Maggie, honey, I think I got somethin' to say to you ... The traffic lights on the corner of 4th street and Roosevelt, and all the way up to 14th, had gone berserk. The early morning commuters, juggling their cell phones and their omigawd-it's-too-hot-I'm-gonna-sue cups of fast food coffee were suddenly treated to a preview of what the Christmas decorations had in store that December. Red ... green ... red ... .The yellow kept silent behind it's window, never blinking a single caution at the downtown traffic. Red ... green ... and caution was definitely in order.
Maggie sat fidgetting in her Honda amidst the cacophony of horns and insults, directed against the electric company, the city, the governor and God himself from opened vehicle windows, while she was rummaging through her purse with her right hand. She was looking for that errant secret cigarette pack she kept with her for just such an occasion, and she was certain that there was one cig in it. Her other hand tapped well manicured fingernails nervously against the steering wheel, while her brain concocted various threats against humanity if she couldn't find at least one smoke!
She was training her eye on the ugly yellowish Volvo in front of her, when a mountain of a man, beer belly preceding him, leaped out of the cab of a delivery truck three cars ahead. From behind, Maggie giggled to herself, he looked remarkably like the Incredible Hulk as he attempted to extricate another prisoner of traffic hell from his vehicle--obviously without said driver's consent--and was screaming and gesticulating wildly at the driver, while punctuating obvious obscenities with his fist on the hood of the hapless sedan. Yes, all hell was breakin' loose, and Maggie was gonna miss her plane if it didn't stop soon! She glanced worriedly at the headline of the morning paper on the seat.
Decapitated Woman Found In Parking Lot
"Paydirt!" she yelled aloud, and held up a crumpled pack of Marlboro Lites from the bowels of her handbag. She smiled at finding not one, but two flattened cigarettes. She quickly lit one, and settled back into the seat in a blue cloud of ecstasy. As if by magic, the Miller Time Man looked a bit calmer, and the Volvo crawled a few feet from in front. Maggie breathed easier now, not because of the nicotine calmative, but because she could now return to those more important thoughts that were niggling at her brain. Someone, or something, was pirating her supplies, and she was pissed. She followed the Volvo like any good sheep, and thought out her problem.
Red ... green ... red. Maggie noticed the arrival of a motorcycle policeman into the snarl up ahead. As she rolled down her window to lean out and get a better look at the situation, she glanced into the neighboring vehicle to her left. A battered and rusty old stationwagon, seemingly filled to capacity with young children, was rocking back and forth in beat to the music blaring from it's radio. Maggie Mae, Rod Stewart was singin', ... got somethin' to say to you. Yeah, I hear ya, Rod, Maggie thought to herself.
The frazzled not-too-blonde-anymore-lady driver looked tired and sat a little too close to the steering wheel. Maggie couldn't decide if this was more in an effort to distance herself from the jostling brats (probably from fear of dismembering them on the spot) or because she had merely forgotten her glasses that morning. At any rate, the gaggle of youngsters merrily bashed each other with their backpacks while Rod kept on singin' away. Maggie ... the mornin' sun really shows your age. Maggie mused that the once-blonde driver was praying for the sky to open up and zap the lot of them with a well placed lighting bolt to the gas tank. She was able to stop staring at them when the little boy in the front seat began making faces at her, while plunging his index finger straight to his medulla oblongata through his nasal passages. Charming case for planned parenthood, Maggie said to herself, as she hit the up arrow on the door panel and continued sucking in nicotine relief with renewed enjoyment.
Looking at the headline once again, Maggie returned to the problem in her vacation spot. All those sweet old biddies who had provided her with a good life were being systematically removed from her shelf, well before their expiration dates. At first, she thought it was just a fluke. Then the body count started mounting, and Maggie took notice, 'cause they were HER inventory, dammit!, every one of them! The idea that it might be another just like her who had inadvertently poached on her territory quickly evaporated. None of us are that stupid, Maggie thought. Red ... green ... green ... green.
The Volvo started to edge forward at a regular pace now, and Maggie sped after it. The needle on the speedometer moved into the 30's when she finally made the turn towards the freeway. Maggie's foot hit the accelerator into the clear roadway ahead, while her internal needle raced ahead of her, and all the other rush-hour crowd on the way to the airport. She glanced into the rearview mirror. No flashing lights. "Easy girl," she soothed, and adjusted the mirror to check her flushed cheeks. Her green eyes lingered briefly on the reflection of a woman in her early 30's with porcelain, wrinkle-free skin, and masses of wavy auburn hair, untouched by L'Oreal, even though she was worth it. Except for the antique garnets shining back from her earlobes, not a trace of her own millenium stared back at her. As she flicked on the radio, she wasn't surprised to hear Rod still singin' away. Maggie, I wish I'd never seen your face.
I'm a short-term kinda guy. Guess it goes without saying that I've never had what you'd call a long-term relationship. Not that it couldn't have happened, and almost did a time or two. But, those times when the needle was dry and I'd get to thinking that maybe, just maybe, I'd stick around awhile and let this one touch something in me that's way, way down deep inside ... Well, let's just say that the connection between my brain and my prick's been stretched some but's never been cut completely. "My momma didn't raise no fools" as the saying goes.
There was this one girl, though--a Christie Brinkley type, which is funny, really, considering how we met. I first saw her driving a drop-top, candy-apple red corvette, sailing down the highway, her blond hair trailing out behind, and she was laughing. No one in the car with her. No cars right around her, and she was laughing her pretty head off. Reminded me of that scene in "National Lampoon's Vacation." You remember the one--Chevy Chase in the family wagon tooling down the highway and playing winky and what'cha doin' with Brinkley. Both of them smiling and laughing.
Anyway, as she blew by and tossed me a wave and a toot-toot of her horn, I started laughing, too. It was that kind of day. I never could have caught her, though, if she hadn't turned east at the road up to Farron Manors Retirement Village.
Turns out both her mother and grandmother were long-time residents of Farron Manors, and she visited them twice a week. Oh, I know what you're thinking already. Don't get ahead of me. The answer is no; I did not off either of them to help her out. Actually, I got to know both Addie and Marian--and Marianne--and they were the reason I almost stuck around for the long haul.
Marianne was still laughing when I pulled in the slot beside her, and she flashed me a "Howdy, Stranger," giggles still trickling around her words, as I got out and walked over to her car.
"What's so funny?" I chuckled back, thinking how stupid I sounded.
"Oh, whoops," she tried to muffle the laugh with both hands, but her failure was evident by the shaking of her shoulders and the tears streaming down into her cupped hands. "I thought you were Brad," she choked out before her laughter turned into hiccups.
That pretty much stopped me cold, and my smile turned into a mask. "I am Brad," I told her. "Who're you?"
She wiped at her eyes, twisted her head, and lifted her chin to get a better look at me. "Brad?" she asked. "That's really your name--Brad? Oh, that is funny."
Before she could erupt in another round, I opened her door, bowed and swept my arm around in the grand gesture, smiling again, "At your service, ma'am." She took my other hand, a coquetish smile now playing with the corners of her lips, and stepped out. We stood there, awkwardly staring at each other until she looked down at our hands, still entwined.
As I walked her up to the main entrance, she quickly told me that Brad (the one she'd thought I was) knew her brother, was my height and build, same hair and eyes, was a practical joker, a come-on artist, and an all-around great guy. I hated him already. No, just kidding. Turns out he even had an old beat-up Ford same color as mine, even down to the dings and rust, and he'd left town a year or so ago to seek his fortune in some big spaghetti-junction kinda place. I don't know where; I was no longer listening.
As we reached the double glass doors, she turned to me and said pointedly, "Well, Brad, it's been..." But I wouldn't let her finish. Slowly shaking my head and mouthing "No," I reached out with my free hand, opened the right door, and with my left hand still clutching hers, motioned her through. We walked silently past the reception desk, turned right and continued down the corridor until we reached the bright yellow Sun Room.
Adele ("I'm Addie, not addled, dont'cha know!") and Marian, her daughter, were already holding court in the Coffee Corner when we joined them. "Brad, what a surprise," Marian began. But Addie promptly piped in, "That's not Brad, you blind old bat. Any fool can see that." To which Marianne started laughing again. We stayed two hours, correcting the confusion, and chatting like old friends and family.
When the late afternoon shadows prompted Marianne to rise and say her good-byes, I found myself reluctant to leave these sweet ladies who were so much like and so many worlds apart from the biddies I'd known before. "So, what do you think of them?" Marianne, shy suddenly, asked on the way back to our cars. "Mellow," I sighed. "Mellow yellow," which got me a squeeze and another giggle.
We drove in our separate cars to a nearby Steak-n-Ale where we covered all the topics from art (modern--hate it; impressionist--love it) to Zen Buddhists. We laughed a lot, smiled a lot, and learned a lot about each other. Happily, I can add that she pronounced me "a different animal altogether" from the other Brad. She got that right.
The only jig came when we were talking about hobbies. When she asked me what I did in my spare time or if I ever collected anything, my skin prickled. "What do I collect?" I paused, my mind spinning. "Oh, I guess just a paycheck now and then, and maybe some memories of some high times." But, I gotta tell you that right then and there the mood was broken, at least for me. There was no point in prolonging this party, even if the music hadn't quite yet died. The needle was back. Just like that. I paid the check and we said our good-byes in the parking lot of the Steak-n-Ale just down the highway from the Farron Manors Retirement Village.
I guess Marianne made it home safely that night. I don't know. I just put about 100 miles between us as fast as I could without stirring up the Smokies. And if that cycle weenie with an attitude had just pulled to the right some to let me by instead of weaving and flipping me the bird, he wouldn't have ended up in the ditch with his flipping finger up his ass. Yep, I'm a short-term kinda guy.