The Art of Being Un-Wired: Chapter 12

(Read the other chapters here.)

When I returned home an envelope had been pushed through the mail slot. The letter was addressed to me, but had the return address of the house next door, the pumpkin chucker’s address. The stamp on it had been cancelled.  I sighed.  Before leaving Regina Moore’s office I had asked her what could be done about a crazy pumpkin chucking neighbor. “I’m really at my wit’s end, Ms. Moore. You have no idea how unnerving something like this can be. I mean, I’ve lived in big cities all my life. Well, most of my life, and I’d hardly consider myself–”

“That’s causing a public nuisance, Ms. Tinsdale, violation 23.453.2, window 18.  See Miss Johnson, she can assist you with that matter. That’s her area,” she said, dismissing me, swiveling her chair squarely under her desk as a man dressed in camouflage and cradling a Teacup Poodle hurriedly took my place.

I turned the envelope over in my hand, but didn’t open it. Instead, I placed it on the mantle along with all the other mail to be ignored. I didn’t have time for pumpkin chucking neighbors, not with hungry Minnesotans on the way. Unsure what to do next, I called Benny.

This morning Benny had a hangover. And as was his way, he didn’t feel the least bit guilty that he hadn’t put in an appearance at the small Cajun/Creole-style restaurant his parents had owned forever. This restaurant, Miss Lottie’s Way, was the very same restaurant he received a considerable salary from his parents, Loretta and Ben Sanderson Sr., to manage.

“Hey, how about you come to Baltimore then?” I said, attempting to sound calm, not calm before the proverbial storm me, but the new and improved, isn’t life grand, calm me.

“I suppose. But really, Stell, my head is completely split. Can’t we Graham Bell this?”  The next twenty minutes for Benny must have been excruciating. The trip down memory’s rocky lane: me recounting the time Francisco decided to wash his 4Runner and left the water running in the mop sink, ruining the dresses from my vintage clothing business packed in trash bags in the basement, along with the ten minutes spent revisiting the time the raven got into the Tudor, swooping down on me like an avenging angel, with Benny having to force his way in a side door with a bent and rusting spare key. I didn’t want to but lacking pride, I whined: “Please, Benny, I need you. I won’t ask for another favor – not this year.”  Though slow to answer, when he did, he said, “Sweetie, I’m already half way there. See you in a few.”

He arrived forty minutes later wearing tan khakis, a salmon polo shirt, and loafers, no socks. He was about to fall onto the sofa, when I motioned for him to follow me upstairs. “I just fluffed those cushions,” I said, taking a passing glance back at him. Most times, he would’ve made some smart remark. This day, he didn’t. Even hung-over he looked extraordinarily handsome, much as he had when I first saw him that day in Mr. Creighton’s 5th period drama class. Holding me captive, transfixed as he lazily talked, almost as if to himself, to Shirley “Monkey-face” Montgomery.

“Well, I’m in a bit of a fix, Monkey Girl.”

She nodded, gnawing at her Oh Henry! bar not unlike a little monkey.

“See, I started with unicorns, completely content with my little collection. A very lovely collection, enviable, really…chartreuse, ecru …you know me, girl.”

Shirl sucked at her lips, getting the candy bits, but missing one large piece of peanut resting on her chin. “I know, Benny.”

“But now, I’ve gone and fallen, head over heels – My Little Pony. Purples and lavenders—God! What to do? Two separate collections, or lump everything together and risk the clash?”

Shirl brushed at her chin, cocking her head, “Unicorns and ponies are basically the same, except for the horn, right?”

“Monkey Girl, I don’t know,” he sighed, pulling at a lock of hair that only just grazed his forehead. Then he looked over at me, mouthed, “Hey you,” and winked.

My Little Ponies and their unicorn play cousins.  Back then I was crushed. Today, not so much.

“So, how’s Lottie—your mom, not the restaurant?” I asked, taking a squat on the chaise at the foot of the bed.

Bennie fell onto my bed, crossing his arms over his eyes. “Tell me this isn’t why you summoned me?”

“OK. Where do you want me to start?” I said.

He groaned. “Lord God, anywhere close to the end,” he said, rolling his body onto several perfectly poofed pillowed. “I mean, I got the gist on the phone, Sweetie.”

“I applied for the variance, but I can’t cook anything in my kitchen until it comes through and that might be 90 days. What to do?  The Minnesotans will be here tomorrow.”

“I thought they were due next week.”

“Something about a scheduling conflict; they’re coming tomorrow.”

Benny ran his hand over the chenille spread, lightly massaging the tuffs in the double wedding ring pattern with the tips of his fingers.

“Benny, what am I to feed these people?  I promised them three meals per day. If I even think about turning on a burner it’s a $500 fine.”

“The way I see it, you really don’t have too many choices.”

“You’ve got to do better than that. Those folks aren’t coming here to eat takeout Chinese and Dunkin’ Donuts.”

“Well, like I said, your choices are limited. You’ve put a lot of money in this little enterprise,” he said, rolling his eyes. It was a common gesture on his part, one I found easy to ignore. I had spent most of my high school years being eye rolled. Both the pom-pom and cheerleading squads perfected their technique on me. Shoot, all four tone-deaf members of the madrigals felt free to roll their eyes at me.

“So, what are you saying…?”

“Girl, I’m sayin’ you gotta feed ‘em. You have to chance it and put a match to those burners, pull out Glory’s old cast iron skillet, that old dinged up bunt cake mold scavenged from Lord knows what yard sale, and give them Minnesotans something their upper and lowers can chomp down on.”

“I got the skillet from Target.”

“Wherever.  Estella, you’ve got way too much banking on this to have those Minnesotans Trip Advisor you with 2 lonely stars.

I got up off the bed, smoothing where I had been and smiled, “Benny Boy, when you’re right, you’re right.”

Benny got up from where he laid, looked briefly at the impression his body had made, and finding no fault, met my eyes and said, “You’re welcome. Now, may I please go to work?”

to be continued…