They tell me that I need a website. Who’s “they?” Writing and publishing professionals. So, here’s my website, premiered to coincide with the publishing of my story, “The Gravy Boat” on Instant Noodles <https://devilspartypress.com/hot-buttered-holidays-2021/>. Please let me know what you think of it, and while you’re on the Instant Noodles site, check out some of the other short stories, poems and art!
This website will provide links to my published works, and here on the blog page, I’ll share news, thoughts, and sometimes short stories and other ramblings.
The Friendly Skies
The Thanksgiving holiday is for family, and after not flying for almost two years, I nervously booked tickets, and headed to PHL before the buttcrack of dawn.
Okay, I have take a detour for a moment – at least three times over the holiday, my brother-in-law said “buttcrack of dawn” is not a very accurate term because some buttcracks are wider than others. LOL!
So, to be completely accurate, my flight was at 5:30 a.m. And, I’d bought a parking deal off Groupon, so I was wandering around Delco at 3:30 a.m. the day before Thanksgiving, trying to find Park and Jet. For some reason, my GPS does not communicate well when it’s dark, I’m nervous, and I have no idea where I am. After several u-turns, I finally got parked and boarded the shuttle to the airport.
On the shuttle already was a very nice older couple, wearing matching striped masks. They greeted me right away and told me they were flying out to visit their daughter in Dallas for the first time since the pandemic. The shuttle made one more stop before heading for the airport. At that stop, a very tall man wearing a leather coat and sporting hair that, as my Aunt Ettie would say, looked like he combed it with egg beaters, boarded. He had on no mask. He sat directly across from the old couple.
They did not greet him as they had me. Now, let me confess: I was a little nervous about flying out of concern that people would start stupid stuff over masks. So, I ASSUMED it was his lack of mask that doused their friendliness. But, it might have been his hulking build, his unkempt hair, or his smell. I’m no saying he smelled. I didn’t smell him. I’m just saying the old couple might have, and maybe that’s why they didn’t greet him.
I sat at the back of the shuttle, so I had the perfect vantage to watch them all. The old lady, let’s call her Sal – she just seemed like a Sal to me – stared directly at the big guy. Let’s call him Bert. Bert was oblivious because he’d closed his eyes. Sal whispers to her husband – I’m gonna call him Hal. I couldn’t hear what she said, but I heard what Hal said, “It’ll be alright.” I thought, “Here we go.” But, we got to terminal B without anything more happening. Thank you, Sal and Hal, for not causing a scene.
At the airport, I was glad I heeded the warning to get to the airport two hours early. American had disabled the kiosks that allow you to check bags, and the line to check in with bags was out the door. There was no social distancing in that line, or in any others I stood in. Everyone had on masks, but there were a lot of noses hanging over the masks. Oh, how I wanted to ask how they wore their underwear, but I kept myself in check.
The line through TSA was long, too, and there were changes. Instead of signs about taking off your shoes or 3-1-1, there were signs about failure to follow instructions or any violence or threats of violence were unlawful and would not be tolerated. Nobody got into it over anything – not even when the gate agent announced that passengers wearing vented masks would not be allowed on the plane.
On my flight from PHL to ORD, I had an entire row to myself. Maybe all the other people had on vented masks? Before we took off, the pilot came on and told us it was cold in Chicago and that if anyone failed to follow the flight atendants’ instructions, including instructions to wear masks, they would be removed from the flight and never allowed to fly on American again. It was cold, cold, cold on that plane, but that made it easy to wear my mask, so I was grateful. There were dogs barking, babies crying, and even a cat meowing, but nobody came to blows, or even argued, on the plane.
On the commuter flight from ORD to Burlington, IA, neither the pilot nor the first officer wore masks. All the passengers did, however. The guy sitting across from me — I’m going to call him Bert, too, not because he was hulking, had unkempt hair or smelled, but just because it was a Bert kind of day – was born and raised in Seattle, and he’d never been to Iowa before. Bert was freaked out by the size of the plane (eight passenger seats) and the uneasy way we took off into a head wind. (Truthfully, I was a little unnerved by the take-off, too – we seemed to be drifting instead of banking.) When it got warm (really warm) on the plane, he took his mask off. Neither I nor anyone else said anything. When the plane landed (PERFECT landing) he said, “Well, I don’t need to do that again – marking it off the bucket list!” His friend replied drily, “Well, you’re going to have to do it at least once more. . .”
Coming back home, I did not choose my attire wisely – sequins on my sweater and sparkles on the butt pockets of my jeans. TSA showed me on their screen the areas that the system alarmed on – the whole front of my torso and my sparkly butt cheeks. Strangely enough, I got felt up from my ankles to my crotch before the “back of the hand” pat down of my torso. I started to ask about that since I SAW the screen, but worried that might be taken as unlawful, and kept my mouth shut.
After that, we took off without issue – again, an eight-seater, but the take-off was confident. All was going well until we got to Chicago, and flew right over it – closer to the top of the Sears tower than I’ve been in years. Then we kept going out over Lake Michigan, and kept going and kept going. About the time I was starting to get seriously worried, we banked to the left, and I was treated to a magical view of downtown Chicago from the middle of Lake Michigan as the sun’s early morning rays peaked above the fog on the lake to illuminate the city. It was truly awe-inspiring. My damn phone was off, so no pic.
ORD was full of people wearing their masks incorrectly, but again no one fought over it. It was also full of people with cats in carriers. The cats did not sound glad to be travelling. As I waited for my flight to PHL, one of the families travelling with a cat was also travelling with a toddler and a baby. Mom was wrangling them all, but the toddler got away from her, came over and patted my leg and told me a very earnest story that unfortunately I didn’t understand a single word of. He wasn’t wearing a mask, but I didn’t start trouble with him. I must not have given him the appropriate response to his story because he then told it to the cat. The cat listened intently.
Then we’re all getting on the plane. I see this guy come walking down the aisle without his mask. He looks like he’d like nothing more than to throw down. About the time I notice him, a flight attendant behind me sees him, too. They meet up three rows ahead of me, where she tells him that federal law requires that he wear a mask on the plane. He mutters something unintelligible, and continues trying to cram his duffle bag in the overhead. She says, “Excuse me?” her voice rising just slightly. All of us in rows 15 and 16 go silent. He says, clearly, “Yes I’m getting it,” and he pulls it out of his pocket and puts it on.
I expel the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding.
The almost last person on the plane was a tiny blonde woman with two bags and a cup of coffee. I smiled – just your garden variety idiot traveler – a sign of normalcy. I thought, “This really hasn’t been bad.” The smile faded from behind my mask as the guy next to me starts sneezing. Then his wife starts coughing. For two hours they sneezed, hacked, sniffed, and blew their noses. The man coughed into his hands, and then touched seats, seatbacks, and the trash he tried to get me to put in the flight attendant’s trash bag. I declined. I can’t say I politely declined. I just shook my head. People have learned nothing.
In between the flights, I had a FANTASTIC Thanksgiving—great food, hours of pinochle (including blind pinochle), a sing-along, LOTS of laughs, lessons on crypto investing, and love. Such a great time!
Doobies for What Ails Ya
Cat was bundled up on the couch, propped up by multiple pillows, eyes closed against her splitting headache, when her ancient rescue dog, Daisy, barked a warning. Cat was sitting up on the couch because after four days in bed with Covid-19, her body ached from lying down so long. She was bundled up because she was still running a fever, and Daisy barking did nothing to help with the headache.
She reluctantly opened her eyes and saw through the bay window a long white Cadillac coming to rest in her driveway.
“Oh, crap,” she said to herself. Then, she hoarsely yelled, “Brandon, somebody’s here!’ Brandon, whose fever broke the day before, had just finished a much-needed shower. He yelled back from the bathroom, “Who is it?”
“I don’t know, but she’s coming to the door. Get in here and tell her we’re sick.”
“She” was a large black woman whose outfit reminded Cat of the lyrics to the Al Stewart song her mom sang to her when she was little, The Year of the Cat. The lady’s outfit truly looked like a watercolor in the rain –splotches of fuchsia, lavender, yellow and green melted together in her flowing pants and loose jacket. The silk outfit was paired with a fuchsia top and flats, and a fuchsia headband outlined the lady’s white spiked hair.
Brandon, barefoot and with wet hair, came into the living room, just as the woman knocked on the door. Cat croaked at him, “Put on a mask,” and he grabbed a flower print mask from the coat hooks by the door. Before he opened the door, the lady took the scarf hanging loosely around her neck and wrapped it around her head covering her mouth and nose. When Brandon opened the door, she stepped back to the sidewalk.
“Good morning,” she said cheerily. “I’m Lola, and I understand Cat has a screaming migraine to go along with the ‘Rona. I brought her a little somethin’ somethin’ in the bag there on the porch to help out with that. You have a blessed day!” With a little wave, she started back toward her Cadillac.
For the first time, Brandon noticed the car. “Oh my God!’ he exclaimed, “Is that your Caddy? What is it, a ’77 Fleetwood?”
Lola turned back and said proudly, “’76 Fleetwood Brougham. Just like the one my daddy had.”
“She’s in pristine shape! Is the interior red?” Brandon stepped out on the porch, fully intending to go look more closely at the car.
“Whoa, there, bubba,” Lola said, putting up a halting hand. “I’m sorry to be unfriendly, but as you can see, I’m a fat old lady, and what you’ve got will kill me.”
Brandon, chagrined, stopped and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I just didn’t think – I’m kinda a car guy.”
“Some other time,” Lola said, and turned back toward her car.
“Oh, hey,” Brandon said, “I forgot to ask who sent the gift for Cat?”
Opening the car door, Lola, removed the scarf from her face, and with a big smile said, “Don’t you worry none about that. I hope both of you feel better soon.” With that, she got into her car.
Brandon waved at her, picked up the gift bag and went back inside.
Shutting the door, he said, “Did you see her car? It’s pristine!”
Cat raised her head and without opening her eyes said, “Who is she? What did she want?”
Brandon walked over to the couch and said, “She brought you this. She said it would help with your headache.”
Cat opened her eyes to see the gift bag Brandon was holding in front of her face. “What is it?” she asked.
“I don’t know; I didn’t open it.”
Cat took the bag and started to pull out the tissue paper, then stopped and asked again, “Who is she?”
Brandon sat down on the other end of the leather couch and said, “Her name’s Lola. That’s all I know. Let’s see what she brought.”
“Okay,” Cat said, pulling out the tissue paper. Then she pulled out a small Ziploc bag.
“What the hell,” she said.
Brandon said, “What is it?”
In reply, Cat tossed him the baggie.
He looked at it and then looked back at Cat. “Joints?” he said. “Who would send you joints?”
“Nobody!” Cat exclaimed. “Did you ask her who it was from?”
“Yeah, and it was kind of weird. She said, ’Don’t you worry none about that’ – just like your mom does when we ask her how much we owe her for stuff.” Then pulling a couple of the joints out of the bag, he continued, ”Look at these – they are rolled tight! Lola drives a kick ass car and rolls some tight ass doobies – do you think she’s a drug dealer?”
“A middle-aged, female drug dealer who makes house calls to houses where people have Covid?”
“Well, then, who would send you weed?”
“Nobody,” Cat repeated. “Would somebody you know send it?”
“Maybe, but Lola specifically said it was for your ‘screaming migraine.’ Hey, should we smoke one and see if it helps you?”
Cat rolled her eyes, and immediately wished she hadn’t. Putting her hands over her eyes, she said, “No, we should not smoke weed delivered to our house by some old lady we don’t know.”
Brandon sat quietly for a moment looking at the joints. “Maybe it’s your mom. I mean she’s always telling you different wacky things to try for your migraines. And, Lola said that thing your mom always says.”
Dropping her head to the pillows, Cat groaned and said, “Have you met my mother? What about Nadine says to you that she would have weed delivered to my house? Would it be her uptight and rigid fashion rules? Her limits on the number of starches you can have in a single meal? Her ‘children should be seen and not heard’ mandate when playing pinochle?”
After thinking about it for a moment, Brandon, said slowly, “Yeaaaahhhh, Nadine can be wound a little tight, but she has a bit of a wild side, too. I mean, remember when she almost got arrested for waging armed warfare against the chipmunks in her yard? Or, when she wore a tiara to a funeral? Or, the time she and her crazy friends put Tide in all the fountains around town?”
Cat said, not lifting her head, “My mother did not send those joints. Go ahead and smoke it if you want, but I’m not taking your ass to the hospital if they’re laced with something.”
“No,” Brandon said tossing the baggie on the coffee table. “I’m not gonna smoke your doobies. Actually, I’m exhausted. I’m going back to bed. Can I get you anything?”
“No, honey, thanks, but would you close the curtains, please? And, get rid of those things – I don’t want to chance the kids finding them when they come back from your mom’s.”
Two days later, Cat’s fever broke, and their kids, six-year old Jeremy and four-year old Kayla returned home from their grandmother’s house. In another week, both Brandon and Cat returned to work. Both had queried all their friends about Lola and the gift she delivered, but no one knew Lola, and no one admitted to sending the three joints.
After three days back at work, Cat’s migraine returned full force, landing her back in bed in her darkened room. When Brandon returned home that evening, after feeding the children, getting them bathed and put to bed, he went in to check on his wife. He found her on the floor in the bathroom, crying.
“What’s going on, honey?” he asked, helping her up.
“My head hurts so bad that now I’m throwing up. My meds aren’t cutting it. Are the kids okay?”
Brandon eased her onto the bed, and said, “The kids are fine; they have a damn fine dad.” Then he said. “I’ll be right back.”
Moments later, Brandon was back at Cat’s side with Lola’s baggie and a lighter. Cat said, “I thought you got rid of those.”
“Nope. I put them away for a rainy day. I think that day is now.”
“Brandon, we don’t know what’s in those.”
“I got good vibes from Lola. She wouldn’t poison us. Here, I’ll go first, and if I don’t explode, well, then it’s probably safe.” Then he pulled one of the three joints from the baggie, and sniffed it.
“Seriously, it smells like good stuff.”
Cat groaned. “So, now you’re a pot connoisseur?”
Brandon took that as her assent, and he put the joint to his lips and lit it. After a couple of deep puffs, he said, “I’m not exploding. C’mon honey, maybe it’ll make you feel better – I don’t think it can make you feel worse.”
As a measure of Cat’s desperation, it didn’t take much convincing for her to take the offered joint and inhale. Passing it back and forth between them, they smoked it in silence. When Brandon ran the burning end into the bathroom, Cat closed her eyes. She was surprised to realize that although her head was still throbbing, it wasn’t as all-encompassing as it had been just a few minutes earlier. Brandon came back, flopped himself on the bed, and asked, “Is your headache any better?”
Slowly, Cat said, “I think so. But, I think, Mr. Pot Connoisseur, that you’re wrong about this being good stuff. I’m not the least bit, high.”
“Yeah, I’m not either. Maybe we should try another.”
So, they smoked the second joint. At the end of that one, Cat pronounced her headache “manageable,” and said she still wasn’t high. “Okay, then,” Brandon said. “Let’s light up that final Lola.” Cat giggled and snorted as Brandon made a grand production out of lighting the last joint.
Two puffs into the final “Lola,” Cat said, “Oh my God, I think I’m high!”
“Thank God,” Brandon replied, “because I’ve been floating on the ceiling since about halfway through the last one, but didn’t want to look like a lightweight in front of my best girl.”
“I’m not your best girl; I’m your wife,” Cat said and laughed like that was the funniest thing ever.
“Like that movie about the boat and the guy that dies says the little girl is his best girl.”
“I don’t know that movie.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. The movie about the boat, and they do this at the front.” With that, Brandon stood, leaned forward, spread his arm wide over his head and fell over – first on the bed and then to the floor.
Laughing hysterically, Cat said, “I don’t know any movie where someone falls on their ass at the beginning!”
“Well, they didn’t fall,” Brandon said. “I fell, but in the movie they don’t fall. They’re out at the front of the boat, and. . .”
“Are you talking about Titanic?” Cat asked incredulously.
“Yes! I knew you knew it!” Brandon exclaimed scrambling back onto the bed.
“What about it?”
“What about what?”
“I already told you, they were at the front of the boat. ..”
“I don’t know, for shits and giggles I guess, I don’t remember a lot about the movie. . .but everybody does that front of the boat thing now.”
Cat sat up and looked sternly at Brandon. “You’re not makin’ any sense.”
Brandon laid back and just laughed. Then he whined, “But, you’re just asking me so many hard questions.”
Suddenly, Cat jumped up. “Did you hear that?” As Brandon continued laughing and talking to himself, she said, “Shhh! Shhh!”
“Why are you shushing me? You’re always shushing me. Shushing. Shu Shu Shushing. That’s a weird word.”
“SHUT UP!” Cat yelled. “Somebody’s in the house! It might be Lola!”
Brandon sat up and asked “Is Lola bringing us some more doobies? I really don’t think I need any more right now.”
Looking for her phone, Cat said, “We’ve got to call the police.”
“Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, we’re higher than goats! We can’t be calling the police right now.”
“Did you HEAR that? Somebody’s in the house.”
“Well, I don’t think it’s Lola bringing more doobies. We’re lucky she brought these doobies. Doob, doob, doobdoobdoob doob doobies. That’s a weird word, too!”
“Go out there and see who’s in the house!”
“Okay.” Brandon stood up and started toward the bedroom door.
Slowly Brandon turned around. He raised his eyebrows and hands in the universal symbol of “what the heck?”
Cat plopped herself in the middle of the bed, and gathered the coverlet in her arms. “Take something with you.”
“I don’t know. Something for protection.”
Brandon looked around the bedroom for a likely weapon. Seeing nothing better, he removed the short squat candle from the large, ceramic floor candle stand, picked up the candle stand and opened the bedroom door.
Clutching the candle stand in both hands, Brandon stepped gingerly into the hallway. He tiptoed throughout the house, stopping periodically to listen to the silence. When he stopped outside his daughter’s room, he heard small noises. He couldn’t make out through the door what they were. So, he held the candle stand up high in his right hand while he slowly and quietly opened the door and peaked inside.
His daughter sat on the floor, her face eerily lit from the glow of the flashlight laying on the floor beside her. The little girl was playing with Legos.
“Kayla, baby, what are you doing?” he asked.
Kayla pointed at her Legos. Her little face was expressionless.
“Yeah, I can see the Legos, sweetie, but why aren’t you in bed?”
“Daddy,” Kayla began, “You need to put the Legos on something flat to make a sturdy structure.”
“Sturdy structure?” he asked, wondering to himself where she learned those words at four years old.
“So it don’t fall down.”
“Okay, but let’s build our sturdy structures tomorrow. It’s time for little builders to be in bed.” Brandon cleared the Legos from the middle of the floor so that no one would step on them, and then put Kayla back to bed.
He stayed for a few minutes to make sure she was falling back to sleep, and then he quietly went back to Cat, who he found still clutching her coverlet. “Good news!” he said. “There’s nobody in the house, and our daughter’s going to be an engineer!”
Cat looked at him with wild eyes. “You didn’t find them? They’re still in the house? Oh my God, you left them out there with our kids!!”
With that she jumped up and ran for the door. Brandon caught her around the waist and spun her around. “Hold on, what are you doing?”
“We’ve got to get the kids before they get them!”
“I told you there’s nobody out there. I checked the whole house.”
“Maybe it’s the cops,” she said wrenching herself out of Brandon’s arms. “They know we smoked pot while our kids were at home. What were we thinking?”
“Honey,” Brandon began, “I think you’re just feeling a little pot paranoia.”
“Oh, my God! My heart is beating out of my chest!”
Brandon, looking around, said, “Where’s that last doobiie?”
“I finished it while you were out NOT finding the intruders,” Cat replied and then started gulping air. “I’ve got to get out of here.”
Brandon tried to take her in his arms. “No, babe, you just need to calm down. You’re sending yourself into a panic attack.”
“No,” Cat hissed at him. “I’ve been poisoned. That pot was laced with something. Oh, my God, I’m having a heart attack. You’re got to take me to the hospital!” By now she was crying with panic.
Brandon didn’t know what to do, so, he grabbed his phone and called his mother-in-law.
“Are you calling the ambulance?” Cat asked.
“No, I’m calling your mother.”
Cat tried to take the phone from him. “You can’t tell my mom I smoked pot!”
Brandon held the phone away from her and said, “You’re going to tell the emergency room you did, but you can’t tell your mom?”
At that point, they both heard a voice from the phone say, “What the hell is going on over there?”
Brandon put the phone to his ear while holding Cat off and said, “Nadine, Cat’s having a panic attic.”
“I’m dying, Mom!”
“She’s not dying. She was having a little paranoia and worked herself up into a panic.”
“He made me smoke poisoned marijuana, Mom!”
“I can’t get her calmed down.”
Finally, Nadine was able to get a word in, “Brandon, put her on the phone.”
Brandon said to Cat, like he’d called in the authorities, “Your mother wants to talk with you.”
Cat instantly stopped fighting him, and Brandon handed her the phone. “Hi, Mom,” she said.
“Tell me exactly what’s going on, Catherine.”
“See, there was this lady, like a watercolor melting in the rain, and she brought us some pot – three doobies. I told Brandon to get rid of it – we didn’t know that lady or where those doobies had been. Nobody knows her or her Cadillac, and then I had a killer migraine. KILLER migraine. And, now, I’m dying from a heart attack!”
“You’re not dying from a heart attack,” Nadine said drily.
“Oh, yes, I am. Brandon made me smoke those doobies. . .”
“Like I can make you do anything,” Brandon interjected.
Louder, Cat repeated, “He MADE me smoke it, Mom. “
“Oh, for the love of God. Who bogarted that last one all for herself?” Brandon exclaimed.
“So, Mom, I think the Lolas were spiked with something. I need to go to the hospital, and the police have to find her because the doctors probably won’t know what kind of poison because we smoked it all, there’s not even a little bit left I need to hang up so that we can call the police.”
Nadine yelled into the phone, “Catherine Marie, sit your ass down right now.”
Cat immediately sat down on the bed. “But, mom you always told me not to take drugs from drug dealers because you couldn’t know what was in it. But, I’ve done it now, I smoked some doobies from the drug dealer in the white caddy, and poof, that’s it. Game over, the first time I ever took drugs from a drug dealer. I mean it’s not the first time I ever smoked pot, but it’s the first time, I don’t know, I don’t know.
“Cat, there’s nothing bad in the pot,” Nadine began.
Cat interrupted her with, “I’m sorry, Mom, I should’ve listened to you and never smoked the pot, the weed, the marijuana.”
Nadine started laughing, “That must’ve been some good shit!”
Brandon said, “Whadshe say?”
“She said that must’ve been some good shit.”
Brandon leaned close to the phone and said, “It WAS, Nadine. Some really good shit.”
“Cat,” Nadine said. “Cat!”
“Yeah, Mom. I think maybe I’m not having a heart attack, but I think I need to go get checked out to make sure I don’t have PCP or meth or something in my system.”
Nadine, laughing again, said, “Cat, I’m trying to tell you you’re fine. There was nothing in the pot. I sent those joints to you.”
Cat was silent. Brandon saw the shocked look on her face, and said, “Whadshe say now?”
“I think Nadine just told me she’s a drug dealer.”
“WHAT? Put that phone on speaker!”
Cat put the speaker on, and Nadine said, “I am not a drug dealer.”
“But you said you had those doobies delivered to us.”
“Oh, good God,” Nadine said laughing. “You were sick and called me crying because your head hurt. My friend Lola said she had some poop that would make your head stop hurting.”
Brandon asked, “Did she just say poop?”
Nadine yelled “Yes, I said ‘poop’! I’ve been calling it poop since before you were in diapers.”
Cat said, “So, Lola’s a drug dealer?”
“No, Lola’s not a drug dealer. She was just nice enough to share her poop with you so that you could feel better.”
“Where’d she get it?” Cat asked.
“Don’t you worry none about that.”
Brandon said, “I told you your mom sent the doobies!”
“I’m starving,” Cat said.
Nadine laughed again. “I guess your ‘heart attack’ is over?”
Sheepishly, Cat said, “Yeah I feel better now.”
“Okay, honey, go get some munchies. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Brandon said. “Nadine, can you see if Lola will let me take that caddy for a ride?”