Imbroglio

Imbroglio (im-brohl´yoh) an intricate and perplexing state of affairs; a complicated or difficult or embarrassing situation.

I stood in the middle of the Gig Harbor Grange Hall, wondering what happened. All sound faded away. My breathing slowed down. Moisture leached through my shirt. The pain in my chest subsided.

How did this happen?

If I had just done one thing differently. If I had just been one minute earlier. If I had just decided not to pick up that dime.

If . . . .

*  *  *

The phone rang. The clock on the wall read 6:30 a.m.. On a normal Saturday morning, I would be studying the random patterns of the back side of my eyelids. And be master of my sheets.

Not today.

The phone rang, again. I set down the cup of hot coffee.

“Did I wait long enough?” My cousin, Bud’s, voice apologetic and hushed.

“Sure,” I said, my eyelids still swollen prunes, “Richard poured me my first cup of Joe.”

“Good. Cause she’s driving me nuts, and I need an excuse to get outta here.”

Stifling a yawn, I said, “Richard has all the balloons in the garage.” I ran my fingers through my short brown hair. “Oh, and can you take the sandwich boards?”

“Sure,” Bud said, the hushed tone of his voice relaxing, “anything. What’re you gonna do?”

“Since I’m up, I’m gonna bake the chocolate bourbon cake your mom asked for this morning,” I said, with a quick grunt of a laugh.

Seven minutes later the doorbell rang. Richard answered the door.

I poured an extra cup of coffee and handed it to Bud as he entered the kitchen. His curly brown mop slicked back with gel. Under his jeans jacket he wore a t-shirt which read, ‘Oil workers do it with gas.’

With a giant, one-armed hug, he lifted me off the floor. “Fannie, I can’t thank you enough. My mom’s gone into commander mode. Only six-and-a-half hours left until their anniversary party.”

“Where’s Butch staying?” Richard asked, pulling up the sleeves of his favorite gray sweatshirt.

“We’re sharing the guest room of mom and dad’s condo. It’ll be two weeks before they finish repairing the wall of his apartment where that truck ran through it.” Bud shivered. “If he hadn’t been picking me up at the airport, I’d be short a brother right now.”

Adjusting my green pajama pants, I said, “If I didn’t think Aunt Verla would let me have it with both barrels, I’d offer you the guest bedroom.”

The edges of Bud’s eyes tensed slightly. “Trust me, I’ve thought about it,” he said, with a hallow laugh.

“So,” Richard asked, the devilish grin spread across his face, “are you wearing your kilt for the occasion?”

“Yeah,” Bud said, nodding his head like a bobble head doll. “What I’d like to know is how you got out of it?”

“I’ll take that little secret with me to the grave,” Richard said, his blue eyes glowing like a blue light special.

I turned on the oven. “Shall we get the balloons loaded into the truck?”

The phone rang. I glanced at the clock, 6:54 a.m..

Richard answered the phone. “Hi Velverlorn.”

He listened, nodded his head, repeated yes several times.

I moved around the kitchen counter toward Richard.

“Sure thing,” Richard said, taking the phone away from his ear. Shaking his head, he said, “Bud, it’s for you.”

Bud and I shared the really look between us.

“Hi Aunt V,” Bud said.

After a series of ‘yes ma’am’s,’ he said, “will do, see you there.”

Scratching my head, I stared at Bud.

“A big wind storm is coming, she wants to make sure we tie the balloons and the banners securely. She already spoke to my mom,” Bud said, laughing, “ It’s too bad nobody in this family talks.”

“At a decent hour,” I said, laughing.

Wind whistle around our house, the house creaked.

We walked into the garage.  Three sandwich boards leaned up against a folding table. Six giant clear bags housed helium filled Mylar balloons reading, ‘Happy Anniversary’ anchored to the table with large rocks. Six additional bags contained multicolored latex balloons. Under the table a box, filled with crepe paper, string, ribbon, tape, scissors, thumb tacks, staple gun, and other essentials, stabilized the sandwich boards.

Richard opened the garage door.

A gust of wind swept under the door as it rose, sliding the sandwich boards, the table, the box, the balloons with a low pitched scraping sound toward the back of the garage straight for the his and hers pitchforks.

Richard grabbed the sandwich boards. Bud grabbed the table and box. And I grabbed the bags of balloons, sort of.

Me being too short to stop them all, the bags of Mylar balloons bounced off the six bags I corralled. Drawn like Alice to the rabbit’s hole, they circled me heading toward the pitch forks. Every time I moved, I pushed the balloons closer to the back wall. My stomach played hop scotch.

“Help—save the balloons.” The pitch of my voice trotted up the register.

Bud closed in first. Richard on his heels.

Dodging to my left, Bud wrangled four bags of balloons. Richard moved to my right. The corner of one bag snagging a pitch fork as Richard yank the bag away.

“That was too close,” I said, laughing a little too loud.

“Are you gonna want help with those balloons?” Richard asked.

“Naw, Butch has banner duty, he’s meeting me at the hall in about 30 minutes,” Bud said, running the sleeve of his jeans jacket across his forehead. “We should be able to handle it.”

We stowed the balloons under the canopy of the truck. Richard handed Bud the rocks to hold the balloons in place. We laid the sandwich boards in front and secured the box under some webbing on the side.

Bud hopped down, secured the tail gate, and the canopy access.

I hugged my cousin. “We’ll see you in a couple hours. If you need anything else, just call.”

Richard and Bud shook hands.

“With this wind,” Richard said, winking at him, “here’s to looking up your kilts.”

Bud punched him in the shoulder with his ham sized fist. “Smart ass.” Richard rubbed his shoulder. Bud glanced at me. “Sorry for the language.”

Laughing, I said, “My ears must be burning.”

Bud drove down the street. The sun peeked above the trees. Clouds outpaced the sky.

“I sure hope we don’t loose power,” I said, walking into the house.

Forty minutes later, I poured the cake batter into the Bundt pan. Richard ran his finger about the mixing bowl. He slowly licked the batter from his finger. He sprinkled more bourbon into the bowl. His lips wormed their way into a smile.

Stashing my own smile, I opened the oven door. Heat rolled out in waves. The pan nestled into the oven. I set the timer for 70 minutes. “The next pot of coffee is finished, you want any?” I asked, holding up a mug.

“It would go great with this batter,” Richard said, nodding, the light in his eyes softening.

The coffee’s rich nutty aroma wafted through the air. I handed Richard his mug.

Darkness.

“My cake,” I said, the sinking feeling landing in my feet. “Where’s the portable, I want to know when they think the power might come back on.”

“It’s over here somewhere,” Richard said.

I could make out his form in the weak morning light. The sound of papers being moved, the pen cup being knocked over, a bumped mug followed by a splash.

“Found it.”

We sat at the kitchen counter waiting for the public service announcement.

Ten minutes later, “. . . Peninsula Power announced there are 6,200 homes without power in in the Gig Harbor area. The power outage is believed to have been caused by Mylar balloons caught in the power lines. It may take several hours to restore power . . . .”

Richard and I stared at each other. Realization mirrored on our faces.

“You don’t think?” I asked, my voice trailing off.

My cell phone rang. We both jumped.

“Fannie, we lost some of the balloons, and then the power went out,” Bud said, his voice hoarse, his breath in short burst. “Can you call your dad and have him bring over his generator?” He took a deep breath. His voice laden with irony, “The show must go on, right?”

“You guys are okay?” I asked, my voice much lower than I expected.

“Sure,” he said, the only thing missing from his voice—conviction, “can you call your dad?”

“Don’t worry, Bud, I’m on it.”

After a quick call to my mother—who heard the news on the radio—the generator was loaded into the trunk of the Mobile Land Yacht and ready for service. She promised they would be over two hours early to install it.

The kitchen timer beeped. I was afraid to look. Standing to one side I opened the oven door slowly—it was room temperature. A flat cake stared back at me. My shoulders dropped. Sighing, I pulled out the pan. Using my flashlight, I inserted the toothpick. Clean. Well that was something at least.

Richard joined me in the kitchen. “So how did the cake turn out?”

“Thin and chewy like a brownie,” I said, shaking my head.

“So what’re you gonna do?” Richard asked, hope spread across his face, he could eat the failure.

“When all else fails, make trifle,” I said, watching hope leap off his face. “You can sample the other ingredients.”

He smiled again. He saluted and tapped his heels. “Reporting for test duty, sir.”

I rummaged through the pantry. Lady fingers. Check. Butter scotch chips. Check. Dark chocolate. Check. More bourbon. Check. I wonder if the whipping cream is still cold?

After a brief soak of the lady fingers in the bourbon, I lined the trifle bowl. Richard smiled, his mouth full like a chipmunk. Don’t have to worry about left overs. I lined the bottom of the bowl with vanilla ice cream. Sprinkled butter scotch chips on top. Added the layer of cubed up cake. More butter scotch chips. Spread a thick layer of hand whipped cream, topped with shaved dark chocolate. The rest of the bar disappeared, chased by a glass of milk.

“Richard, you’re gonna make yourself sick,” I said, shaking my head.

“Am not,” he said, flecks of chocolate lodge between his teeth. The denial so thick in his voice I could have cut it with a butter knife.

Rolling my green eyes, I said, “I’m going to put this in the freezer until we leave.”

After I closed the freezer door, a strong gust of wind made the house groan, followed by a loud series of pops. A slow-moving, gut-wrenching, deep squeal followed by snapping noises. Crash. The ground shook. So did my body. My legs went numb. I couldn’t move.

Richard ran into the garage. “You okay?”

Pumping enough adrenaline into my lips to manage a smile, I said, “Shaken, not stirred.”

Richard relaxed. “I think we lost a tree.” He opened the garage door.

A 120-foot-tall cedar lay across our driveway and the driveways of our next two neighbors to the south.  The branches blocked the road. The trunk stood five feet in diameter. I spotted George and Bunny Gutierrez on their front porch waving at us.

Bunny, her long, blond hair pulled back into a pony tail, crowning her statuesque figure, yelled something I couldn’t hear over the wind. I held my hand up to my ear and shook my head. She nodded.

“I don’t have a chain saw big enough to cut through this tree,” Richard said, thrusting his hands in his pockets of his jeans so hard I thought the pockets might rip.

“I’ll call Clarissa,” I said, nodding my head, “she and Devon are hauling some of Larry’s band equipment to the grange hall. I’m sure they can squeeze two more bodies into the Ketchum Cadillac. Besides, it can’t possibly get any worse.”

“I hope you’re right, Fannie,” Richard said. “I hope you’re right.”

I reached Clarissa on her cell phone.

“We had a tree fall blocking our driveway and the street, do you and Devon have enough room to give us a ride?” I asked, crossing my fingers behind my back.

“Is the party still on with the power outage?” she asked.

“My dad’s bringing his generator,” I said, “we’ll have enough power.”

“Okay, we’ll pick you up in an hour. You’ll have to hike out to us.”

Raising one knee and pumping my fist, I said, “We’ll be there.”

With a grin leaning toward double dimples, I said, “Richard, we have one hour.”

I donned my Stewart clan black tartan kilt and a white blouse. Richard dress in black trousers, black neck tie, and a crisp white button down collar shirt.

Richard carried the trifle, while I carried the bag with our dress shoes. Leaning into the wind, we climbed over the restless branches and worked our way through our neighbors’ yards until we reached the end of the tree.

The Ketchum Cadillac, a 1995 black and brown Chevy Suburban, came to a stop in front of us.

Devon rolled down the window. He whistled. His blond hair blowing in the breeze. “That is some tree. You better get in before something else falls.”

We arrived at the grange hall ten minutes later. The banner announcing my aunt and uncle’s celebration whipped the wall with staccato. Several cars were parked in the lot. My cousins were helping my father install the generator.

Larry, Clarissa’s older brother, carried equipment to the hall. He turned his head toward us, his curly, bright red hair fluttering across his face. He nodded our direction.

We unloaded the Ketchum Cadillac. I carried the trifle and the bag of shoes. Richard helped Devon and Clarissa unload the sound equipment.

When I walked into the hall, the lights flickered on. Out the back window, my cousins belly-bucked each other. I shook my head.

I set up a buffet table next to the stage. I pulled out the table cloth from the box Bud had brought over for me. I put the trifle on the end of the table away from the band. And I put up the sign for gifts on the other end of the table.

My father and cousins cleaned up and changed their clothes.

Thirty minutes later the band ran a sound check while we finalized the room set up.

My mom surveyed the room. She wore her Betty White wig for the occasion. We matched with white blouse and kilt. She put her arm around my shoulders. “You know, I had my doubts this morning, but I think this will go off without another hitch.”

“I’m going to use the restroom before they arrive,” I said, giving my mom a hug. “I’ll be right back.”

When I reached the bathroom, my aunt and uncle walked in the door.

I gave my aunt a hug. Uncle Carl put his car keys in his pocket. When he removed his hand from his pocket, a dime fell onto the floor.

I gave my uncle a hug, picked up the dime, and handed it to him. “You dropped this.”

“The privilege of aging,” Uncle Carl said, patting me on the shoulder, “having lovely young ladies pick up your money for you.”

I smiled and headed into the bathroom.

The wind picked up again. The grange hall moaned. I sat on the toilet. What a crazy day this has been.

The sound of a car back firing made me start. Snap, whoosh, thud. The bathroom shook.  The lights flickered. A part of the ceiling glanced off my shoulder. I winced. One arm over my head, I hiked up my undies and dashed out of the bathroom as the branch fell through the ceiling into the stall with a crunch.

I skid to a stop in the middle of the hall. Flames rose out of the generator. Butch and Bud bumped passed me with fire extinguishers. Larry’s band mates were grabbing their instruments. The lights went out. Larry backed into a giant speaker, it tottered on the edge of the stage.  The speaker tilted toward the table. Larry realized too late. He grabbed the speaker and fell off the stage on top of it. They hit the table, crushing the presents beneath them. The table leg collapsed.

Launching the trifle straight at my chest.

I froze, unable to move. The bowl hit me. Thud. It sounded like a log hitting pavement. The bowl barfing its contents down the front of my shirt. It fell to the floor and rolled. I gasped for breath. My body radiated with pain.

I stood in the middle of the Gig Harbor Grange Hall, wondering what happened. All sound faded away. My breathing slowed down. Moisture leached through my shirt. The pain in my chest subsided.

How did this happen?

If I had just done one thing differently. If I had just been one minute earlier. If I had just decided not to pick up that dime.

Richard was in front of me. His lips were moving, but it took a minute for me to register. I blinked my eyes. I felt a breeze on my back side. I reached around behind me. My kilt caught in my undies. Do I laugh or cry?

Breathe.

Sound returned to normal.

“Fannie, are you okay?” Richard asked, shaking me slightly. His Adam’s apple bobbed in a way I’d never seen before. His face flush.

“I’ve had better days,” I said, rubbing my chest.

My mom and Aunt Verla stood on either side of me. Relief poured from them like flood waters.

“It could’ve been worse, Fannie,” Aunt Verla said, in her clipped tones, nodding her head while she imparted her wisdom of the ages to the less fortunate, “Remember to embrace all parts of life, it’s got an expiration date.”

*  *  *

I’d like to thank fellow bloggers, Liz of Food for Fun for the idea of the trifle. And Amb of Words Become Superfluous for introducing me to the word imbroglio and for her post about embarrassing moments.

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About Fannie Cranium

Writing since she could first hold a pen, Tracy Perkins formed her alter ego, "Fannie Cranium" at the suggestion of her husband. Tracy understands smiling makes people wonder what she’s been up to.
This entry was posted in Humor and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Imbroglio

  1. amb says:

    I am ashamed to say, my friend, that my first thoughts were not of your safety or dignity, but of the trifle. “Noo! All that chocolate! It can’t go to waste!!” Teeheehee 😀 I LOVED this post! The way you built up the suspense as the weather got worse and worse was just awesome.

    Like

  2. Liz says:

    Love it! First, to be clear: That is THE chocolate bourbon cake, yes? Love love love that it made its way into a trifle (the other ingredients were inspired 😀 ) but am so sorry it ended up “barfing” (lol) itself onto poor Fannie. That had to hurt! Wishing for a happier ending, but I love all the messages woven through–yes life does have an expiration date so best to enjoy. Great story, Tracy. One of my faves!

    Appreciate the link, too 🙂 And now my standard Q: How much of this is true?

    Like

    • In answer to your question about the chocolate bourbon cake: YES!!!!

      You gave me the recipe for the cake and the idea for the trifle.

      Regarding the truth behind the story, several unrelated incidents were woven together to create this piece, including the part about the kilt. And I changed chocolate parfait to trifle. Either way, it was a horrific waste of chocolate. 😉

      Like

  3. Pingback: This Blog and Me are Three | Fannie Cranium's

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