Short Fiction

Ruby and Viv Find Their Big Girl Panties

Need to refresh your memory before digging in to the fourth installment in the money-hiding hi-jinks of  Ruby and Viv?  Visit Bright Lights and Big Bev City first.

Chapter 4 Ruby and Viv Find Their Big Girl Panties 

Ruby and Viv were klatching in Ruby’s kitchen because Viv’s was always “in a state.”   Viv’s husband, Phil, was responsible for the disarray of Viv’s home.   Viv referred to him as her “late” husband because he was always underestimating the timeline on his handy-man projects.  He was frequently running out to the hardware store and losing track of time – making them “late” to events or prohibiting them from entertaining in their home. They were well-matched as Viv was a free-wheeling flower child and over time she learned how best to manage Phil’s many well-meant projects.  She would wait until Phil went on his annual fishing trip with his brothers and then hire somebody to finish all the semi-completed odd-jobs.  It was one of the unspoken contracts in their marriage.

Viv had brought a couple of warm bear claws and a pull-apart danish ring to enjoy with their coffee. Both women were early birds. Ruby was a creature of habit and liked to walk every morning no matter the weather. She was still glowing from her walk and had just unplugged the percolator when Viv rapped on the kitchen window as she headed to the back door.

By the time Ruby opened the door Viv was already stepping out of her shoes and stepping into the sunny kitchen.

“Good morning, Viv.  And what artery-clogging treats did you bring today, my friend?” Ruby asked.

Viv was stuffing a stubby, frosted bear claw finger into her mouth, “Bear claws and a pull-apart from Glossy’s Bakery,” she mumbled.  “Jesus, don’t you feed this damn cat?”

Ruby’s cat, Pinsky, loved to antagonize Viv, because he knew instinctively that Viv was not an animal person.  This was his cue to entwine himself between her legs.  He’d leave Viv alone as soon as she cursed him.

“Damn cat.” That said, Pinsky sauntered over to his corner to complete his post-breakfast grooming.

Our heroines settled themselves at the kitchen table with steaming mugs of coffee and carbohydrate-laden treats.  As is the case with most longtime friends, they were silent during their initial sips.  No need to fill the air with chatter until the delicious sugar and caffeine made its way into their brains.

Viv broke the silence, “So, you hear anything?”

It had been over three weeks since they left the first Benjamin in The Valley of the Dolls.  They didn’t know what to expect and had planned to be stealthy so Ruby knew there was a chance nobody would even find the cash in their remaining lifetime.   Also, how many people really checked out Jacqueline Susann in these “ought” years?

“Viv, we knew there was a chance nobody would find the money.  That’s not why we’re doing this.”

“I know, Doll, it’s just that it would be fun to hear people speculate.  We’d be like The Scarlet Pimpernel – “zhey seek ‘em here, zhey seek ‘em there, zhey seek ‘em everywhere…”  Viv’s French accent was tinged with a nasal cross of Bayonne and Jersey City.

Ruby chuckled at her friend’s bit of doggerel.  She didn’t think people would loudly cop to finding random C-notes in library books, and they had only planted one so far.  Ruby poured herself another cup of coffee and grabbed a banana – leaving Viv the tattered remains of the danish ring.  Viv had no guilt over tapping up the crumbs with her index finger.

“So, what’s our next book?”  Viv asked between crumb taps.

“Well, I don’t think we should pick a newly released book, but maybe we shouldn’t go back as far as the bestsellers of the 60’s,” Ruby offered.

They made a prospective book list the first time they met, but it got lost in the chaos of Viv and Phil’s place which slowed down the pace of their offering.  No matter, they had nothing but time to research and debate their next placement. Ruby booted up her ancient laptop.

“Maybe we should consider non-fiction? Biography?”

“How about home improvement?  Optimists like Phil are always lurking around there,” Viv suggested as she strolled back to the table from her latest trip to the bathroom.

“I don’t know.  I still think fiction is the best bet for someone looking for an escape.  Plus, doesn’t everybody just watch YouTube videos for home improvement projects now?”  Ruby ruminated out loud as she mined the web for book titles.

Viv and Ruby debated all morning until they were “hangry” – hungry to the point of extreme irritability.

“Look, Ruby, let’s just pull up our big girl panties and go get some lunch.  We’re debating a dead horse at this point.”

“Viv, you are brilliant.  Look at this – there is a book called Big Girl Panties out there.  It’s relatively new, been out for over a year now.   This author, Stephanie Evanovich, has a new book out now – so we have the increased odds of somebody looking for her first book, too.”  Ruby’s voice was rising with excitement.  Intuition was telling her this was the right pick.

“Ruby, you saucy minx!  It’s only fitting we stick the big face of a dirty old Ben Franklin into some girly panties.   Now maybe we’ll start seeing some action.   Let’s go get a tuna club at Max’s.  I’m starving already.”

Short Fiction

Mom’s Coming In Hot!

“Mom’s coming in hot,” Josh called out from his perch at the front window.  Our siblings threw open their notebooks to simulate their passion for homework.  I turned back to the boiling water and took the tube of dry spaghetti in my hand like Thor.  BAM!  I threw it into the pot.

Our mom always worked and it made us self-reliant ~ free-range children before that was a radical idea.  It didn’t mean that we didn’t screw up or fight, but it did mean we had each others’ back.  Mom was the Alpha of our pack — an unperturbed general manager of the household.  “Lean in,” “Just do it” — our Mom didn’t need a catch phrase to motivate her to “have it all.”  She just lived and loved enough to have five kids, and she considered them indentured help, humorous distractions and objects of wonder.

But when she came home in that Piranha Hour before dinner we each knew our pivotal role in getting dinner on the table — FAST!  Because,  well, she who must be obeyed first must be fed.  Then we could talk, share, tease and cry with the shrill abandon of five kids fed, loved and unbound.


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Short Fiction

Bright Lights and Big Bev City

Below is the third installment of the ongoing saga of Ruby, Viv and their mission to make life a little better one random Benjamin at a time.  Since I started this shaggy dog story almost two years ago (?!?!) below are links to the two previous posts so you can catch up.

Chapter 1 Introducing Ruby, Viv and St. Benjamin

Chapter 2 Boychik Luis and Bubbe Bev

Chapter 3 Bright Lights and Big Bev City

Luis was shuffling around anxiously in front of the exit doors when Bev came out of the auditorium.  He was pacing so fast that it took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to both the bright light and to register that it was her grandson.  She had never seen him so agitated before.

Bubbeleh, what’s wrong? Are you all right?”  Bev’s first reaction was that he was in some kind of trouble.

“ Yes, No, Gram, can we go now?”   He held the door open for Bev – from the outside.  He was clearly in a rush.

Luis reached the car before Bev, and furtively looked around as he waited for her to unlock the doors.  He winced as he slid in.  The seats were hot but he found it comforting in a way – almost as though he could melt onto the surface and become invisible.  His hand was still in his pocket, feeling the sweaty crease of the bill.  He slouched down and watched his granny settle herself behind the wheel.

“Are you in some kind of trouble, Luis?”

“G-ma, I found a one-hundred dollar bill in a random book.  I swear, it was just in the book, like a book mark  – I didn’t see anybody.  It wasn’t like somebody dropped it by accident,”  he said, breathless and defensive.

Bev took a breath herself.  Luis was a good boy.  He never lied to her in the past, and she saw no reason to believe he would now.  Yet, it still seemed a little strange.  In all her years she never recalled any trend to using currency as a bookmark.

“What book was it in?” she asked looking into his face.  He had a feverish sheen.

Valley of the Dolls.   I saw the book sticking out of the stack on the bottom shelf. I went to push it back in so it lined up with the rest of the books, but since  we saw the movie last night I was curious about what you said and opened it up to check it out, and found the bill stuck in the pages. I didn’t see anybody in the stacks, or looking around the floor for it.  So I put it in my pocket.  But I got so nervous waiting for you. ”  He was again breathless, his story pent-up and tumbling out into the overheated car.  Bev had not turned the ignition so the air was heavy and scented with Youth Dew.

Bev turned the key and the Le Sabre rumbled to life.  The air conditioning vents spewed dust motes and gusts of hot air enough to make them both cough.  It also gave Bev a few moments to collect herself.  Clearly the boy wasn’t in trouble, but bless his half-Jewish guilty heart for not being able to keep a secret.

“Luis, I think this must be a little gift from the heavens.  Let’s get a nosh and think about what you should do next.”  Bev popped the Le Sabre into drive and silently gave thanks for her good luck:  she had a nice “pull-through” parking space so she didn’t have to contort her achy neck to back- up.

Luis’ leg pumped up and down nervously.  Strangely enough, he was hungry and felt a bolt of relief in telling Bev.   Soon enough they were sitting at Max’s Deli with a bucket of half-sours from the pickle bar waiting to share the corned beef special.

Bubbeleh, Bev said softly, “this is your little windfall.  Far be it from me to tell you what to do, but what would you think about taking the train into the City and we can stand on line for the half-price tickets and catch a show, hmmm?”  She wasn’t going to let a fifteen year-old boy go to Times Square by himself, but she knew they both could use a little change of scene.  And a little bit of adventure.

Luis’ mind started to crack open with the very thought.  “Grandma, do you think we could get tickets to Kinky Boots?” In his most fevered boy-dreams he could not have imagined this lazy bubbe summer visit would include his first Broadway show.  He crunched down on his third pickle, and it struck him that Bev knew him better than he realized.  And she accepted him just as he was and always would.


Keepin’ It Glassy

Corning Museum of Glass

We took a road trip last week to a family wedding, but along the way we paid a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass (which is in Corning, NY).  What an amazing place.  Truth be told, our four hour visit wasn’t nearly long enough to go back in time to see all the  glass from the past 3,500 years.

When you buy your admission to the museum you can also sign up to Make Your Own Glass, and I cajoled the spouse into “sand-blasting.”  Now before you jump to conclusions, sand-blasting  a very docile project.  The Museum has a whole building of studio space for hands-on work and the staff on-site has infinite patience.   For our project each participant selects a clear drinking glass or bowl to embellish with stickers or free-form shapes made with masking tape.  After “stickering” your glass you get to sand blast it yourself.  You shove your hands into these industrial gloves that look like the robot arms from Lost in Space, grab your project in the sand-blasting hood and then shoot sand with a high-pressure hose all over your project.  The result is your vessel will be opaque except where the stickers covered the clear parts.  An example below….

I "branded" my glass for my exclusive use.
I “branded” my glass for my exclusive use.

If that wasn’t enough of a “blast,” we took a walk over to the Rakow Research Center to check out  “America’s Favorite Dish:  Celebrating a Century of Pyrex.”  Here’s the link to Pyrex Potluck.  Take your own nostalgic stroll through its kitschy designs and marketing campaigns.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get an better we went to the exhibition hall to walk though the 35 Centuries of Glass which includes an amazing study gallery.  It made me see glass in a whole new light.  We closed with the Contemporary Art and Design Gallery where I took this shot of Still Life With Two Plums by Flora Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick.  Talk about your big fruit.

Still Life With 2 Plums
Still Life With Two Plums

Farewell Man of Flamingo

IMG_0762Don Featherstone, fabricator of the kitschy pink flamingo, died on Monday, June 22, 2015 at the age of 79.  Mr. Featherstone was an artist by training, but who knew that the enduring medium of plastic and his eye for verisimilitude would cement him as the father of an icon in suburban garden whimsy. He partnered with Tom Herzing on a coffee table tome of “real”  folks exploring the creative limits of dressing and posing their pink flamingos:  The Original Pink Flamingos: Splendor on the Grass is still available.  I would imagine the folks at Schiffer Books are bracing for a run.    Link below if you want to check it out. Who doesn’t have an opinion about the wire-legged lawn ornament?  Whether you love or loath the bird you can’t deny its longevity or its place in  American mid-century folk culture.  John Waters made a transgressive cult movie featuring them, named after them, too.  And when John Waters features your work in his, I’d say you have crossed the rubicon from American mass-culture into high-art. Fare thee well Don Featherstone.  Long live the pink flamingo!

Short Fiction

Garbage Man

I stiffed the waitress at the IHOP.  It’s not as hard as you might think.  I’m walking to my car at the edge of the parking lot, and I smell it even before I see him; the bus boy wheeling a red garbage can full of wet and lumpy black bags out to the dumpster.  The more aggressive crows are waiting on the dumpster’s fence; they don’t even “caw.”

He parks the garbage can right behind my car to off-load the trash bags. Sticky clumps of pancake, lemon wedges, empty creamers and eggshells slip out, fall on the blacktop.  I get in my car and turn up the A/C so it’s even louder than the radio.

I wait for the guy to finish his trash business when a shadow on the window frightens me.  It’s my waitress and the manager – their faces pale but their eyes steely.  They’re bent a bit to look into the window so I feel like an animal in a cage.  I roll down the window, leave the A/C blasting and the manager says into the wind, “Did you forget something?”   They’re not even nervous, like this happens all the time.

I can’t leave.  I can’t back out, but I can smell garbage and grease now, and I feel hot and red even with the A/C blasting.

The check was $10 and change, but I only have a ten and a single in my wallet.  I give her both bills.  The manager exhales away the stink of garbage. “Really, please don’t come back.”


The Next Day

On the day after Mother’s Day please choose from at least one of the following:

  • Put the dishes in the dishwasher (or at least the sink)
  • Pick up your dirty socks
  • Take something upstairs with you
  • Start dinner or set the table
  • Sweep or vacuum
  • Just ask
  • Kiss her if you have her

Love that Mom 24/7/365 like she loves you.