HONEYSUCKLE AND PROVOLONE

The minute she walked into my little grocery store, I was blown away. She knocked my socks off. Even through the crack in the storage room door I was dazzled by this profusion of red hair the color of a bright autumn day, delicate skin with a smattering of freckles and captivating emerald eyes. And I fell head over heels. 

I’m Bruno Deluca – or Mr. Monotone compared to this rainbow butterfly who just floated into my market. I have the traditional Italian look – dark brown hair and eyes and a perpetual deep brown tan. But I have a sparkling smile and dimples “to die for”, as my Aunt Francesca always said. 

This amber goddess stood in front of the meat and cheese display, a bewildered look on her face. Here’s my big chance. I bolted from the back room and positioning myself directly in her line of vision, I said “Welcome to Deluca’s. May I help you with something, miss?” [Smooth, right?] 

She looked up and I flashed her the old ‘to die for’ smile. And she smiled back, blushing winsomely. My knees grew weak when she spoke, just a trace of a lilting Irish brogue. 

“Everything looks so delicious! I don’t know what to order, even if could pronounce the names!” And when she laughed I swear I saw musical notes wafting through the air. 

“No problem” I replied as I swiftly came around to her side, naming and describing all the meats and cheeses. 

She smelled like honeysuckle. I smelled like provolone. 

She still couldn’t make up her mind so I tried something radical. “How about I give you a few samples – on the house – if you promise to come back and buy something, even if it’s one slice of salami?” 

She hesitated for a second, then laughingly said “You have a deal, Mr…..” 

“Deluca. Bruno Deluca. And you are…..?” 

She extended a delicate hand. “Rowan McCourt. Pleased to meet you, Bruno.”

Rowan, eh? That’s a lovely name. What does it mean?” 

Tentatively touching her hair she said “Little Red-haired One. And what does Bruno mean?” 

I simply stated “Brown” and we both burst out laughing! 

I packed up a nice selection and some Italian bread. “Here ya go, Rowan, and don’t forget…..” 

“This is too much, Bruno! Thank you!” 

“Go! Enjoy! See you soon.” 

True to her word, Rowan returned two days later. “Bruno, everything was delicious! Now what shall I buy?” She browsed for a minute then said “That looks incredible! What is it?” 

“That’s lasagna – already cooked. Just heat and enjoy. How much do you want?” 

“Enough for a few portions” Rowan replied. 

“Ah, leftovers. Good thinking” I said. 

“Actually, Bruno, I was hoping you would join me for dinner tonight.”

“I’d love to” I whispered while inside I was screaming “Mama mia! I’d love to!” 

“Wonderful! Here’s my address. And Bruno, can you bring some wine and bread?” she asked. 

I nodded mutely. Smiling, she said “Bruno, I’m very happy you’ll be joining me.” Taking the bag, she danced out the door. 

NAR ©2019

https://fivedotoh.com/2022/09/28/fowc-with-fandango-market

EYES WIDE SHUT

Pamela sat huddled in the corner of the school office, her hands tightly clutching the sweater of her school uniform around her. The button of her blouse was undone and the sleeve was torn at the shoulder. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes swollen from crying and she chewed her bottom lip nervously. No one paid any attention except to toss an occasional accusatory glance her way. 

She ran her fingers through her dark hair, realizing her pony tail had come undone. She sniffled and wiped her nose on the sleeve of her sweater. Staring down at her penny loafers, she was startled by the sudden shrill ringing of the phone on the secretary’s desk. 

Yes, sir. Right away, sir” the secretary said into the phone, then hung up and called out “Pamela, Principal Hoffman will see you now.”

Pamela rose slowly and gathered her school books, still clutching her sweater. “Quickly, Pamela! You mustn’t keep Principal Hoffman waiting!” the secretary snapped at her. 

Pamela entered the principal’s office and was was shocked to see the drama coach Mr. Booker there. She quickly looked away, her face turning crimson. She felt naked standing there before them, their lecherous eyes staring at her. 

“Well, Pamela, do you know why you’re here?” asked Principal Hoffman. 

Pamela looked down at the floor shaking her head ‘no’. 

“Look at me and answer the question, you insolent little slut!” yelled the principal, excited by his increasing erection. 

Tears ran down her cheeks as she looked at both men, the expression on Mr. Booker’s face filling her with dread. 

He slowly walked up to Pamela saying “You little liar. You know why you’re here. You came to me behind the curtain after play rehearsal, rubbed up against me and tried to kiss me.” He reached out and grabbed her chin. “Admit it now before you get in more trouble!” and his filthy mind thought of all the things he’d like to do to her. 

Pushing his hand off her face, Pamela cried out “No! I didn’t do anything! You did! You’re the liar!” 

Booker raised his hand to slap her but Principal Hoffman banged his fist on the desk. “Pamela, this is a Christian school and we do not tell lies nor do we act in promiscuous ways. Now admit what Mr. Booker said is true.” 

She remained silent and shook her head in defiance.

“Fine, Pamela. You’re dismissed. We will be calling your parents this evening to discuss your behavior.” 

Pamela left the office and ran home. She knew her parents wouldn’t return from work for another few hours. She threw some clothes in a suitcase and called her older sister. “Mia” she cried into the phone. 

“Pammy, what’s wrong?” Mia asked. 

All Pamela said was “Mr. Booker.” 

“Listen, Pammy” Mia said. “Mom and Dad didn’t believe me and they won’t believe you. Take the bus to Paramus and I’ll pick you up. You’ll be safe with me.” 

Pamela left her house and never looked back. 

NAR © 2019

THE REGISTER

“Saunders B&B, a beautiful old country Georgian house in Tipperary, set in lovely wooded grounds and gardens. A warm welcome combined with superb food makes this gracious house ideal” recited my bride Fiona breathlessly.

How do you do that??” I asked for the fiftieth time since we met. 

“I can’t help having a photographic memory. It’s a blessing and a curse but it sure came in handy when studying ‘The Principles of Macroeconomics!” she laughed. 

It had been raining lightly and getting accustomed to driving on the other side of the road was challenging. As we turned the bend, the B&B appeared before us looking exactly like something out of a Thomas Moore poem. Just then the sun broke through the clouds, a rainbow in its wake. 

Look, Dylan! A rainbow! declared Fiona excitedly. “Maybe there’s a pot of gold at the end.” 

I chuckled at her enthusiasm. We entered the old but immaculate building and a kindly lady was there to greet us at the front desk. “I’m guessing you’re the Colcannons. I’m Kathleen. Welcome! Would you be kind enough to sign the register?” 

Fiona giddily signed the guest book. “Ah, newlyweds! There’s no mistaking that glow about ya, lass” Kathleen said,  smiling broadly. “Our last guests departed yesterday so you’ll have the whole place to yourselves.” Handing us the key to our room, she said dinner would be served at 7pm. 

Our room was charming with a view of the back gardens. Just before dinner we checked out the library. It was small but offered a variety of books from ‘Time Travellers’ to the writings of Diogenes. Dinner was carrot soup and White Pudding, a popular Irish meat dish, followed by scones and chocolate mousse. Exhausted and full, we retired early, looking forward to sightseeing in the morning. 

The next day we were served a traditional Irish breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash, toast, marmalade and Lyons Tea. “I am stuffed! You up for a walk?” I asked Fiona, and off we went exploring. Typical of Ireland, the day was overcast and as we walked along the path we came upon a cemetery. Slowly we weaved our way among the headstones, reading aloud the names as we went along. 

This is one for the Guinness book of coincidences” said Fiona“Yesterday when I signed the register I remember seeing the name ‘White’ and dinner was White Pudding. Another name in the register was ‘Lyons’ and this morning at breakfast we had Lyons Tea. That’s incredible!” 

“Both those names are pretty common, Fiona. I don’t think that’s incredible.” 

 Walking along we discovered Kathleen in the garden gathering vegetables. “For tonight’s dinner”, she explained. “A combination of mashed potatoes, cabbage and bacon.” 

“That sounds delicious!” declared Fiona “What’s it called?” 

Suddenly Kathleen whipped out a machete, grinned maniacally and shrieked “Colcannon!” 

The last thing I remember was seeing Fiona’s head roll to the ground and an excruciating pain in my neck while Kathleen cackled hideously. Then the whole world went black. 

NAR © 2019

HOUSECALLS

Saunders Drive. On the right corner stood the library, looking exactly as it did the last time I saw it. Diagonally across the street was the church we attended every Sunday, the preacher bellowing about morals and principles. Directly across from the church was a quaint-looking inn with a sign over the doorway – “Welcome, Travellers!” And on the fourth corner was the big Victorian house where the Casey family lived. Jeff Casey was my first boyfriend. Now there was a prominent shingle on the front lawn which read JEFFREY CASEY, M.D. A doctor! I never should have broken up with him! 

My childhood house was a stone’s throw from the Casey’s. Not quite ready to see the old place just yet, I kept walking. About halfway down Main Street, I came across a boho chic coffee shop/poet’s corner called “Beggars, Cynics and Diogenes”. A pretty young woman wearing a rainbow tie dyed hippie skirt was preparing lunch tables outside. She smiled pleasantly at me and asked if I’d like a table. 

“Why not” I replied and she handed me a menu. I was engrossed in reading when I became aware of a man standing nearby. Looking up I was pleasantly surprised to see the still handsome face of Jeff Casey grinning at me. 

“Rebecca Gardner! My God! What’s it been – 20 years? What brings you back to town?” 

“Jeff!” I exclaimed happily. “You look great!” and I instinctively hugged him. “Please join me.” We sat and the waitress took our order. 

Twenty years exactly. My folks sold the house when I left for college. Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m here. Memories, you know?” 

We caught up on life … marriages, divorces, etc., and I mentioned going to see my old house but for whatever reason I was nervous. 

Jeff tossed a twenty on the table and said “Come on. Let’s go together.” And before I could think of an excuse, we were on our way. 

The Matthews live here now. Nice family.” Jeff bounded up the front steps and rang the doorbell. No answer. 

Jeff, look. These are my handprints on the cement steps! And remember when we buried my favorite dog under that oak tree?”

“Riley – that sweet old beagle” Jeff responded, shocking me that he remembered. 

“Right there in the parlor was where I learned to play piano. And upstairs in the back was my little bedroom where I did my homework and listened to the radio. You know, when I left here I thought I’d find myself, but I ended up getting lost. If I could go inside I might find myself again and I wouldn’t take a thing – just a memory from the house that built me.” 

We slowly walked up Saunders Drive to Jeff’s place. “Well, I’ve got patients to see” he said. 

“And I’ve got a train to catch” I replied. “Can I call you sometime, Jeff?” 

“Anytime, Becca. By the way, I make house calls.” He smiled warmly and disappeared inside. 

NAR © 2019