Adventures With Paradise

  

It was supposed to be a quiet evening dinner – just me, myself and I – Epicurious at a local food trough. But, the gods of Saturn had other plans for this mortal this Saturday.

Living alone I typically stay home at night. I make my own dinner and eat by myself, dribbling on clothes I know are predestined for the laundry.  But yesterday, a beautiful sun bathed Saturday, I decided to head out of the house for a meal in early evening.  This restaurant visit would be the first time I would have a dinner meal out in well over two years. Saturday breakfast at the Copper Fox is usually my big meal out.

At the Fox I down a repast big enough to choke a horse – eggs over easy, sausage, potatoes and multi-grain toast all drowned in black coffee. At that point having been sated for the rest of the week I then just eat simple throw-together meals.  But last night was different.  I was twitching to get out of the house.  I wanted to cool my ever-burning jets and pay for someone else to make me a meal. And, my serendipity was showing.

So I gussied up.  With some Ann Taylor hugging my bones and a smacking smudge of lipstick I headed out my apartment door and to my car.  Pulling out of the driveway the sun, heading in the opposite direction, shot a ray of reflected light onto my face from the rear view mirror.  I winced and thought, “This will have to do.  I can’t grow another.” I drove over to the next town.  There I knew I would find some restaurants that still served something beyond over-sized plates of Tex-mex carbohydrates with giant big gulps to wash it all down.

Once downtown I parked my car near the hundred-twenty year old county court-house and began to stroll down the makeshift-quaint First Avenue.  As I had learned this suburban hamlet became historic in one day.  All this happened when the city council decided it was time for their town to clone an Immigrant History.  This is verifiable.  The false histrionics I mean.

I once met the town’s historian (a full-time position in this small town!) at a bar about five years ago. While drinking down his bitters, gin and sweet vermouth he told me the whole spiel – the town wanted to appear folksy so it came up with an embellished history – two actual immigrant families who arrived in America from Sweden and who made their home in this town many years ago would come to define the town’s heritage.  With this little tinge of history the town councilmen whitewashed the town hoping to attract crowds to its festivals, art shows and local businesses. Voila!  A smorgasbord of fantasy folklore was created to charm the out-of-towners.

I was reminded of this as I walked past the town’s ‘historical’ center.  I continued to walk along the brick-paved street past the faux-historical showcase of facades.  Everywhere I looked there were gaggles of doe-eyed arm-in-arm couples taking advantage of the romantic spectacle that is this revisionist-town.

I walked by several restaurants, none of them appealing to my appetite, none of them worthy of my ‘thrill-of-the-moment’ twenty-bucks.

I walked on past the New-Age Gem store and its wafting cloud of incense. I passed Mama’s Gratto, a patio padded with doting couples – men doting their Miller Lites and women doting their chilled chards, both poking at a plate of shared antipasto.

I skimmed past the darkened window of Kwasimodo Sushi. Silhouettes stood out above the counter.  I passed the ever-strumming ever-piped mariachi music of the Mexican restaurant and crossed the street looking both ways for food, my stomach now on high alert.

There it was directly across the street – a new restaurant right on the corner.  An Italian wood-burning oven restaurant.  I walked over to the front door .  The menu was posted on a side window.  Inside the doorway stood a sidewalk sign offering “Special – Baked Oysters.”  This caught my attention.  The last time I had baked oysters was during a New Orleans Madri-Gras week that should never be remembered. ‘Nawlins food though, my palette can never forget, is delectable.  So in a trance-like state I ventured inside hoping to create a little culinary heaven for about one hour. Instead what I received was purgatory, a purgatory inducing purge-atory.

(Did I mention I live alone?  There is a reason for that.  I remain single because of George Bush. I went through a divorce while he was president. This is why I eat alone every night.  This is why I never hear Dream Weaver while I’m showering. This is why I don’t eat my Italian Wedding soup looking at some dreamy-eyed Spaniard whose thirst for life is matched only by his roaring appetite for friends to enable him. And besides this, there aren’t many real men anymore.  I don’t mean macho. I mean real as in solid stainless steel, not Formica veneer.  We have Formica veneer in the White House right now but I live alone because of George Bush.)

As I entered the restaurant I saw a throng of waitresses standing at the end of the bar.  Dressed in black from head to toe the girls were all in their early twenties.  The manager appeared to be giving them their instructions for the evening.  I waited at the door but there was no response from the crew so I sought a small table along a wall. I sat down on the long bench that ran the length of that wall. I sat facing the room.  From there I could see that there were only three patrons in the restaurant, myself and two young women.  A handful of diners were outside on the patio. It was just after five o’clock in the afternoon.

A waitress broke free from the meeting.  She welcomed me as she handed me a menu.  I ordered a Stella. When she came back with the drink I ordered the baked oysters.

I sat in the extremely chilled room and watched the crew scurry around the bar and in and out of the patio door. I wondered if flies would take advantage of the open invite. After a short while an older couple, a grandfather and grandmother, came in with three of their very young grandkids. They were shown a table along the wall, one table away from me. I sipped my cold beer trying to warm up.

Soon a young couple entered the restaurant.  They had brought with them their four daughters.  The daughters looked to be all under the age of ten.  This family was seated right next to me along the wall – the four girls sat on the same bench seat.  I soon learned that the youngest girl did not want to be there. She was adamant in her disapproval.

“Muh-maaaaa.”  Muh-maaaaa.” The youngest one whined repeatedly, “I don’t want to be here.  I don’t want to be here.” as she crawled from the bench to her father and then to her mother and then back to the bench. I was hoping my food would arrive soon.  I was quickly becoming de-romanticized about my evening out.  The Minestrone Moderne had morphed into Kinder-Kare.

With four children of my own, all now grown, I had brought my own kids to a restaurant early in the evening just like these parents had so as to not disturb the other patrons. But that was years ago and I had forgotten about the family hours.

My baked oysters arrived after thirty minutes.  They must have been fresh.  The half-dozen looked just dandy sprinkled with bread crumbs, Asiago cheese and some chopped herbs and shallots.  But as you know oysters are not eaten in the most delicate of ways.  So right then I wanted to be home – alone with the mollusks and far from the madding crowd

After downing the first oyster in the door walks another young couple with kids.  Guess where they were seated.  Yep.  On my left side.

To my left and to my right were antsy children, antsy children all wanting to go home or to go to MacDonald’s for supper.  Both sets of parents and the grandparents eager for a Saturday night on the town ordered wine.  Ah, the memories of wine’s sedative affects amidst the wails of youth’s discontent.

It certainly seemed odd to me that the three families with children were seated alongside me as the whole restaurant lay open.  But then it clicked.  I would naturally sit where parents of young children would sit on an early Saturday night. A lot of wine had passed under the bridge.

I finished my dinner, gulping down oysters five and six as fast I could with swigs of Stella.  When I was through I pushed the plate of disgorged oyster shells forward and almost off the edge of the table. I was hoping to get the waitress’ attention.  No such luck.  It would be another fifteen minutes before she would make her appearance at the kitchen doorway.  By now my stomach and head were both reeling from parenting’s noble strife.

When the waitress finally arrived she asked me if there was anything else I needed. I shook my head “No.”  I didn’t think they would have ear plugs on the desert menu and I didn’t want to ask for a bucket, either.

The check arrived after another curious disappearance.  I pulled out a wad of dollar bills hoping for enough cash so that I didn’t have to wait on her again.  I was in luck.

I set the bill folder down with the cash tucked inside. I looked around for my waitress but she was nowhere to be found again.  I grabbed my purse and headed out the door.  Ah. I heaved a sigh of relief as the warm summer air decompressed my thoughts.

Retracing my steps through Ersatz village I found my car and drove home.  Thinking that my parenthood had lost large quantities of its patience along the way I vowed that I would never go out for dinner again at night when the young and the restless were about. At least not until I become a grandparent and retrace my steps while sipping wine.

© Sally Paradise, 2012, All Rights Reserved

You’re the Best Particle of Me

Did you know that Intelligently Designed quantum physics provides matchmaking services? You didn’t?  Well, recently, I read…

”…that in reality two electrons can really fit into the same energy level because they can have opposite spins.  This means that they can both fit into the lowest (symmetric) energy level and, crucially, this level decreases in energy as the atoms get closer together.  This means that it is energetically favorable for two distant atoms to move closer. And this is what happens in nature.”

 And God saw that it was not good for atom to be alone.

 (Two electrons, opposite spins?  The atoms get closer together?  Yin and Yang, Matter and anti-matter. Grace and nature. Male and female. This fundamental symmetry makes sense at the atomic level and also at the nuclear family level.  Hence the mating song “I’ve Got You Under My Spectrascope.”)

 “…This preference for two atoms to stick together as a result of sharing their electrons between them is known as a covalent bond.”…

 And the preference for two humans (Mr. Spin up and Ms. Spin down) to stick together as a result of sharing their lives in the molecule of marriage is known as intimate bonding.

 “…covalent bonding is the reason that you are not a bunch of atoms sloshing around in a featureless blob.”

 This explains a lot about my love life!  I’ve got your atomic number, buddy.

 Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match. A little covalence bonding is all I ask.

 The above quotes from Chapter Eight, Interconnected, from:

The Quantum Universe (And Why Anything That Can Happen Does) by Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw, Da Capo Press, copyright 2011

 You should know that…

Covalent bonding is universal:

Somnambulation

At the first bleep of alarm clock’s tirade my cinema head pops out of the rabbit hole. 3:38 am. I shut off the one-sided conversation and let myself fall back into a nest of pillows. I close my eyes. Inside my eyelids there’s an x-ray showing me the last scene of a dream. Mr. Dream State is looking good until anxiety’s screen saver pops up. Then my heart starts pumping adrenalin to somewhere outside of my body and I get out of bed. In the dark I fumble for the switch I need to start the day.

I head to the kitchen in my underwear. I flip on the TV and turn the volume down with the remote. In the kitchen I grab a pouch of oatmeal and start swinging it back and forth to settle its contents. I blink. Mr Dream State appears for a second. He is sitting in his cube facing pictures of his grandchildren. His wife smiles back from a shelf. I nuke the oatmeal, feed my parrolet Henry and make coffee. I head for the shower where the hot water is blazing hot. I’m the first contestant today. After the shower, a lobster looking woman is seen in a rain-forest video.

In the bedroom I throw on some pants and head for the kitchen for hot coffee and cooled oatmeal. On TV the weatherwoman is talking about wind speeds, precipitation levels and the temperature in May of 1952. I imagine that when I am ninety-two I might like to know those things.

Mr. Dream State shows up on my radar again. He and I are seated watching the weather together. I pour coffee and sip gazing at him on the inside of my eyelids. In my dreams he is always facing away from me. We are looking at the same things.

“Today will be mostly cloudy with a chance of…” It didn’t take long for me to realize that Duffy Adkins weather forecasts were recorded the night before and then replayed while she slept. There were just too many days when the actual weather was plus or minus ten degrees and plus or minus rain. The rain falls on the just and the unjust so I get dressed based on intuition and then suffer the consequences of humidity, wind chill and stormy weather. Isn’t that a song?

Outside my car is waiting for its cue. I crank the engine, turn on the fan and zip out of the parking lot of my apartment building. It will be a good day in Chicago if the weather and intuition hold up.

At the train station I stuff two dollars into the parking fee slot and walk over to the yellow line that divides me from the commuter. I wait. People gather. Gum chewing, smoking, dream people with large coffees and huge handbags. We wait. Soon the cyclopean search light of the train pokes out around the distant curve and heads straight for us. We wait. Clang. Clang. Clang. My head looks for another rabbit hole.

Two conductors get off the train and both say “Good morning.” I say “Good morning.” while my arthritic knee decides if it’s going to move. When it does I find my seat near the door where two women sit juxtaposed. The older one speaks with a hoarse guttural voice to the younger one who chews her gum in rabbit fashion. They know each other. They sit, chew and talk with the two conductors about the Bull’s chances in the playoffs. I read my Bible and then the latest copy of Vanity Fair. Mr. Dream State is sitting next to me reading what I am reading. I see him nod silently, appreciatively.

After an hour and ten minutes of the train’s stop and go lurching we arrive at the downtown station. We are on time today, plus ten minutes. Weather forecasts. Train schedules. Dreams?

I walk five blocks to my building and push the “34” plastic square which needs a push. I am shuttled up to my floor and find my cube as I left it – draped with drawings, spreadsheets and cut sheets. I push aside a set of schematics and place my tote bag in the vacated space. Coffee. I scrounge my purse for a few dollar bills and head back down the elevator to the cafeteria.

Veronica greets me. “Hola, amiga!” “Hola, Veronica.” “Como estas?” “Estoy bien. Y tu?” Bien, gracious.” Veronica hands me a small coffee and I say “Feliz Viernes.” She chirps, “Oh yeah, Feliz Viernes.” I walk the corridor to the elevator. I push “34” sipping black coffee, smelling Mr. Dream State. Notes of Havana.

I get off the elevator and at the receptionist’s desk I can only see the black octopus hair of Flor above the counter. Mr. Dream State used to have black hair but it turned grey. Flor is coughing again. Flor coughs loudly every day. Her sneezes are not for the faint of heart. I say “Good morning, Flor. Happy Friday.” She says “Happy Friday, Jennifer.” and coughs. I worry. My cube is within viral range.

Ahhh. Coffee, email and work to do. Mr. Dream State is happy for me. I smile back at him. Soon I will be in his arms (if he ever turns towards me). I lay out the displaced schematics and dive in.

Noon arrives as usual and I eat my now defrosted leftovers. After lunch I head out of the building for a walk in Millenium Park but Rahm Emmanuel is taking his oath of office under the Pritzker Pavilion so I head toward north toward the river. I walk slowly like the peg-legged woman I see all around. Arthritis is getting it digs at me. Mr. Dream State takes my arm. He’s my right side, my right leg. He is quiet, stable, there for me.

I push “34” thinking of my leg, his leg. I get off the elevator and see the flouncy-bounce of blonde curls called Carol. Carol subs for Flor during the lunch hour. “Hi, Jennifer.” ‘Hi, Carol. How are you?” As I walk past the desk I see that Carol is using a large paper cutter to slice rather small labels. I wince when she tells me that she uses the paper cutter on anyone who does not sign the registration book and then I smile. Mr. Dream State is scary-funny like that.

Back at my desk I read emails and pour over schematics until my eyes hurt and it is four o’clock. I gather my things and head out. On the way to the elevator I say “Have a great weekend, Flor.” Flor smiles her teeth out, takes in big gasp of air, coughs and says, “Have a great weekend, Jennifer.” I flee to the elevator and push”1”.

I walk the five blocks to the train station and I am early. I stand waiting (with Mr. Dream State who’s handsome and serenely confident) and some train buddies, regulars who ride in the same car. At some unknown time driven by some unknown force the big burly black conductor inside the coach turns on the coach car lights and opens the door for us clucking hens. He descends his throne room stairs like the king of Khartoum. He greets his passengers under his heavy breath.

I sit in an upper row of single seats. I begin to float away but arthritis doesn’t let me get too far. I find my place in the magazine and settle back, aching for a massage. Mr. Dream State, the conductor, doesn’t need to see my ticket. He just smiles and lets me ride.

One hour and fifteen minutes later we arrive at Friday night, the weekend and sleeping in. I’ll soon be sucking desire’s thumb and clutching the sateen edge of twilight to my breast. Mr. Dream State will be unrobed. And with him, R.E.M., just a few blocks from here.

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved

*******

Let’s Make Some Music, Man!


(One day, a long time ago, my father came home with The Music Man LP. He had won it as a prize during an office Christmas party. I believe this LP is the first record that I ever heard played on a stereo. In fact, my dad bought a small turntable to play the LP. I played the album unceasingly.)(I was big Trouble in River City!)

Valentine Vicissitude?

If I love thee

And, thou lovest me

Is not our love child . . . Fidelity?

*****

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved

A Valentine’s Poem (with Nod to Henry Gibson)

  

Two different Jelly Bellys are we
And two different modes of melody;
Two different windows open to share,
Two different whirligigs a-swirl in the air,
Two different Ones are We.  

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved  

 

  

 

 

There once was couple…

  There once was a couple, who lived on a Rock,

In a town they called Steadfast, in the middle of the block.

Their home was built firmly, out of truth and with love,

For bricks and for mortar, they inquired above.

**

Now to this family, four children were born,

Then grandchildren and great-grandchildren like fields of corn.

Each life was planted firmly, in truth and with love,

For patience and for peace, they inquired above.

**

Sixty years of cherished memories, one frame at a time,

Help to bring into sharp focus matrimony sublime,

And capture the image of God’s great gift of love.

For the grace to endure, they inquired above.

**

“All things work together”, ‘tis easy to say,

But the couple on the Rock proved it true in just this way:

They lived sixty years in the vow of true love;

They put the Lord first and they inquired above.

**

The point of this story, I think you’ll agree,

Is a marriage made in heaven, a marriage meant to be,

It has weathered the storms and cared for a flock –

There once was a couple, who lived on a Rock…

***

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved

Lonely

Living gniviL

Only. .ylnO

Never reveN

Even nevE

Loving gnivoL

You. .uoY

 

*****

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved

The Dancing Shoes

It was 4:25 on a Friday afternoon.  I left my desk, grabbed my coat and headed for the elevator.  I said “have a good weekend” to Marilyn the receptionist and then went down 24 floors to street level.  I left the building, walked over to the corner of Wabash and Adams and waited for the light to change.  An EL train overhead thundered down the tracks as I crossed Wabash.  After the EL had past I could hear a street musician playing Careless Whisper plaintively on a tenor sax.  Down at the next corner a homeless man was selling his art work of color pencil drawn superheroes.  Somewhere along the way I noticed a lone chopstick lying on the sidewalk. I was anxious to get home, eat supper and curl up next to my husband on the couch with my book.  I had it all planned.  I could see the red wine swirling in my glass and taste the ricotta in my homemade dish of lasagna.  I could feel Russ as he snuggled next to me.  Home was over an hour away by train.  I ran half of the way to make the train on time.

 I thought about Russ as I passed a men’s store.  Fine suits and shirts were dressed on the manikins in the display window.  None of the smooth lifeless models had the rugged hewn frame or the silky blue eyes that Russ had or the swagger smile which he kept in the corner of his mouth.  He had you guessing about what he was up to.  I liked his surprises, the good kind, and Russ was full of them.  He made me laugh and he made me think.  I was thinking of him when I approached a corner and stepped out to cross the street as the light had changed to green.  A taxi driver in a hurry to beat the light change didn’t see me or thought he could speed past me and go on his way careened right in front of me.  I fell backwards out of his way losing my balance, my heel caught on a sewer grate.  I whirled and hit my head on a nearby car bumper, whirled again and fell face down onto the curb.  I don’t remember…there was blood by my nose…there was a muffled sound of voices…I saw feet…and then sleep…

 Several days later at the hospital…

 “Jill, honey, Jill, honey, Can you hear me?” Russ touched Jill’s arm twice.

 I could see Russ.  He was there shaking me but I didn’t feel him.   I wasn’t beneath him but somewhere above looking at him through a window. I felt as if time was passing around me and through me.  I saw his beard grow out; his hair thin.  He became bent over.  He still shook me and said “Jill, honey.”  Then he was gone. 

 “Jill, honey, Jill, honey, Can you hear me?”

 “Russ, ah ou, I don’t feel so good.  I …

 “Lay still, Jill, the nurse is getting something for your head.  I’m here. The doctor says that you have a concussion.  You blacked out.  I’m so glad you are awake.”

 “What?…oh my head hurts so much.”  Jill tried to sit up but stopped.  “I am going to throw up.”

 “Don’t move, Jill.  Concussions make people sick to their stomach when they move.  Don’t move.  I’m here.”

 The nurse brought in a little plastic cup with two pills inside and a small glass of water.  The nurse helped move Jill’s head slowly upright so that she could swallow the pills. “The doctor wants you to stay still and not move.  We did a CT scan of your head but these scans do not give the best picture of a concussion.  We are going to do other tests.  We just want to make sure that there is no swelling in your brain.  So, please don’t move.”  The nurse then let Jill‘s head carefully rest on the pillow.

 “I feel like my head was hit with a hammer.”  Jill felt some dried blood in her hair.  The IVs in her arm itched.

 “Yeah, this was a traumatic concussion, you lost consciousness.”

 “I had the weirdest dream, Russ. I saw you touching me but I was somewhere else. I…I don’t feel so good.”

 “Just rest, Jill, I’ll be here the whole night.  I won’t leave you.”

 Jill closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

 Around 1:00 in the morning Russ awoke and heard Jill talking in her sleep.

 “Dancing shoes?” The garbled words came out from under the top of her bed covers.

 Russ sat up and looked at Jill.  Her face was troubled and questioning.  Then she seemed to fall into a deeper sleep.  Her face melted into a serene soft mask.  Russ decided he would try to sleep again.  The nurses had been coming in every hour of the night.  He awoke upon every occasion.  He would try to sleep again.  At least he knew that Jill was talking even if it was only in her sleep.

 It was the morning shift nurse at 5:30 am that woke Russ for the rest of the day.  The nurse, a robust black woman who looked like she just met Jesus, came bounding into the room and checked the IVs.  She moved some bed covers, bunched the pillows around Jill’s head and looked over at Russ who was now sprouting a beard and baggy eyes.

 “How’d you sleep?”

 “I get more sleep on Sunday morning during the sermon.”

 “The woman laughed and said, “The Lord knows what you need before you axe Him.”

Russ let out a short laugh and said, “Yeah, I guess He does.”

 The nurse left and Jill began to stir her feet beneath the covers.

 “How are you doin’ Jill?”

 “I think I slept through the whole night.  I never slept so much.  I guess I am feeling a little better.  Can I have some water?

 Russ went across the room and got the water pitcher and poured her a cup of water and handed it to her.  “Do you want the straw?

 “Yes, please.”

 Russ handed her the straw and sat down on the side of the bed.

 “You were talking in your sleep last night, something about dancing shoes, I think.”

 “Huh.”

 “You must have been dreaming.”

 “Yeah, I remember some of it.  I had died and gone to heaven.  I was standing before God but I was looking at my feet the whole time.  I didn’t have any shoes on my feet.  God says to me, “You must return, suicide is not your skin.  Find your shoes.”

 “Wow, that’s quite a dream.  What were you thinking before you fell asleep?”

 “I guess I was thinking that I could possibly die just laying here in the hospital with these things in my arms and my head hurting and all.”

 “I could see that you are doing better. Aren’t you?”

 “Yeah, I feel a little stronger today.”

 “Good.”

 “Yeah, I feel better, anyway.”

 “When you are all better, Jill, we can start the ballroom dancing lessons.  I was excited last Friday about going with you.”

 “I can’t wait but right now the room is moving and I feel like sleeping again.  Jill dozed off holding Russ’s hand.

 Biting his lower lip, Russ held back his concern and his tears.

 ************

It was almost two years later that Jill and Russ decided to take the Ballroom dancing classes that they had intended to take before her accident.  Jill now felt able to move freely without feeling nauseous.  In fact, she felt a new impulse to live and do the things that she had wanted to do but had kept them putting off because of the business of life.  Russ registered them for the Tuesday evening class.  All that was needed were dancing shoes – leather soled street shoes – with a small heel for Jill and a regular heel for Russ.

 “Russ, I need to find these shoes before Tuesday evening.  I’m not sure where to start looking.”

 “I’ll go online and take a look.” Russ replied.

 Jill set about cleaning the house as she usually did on Saturday afternoon.  She carried a bag of old toys out to the garage.  Goodwill would take them, she thought.  And, then she had an idea,” I’ll go to St. Vincent de Paul Resale shop and see if there are some shoes there.”  Jill told Russ her idea and then she headed off with the bag of toys to look for the shoes at St. Vincent de Paul.

 The resale shop on Saturdays was always filled with people looking for bargains.  Today was no different.  Jill pushed her way past the cash registers and the lines of mothers with tugging kids and walked over to the shoe room on the side.  The air was stagnant with an overwhelming smell of stale old shoes.   Jill found the women’s shoes on two tall racks in the corner of the tiny room.  She found the seven-and-a half sizes and there were three pair of shoes her size.  One pair stood out from the orange Keds and the emerald green open-toed 4” heels:  a pair of black Cuban 1-1/2” heels with leather soles.  Jill gasped when she looked at the price of only $2.00.  These shoes looked and smelled like new.  There were no marks on any part of either shoe.  The soles were not dirty with street use.  Jill tried them on immediately and then walked and then sashayed around in front of a tall mirror leaning against one of the shoe racks.  Her feet felt the tempo of her heart and her heart was beating fast.  She said to herself, “If I’m going to cha-cha-cha these are the shoes to cha-cha-cha in.”  So she paid the two dollars and tax and left the store forgetting to look for her husbands shoes.  She caught herself and turned around and there he was, looking at her.  She gasped and then smiled up at him.

“Look at these.  Aren’t they grand?”

 “Wow they sure are kiddo. Did you try them on?

 “Yeah and they fit perfectly.”

 “Then they are heaven sent, my tiny dancer.”

 “Oh yes, they are. We need to find you some shoes, too, Russ.”

 “I was hoping to meet you and tell you that I found some on a web site and ordered them.  I will get them on Monday.”

 “I hope they fit.”

 “Me, too.”  Russ replied.  “I’d hate to have blisters after one dance class.”

 “I’ll care for your feet, m’ love.” Jill purred, “Let’s get some lunch while we’re in town.

 “Yeah, let’s.  Let’s” walk over to Andy’s Diner while I can still walk.”

 *********

 Jill and Russ went to the Tuesday evening Ballroom dancing classes.  Russ’ shoes finally fit properly during the fifth lesson. Jill had to massage Russ’ feet before and after he put the shoes on each Tuesday night.  The shoes broke in during a lesson of the foxtrot.  Jill was relieved to find out.

 It was on this fifth night of dance lessons that Jill and Russ met a couple, Todd and Angela.  According to their dance instructor, this couple had been dancing for many years.  They looked smooth and flowing whenever they danced.  They came this night to help the instructor teach the students the tango.  It was at the end of that evening as Todd and Angela watched the students mimic their movements that the Angela made an observation to Todd:

 “Todd, those shoes Jill are wearing look exactly like the ones Amy bought before the accident.

 “Yeah, they do?”  Todd replied, not really sure about the shoes.

 “They look exactly like Amy’s dancing shoes.  I saw them in her closet after her funeral.  I gave them to St. Vincent de Paul’s resale shop.”

 “Really?”  Todd questioned, looking at Angela.  He remembered his daughter in her eyes.

 The music stopped and the dance instructor said that the class had done nice work.  She said that next week the class who also to be about the tango and she dismissed the class for the evening.  As they were all getting their coats on, Jill and Russ were approached by Todd and Angela.

 “You dance pretty well for beginners.”  Todd greeted them.

 “Thank you.  And, Jill’s feet thank me.”  Russ replied with a smile.

 Angela leaned over toward Jill and looked down at her shoes as they came off Jill’s feet.

 “I’m Angela and this is my husband Todd.”

 “Hi, I’m Russ and this is Jill. Nice to meet you both.”  Russ put one hand on Jill’s shoulder and stuck his other hand out to Todd.

 “Same here.” replied Todd, shaking Russ’ hand.

 “I noticed those shoes, Jill.  They are just my like my daughter’s dancing shoes.”  Angela said.

 Jill looked up at Angela and said, “Oh, does your daughter dance, too?  She must be as talented as both of you are.”

 “Our daughter, Amy, died in an accident before she could ever use them. She loved to watch Todd and I dance together and she wanted to do the same thing with her husband so she bought the shoes.  She was going to start the lessons but then she had a terrible accident.”

 Jill looked over at Russ with a stunned amazement and said to Angela, “I am so sorry to hear about your daughter.  That must have been unbelievably hard on you.”

 “Yes, it is,” Angela whispered straining to hold back a sob.  A tear formed in the corner of her eye and then it hugged her cheek before it left her face.

 Jill stood up and gently put her arms around Angela.  Todd and Russ looked over at them mournfully.

 “Angela, when did this happen to your daughter?”

 “It was two years ago.”

 Jill looked over at Russ while embracing Angela, her eyes searching his face for the dream she had while she was in the hospital.

 “What happened to your daughter, Angela?  What was the accident” Jill asked loosing her embrace to look at Angela’s face.

 “Well, it wasn’t an accident.  The witnesses said that she committed suicide.”  Angela started sobbing.  The rest of the students who hadn’t left for the evening saw Angela weeping and came over to her.   The women began to comfort her, gently stroking her back and giving her Kleenex.

 “It is so sad.  Amy took her own life.  I know she had been depressed.  She had lost her new job. She had lost a child.  She had gone through a divorce. It was too much for her.”  Tears flowed from between the fingers Angela held up to cover her eyes.  “She was trying to get her life back, to get her step back by going to dancing classes.  She was trying…”

 “What happened to change things?  To make her depressed enough to…” Jill asked quietly.

 “I don’t know.”  Angela replied, staring blankly.  “She just snapped, I guess.  Everyone there said she must have seen the taxi coming and she went ahead anyway.  They said that the taxi pushed her back and she fell and hit her head on a car bumper and then she fell onto the curb.  They couldn’t bring her around.”  Angela sat down and put her head into her hands and sobbed.  Todd came over and put his arm around her.  Tears were in his eyes as he buried his face in her hair.

 Jill stood there wide-eyed looking down at the shoes she had placed on the bench.  They fit her perfectly and so did the dream…the taxi…the ballroom dancing lessons.  Russ put his arm around Jill’s waist.  He caught her when her legs gave out and she fainted.  When Jill came to she looked up and saw faces staring down at her.  She was laying on a street curb.

2010 Copyright Sally Paradise

Timing is Everything

Timing is Everythingwedding-flowers

I

Monday morning Tom and Linda left the train station and walked to work in a constant sprinkle of rain. Walking together, Tom juggled an umbrella and their usual conversation.

“I’m not joking.” Tom was holding Linda’s hand when he snapped at her.

“I don’t think you are. I just think that we should wait, that’s all.” Linda countered.

“We are going to get married next July. Why don’t we just move in together? We can save some money for the wedding.”

“I want to be with you, Tom, but I think we should wait.”

“I love you Linda, don’t you know that?”

“Sure, I do.”

“Then, what’s the problem? Why are we waiting?”

“I want to make sure it’s real, that’s all,” Linda said.

“Huh? This is the real thing, isn’t it?” Tom asked.

“It’s becoming more real as we go on, Tom,” Linda explained, “but something tells me to wait till our wedding day.”

“You love me, don’t you?” Tom queried.

“Of course I do.” Linda replied, “My heart and my mind are telling me to wait and my . . . my…,” Linda leaned into Tom and whispered, “my body wants to go ahead.” Then with a smile she said, “It’s a two to one decision. Anyway, I want to be secure in our love and not just in the thought that we are living together. This engagement time will help us get to know each other better. It’s a good thing.”

Tom and Linda came up to the Dunkin Donuts and went in. They ordered two coffees: a small for Linda and a large for Tom. Linda added a small drop of cream to her cup, put a lid snuggly on top and then sat down and waited for Tom to finish fixing his coffee. Tom poured a large dose of cream into his coffee and then he grabbed five packets of sugar from the holder. He took one packet by the edge and started to shake it and then smack it against his left hand. After half a minute of settling the sugar he tore open the packet and poured the sugar into the coffee. He did the same with the other four packets. Linda waited. When the sugar packets had been poured into his coffee, Tom grabbed a stir stick and began stirring his coffee while staring at the floor. He wasn’t aware that three people were waiting behind him, waiting for the cream and sugar.

“Tom, hurry up. People are waiting.” Linda prodded from her chair.

Tom looked up to see the line of people, he said, “Sorry”, and hurriedly put a lid on his cup. He gathered up his backpack and walked over to the table where Linda was sitting, looked at his watch and said, “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

Linda smiled in response and then gathered up her bag and her coffee. They headed out the door and down the street to work. Tom, a business consultant and an investment counselor for real estate investment trusts, worked with several clients creating the investment trust contracts. Linda was an information technology support person in an engineering firm. They both worked in the same building in downtown Chicago. Tom had a small office on the 16th floor and Linda’s cube was on the 23rd floor. They rode the elevator together each morning.

Heading into the elevator that morning Linda moved to fill a space made by two others on the elevator. Tom came in as the door was closing and turned to face the front of the car. As he did this his backpack hit the coffee cup in the hand of a short woman standing behind Tom. Tom didn’t notice but Linda couldn’t help notice. She received some of the hot coffee on her new linen skirt.

“Tom, be careful. Look what happened.”

Again, Tom swirled around in the elevator and nearly hit another cup off coffee out of someone’s hand.

“Tom, that backpack is a nuisance in this elevator. Please be careful.”

“Sorry.” With those words, Tom left the elevator on the 16th floor and said again, “Sorry I’ll see you at lunch.”

“Bye Tom, call me.”

Tom reached his office, unlocked the door and turned on the overhead light. He noticed his wall plaque; the mounted gold crow bar glinting yellow under the fluorescent light. Inscribed beneath the crowbar in the plaque’s mahogany wood were the words, “Leverage Everything”. He set his umbrella down and took off his wet top coat and laid it on the credenza. He could see his phone blinking a red eye at him. He sat down behind his oak desk and took his phone messages.

His office space, an eight by twelve foot room, was cozy with one window. The view was of the elevated train and a partially hidden neon sign which offered “Cheap Eats at Murphy’s Bar and Grill” in emerald green light. His client’s waiting chairs were in the main hallway with a small end table holding a dog-eared copy of Fisherman’s World magazine. Painted on the sand blown glass pane door was “TOM LANDSURE, REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS, A name you can trust in real estate.” Through the glass Tom could see the form of a waiting client. Tom put the phone back on the receiver and went to the door and let him in.

“Hi, Mike.” Tom welcomed him.

“Hi, Tom, Did you get my e-mail?”

“Yeah, sure did.”

“Well what do you think?”

“I think you should act on that property immediately, get the most you can out of it. You can always walk away if it doesn’t pan out – sell your share of it. The downside is losing a little time and a little money. You can always flip it for another property. If you can handle that you’ll be fine. Do you have the people lined up? You need at least one hundred investors to make a go of it.”

“Yeah, I do and you’re right. Down the road I could have great returns on this investment. If it goes south, I’ll just ditch it. No harm, no foul.”

“Sure, I’ve seen this kind of thing a dozen times before. You will do fine either way.”

“I think so. I just wanted to talk to you face to face before I made the decision to act on the property. I’m gonna go ahead and make some calls right now, get my foot in the door. Can I use your phone?

“Sure, I’m going to visit the rest room. I’ll be right back.”

One of the phone messages waiting for him when he came back to the office was from Linda. She wanted to know where they were going to eat for lunch. Before returning her call Tom talked with Mike about his new real estate investment, again encouraging him to buy while it was cheap. The deal sounded too good to pass up. They shook hands and agreed to meet again in a week to review the investment contract. Mike left and Tom reached for the phone to return Linda’s call.

“Hi, Lin, how about the usual for lunch?”

“Murphey’s? Again?”

“How about Sam’s Deli, then?

“That sounds better, let’s go there. See ya downstairs. Bye.” Linda hung up and Mike returned to his pile of contracts waiting for his review. At 11:30 am he left his office, locked the door behind him and took the elevator to the ground floor. He waited for Linda near the building reception desk. A moment later, Linda appeared.

“Tom, I’ve got a half hour today for lunch. We have to hurry.”

They half ran to Sam’s Deli a couple of blocks away. In line were a dozen or so people with numbers. Standing in line Tom happened to notice a young woman sitting alone eating her sandwich. He stared at her while standing behind Linda. After a few moments, the young woman looked up and noticed his stare. She looked over at Linda and then scrunched her face, looking back at Tom. Tom, now flush with embarrassment, tried to start a conversation with Linda in order to pretend that he wasn’t looking at the young woman.

“You know, I like the corned beef sandwich here. It is real kosher corned beef.”

“Tom, I saw you. Keep your eyes on the lunch menu up there. Linda grabbed Tom’s arm, pulled him next to her and then pointed to the menu sign hung above the grill.

“Sorry ‘bout that.” Tom whispered.

With their sandwiches they headed over to a quiet tree-lined garden outside of the art institute. They ate lunch silently looking at each other, letting the city and their thoughts do the talking.

II

Linda’s mother called Linda on Tuesday afternoon.

“Hi mom.”

“Linda, how’s work going?”

“Good mom. I received a good review this year so I’ll be getting a raise soon and I have already told my boss about next July. I will get two weeks off for the wedding and the honeymoon.”

“That sounds great. Things are coming together it looks like. How’s Tom holding out? Anything new with him?”

“He’s doing okay. He’s written more contracts so far this year than last year at this time so he’s at a good pace. His business looks promising.”

“I mean about not moving in together before the wedding?”

“Oh! Ah, he talks about it almost daily. He is pushing hard for it but I am telling him I want to wait till we are married.”

“That conversation must be hard for you.”

“It is. I want things to move forward and yet I feel like I need to stand back and get my bearings. Things are moving too fast right now.”

“I think you are dong the best thing, Linda, though it isn’t easy. Hah, I just remembered reading something out Jane Austin’s Mansfield Park last night. I’ll go get the book. Hold on for a second, Linda.”

Linda could hear her mother set the phone down on the counter, leave the kitchen and then walk down the hall. She heard her return and pick up the phone.”

“Are you there?”

“Yeah, go ahead, mom.”

“Here’s Jane: “Oh, Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.” ”

III

“What do you want, Tom?”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“What is it that can’t wait until our wedding day?”

“Ummm. . . I guess I’m just anxious to be with you, you know.”

“Good things come to those who wait, Tom. Isn’t that what they say?”

“Yeah, I guess so, but I’ve been waiting all my life for someone like you. Isn’t that long enough?”

“Then, time is on your side, Tom.”

‘You are full of quaint sayings today, aren’t you?” Tom answered.

“Well, I want our lives together to be special, that’s all. All of this is special to me. Your mother told that when you were a kid you wanted Christmas to happen right away, as soon as you saw the presents – you wanted to open the presents days or weeks before the actual day. “

“I was so excited and I wasn’t sure what I was getting. I couldn’t stand to wait and find out.” Tom responded.

“Well, you seemed to have survived that ordeal.” Linda quipped.

“Just barely, but it was cruel and unusual punishment.” With these words, Tom evoked a smile on Linda’s face.

“You’re a good guy Tom. You can still wait for your presents. And, we’ll have many Christmases together unwrapping gifts.” Linda winked at Tom.

“Yeah, just as long as they are not wrapped in flannel.” Tom winked back with a Cheshire cat smile.”

“You can be sure of that, my Tom cat,” Linda assured Tom.

“Scratch you later.” Tom kissed Linda with a smile and headed back to his office.

IV

The week of the wedding finally came. On Friday night, Tom and Linda met at the church for their wedding rehearsal. Linda’s father walked Linda down the church aisle on their musical cue. Linda was wearing the heels she would wear in the wedding. Her father kept Linda stable as she walked slowly forward. All eyes followed Linda to her place next to Tom. She hugged her father and then she took Tom’s hand in hers. The rehearsal passed like a dream sequence. Linda was only aware of the red flush of her cheeks and how hot she felt that July evening.

Afterward, Linda packed her car with some early wedding gifts and the left-over food. Tom helped her carry the trays out to the car. Linda turned to say goodnight to Tom. She cuddled up to him and looked him in the eyes. “Tomorrow I become Mrs. Linda Landsure. Now that’s an investment!”

“I have already received a great return on this investment and we haven’t even signed the contract yet.” Tom laughed.

They hugged and kissed each other. “I’m so glad that we waited,” Tom whispered in Linda’s ear, “Wow, I thought tomorrow would never come.”

“Well its midnight and its tomorrow. We’re both tired.” Linda said, “We better get home and get our beauty sleep. I don’t want bags under our eyes for the wedding pictures.”

Tom smiled in agreement. He helped Linda get into the car and he closed the door. He gave her one last kiss through the open window and then Linda drove off saying, “Don’t forget your tux shoes tomorrow.”

Tom got in his car and drove towards home, an hour away. It was midnight and he was exhausted. He found the expressway and headed west. He thought about the Linda walking down the aisle in her blue jeans and heels, her dad gently holding Linda’s hand, her nervous smile and her watery eyes. He thought about waiting for this day and how hard he had pushed her to move in with her. He was glad that she made them wait. He wanted her more and more each day. He imagined her tomorrow night in his arms, the day’s events behind them and they would finally be alone. He imagined falling asleep next to her…

At 2:30 am Linda was awakened by a phone call. The state police were on the phone. They said that a car had careened into an overpass and the driver had been killed. Every word now began pulling her heart down. They had found a wedding invitation in the car and Linda’s phone number was listed in Tom’s cell phone. They said that Tom appeared to have fallen asleep and had driven into the cement wall of the overpass at 55 mph: “I am sorry. He died instantly from a broken neck. There was a necklace in a box on the floor of the car.” Linda did not answer. “The necklace has two hearts hanging from the chain, one gold heart and one silver heart. It looks very expensive. I will bring it to you, tomorrow.”

Linda hung up the phone and stepped backward. Overcome with grief, she cried out into the morning darkness, “Tom…Tom…Tom…” She sank down to her knees and wept. When daylight came the sun’s rays began to wash her swollen red face with amber light. Linda raised her head and stood up.  She turned to leave the room. In a whisper she heard the voice of Tom:

“I have prepared a place for you.”

Sally Paradise ã 2009