CRIME OF THE CENTURY

Monday after school my friends and I are in our usual hang out .. Carroni Brothers Grocery store. We go for snacks, gum .. typical things 10 year old boys like. I want chips but I forgot my money. My friends don’t have any to loan me so I just walk around the store .. but those chips keep calling me. Next thing I know, I snatch the bag of chips and bolt out the side door. Instead of running as fast as lightning, I toss the bag into a nearby milk crate and squat down next to it. Whew! I made it! Suddenly Mr. Carroni is looming over me. He grabs the bag of chips and snarls at me “Get out of here, you little thief, and never come back!”  

That night I prayed Carroni’s would burn down. No such luck.

Every day that week I gazed longingly at the store from my school bus. 

One thought kept haunting me: Sunday morning .. when Dad and I take our customary walk to Carroni’s for fresh Italian bread, a box of macaroni, cannoli and the newspaper. Maybe I should just run away from home. 

Sunday arrives and Dad’s calling for me to “get a move on!” I keep making up excuses why I can’t go but he’s not buying them. 

Dead man walking. I’m dilly-dallying the whole way .. watching caterpillars, kicking pebbles, stopping to tie my shoelaces … again. 

“C’mon, kiddo! What is this…a funeral?” Yeah. Mine! I start crying, blubbering gibberish. Taking hold of my shoulders, Dad looked me square in the eye and said “Ok, what’s going on?”  

Sobbing pathetically, I told Dad the whole sordid story. Taking out his handkerchief, he wiped my face, held it to my nose and said “Blow. Listen, kiddo, what you did was wrong but it’s over. Now we go apologize .. and not a word about any of this to your Mom. This stays between us guys.” 

We walked into the store, picked out our usual items and walked up to the counter. “Mr. Carroni, my son has something to say.” I managed to squeak out “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll never steal anything from you again” and extended my hand. An eternity seemed to go by but to my shock, Mr. Carroni took my little hand in his meaty one, gave me a solid handshake and nodded in agreement. 

Anything else?” he asked my Dad.

“Just this” responded Dad as he tossed a bag of my favorite chips onto the counter. 

To this day I don’t think Mom ever knew. 

NAR © 2018

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

9:30 AM Friday/Drew texting:  “Hey! Got any plans this weekend?”  

OMG! I’m paralyzed. My biggest crush in forever is asking me if I have plans this weekend. OK, get a grip. I don’t want to appear desperate .. after all, we’ve never actually dated ..  just walks in the park with our dogs – his terrier Arlo and my pug Charlie. 

Alright. A sufficient amount of time has passed.

9:50 AM/Me texting:  “This weekend? Um…. nothing definite. What’s up?”  

Just the right tone. Cool and calm .. which I’m neither. Gotta love texting. It’s so impassive when necessary.

9:53 AM/Drew texting:  “Fantastic!  I scored two tickets to Springsteen for Saturday night in .. are you ready for this?  Vegas!”  

Vegas! I love Vegas! I’m practically hyperventilating. Settle down, girl?

10:05 AM/Me texting:  “Just double-checking my calendar. We’re good to go, Drew.”  

10:07 AM/Drew texting:  “Excellent! Even Arlo’s excited!  Can you hear him? We’ll be getting back late Sunday. Are you cool with that?”  

Am I cool with that?? It IS a bit sudden but what the hell. Just go for it.

10:10 AM/Me texting:  “Yeah, that’s fine. Hi, Arlo! How’s my buddy? Charlie can’t wait for another play date.”  

10:12 AM/Drew texting:  “This is gonna be epic, Amy. I wasn’t sure how you’d react. Hey, Arlo really misses you. I’ll be at your place tomorrow morning at 9:30.”  

10:15 AM/Me texting:  “Perfect! See you then.” 

My head’s spinning. After work:  get a bikini wax, stop at Victoria’s Secret, pack.  

Excitement kept me awake most of the night and I finally gave up at 6:30. After coffee and a shower, I finish packing and get dressed. A quick glance at the clock .. ten minutes to go. 

*DING DONG*!!  

Forcing myself not to lunge for the door, I casually open it to see Drew’s smiling face, one arm cradling Arlo, his other arm around the shoulder of a stunning brunette in tight jeans and a Springsteen tank top. My grin has frozen in place. 

“Hi, Amy! This is Charlotte. I’m so glad you can take care of Arlo; Charlotte and I are really looking forward to this get-away weekend. Same routine for Arlo as last time you watched him. We’ll pick him up Sunday night. Thanks, Amy. You’re a real gem!”  

Taking the pup, I wave goodbye to the departing lovebirds. Slowly I close the door, my stupid grin gone as I lean against the wall snuggling Arlo. “Hear that, buddy? I’m a real gem.”  

NAR © 2018

ONE + ONE + ONE

Out of the blue the call arrived. It was late and I was beyond tired. We were tempted to let it go straight to voice mail, but Gary thought it might be important. 

“Gary? It’s Alice from the adoption agency. Fabulous news! We have a baby for you and Carol. Can you come by in the morning?”. 

Gary jumped up. “My God! Are you sure?”  Completely convinced that something terrible had happened, I grabbed the phone. “This is Carol Wheeler. Who’s this, please?”  

Not bad news. Just the opposite … elating, top of the world, Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds news! 

ALICE FOUND US A BABY!!! 

“Yes!! We’ll be there! Thank you so much”  I sputtered. 

Dumbstruck, we stood there … then pandemonium erupted. Laughing, crying, hugging, kissing, dancing like lunatics. We didn’t think … or even care … to ask “boy, girl, age”? After eight years of trying to get pregnant and failing miserably, some loving stranger was presenting us with the most precious gift imaginable. 

Collapsing onto the couch, we talked about the past eight years … the failed attempts …  heartbreaking losses … the baby things we collected over the years, now hiding in the attic. 

“Gary, do you realize tomorrow we will be a family of three?”  

TOMORROW!!  

All tiredness forgotten, we raced to the attic for the plastic bins of assorted baby items. There in the corner sat the bassinet, glowing in the darkness – a mystical aura the likes of which I’d never seen before. I believe at that moment I heard angels singing. We reverently carried it down to our room. I leaned into Gary, overcome with elated exhaustion. 

And then the phone rang … again. We stared at it, afraid to answer, convinced it was Alice calling to say the baby’s mom had changed her mind, there would be no happy family for us. 

I reached for the phone and wearily, warily said “Yes?”.  

Carol? It’s  Dr. Shaw. Sorry to call so late but your tests results are back. The reason you’ve been so exhausted lately? You’re three months pregnant … with twins … and everything looks great!”  

Stunned, crying, all I could manage was a hushed “My God. Are you sure?”  

“Absolutely. Congratulations!” 

Gary held me closely and whispered “Shh. Another baby will come along.”  

I giggled. “You’re so right. That was Dr. Shaw. I’M PREGNANT … WITH TWINS!! We’re gonna be a family of FIVE!”

We had won the Triple Crown.

NAR © 2018

CHUNK ‘O BURNING LOVE

Out of chunky peanut butter again!”  Ralph had just woken up and all he wanted was a cup of black coffee and toast with chunky peanut butter. Was that too much to ask? Standing there in front of the open cabinet scratching his substantial stomach, he began searching the kitchen shelves but there was no chunky peanut butter to be found. Oh, there was creamy but nobody likes that crap except wusses and prissy women like his wife, Marge.

MARGE! WHERES THE GODDAMN CHUNKY PEANUT BUTTER?” He listened closely but got no reply. Probably at her stupid writing club…..as if she could ever be an author!”  

“Gotta do everything myself around here”  Ralph muttered as he got dressed and went out for his beloved chunky peanut butter. First stop – Acme Grocers. No luck. Shit!”  grumbled Ralph. On to Shoprite. Again no chunky peanut butter. Ralph was starting to get really pissed off, the hair on the back of his neck standing straight up. Another stop at Wegman’s….they have everything. There were all sorts of butters….peanut, almond, cashew, walnut, sunflower…..even that hoity toity natural stuff…..and it was all creamy!“Where’s my fucking chunky peanut butter?” – the words raged through Ralph’s pounding brain. 

“What is this .. a freaking conspiracy?”  Ralph started frantically searching the shelves, knocking all the jars onto the floor. Broken glass flew everywhere and Ralph yowled in pain as huge shards ripped into his hands. That’s when he completely lost control. Customers ran from the the store in a  panic as Ralph began morphing into The Incredible Hulk. He stormed out of Wegman’s and bounded down the street toward Walmart, ripping the doors off the store in his fury. 

People cowered in terror as Ralph trashed the store in his frenzied search. Just as he reached the peanut butter aisle, Ralph woke up in his own bed, sweating and panting. Oh, sweet Jesus! It was just a nightmare.”

Slowly Ralph got out of bed, splashed cold water on his face and shuffled into the kitchen. Marge came through the back door with an armful of groceries just as Ralph poured himself a cup of coffee. 

Then, as though off in a distant fog he heard Marge speaking in slow motion: “SORRY……RALPH…… THEY……WERE……OUT……OF……CHUNKY……PEANUT……BUTTER.” 

Ralph’s roar and Marge’s blood-curdling screams could be heard all the way down to Wegman’s.

NAR © 2018

THE IVY GARDEN

Out our kitchen window I can see my little girl Nell playing with her new best friend Gina. Since moving to rural Vermont two months ago, the girls have become inseparable. They are both four years old and about the same height but that’s where the physical  similarities end. 

Nell is a green-eyed lanky Irish redhead covered in a profusion of freckles while Gina is a slightly plump Italian beauty with brown doe eyes, smooth tanned skin and lustrous black hair. 

As I stand at the kitchen sink I can see the girls playing in the yard. Their energy is boundless as they dash back and forth from the swings to the trampoline to their bikes. 

Moving around the house doing my chores, I can hear Gina counting, followed by a loud “ready or not…here I come”, then the hysterical giggles as Nell’s secret (but usual!) hiding place is discovered. 

The yard is fenced in and I’m completely conscious of where the girls are and what they’re doing .. most of the time. Occasionally they’ll wander into a concealed corner of the garden to pick wild flowers for me and Gina’s mom. Even though I can’t see them, I can clearly hear their conspiratorial mumblings as they go from one blossom to the other.  

“Buttercups and Lilys of the Valley” whispered Gina.

“And some of this pretty shiny ivy” added Nell. “Mommy likes shiny things.”  

All was quiet and I presumed the girls were waiting for me to come downstairs and present me with a freshly-picked bouquet. But to my amazement on the crisp white linen dining room tablecloth sat a short blue glass vase brimming with buttercups, lilys and ivy. It was breathtaking. I stood there admiring the green, white and golden cluster when suddenly I heard woeful whimpering and sobbing coming from the porch. 

And there, huddled closely under the wicker chair were Nell and Gina, their little bodies covered in itchy red rashes. Only then did I realize the vine in the vase with the flowers was poison ivy! 

“Come with me, my sweet girls. It’s nothing a little calamine lotion won’t fix. Thank you for the  flowers .. the most beautiful I’ve ever seen! Won’t daddy be surprised when he comes home tonight!” I said, smiling and chuckling wistfully to myself. 

And tomorrow we will rid our garden of all the pretty shiny ivy. 

NAR © 2018