Saturday, March 03, 2007


And It Won't Be Long

I met Teresa under the white neon Josephine Tobin sign at Woodlawn Lake. She was soaked, bedraggled, and completely flustered by the monsoon weather. She had her Psy. D. in hand—it, too, was withered by the storm.

I pulled under the Tobin arch, rolled down the window, and offered her a stack of postcards from old, dead Peacock Academy. She took one postcard and waved off the rest.

Holding up the sodden diploma, she said, “They told me, they assured me, that this would be the key to my future.”

“Teresita,” I said. “Gainful employ, lovely man, lovely daughter—what’s not to enjoy? You’re not still holding out for the purple Benz?”

She blushed, the exact color of her automotive Grail.

“Okay, okay,” I added. “Nothing wrong with a little Janis Joplin at our age.”

That our smote mightily. The lady was, verily, still but 7-squared. Oceans of time before the half century. I, truly, was beyond the pale, awash in the purgatory of middle age.

She slipped into the front seat of my dog-eared, dog-haired Honda. Leaned in close and whispered, “You won’t tell, will you?”

“Upon the soul of the grandmother of my blue heeler, I am sworn,” qouth I. “I am the soul of discretion. Prithee, do tell.”

She looked off into the flooded night, then back. A gargantuan secret, no doubt. Clearly, she needed something for strength. I handed her the rest of my Mountain Dew. She waved that off, too.

“He told me to meet him here, at five, under the Tobin.”

I nodded.

“The sky was robin’s egg blue then. Not a cloud in the sky.”

Another clerical nod.

“The sky breaks at six-thirty. I’m Ariel by seven; Flipper, by seven-thirty. Eight, Purefoy rolls up. Long stretch limo, armada of Veuve-Clicquot bottles, when the window rolls down.”

“Blinded by gold bronze.”

“Exactly. Behind the armada, an apothecary’s hutch full of tickets.”

“I hear Purefoy is global now. World wide distribution.”

Terry nods. “So, I hand him the diploma. He sniffs it. Sniffs it. I know what it’s worth, but I also know Purefoy. I know it's worth four Bowie tickets, front and center. Dylan, halfway back, maybe—who wants to be that close to Dylan anyway, with that nasty moustache he’s sporting? But again, it’s Purefoy. You know you’re only going to get fifty cents on the dollar. I figure, at the very least, a tidy six-pack of Bachman-Turner Overdrive tickets. Evan will kill me, but at least he can wear his beret and slum with the groundlings.”

“And?” I was eager for the punch line.

“He hands me back the sheepskin, reaches behind without looking, and pulls out a whopping stack of cardboard. Drives off before I can read what he’s given me.”

The arch in my brow is question enough. Save me, please save me, from further travail.

“Fifty tickets, like brine swill, he gifts me with fifty tickets.”

“1910 Fruitgum Company Reunion Tour?”

“Worse yet. New Christy Minstrels.”

“New? Ordovician era would be new. Municipal Auditorium?”

“Krueger Middle School.”

“I feel your pain.” Rotary Club at the Bun and Barrel was posh, by comparison.

The rain was slowing; more precipitation down Terry’s cheeks.

I aimed high. This was, after all, her year. She deserved “Golden Years,” not Well, I'll be a dandy and I'll be a rover. “San Francisco Steakhouse? Two of their sweet Delmonicos?”

She wiped her face on the sheepskin. “Fifty years, I thought I’d go vegan.”

“Oops. There goes White Castle. Big Apple Bagel?”

“The cream cheese is too tempting.”

“I hear you.” If I were a bagel, I would marry the BA’s jalapeño cream cheese. “Rice Dream root beer float?”

Her hand reached across to mine, pretty emerald on the finger that mattered.

“You know the old red carpet at the airport?” she said.

“Remember it well.”

“They moved it to Wonderland.”

Wonderland Mall had been Crossroads for twenty years, but for those of us in Virgil’s waiting room, Wonderland would always be Wonderland.

“No kidding.”

Two eyes now matched the shine on that Ozma beryl. My Honda’s window was rolling down, and fifty cardboard butterflies fluttered off into Josephine Tobin’s night.

“Onion rings before or after?”

“Must I choose?”

Run for the shadows, run for the shadows…

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