t answer that,” I said, rolling over.

“It’s either your mother or your aunt,” Richard said, sliding the blankets off me.

“Exactly, don’t answer it. We will call them back at a decent hour. Besides, do you remember where we put the telephone?” I asked, pulling the blankets back up.

Ten minutes later the phone rang again.

“I’m unplugging the phone,” I said, staggering out of bed. My hair mimicking a Chia pet, my eyes looked like puffed up prunes.

I made it as far as the hallway when the doorbell rang.

“This is a nightmare,” I said, stumbling toward the door, “we are going to have to set some ground rules.”

On the porch stood Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl. His cheeks bright pink. He could not look at me.

“Fannie, when you didn’t answer the phone we decided you probably didn’t have it hooked up yet. I couldn’t wait to tell you the news. So we decided to come over and tell you in person. We know it’s not your turn, but you and Richard have been nominated to host the next family holiday,” Aunt Verla said, in her clipped tone, pausing long enough to draw a breath. “Your mother and I were discussing it this morning and thought it would be a great way to host your first open house welcoming the family.”

She stopped long enough to allow me to respond. I stood there staring at her.

Looking at me for the first time since I opened the door, Aunt Verla said, “Fannie, you look a mess, you’re not even dressed yet. The day is already half over, what’s the matter?”

Taking a deep breath,  “Good morning Aunt Verla, Uncle Carl.” I said, nodding to them. “We were up half the night unpacking and decided to sleep in.  The phone is plugged in. However, we are not going to answer it until after 9 a.m..

If you decide to call before then, you will have to wait until that time for a response. Additionally, after this we won’t be answering the door until after 9 a.m. unless we are expecting you. So I request you call first instead of assuming you can just barge in anytime you want.” For the first time in my life, I’d adopted my mother’s “my-word-is-law” tone.

Aunt Verla stiffened and Uncle Carl turned away so she wouldn’t see him laughing. Her jaw pumped up and down a few times but no sound followed.

Pouncing on the moment of silence, I said, “We would be happy to host, we will send out formal invitations once we’re settled in. I’ll be serving coffee and danishes at 10 a.m., and you’re welcome to come back then. Now if there is nothing further, I’m going back to bed.”

“We’ll see you at 10,” Uncle Carl said, grinning, guiding Aunt Verla back to the car.

“Wow, Miss Spunky, I didn’t know you had it in you,” Richard said, putting his arms around me when I climbed back into bed. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard your aunt quiet that many seconds in a row.”

“It may not happen again for a while, you better enjoy it while it lasts,” I said, “they’ll be back over at 10.”

“Who do you think the other caller was?”

“My mother. I’m sure she will hear all about it before I call her back. She’ll be so pissed Aunt Verla beat her to the punch,” I said, laughing.

My parents’ mobile land yacht pulled into our driveway at 9:45 a.m., followed by Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl at 9:55, my older sister, Lenora Jane with her husband Steve, and my younger sister, Eleanor, arrived ten minutes later.

The coffee and danishes disappeared followed by a group unpack.

Uncle Carl grabbed the box knife from the kitchen counter. He reached for a box on the kitchen table. My mother carted a twenty pound bag of rice, headed toward the pantry. They collided midstream. The box knife pierced the bag. Rice spilled to the floor.

Aunt Verla, ready to save the day, dashed down the hall. She grabbed the vacuum from the broom closet. Richard exited the guest bathroom adjacent to the closet.  Aunt Verla jump. She yanked the vacuum cleaner from the closet. The vacuum’s canister caught the ironing board pulling it out, hook and all. It clattered to the floor falling toward Aunt Verla.

She screamed as the board hit the vacuum. The vacuum pushed her into the wall. She grunted. The ironing board rebounded onto Richard’s chest forcing him backwards into the door with a loud thud. Air rushed out of him.

He gasped for breath. Pain spread across Richard’s face with the speed of a wildfire. Everyone froze.

“Richard, Richard, are you all right?” I asked, adrenaline pumped into my veins.

“I’ve had it with this board,” he said, his voice low and steady. “I should have done this a long time ago.”

He picked up the board. He headed toward the garage.

Stepping in front of him, Aunt Verla asked, “Where do you think you are going with that ironing board young man?”

Richard looked her in the eye. His eyes went flat. Rising up to his full height he towered over her. Aunt Verla bit her lip.

“I’m doing what should have been done a long time ago, I’m getting rid of this monstrosity.”

Pushing passed her, he charged into the garage. The family followed the pied piper. He carried the board to his car, threw it into the trunk—crash. Slammed the lid, rounded to the driver’s side and got in.

I claimed the front passenger seat and every male member of the family squeezed into the back seat.  He threw the car in reverse, gunned the engine. No one spoke. Squealing tires on pavement, our accompaniment.

Eight miles of back roads and six minutes later, we arrived at the dump. Paying the ten dollars, he backed up to the stall indicated and opened the trunk.

The men poured from the backseat. I stood next to my father.

Richard ripped the ironing board from the trunk, ran toward the garbage pit, let loose a blood curdling scream, and heaved the board over the top of him like a caber.

The caber tossed through the air, end over end, crashing on the bottom of the pit, metal to concrete. The legs splayed in odd directions.

After a moment of silence, wild cheers and applause broke out. Everyone clapping him on the back.

He hugged the air out of my lungs.

The conquerors returned home.

Aunt Verla never mentioned it again.

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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 “KENNEBUNK ME.” posted back in April 2012. It’s been embellished a little since then.

*  *  *

Spring changed in Western Washington from drizzle and wind with regular dollops of thick fluffy fog to the undecided battle between rain and sun like the half-hearted honker on the freeway. Clothed in clouds of guilt with sun breaks highlighting the slip-up. The mercury bobbled near 50º F.

The sun highlighted a small brown and gray ranch house in Gig Harbor, Washington.

*  *  *

My husband, Richard Cranium, his long lean frame hunched over our antique dresser, which matched our sleigh bed. He rummaged through the drawers looking for something.

“Fannie, what’s this supposed to mean?” Richard asked, lifting a small, dark-blue sweatshirt out of the drawer. “Is there something I should know about you?”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, walking out of the bathroom for a closer look.

“This,” he said, holding up the sweatshirt so I could read it.

“Oh that,” I said, smiling. “I’ve never told you the history of that shirt?”

“I think I would remember something like that.” Giving me his are you kidding me look.

“It’s steeped with family history. Are you sure you want to know?” I asked, grinning.

“Are you going to tell me or not?” Richard asked, throwing the shirt at me.

“All right, I’ll tell you.” I said, catching the sweatshirt. “Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl brought it back for me from a trip to Maine when I was in college.”

Richard looked at me with the kind of look meant to X-ray my brain for the truth. “So?”

* * *

Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl drove down the slow moving street filled with cars and people walking on the side walk. Large leafy trees swayed in the gentle salt water breeze. Seagulls squawked, jockeying for position when tourist dropped food on the ground. An old Chevy pick up pulled out of a parallel parking space.

“Carl, pull in there, we’ll only be two doors down from cousin Sylvia’s shop.”

Uncle Carl swung the rental car into the open space.

Walking down the sidewalk, Uncle Carl said, “Doesn’t this make you feel like you’re in a Norman Rockwell painting?”

They entered the shop in the middle of the block labeled Sylvia’s Souvenirs and Custom T’s. Large display windows filled with souvenirs filtered the sunlight. The smell of fresh popcorn filled the air.

“Verla, Carl, I didn’t expect you so soon,” Sylvia said, walking around the counter. Hugging her cousins, she said, “I thought you’d be in closer to closing.”

“Our plane arrived early and the drive up from Boston was lighter than we expected,” Uncle Carl said.

Aunt Verla step toward the counter wearing her signature brown summer pant suit. “Besides, Sylvia, this will give us a chance to get our souvenir purchases out of the way before we settle in for a visit,” Aunt Verla said, adjusting the brown scarf holding her Suzanne Pleshette wig in place. “Since my father was born here, I thought it would be a great idea to get each of our boys and each of Velverlorn’s girls a souvenir custom shirt.”

Sylvia picked up a pad of paper and a blue Bic ball-point pen from the counter. “What do you want them to say?”

“Kennebunk, Maine.” Aunt Verla smiled.

Sylvia pointed her pen at a rack on the far side of the store. “We have a sale on sweatshirts right now, they’re less expensive than the T-shirts. Did you want to pick out one for each of them?”

Aunt Verla and Uncle Carl selected five sweatshirts from the rack.

“Sylvia, how much is the lettering going to cost?” Aunt Verla asked, handing her the shirts.

“It’s twenty cents a letter including the punctuation.”

“Well we have a problem then. I didn’t quite budget for that. I’m going to be short sixty cents,” Aunt Verla said. She looked at Uncle Carl.

“Well, then somebody gets an abbreviated shirt,” Uncle Carl said. Turning to Sylvia, he said, “just pick one of the smallest shirts, problem solved.”

* * *

Two weeks later Aunt Verla boxed each of the shirts. Mailing them to her boys and her nieces.

The thrill of finding an unexpected package from home eclipsed anything else in the day.

The box from Aunt Verla contained a note which read, ‘Fannie, your uncle and I had a great time in Maine. We bought you this sweatshirt. It was made by cousin Sylvia. We choose the town where your grandfather was born and where cousin Sylvia’s shop is located. Love, Aunt Verla. P.S. I ran out of money so we had to abbreviate Maine on your shirt. Enjoy.”

I unfolded the navy blue sweatshirt. Printed in white fuzzy letters across the chest, ‘KENNEBUNK ME.’

Why is the only question is "How"?

Why is the only question, “How”?

My roommate walked into our dorm room as I held up the shirt. She looked at the shirt, looked at me, and asked, “How?”

“Oh great, most people have probably never heard of Kennebunk, Maine.”

“It’s supposed to be a place? I thought it was some sort of kinky invitation,” she said, winking. “You realize people are going to fight over who gets to wear that shirt, don’t you?”

“You’re kidding.”

“Oh no. Just wear it to class tomorrow and see what I mean.”

At 7:56 a.m., seated in the front row of the auditorium, I sat with my friends waiting for Professor Montcalm to arrive. A tan beret with tufts of blond hair protruding, bobbed just above the sea of heads. His matching smock billowed out behind him. Piercing blue eyes gazed over the room. With a flourish he put his notes on the podium and stepped to one side so the class could see him.

“Bonjour, Messieurs et Mesdemoiselles, aujourd’hui nous parlons français,” Professor Montcalm said. He surveyed the class, his eyes resting briefly on me. Pointing to the board behind him with questions and answers written in English, he said, “Repondez aux questions suivantes selon le modèles en français.”

Pausing, he smoothed his pointed blond beard and began to pace. Clearing his throat he pointed to someone in the fifth row. “Monsieur, repondez vous à la question, ‘Is the work necessary?’” he said, glancing at me. He continued to pace. Smoothing his mustache, he waited for the answer.

“Oui, il est nécessaire.” The male voice deep and commanding.

“Très bien.” Glancing at me again, he pointed to a student in the seventh row. “Mademoiselle, repondez vous à la question, ‘What time is it?’” Before the she could answer, Professor Montcalm stopped in front of me. Leaning toward me, he asked, “I can’t take it any more, what does your shirt mean?”

A moment of silence followed. He stared at me.

“It’s the place where my grandfather was born,” I said, my voice quavering, “Kennebunk, Maine. My aunt couldn’t afford the three letters to complete the spelling of the state.”

The auditorium erupted with laughter. Professor Montcalm turned three shades of ‘rouge’.

*  *  *

“Now that’s funny,” Richard said, laughing. “There’s no question what was on his mind. So did very many people ask to borrow it?”

“Oh yah. But that’s not all,” I said. “I went on a road trip to San Francisco with some friends that summer. It was chilly the last day. I accidentally packed that sweatshirt, so I wore it. Walking out of a pawn shop onto the street an older couple from Connecticut stopped me saying, ‘You’re a long way from home.’ By the time we reached the crosswalk, twenty feet farther, five people asked, ‘How?’”

“If it’s that much of a nuisance, how come you’ve never gotten rid of it?” Richard asked.

“Sometimes you need a good laugh. And for sixty cents more, none of this would ever have happened,” I said, winking then folded the sweatshirt and put it back in the drawer.

*  *  *

For more information on Kennebunk: Kennebunk, ME

(Please note: It has been years since I’ve studied French, I apologize if my grammar has deteriorated from lack of use. Merci.)


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Edgar Rice Burroughs

Ever wonder how Tarzana, California, got its name? Meet the inspiration: Edgar Rice Burroughs. This month’s contribution to the Blog of Funny Names.

The Blog of Funny Names

School’s, school’s, school’s out and our local library kicked off its summer reading program including the “Teen Challenge”. Which in no way influenced this post. Wink, wink.

I wonder how long it took the parrot to steal the cracker? I wonder how long it took the parrot to steal the cracker?

Let’s talk about Edgar Rice Burroughs, first of all, I’ve always wondered how rice burrows, but that’s a different topic. Back to Mr. Burroughs, born in 1875, he was one of the most prolific authors of the last century, writing almost 80 novels.

Before he wrote novels, he was short on greenbacks and long on time, so he sold pencil sharpeners and read pulp fiction magazines. In the vein of planting a seed and watching it grow, he decided in 1911 he could write as well or better than the writers he was reading in the pulp fiction magazines. In this case I think the rice burrowed and kick started the…

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A Side Trip to the SPAM Museum—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 “A Side Trip to the SPAM Museum” posted back in March 2013. It’s been embellished a little since then.

*  *  *

Previously in Fannie’s world . . .

Summer arrived in Western Washington. June rain, fog, and wind with regular helpings of sun breaks, which roused the spirits of undecided Western Washingtonians from spring Gore-tex wearing to summer blue tarp camping—because they bring their own blue sky with them. The mercury stretched to 65º F, then yawned.

A sun break highlighted a small brown and gray ranch house in Gig Harbor, Washington.

Neighbor, Bunny Gutierrez, stood at the end of Richard and Fannie Cranium’s driveway, clutching the box of Bissinger’s chocolate-covered blackberries they brought back from their trip.

Richard relived his travel trauma induced by the road trip with Fannie’s parents . . . .

*  *  *

Bunny’s long blond pony tail wagged behind her head. She pressed the box of chocolates to her chest in an effort to subdue the laughter. With her refined Texas accent, she said, “Richard, I’m not sure if I should feel sorry for you or not. You volunteered for a self-inflicted gun shot wound.”

“Gee thanks, Bunny,” Richard said, his tall lean frame hunched with exhaustion, his shoulders slumped like a bear. Dark circles camped under his blue eye. “Remind me to volunteer you next time.”

I put my hand on Bunny’s left arm. “Bunny, that’s not the best part. Richard thought it couldn’t get any worse.”

“Oh, don’t remind me,” Richard said, draping his arm around my shoulders to prop himself up. He seemed far less than a foot and a half taller than me.

“I’ll bite. What happened?” Bunny asked, her pony tail played hide-n-seek behind her head.

Running my fingers through my short brown hair, I said, “We were okay until we stopped for lunch at Al’s Oasis in Oacoma, South Dakota.”

*  *  *

Stuffed birds and animal heads ornamented the walls of the large dining area. A mural depicting a cowboy roping a calf covered one wall. A second, smaller dining room located through an arch opposite the hostess’ station lead to the bar and additional bathrooms.

We followed the hostess to a long table lined with captain’s chairs in the middle of the dining room. She handed us menus. Pointing in the direction of the salad bar, she said, “You can choose the salad bar, order off the menu or both. I’ll be back in a few minutes to take your order.”

After ordering our lunch, my mother lead the way to the salad bar. My father handed out the plates.

When my mother reached the end of the salad bar, she said, “Conrad, look. They serve SPAM. When was the last time we ate SPAM?”

My father thought for a moment, “You know Velverlorn, I can’t remember.”

“We have to eat some,” my mother said, piling it on all of our plates.

“Gosh, thanks mom,” I said,  my green eyes taking a barrel roll.

“You’ll thank me later when it brings back all those fond childhood memories,” she said, waving the salad tongs at me.

I whispered to Richard, “Like the memories of my dad feeding it to the dog under the table.”

Richard snorted.

After lunch, Richard tuned out with his iPod. He drove the sky-blue mobile land yacht toward the last leg of our journey, Louisiana, Missouri.

My father polished his bald spot with his right hand. “Velverlorn, I’ve been thinking, we’ve always said we’d visit the SPAM Museum.” He said, “If we plan it right, we can leave the reunion a little early and take a side trip to Minnesota on the way home. It can’t be more than a six or seven hour drive. If we time it right, we’ll catch the museum before they close.”

“That’s a wonderful idea,” my mother said, “I’ve wanted to go ever since Barbara told me about her visit.”

“That settles it then.”

I cleared my throat. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

They both stared at me blankly.

“Richard and I have to get back in time for work next Monday,” I said, borrowing my mother’s number 10 look, ‘correcting errant children at a glance’.

It bounced of my father and splatted on the mobile land yacht’s carpet.

“Pish-posh, Fannie, we’ll have plenty of time to see the museum and get you and Richard back in time,” my father said, waving his hand at me.

“Dad, you do remember you have issues with being on time?”

“Nonsense,” he said, giving me the official parental ‘negatory’ head shake—conversation over. “Everyone else is always early.”

The sun set somewhere over Nebraska. The moon peered over the low rolling hills.

Richard pulled into the parking lot of the River’s Edge Motel at 2 a.m.. We slept in the car until the sun rose. An eagle flew over the parking lot toward the river.

An overly caffeinated hotel clerk checked us in at 6 a.m., my zombie avatar glowered in the corner of the lobby. No one should be that exuberant before 10.

Standing outside our rooms, my mother snapped her fingers. “We don’t have to be anywhere until 1 p.m. when we’re meeting my cousin, Bill, for lunch and a tour of the mansions. We’re going to sleep for a few hours then meet you out here at 12:30.”

Setting the alarm on my wrist watch for 11:45, I said, “We’ll see you then.”

Richard and I dropped our luggage on the floor of our room and fell on top of the bed. I only remember the first bounce.

The next twenty-four hours blurred with images of a river, rolling hills, mansions, trees, grass, farms and the backsides of eyelids.

“Richard, there’s a few things I need to warn you about before we head for the reunion with my folks,” I said, taking his hand in mine.

Richard looked from my hand to my face. “Fannie that sounds ominous. But after the last week, I’m willing to listen.”

“Good, cause here’s what you need to know about this branch of my family. Only Cousin Bill remembers who’s the blood relative, which is my mother. They can’t remember my father’s name, so they always call him Conroy. You’ll get used to it,” I said, taking a breath. “When we arrive we’re expected to contribute to a pot of money which will be divvied up toward the end of the pot luck as prize monies for categories such as the oldest relative to attend, longest married couple, or the relative who traveled the farthest. In that category my father always wins and my mother now keeps her mouth shut.”

“Fannie that’s nothing to worry about,” Richard said, rubbing the side of his nose with the pointing finger of his free hand.

“I’m not done yet,” I said, squeezing his hand, “while you were driving yesterday, my parents planned an unscheduled stop at the SPAM Museum in Minnesota after the reunion.  My dad is planning on leaving early so we can hit the museum before it closes.”

Richard raked is fingers through his thick brown hair. “He does know we have to be back to work next Monday?”

“Oh I reminded him,” I said, “he gave me his canned pish-posh speech.”

Richard sat on the bed for a few moments looking around the room. Rubbing his chin, he said, “How long do you estimate we’ll be at the pot luck?”

“We’ve never made it out of there in under four hours.”

“Where in Minnesota is the SPAM Museum?” he asked, picking up his back pack.

“Austin, just off the freeway.”

He pulled out his laptop. He searched for the SPAM Museum. “Fannie, it’s a six and a half hour drive from here.” His voice sank. “We’d have to skip the reunion to make it to the museum before they close.”

“I know,” I said, putting my hand on his knee.

Richard stared at his laptop. He sucked in air, his pointing finger tapped rapid-fire on the screen. His devilish grin spread across his face. His voice trembled. “You know, we can stop at Blue Earth and take our pictures with the Jolly Green Giant again. We might even be able to find the Little Giant this time.”

“That’d be fun. But it doesn’t help with our dilemma,” I said, frustrated, “how do we make up a full day’s worth of driving?”

Richard studied the map for a few minutes. “Here’s the plan. Tonight when I take over driving we go all the way to Rapid City. When we leave Yellowstone, I drive. We go non-stop except to buy gas, pee, and get fast food. If my estimates are correct, we can stop in Cle Elum for breakfast on Sunday morning and be back home around midday.”

“Conroy” won the prize for farthest travel after four and half hours of visiting.

When it was time to leave, my father took the car keys. “I’ll drive the first shift.”

We headed north to Austin, Minnesota. The sun check-out over Cedar Rapids, and the full moon filled in for the north star when we crossed the border into Minnesota. The moon rested halfway through its journey above the Hormel plant.

“Conrad, it’s so late, we won’t get to meet any of the Spambassadors,” my mother said, frowning. Her voice filled with a wheelbarrow’s worth of disappointment.

“The what,” Richard mouthed across the back seat to me.

“That’s the name for the museum docents,” I whispered, my smile suppression mechanism picked the wrong moment to fail. The smile squirmed onto my lips.

Tapping the back of the driver’s seat, I said, “Dad, stop the car. I want to get a picture.”

The ambassadors of SPAM.

The ambassadors of SPAM.

The mobile land yacht moored off the fence outside the Hormel Plant. A giant can of SPAM and a white and blue pig stood vigil in spotlights outside the plant. After taking the picture, we drove around the corner to find the SPAM Museum, a full block long monument to the undisputed champion of mystery meat, located on SPAM Boulevard.

“Richard if we ever get back here during the daylight hours, I would love to take the tour,” I said.

SPAM MuseumHe leaned close and whispered, “Only if we leave your parents at home.”

I giggled.

The moon disappeared from the sky. Richard took over driving. An hour later he pulled off the freeway into the Shell station in Blue Earth. We stretched our legs.

My mother asked, “Fannie, didn’t you tell me you’ve been trying to find a little green giant here your last four trips?”

“Yes, why do you ask?”

“Is that it?” she asked, pointing to a statue under a spotlight next to the propane case.

My hand wobbled, my voice shook. “Oh my god, Richard. Look, look, look,” I said, pointing.

The Little Giant moonlights as a candy salesman.

The Little Giant moonlights as a candy salesman.

The flood light back lit a halo on the head of the re-purposed, green-painted “Bob’s Big Boy” with his green leafy toga.

Richard looked up from the gas pump. He almost dropped the gas nozzle. His jaw dropped about a mile. His voice dropped into the basement. “Fannie get the camera.”

My mom and dad posed opposite each other with the Little Giant. Each bending one leg back at the knee. They stretched to kiss his cheeks. The gas station attendant joined us for the group photo.

The Little Giant moonlights nowadays as a candy salesman. Handmade fudge anyone?

*  *  *

Bunny’s tongue took a quick detour passed her lips. She snorted. She laughed. “You mean to tell me that you’ve been searching all over Blue Earth to find that statue and it was at the first gas station off the freeway all along?”

We nodded.

“Now that’s funny,” she said, her Texas accent a littler thicker through the laughter. Her ponytail bobbed up and down.


*  *  *

At the time of this posting, the SPAM Museum re-opened last month in downtown Austin with the original location being converted into office space. The new museum will be celebrating 125 years of Spam and hope to attract 125,000 visitors this year.

And if you haven’t heard the Spam Song, sung by Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho, check it out.

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Moses Supposes—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 “Moses Supposes” posted back in March 2013. It’s been embellished a little since then.

*  *  *

Previously in Fannie’s world . . .

Summer arrived in Western Washington. June rain, fog, and wind with regular helpings of sun breaks, which roused the spirits of undecided Western Washingtonians from spring Gore-tex wearing to summer blue tarp camping—because they bring their own blue sky with them. The mercury stretched to 65º F, then yawned.

A sun break highlighted a small brown and gray ranch house in Gig Harbor, Washington.

Bunny Gutierrez stood at the end of Richard and Fannie Cranium’s driveway, clutching the box of Bissinger’s chocolate-covered blackberries they brought back from their trip. Richard relived his Burma-Shave trauma induced by Fannie’s parents during the trip . . . .

*  *  *

“Richard, that still doesn’t explain why you’re so tired,” Bunny said, with her refined Texas accent. Her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail which crowned her statuesque figure.

“Bunny, that was only the beginning,” Richard said, his shoulders slumping like a bear. He placed his hand on my shoulder. “We ran into a little road construction along the way.”

I nodded.

“From George to Ritzville, the traffic traveled one lane in each direction. Think Seattle on the Friday before a holiday weekend,” Richard said, spreading his hands wide.

Looking up at Richard, I said, “By 8 0‘clock, we could see Spokane in the distance. The sign read, ‘road closure from 8 p.m to 8 a.m.’. So we spent the night just west of Spokane. Thus ended the first 300 miles of our trip.”

“Bunny it took 12 hours,” Richard said, yawning. His shoulder sagged another inch.

*  *  *

Sunday morning the sun crested the Rocky Mountains to the east. A beam of light wiggled its way passed the curtains and landed on my face. Opening one eye—our bedroom looked wrong. Richard sat at the small table between the bed and the bathroom working on his laptop. The morning brain fog thinned—we’re not at home.

“What’re you doing?” I asked, stretching. A small yawn punctuated the question.

Richard jumped. “I’m downloading music so I can survive the Burma-Shave outbursts.”

Laughing, I rolled out of bed.

Richard looked at his watch. He looked at me. He looked at his watch. He shook his head. “You do know it’s 6 a.m. don’t you?” he asked, smirking. His blue eyes danced. He said, “Every corpuscle in your body should be revolting right now.”

I kissed him on the cheek. “I been telling you for the last eight years my allergies to morning are greatly exaggerated.”

I walked into the bathroom, the mirror did a double take. My short brown hair somehow formed into a wedge reminiscent of the 80’s with spiky bits frizzed out for sport. The pillow molded modern artwork onto my left cheek. I must have left my zombie avatar packed in the car, she would have looked much better.

“Fannie, you know we aren’t gonna make all the stops your parents planned if we’re to make it to Missouri by Saturday,” Richard said.

“Good luck with that one,” I said, shaking my head, “my dad’s a stickler. Getting him to change plans will take an act of Congress or upsetting my mom and aunt at the same time. And I don’t need to remind you my aunt’s not here.”

Richard rolled his eyes. “I’m gonna need a lot more music.”

*  *  *

“Bunny, in order to make the reunion by the following Saturday and make it back for work on time, we needed to spend more quality time with the pavement,” I said. Nodding toward Richard, “So Richard volunteered to play road warrior since my parents refused to skip any stops.”

*  *  *

My father manned the helm of the sky blue mobile land yacht. He wore a dark blue Greek fishing cap to disguise his horseshoe hairdo, and sported his sky blue polo shirt with coordinating khaki travel pants. He matched my mother’s ensemble. She added a pale blue scarf tied around her neck, her Betty White wig, plus sky blue sandals with three inch heels. White Diamonds perfumed the morning air.

Richard’s black and white rugby jersey somehow made him look even taller walking next to me.

My mother looked from Richard to me as we approached the car.

“Fannie you look out of place next to Richard with that ancient Fleetwood Mac tee and walking shorts,” she said, shaking her head.

But in that heat, I was comfy. And I don’t need to match my husband.

The broken clouds crowned the mountains. We pulled out of the parking lot of the Super 8 Motel as the construction crew removed the barricade from the interstate on-ramp. My watch read 8:07.

Low clouds hugged the Rocky Mountains as we reached the far side of Idaho’s Lake Coeur D’Alene. The sun burst through the clouds like a spot light on the lake’s mirror surface forming a partial rainbow.

Richard and my father switch positions in Missoula. We filled up with gas. My mother and I pulled a Chinese Fire Drill. Richard rolled his eyes. He positioned his ear buds. He tuned us out as we cruised the highway headed toward Rapid City, South Dakota.

Road construction outside Butte detoured us from the highway.

Richard took us on a tour of the Burkeley Pit. Raw, pale, terraced-earthen walls surrounded a deep pit filled with a dark lake. The cotton-ball clouds admired themselves in the reflection.

The mobile land yacht maneuvered its way back to the interstate. It met road construction between every town from Butte to Billings.

Nearing Gillette, Wyoming, at half passed midnight the clouds parted. Moonlight showcased the plains illuminating the oil pumps bowing to barbed wire fences.

My mother scanned the horizon pretending to look for the Devil’s Tower.

Winking at me and nudging my father awake, she said, “Moonlight.”

My father and I said, “And roses, Whiskers, Like Moses, Just don’t go together.”

Everyone except Richard said, “. . .Burma-Shave.”

My father followed by singing, “Moses supposes his toeses are roses. . .”.

Richard’s shoulders tightened and his hands gripped the steering wheel. My mom and I joined my father with the rest of our favorite song from Singin’ in the Rain.

With enough room in the back seat for a Radio City Rockette to help with the finale, my parents swung their arms wide, threw back their heads and at the top of their lungs sang, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.”

*  *  *

“We spent the night in Gillette,” I said, laughing.

Bunny shook with suppressed laughter. Her eyes dropped to the pavement. Two vertical lines deepened above her up-turned nose. The chocolate box slipped from her hands. She grasped it with her left hand and exhaled with vibrato. “That was close.” She clutched the box to her chest trying to squish the laughter back down.

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