Oxymoron Diaries

Oxymoron Diaries
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Oxymoron Diaries | Twelve Ounce Poundcake | Didi O'Neil | Excerpt from Chapter Nine | Big Sip.

The Oxymoron Diaries | Twelve Ounce Poundcake | Didi O'Neil | Excerpt from Chapter Nine | Big Sip.

(Used with permission of the author.)

      “I didn’t hire you to think straight. I hired you for your slightly askew perspectives. And I have the utmost faith in you. So do Fritz and Alfredo. They’ve given me carteblanche to offer you anything you want. They’re even talking syndication.” She held up a folder of paperwork. “You can’t pass up this opportunity.”
      I sat silently, my thoughts racing. “I’ll have to think about this,” I finally said.
      “Go ahead, think all you want. The offer will still be on the table for as long as it takes you to decide, or rather as long as it takes me to convince you.” She stood up behind her desk and put her hands on her slender, lipo-suctioned hips. “Let’s go find a Bloody Mary somewhere, Abb. I’m not opposed to getting you drunk to get your signature on these contracts.”
      “I could use one right now,” I muttered still in a small amount of shock over the Skyline’s unexpected, but generous offer. “But only one.”
      She arched an artificially enhanced by-way-of-tattoo eyebrow at me in skepticism.
      I grabbed our coats and headed out of her office toward the elevator. Tossing her coat at her as we reached ground level, we exited the building and made a right turn, walked two blocks, and found M’Larkey’s around the corner from the police station.
      As we entered, Kemp waved to the bartender. “That’s Shamus,” she said to me as I took my coat and flung it on the back of my barstool.
      “Hi, Shamus,” I said. Lifting myself up and onto the stool, I extended my hand across the bar and shook Shamus’ massive hand.
      “We’ll have two of your special Bloody Mary’s, Shame,” ordered Kemper.
      “Are ye sure the Missy here can handle one of me specials?” he asked, a look of doubt written across his authentic Irish face as he motioned toward me.
      “Quite sure,” she replied with a laugh. As Shamus tended to our drinks, Kemp asked, “So what’s going on with Belly lately? You look more stressed than normal.”
      I laughed at her suggestion that I might be stressed. Stressed was putting it mildly. Instead, I simply said, “We’re thinking about asking her to live with us. Permanently.”
      “You’re not serious.”
I grimaced. “Yes, I am very serious. I can’t stand the thought of her living in some rinky-dink studio apartment with a bunch of strangers. Not to mention The Eve being so near-by will make Belle crazed,” I blabbered. Turning my head toward Shamus, I said, “Hey, Shamus? I could use that Bloody Mary sometime soon, darlin’.”
      He turned and set a tall glass in front of each of us.
      I wondered what made them so special as I took a big sip. My eyes started to water as I lost my breath. Not only was my drink fiery hot, it tasted as though it was made with Irish Whiskey instead of vodka. And if I wasn’t mistaken, there was a raw egg sitting at the bottom of my glass.
      “You should have warned me, Kemper!” I spurted, wiping off my chin.
      “I assumed, Dearest Abby, after Shame asked if I thought you could handle one of his specials, you might surmise something rather exotic might be in it.”
      “Kiwi fruit and a stone crab claw would be exotic in a Bloody Mary. Irish Whiskey, hot lava, and raw egg is not exotic,” I choked.
      “Better not let Shamus hear you say that,” she warned as she took a small, safe sip from her own glass. “But back to Belle. When did you come up with this ludicrous idea of having her move in with you forever? And were you drinking at the time? Because if you were, it’s not binding.”
      “I have been drinking more than usual lately, but I was stone cold sober when I came up with this idea. Scotch was involved immediately afterward, though,” I confessed as I carefully took another sip of Shamus’ concoction.
      Kemper sat, shaking her head and muttering to herself something about how could I possibly allow a ninety-eight year-old woman to sidetrack my budding new career? She finally turned her head back toward Shamus, then plopped her chin in her upturned palm. “Well, Abby, whatever you decide, I’m sure your work won’t suffer.” She held up the contract folder she’d brought along.” So don’t turn down the offer just yet. Okay?”
      I exhaled sharply. “I haven’t decided anything yet, Kemp, about either topic. Right now I’m just trying to go over the last two months in my mind and determine if her living with us is the best thing for everyone; not just Belle. There are a number of pros and cons, as My Other Half has so eagerly pointed out to me the last few days. Not to mention, if I’d only considered asking Belle to live with us before this week, I wouldn’t have spent the previous weeks losing my mind trying to figure out a way to eek out from the paltry allowance the bank doled out, all of the things she needs for The Eve’s version of Home Sweet Home. This expectation is irrational, at best. At worst, it’s a purposeful, devious manipulation of Belle’s financial resources. Limited as they are.”
      “Tell Your Other Half to suck it up and go buy Belle everything she needs, Abby. Make it easier on everyone, including yourself.”
      “No,” I said. “Belle steadfastly refuses to allow any of us to pitch in, Kemper. Consequently, when we go shopping for apartment necessities, I grab a cart for her and a cart for myself. I try to inconspicuously toss a few things for her in my cart when she isn’t looking and then stash them with her own things when we get back home.” I took another sip. “This ploy has proven successful to a point, but I can’t exactly sneak a sofa into the house.”
      “She won’t need a sofa if she’s living with you, will she?”
      “No, but she’ll want to furnish her space at our house her own way. After all, I turned it into a den before Belle moved in. And if she ends up going to Estherville, she’ll still need absolutely everything.” I frowned. “The real problem isn’t just the money issue, though. It’s getting her to make a decision about buying anything at all. The Eve’s put a lot of ideas in her head and Belle seems almost afraid to do anything The Eve hasn’t suggested. This ranges from color scheme to her choice of lamps. Everything seems to be predetermined in Belle’s mind.”
      “Which means The Eve should have taken care of these issues before she brought Belle back to Ohio to stay with you,” Kemper interjected with a flick of her wrist.
     “Yes,” I agreed. “Or better yet, instead of hauling most of Belle’s worldly possessions to the nearest Fort Myer-area Salvation Army Collection Center last November, she should have packed it up and brought it north with them. Considering The Eve charged The Trust for Belle’s moving expenses, she should’ve loaded up the van they rented with more of Belle’s possessions. I can’t for the life of me figure out what The Eve and Sane and Rational brought north besides Belle. Her mattresses and at least a few pieces of furniture would have been a marginally good idea.”
      “The Eve obviously forgot that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. And obviously Sane and Rational did not live up to his name this time.”
      I nodded. “You’re right. What might have looked like junk to them may very well have been perfectly fine to Belle. What ninety-eight year-old woman has brand new House Beautiful-type belongings?” I asked, still taking very small sips of my drink. It was growing on me, though. “People that age have a tendency to be quite frugal. They usually have well-used, but adequate possessions. Even most rich people at age ninety-eight don’t buy things they already have.”
      “That’s my personal plan, Abb, but how sad for Belle to be ninety-eight years old and own absolutely nothing.”
      “I get more than a little irritated every time I think about the insanity of the situation,” I said, then touched my lip, checking for haba├▒ero-induced blisters. Finding none, I added, “My newfound philosophy of no Eve-bashing has been a challenge to keep lately, because I’m pissed off at her on a continuing basis over this money matter. Consequently, our treks to all of Belle’s favorite stores are simply exhausting, both physically and emotionally. A type of painless torture, actually.”
      Kemper started to say something, but I held my left hand in the air in front of her as I reached down for my shoulder bag with my right, extracting a small notebook and pencil.
     “I got it, Kemp, don’t worry.” I wrote down Painless Torture, then stowed it away until the next spontaneous oxymoron spouting.
      Trying to catch a glimpse at my own personal version of A Little Black Book, she stretched her neck at me. “See, Abby? Twice a week wouldn’t be so hard. You have any number of ideas written in that little notebook already. It would be a breeze for you, Darling.”
      “Kemper. Any moron can come up with an OXYmoron. The hard part is coming up with an explanation to go with it that pertains to people’s everyday lives.”
      Kemper shook her head in frustration.
      “Anyway, back to our original conversation. Belle’s shopping trips have been just one more issue that crops up to antagonize Moh and my relationship, since for some reason he feels compelled to tag along with us. It drives me bonkers,” I said as I thrust my hands out in front of me. “He’s not a shopper under even the best of circumstances, Kemp, so following a ninety-eight year-old woman around who insists on always pushing the shopping cart is not exactly a shit-load of fun for him. Nor is it fun for me either, actually. I’m nearly sick to my stomach with a pounding headache by the time we get home. Belle walks so slowly, the customers behind us get visibly angry.” I pondered the last of my drink and eyeballed the raw egg at the bottom of my glass.
      What the hell! I thought, then tipped it up and slugged it down my throat, feeling only briefly the slimy egg slide over my tongue and disappear. I was slightly surprised the hot sauce hadn’t hard-boiled the thing by now.
      Shamus stood watching, hands on hips. “You were right, Livingston. She can handle it,” he said wryly, wiping my dribble from the bar in front of me. It was hard not to dribble with my lips numb.
      I grinned and then went on without skipping a beat. “Luckily, Belle can’t hear people rudely mumbling under their breaths and hasn’t noticed that sometimes I resort to turning around and running my middle finger discreetly over my cheek, sending them scurrying off into other directions, away from the woman with the wild look in her eyes. Namely, me.”
      “They’d run for cover if they saw what you just did with that egg.”
      “I didn’t want to insult Shamus,” I whispered.
      “Honey, I have never yet sucked down the raw egg in the bottom of one of Shamus’ drinks and as you’ve noticed, he’s still talking to me.”
      “Why the hell didn’t you tell me that before I tipped my glass up?”
      “I never thought you’d actually slurp the damn thing!”
      I shook my head and looked over at Shamus, who was smiling broadly. “I’ll have another one, Shame, but could you hold the protein this time? Please?”
     He nodded and grabbed my glass.
     I added,  “Easy on the whiskey. Keep the hot sauce, though. No offense, Shame, but I don’t usually drink my breakfast.” I cracked a smile at Kemper as she began to protest and then interrupted, “It must be the company I’m keeping this morning.”
      Ignoring my slight, she pursed her lips together in thought. “I’m trying to imagine how you discreetly flip people off. It’s no fun if you don’t thrust it smack dab in the air at their faces!” She demonstrated and Shamus whipped his head around with a questioning look on his red-bearded face.
      “That wasn’t meant for you, Shamus, honey,” she explained. “Don’t get yourself all in a mood. I was just showing Abby the proper way to give someone The Finger.”
      He shook his head back and forth in doubt. “Anybody that sucks their first Shamus’ egg down like the Missy here just did, needs no lessons on flipping someone off, Livingston.”
      I smiled. “Thank you, Shamus. I think.” I paused, and then continued. “Not everyone is nasty and impolite, of course. On occasion someone does offer me a polite smile and a knowing look, as if to say, ‘I’ve been there and done that, so you are a saint in my eyes’, which mellows me for a few seconds and helps me regain my much needed patience and composure. Moh, embarrassed however, will vigorously ignore all nearby impatient customers and simply walk off to other areas of the store to squirm aloneespecially after noticing my occasional hand gestures.” I rubbed my middle finger on my chin as if I had an itch to scratch. “I think he’s afraid my looks can kill and doesn’t want to be either a witness or an accompliceor possibly even a victim. He resembles a lost child most of the time. I’ve considered putting nametags in his clothing so that someone might eventually make an announcement that there is a little lost child by the name of Mohby waiting at the front desk. Tracking him down while also trying to keep track of Belle is not amusing to me in the least.”
      “The Number One Rule to successful shopping, Abby, is to leave all men at home, where they belong!” she spouted. “How do you still shop in Toledo anyway? People know your face by now. While you are not even remotely famous - by the way, syndication will change that to some extent. You are a local celebrity. I can imagine that total strangers spontaneously shout oxymora at you in very unexpected places.”
      “Ain’t that the truth,” I nodded, pulling a number of such incidences from my memory. “All too often an unfamiliar person will wave at me and then yell through the crowd, ‘Hey, Ms. Nutter. I’ve got a good one for you!’ Then he’ll drag his obviously with-child wife over to me and point at her stomach while cracking, ‘A little bit pregnant!’ I usually deadpan a simple, “Almost Impossible.”
      Kemper took her mirror out of her handbag and checked her make-up, blotting under her eyes. “Quit making me laugh so hard, Abb!” Her expression suddenly turned serious. “That would make a great column, Abb.”
      “I’m saving it for a rainy day,” I smirked. “The situation is funny, but Belle doesn’t understand these interruptions. She thinks my job is more of a hobby, like quilting or painting seashore watercolors.”
      “Well, she better get to used it, because if you go to twice a week, plus a website and blog, the possibilities will be endless. Blog is the new black, you know? You’ll be even more recognizable. There will be a lot of promotion to go along with it, too.”
      “One more reason NOT to sign those contracts, Kemp.” I cupped my chin in my hands and leaned down to suck my Bloody Mary from my tall straw, something I was actually able to do now that there was no egg on the bottom of my glass.
      “You’re a people-person. What’s the problem?”
      “I’ve still got the Belle dilemma on my brain. In addition to oxymoron interruptions, there’s the issue in regards to her making decisions. Any decisions. This is complicated by the fact that when she does actually make a choice, she ultimately decides the item she wants is too much money. Like I said, she isn’t rich, but she also isn’t indigent, so she can afford, within reason, to buy what she wants. I can never convince her of this, though, so our shopping adventures have digressed to deep discount stores. Very deep discount. Very, very, deep, deep discount,” I sang and nodded my head simultaneously.
      “Stop it! You look like one of those toys people suction cup to their dashboards.”
      “Lately, I feel like I’m suctioned cup to someone’s dashboard and traveling at a very high rate of speed,” I said, still bobbing my head. “While I’m in no way adverse to saving money, Belle stubbornly refuses to buy anything elsewhere that might be cheaper at one of these places instead. Most things are only a dollar, with a few bigger items being more than that, but not much more. At these prices, though, quality is an issue. My philosophy is that you get what you pay for, but I can’t convince Belle of this. Consequently, she’s determined to buy, for example, a mop for a dollar. She doesn’t care that it has no way to wring the water from it except with her bare arthritic hands.”
      “Mohby doesn’t go with you to the Dollar Stores, does he?”
      “Unfortunately, yes; and you know how he walks a very fine line between being frugal and just being a cheap bastard. I worry every time he gets excited about a new item he found for a buck that he’ll soon have me shopping there for year-old groceries.”
      “If that happens, you’ll have to put your foot down. Either no more deep discount stores or Moh is barred from your shopping excursions until further notice. I can’t have people seeing you in places like that!”
      “Why not? Unlike your own un-average self, I am your average Jane Blow citizen, and as frugal as the next. Besides, I can’t decide which option would be most beneficial for my sanity. Both options would serve their purpose. In reality, though, I know neither option is practical, since Belle will never give up her discount stores and My Cheap Bastard Half will never alter his cheap bastard perspective.”
      Kemper piped in immediately, while motioning for our check. “The only solution then, is for you to stay home while Belle and Moh go shopping together.”
      “Dream on, Kemper,” I retorted, then finished my Famous Shamus.
      “Go ahead and dream, Dear,” she said as she scanned her tab. “After all, William Dement said something like, ‘Dreaming allows us to be safely and quietly insane every night of our lives’.”
      I climbed down from my bar stool, grabbed my coat and bag and threw a ten on the bar top. “In that case, I think I’ll go home and take a nap now, so that I can safely and quietly dream about feeling insane.”
      Looking closer at the tab Shamus had given her, she grabbed mine that I had yet to even look at and said, “Hey, Shamus? How come you charged me five bucks a piece for my Famous Shamuses, but only charged Abby three?
      Shamus pointed to a hand-written sign hanging behind the bar. It read, PRICES SUBJECT TO CHANGE ACCORDING TO CUSTOMERS’ ATTITUDE. He then clarified further by saying, “If you don’t like the bar’s rules, Livingston, you have two choices. Either go out the front door and turn right. Or go out the front door and turn left.”

           I looked at the ten I’d thrown on the bar and smiled, “Keep the change, Shame.”
      Shamus was growing on me.

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