3 Hour Cruise
The round faced Skipper stood by the guardrail at the bow of the Minnow looking out over the dock. “Gilligan!” he shouted. No answer. “Gilligan!” louder this time. Still no answer, so Skipper turned and yelled down into the cabin. “Gilligan!” He heard a mumble in reply. “I think our guests are arriving!”
The Skipper greeted the young woman. She had shoulder length black hair and wore a pretty yellow dress. “Welcome aboard the Minnow!” he bellowed, gesticulating toward the boat. She smiled pleasantly, accepting his offer of a hand to help guide her onto the boat. “I’m Maryann,” she told him.
An older couple stepped up from the dock next. The gentleman, wearing a brimmed hat, red sportcoat and a blue cravat, gave his wife his hand to help her aboard. “Here you go, Lovey,” he purred and then pointed to a pile of suitcases at the other end of the dock. He handed Skipper some folded bills. “Have your man fetch those, would you?”
“Uh, yes, sir,” Skipper stuttered. “Right away, Mr. Howell.” Turning back to the cabin, Skipper yelled again. “Gilligan!”
A thin man in a red shirt and white bucket hat poked his head out of the door. “Yeah, Skipper?”
Skipper looked around and reached for his hat. “Our guests have arrived, Gilligan,” he said with exaggerated patience. Gilligan looked at the people gathering on the boat. “Hello.”
“P-please go get the Howell’s luggage,” Skipper pointed down the dock.
“Right away, Skipper,” Gilligan said, dragging a muddy rope out from the cabin. As he crossed to the ladder, the rope wiped against Maryann’s legs and she yelped.
Skipper tripped on the rope and fell into the thin man in a buttoned shirt climbing up the ladder to the boat. “You must be the Skipper,” the man announced, pumping Skipper’s hand and helping him to stand. “I’m Professor Roy Hinkley.”
“Hello?” breathed another passenger, waiting at the bottom of the ladder. She puffed her feather boa and smoothed her shimmering gold evening gown.
Skipper’s eyes bugged out and his hand reflexively went again to his cap. “Miss Grant!” he exclaimed. “W-Welcome aboard the Minnow!” He reached out his arm to help her up the ladder.
“It’s wonderful to meet you, Miss Grant!” Maryann exclaimed. “I’ve seen all of your movies!” The Professor looked up from the textbook he was reading. “Hello.”
Ginger looked around for a place to sit. “Here you go, my dear,” Mrs. Howell said, gesturing to a seat next to her. Gilligan climbed up the ladder carrying many suitcases and dragging a few behind him. He thrust them into the cabin. “They all won’t fit,” Skipper said.
Mr. Howell handed Gilligan a folded bill. “Here you go, my good man.”
“No big deal,” Gilligan told him, and dragged a few suitcases up to the helm. He turned to see the guests. His eyes bulged when he saw Ginger. “Ginger Grant!” he exclaimed, pushing the suitcases into the hull, where they slid across and lodged under the ship’s wheel. “It’s great to meet you! I loved you in San Quentin Blues and Dracula’s Women and Mohawk Over the Moon and The Rain Dance of Rango-Rango --”
“Ok, Gilligan,” Skipper interrupted. “That’s enough. I think it’s time we set sail.”
“What’s the weather, Captain?” Mr. Howell asked, peering through his monocle at a newspaper.
“Smooth sailing!” Skipper promised, climbing to the helm.
Heart of a Pit Bull
She knew it was time. Six months earlier, Emma’s well loved but aged greyhound had withered and eventually died after a long illness. They had been best friends for more than a decade, and Batman’s rheumatic hips and clouded eyes hadn’t taken away his playful spirit. When the vet told Emma that the unusually sluggish behavior was due to advanced cancer, she had cried with her face buried in the dog’s neck until the last breath. Her house had been so lonely without the beautiful dog, and Emma had lovingly packed the bowls and leash in a box in the attic. “I’ll never love another dog,” she told herself. “It hurts too much to lose them.”
The days were lonely without her best friend, and her co-workers had eventually hinted that she might be ready to think about adopting another dog. Emma had demurred. She wasn’t ready. It hurt too much. But now, she knew it was time. As she walked past the shelter on her way home from work, she spied a volunteer walking a grey pitbull who was pulling enthusiastically. She was big - probably 65 pounds, and had a big white spot around her eyes like a mask. The minute she spotted Emma, she locked eyes with her and wagged her tail like they were lost friends, pulling at the leash to say hello. Her ears were big and her face looked like she was laughing. “Slow down,” the young ponytailed volunteer grunted, but she kept pulling, her tongue hanging out and his eyes sparkling with the fun of chasing a new scent.
When Emma approached, she sat, wagging her tail and waiting for her eagerly. “Hi, girl,” she crooned, looking at the volunteer. “Can I pet her?” she asked.
The volunteer shrugged. “Sure,” he said, scrolling on his phone.
Emma let the dog sniff her hand which she enthusiastically did and then licked it. The dog's eyes were huge and brown and when she looked at Emma,it was with complete recognition. “Aren’t you beautiful?” Emma sang to the dog, rubbing first her chin and then giving her a good pat on the head. The dog wriggled with delight, grinning at Emma, her tail batting furiously against the sidewalk. Emma knelt on the ground and the dog licked her face with zeal. “What’s her name?” she asked the volunteer.
“Robin,” he told her. "She seems to like you."
Emma nodded. "I like her, too."
"She's been here a while," the volunteer said. "'Bout six months."
I woke up on a bench
I woke up on a bench in a park. My head hurt and my clothes were muddy in spots - a splash of mud on my elbow, another one on my knee. I blinked and stood up, looking around. The sun was low, maybe it was late afternoon or early evening. The park was empty except for two toddlers being steered away from me by their mother who made me feel ashamed. I looked down. I was clothed appropriately, so that wasn’t it. I felt my hair. Neat and tidy. My mouth tasted like acid.
Finding $18 and some coins in my pants pocket, I realized I was hungry so I headed away from the bench. West, I guessed, but not sure. I crossed an abandoned baseball field, stepped around the wire mesh garbage can with hot dog wrappers and fountain soda cups and straws. I climbed a daffodil filled hill and found myself on a street. Two or three cars passed - husbands on their way home from work. I looked left. A movie theater. Lights on. A couple walking in, holding hands and laughing. I looked right. A few brownstones and three bistro tables on the sidewalk on the corner. I headed to the right.
A man walked toward me. I braced myself, trying to recognize him. He didn’t look familiar and walked past. A teenager walking a dog turned the corner toward me. The dog sniffed at my sneakers but the kid pulled him away and didn’t make eye contact. When I got to the corner deli, I smelled pastrami and macaroni salad and coffee. My stomach growled and I pushed open the door.
The wrinkled man at the counter wore a white apron, stained, and a white hat, crooked. He smiled and patted the arm of the customer at the counter. She was old, maybe 80, and stooped. She wore a long brown fur coat and carried an expensive bag. “Thank you, Jerry,” she told him as she stepped away from the counter smiling.
Jerry looked at me, up and down, clearly with distaste. “You’re late,” he said. “Go clean yourself up.” He nodded his head toward a door behind the counter and grunted. “I’ll make you a sandwich.”
There's a 2 mile loop from my house and behind the high school that takes me to a small patch of woods. I walk most of the 2 miles through suburbia just for that 1/2 mile piece of peace. There's a stream and often deer and plenty of birds and it's my own sanctuary that I escape to whenever the weather is fine and the day provides me with some free time. I love crunching on the piles of leaves and maneuvering over the roots and twigs. The unspoiled nature of nature is my walking meditation.
I emerged today from a few weeks of very cold temps to find a lovely mid-40s day. Wayne was out showing houses and I had opted to do some work from home, so I laced up my sneakers and headed for my favorite place.
And they paved it.
Just like that, when I wasn't looking, they dumped asphalt on my paradise.
Optimistic me says it's going to make it easier to run or bike. But for now, I miss my old dirt patch.
I forgot to pick up his dry cleaning. It took 45 minutes to x-ray my arm and tell me it was just a bad sprain. The sling made it hard to drive so I only wore it for one day. The black eye faded by Saturday. On Sunday, I answered the phone when he called instead of letting it go to voicemail again.
“Hey,” he said nonchalantly. “What are we doing for dinner tonight?”
I cooked chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans. His favorites. He brought roses. I prefer daisies, but it was a nice gesture. He spent the night.
He took me to the movies on Friday night. We saw a horror movie. I hate horror movies, but he let me get extra butter on the popcorn so it was ok. On the way home, he told me he didn’t like the way I smiled at the kid at the popcorn counter. I froze, waiting, but then he smiled. “Don’t do it again,” he joked. I breathed and squeezed his hand, not too hard.
Don’t Freak Out
Patty glanced at her vibrating phone and tried not to react when she saw the caller ID. “Joey,” it said.
It hadn’t said that in, she thought back, 14 months 3 days and 5 hours. Actually, the last time she had talked to Joey was about 2 days before that horribly rainy morning in October when she had scrolled through Facebook and saw the words Joey’s wife had left on his wall. “With deep regret, we announce that Joe has passed away. Details to follow.”
But now someone was calling her from his phone. Patty stared at it.
“Patty?” her boss asked, summoning her back to the room. The phone stopped vibrating. “Missed call” it said.
“Sorry,” Patty apologized, reaching for her notebook. Lou went back to listing the requirements for the project, but Patty didn’t hear him. The phone vibrated again.
“Excuse me,” Patty murmured around the table, waving her cell phone apologetically. “I have to take this.”
She ran down the hall and out the door, imagining what must have happened. One of the nieces or nephews had the phone and were calling everyone on the list. The wife had gotten curious about the “P” on Joey’s phone. She pictured Joey’s face, that birthmark on his cheek, the way his fingernails felt when they grazed her arms, the stubble on his cheek. She pictured the funeral, when she had stood in the back and tried to blend in, the anguish on the wife’s face when the casket was wheeled past.
She slid the answer button to the right and brought the phone to her ear.
“Don’t freak out,” he said.
Patty’s stomach dropped and her mouth fell open, gasping. She looked around, trying to catch her breath. There was nothing to see except a parking lot, filled with SUVs, sensible cars, and one motorcycle that belonged to Patty’s boss. She tried to form words but couldn’t.
“It’s me,” he said.
Forcing herself to regain composure, Patty began to pace. Back and forth. Finally, she said, “Wh-.” No, she wouldn’t ask what happened. “How?” No. Finally, Patty asked the only thing that mattered. “Where are you?”
His Name Is Adam
It hurt. Oh, lord, it hurt. Like a white hot knife searing into my abdomen. Impossible to ignore kind of hurt. I focused on the chrome drawer pull on the acetate cart someone had wheeled into my line of sight. Its patina was long gone and there was a small piece of rust on the side. I ignored the round white lights and the nurse counting out the contractions as they waved over me like a steamroller.
One minute, he didn’t exist, and the next minute he was here,crying with the indignity of it. They rushed to take him to meet his parents - so fast that I didn’t get to see his face. His new father was probably pacing in the hall. The new mother was probably wearing pearls and chewing her cuticles. I imagined they would cry, their hearts bursting with love, and reach out to hold him gently, smiling fondly at each other like they do on TV. They planned to send him to the best schools, buy him the best toys, shower him with praise and great advice and all I knew was that my own heart had left the room with him and the soul crushing pain was so visceral that it made the agony of childbirth pale in comparison. Focus on the drawer pull.
When the nurse appeared, she told me I had done great. I looked at her and she smiled sweetly at me, possibly some pity in her eyes or maybe I just imagined it. I tried to answer her but the only sound I could make was a gasp for breath that may have sounded like “No.” She brought me ice water in a plastic yellow cup with a straw and I pushed it away, trying to sit up. “No,” I said, more clearly this time, terrified and yet so sure. “I’ve changed my mind.”
The lights were dim and the blinds were closed, casting a grey pallor on my already gray father, lying still under a graying white sheet with a faded “Holy Name Hospital” printed on it in pale green. An impossible number of wires and tubes ran from his nose, mouth, skull, abdomen. A machine wheezed, forcing air into his lungs, and then hissed marking an exhale. Another machine beeped, a green glow signaling a heart beat. The chrome handle on the drawer of the acetate cart had a smudge of rust on it. I studied the monitors, hoping for a clue, any reassurance that he was improving, but they held their secrets.
A shadow passed in front of the door, paused briefly, then moved on. I held Dad’s hand, gently rubbing the paper thin skin and the familiar freckles, and whispered encouraging mantras more for myself than for him. “You’re gonna be fine, Dad. Just squeeze my hand to let me know you can hear me, “ I begged. When I was a little girl, Dad had always squeezed my hand extra hard at the Sign of Peace in Church to try to make me giggle.
Today, he didn’t squeeze at all. In fact, the longest 11 days of my life passed before there was any response.
The flowers he carried looked out of place against the backdrop of the brown wooden benches sparsely filled with men in expensive suits sitting with their flustered looking clients. They were inexpensive grocery store flowers. I must have gasped because my lawyer looked at me, then followed my gaze. He leaned down. "I'd rather he brought the child support," he said, sotto voce. Trance lifted, I blew out a laugh.
By the time we were called to the front, the flowers had wilted, but he handed them over to me anyway, a few petals fallling to the floor. The bushy raised eyebrows on the judge embarrassed me. "I've read the complaint," he said nodding at me, his voice deep and echoing. "Do you dispute the charges?" he asked, looking at my exhusband. He didn't even have the humility to look ashamed. "I do not." The judge picked up his gavel. "Then I rule in favor of the plaintiff. $13,463 plus legal fees."
I blinked, stunned. Was it that simple? Could it be over?
"We'll garnish wages," the Judge told his clerk. "$600 biweekly, in addition to regular child support." The clerk nodded. "For two years. Arrest warrant if there are any future missed payments." The gavel hit the desk and the clerk nodded at us.
"Thank you, Judge," my lawyer said, steering me by the elbow toward the door. I caught my exhusband's eye and furrowed my brow, trying to send him telepathic messages. "Do what's right," I begged him in my mind. "Stay out of jail. Be a father."
He didn't do any of those things.