“Out, Out, Out, Out, OUT!!!!” I screamed at that damn monkey in my hot tub. In the darkness of my little patio I watched his eyes grow wide with surprise, and I wondered suddenly if any of my neighbors had heard me yelling. A quiet, gated condominium community nestled in a tiny scrap of forested wetlands fortunately preserved by eco-visionary legislature, my neighbors and I were grateful beneficiaries of the 1990’s federal wetland protection acts.
Monkeys are probably covered in one of those eco-protection laws governing what goes on in my neighborhood. But this monkey was clearly in the cross-hairs of Scheri’s smoking wand of rose-scented incense, glowing softly from its stand in the flower planter beside the hot tub. Continue reading →
The coast was clear as my children and I entered the condo at the end of the day. I peeked left and right, but there was no sign of that damn genie anywhere in sight. Then I slapped my forehead and laughed out loud, tickled by the memory of Scheherezade transforming him into a monkey.
My daughter asked, “What’s so funny, Momma?”
On the one hand, my ten year old daughter was the most incredibly truthful child I have ever encountered in my life, and was definitely not ready for my current version of reality. On the other hand, my seven year old son was an incredibly “creative conversationalist.” His imaginative reports from the classroom, playground, and neighborhood friend’s house were always laced with magic mushroom sauce, driving his sister crazy as she argued with him about the truth.
Dancing the night away with Scheri and our new pet monkey seemed like the best way to avoid thinking about the next hurdle in my path to true love. The issue of bringing my children to Egypt was looming larger on the horizon. Clearly, Mr. Answer to my Prayers wasn’t thrilled to include them on the guest list, although he was far too diplomatic to come right out and say it.
“engine, engine, number 9, rolling down Chicago line, how many stations till he stops? 1,2,3,4,5,6,7…”
I awoke with this childhood refrain playing in my brain. It was a jumprope rhyme, a favorite of mine when my girlfriends and I were playing jumprope in the schoolyard. One girl on each end of the rope, one girl in the middle between them, jumping the rope as they cycled it in a large arc over her head, coming down and around again, faster and faster as they counted the number of times the girl in the middle successfully jumped the rope passing beneath her feet on its way up and around again in another revolution. The winner was the girl who could jump to the highest number before stopping or falling flat on her face.
Engine number 9 was out of control, barrelling down the track with no intention whatsoever of stopping. If it was a train wreck coming, so be it, I was utterly unable to abandon the Captain of my heart. I awoke bright and early, resolved to jump that rope as fast as it lands in front of my feet, and if I fall, well, it couldn’t be much worse than sprawling on the asphalt of the playground back in gradeschool, could it? I could still be the winner, couldn’t I?!!
I heard a familiar soft jingling of coins in the distance behind me as I was just sitting down to my computer. I turned to look and, appearing in a whirlwind of fireworks and mist in the hallway entrance of my condo, that damn Genie appeared with Scheherazade at his side. He stepped lightly to take up his guardpost at the front door. Scheherazade was tiptoeing away from him, unaware that I was watching her as she blew him a kiss and winked, waving goodbye and giggling as she saluted him.
Unable to contain my aggravation, I jumped up from my desk and practically ran across my living room to catch her before she vanished. “Scheherazade!” I snapped angrily, “You have been gone for two days! You said you were only going out for the night! Where in the world have you been?” But giving her no opportunity to answer, I whirled away from her, giving her my back and turning my attention to that damn Genie. He stared at the ground, a totally false expression of contrition on his round, pudgy face. I knew it was false because I saw the corner of his mouth quivering as he tried mightily to refrain from laughing at me. “Disrespectful ingrate!” I cried at him, and yanked hard on his dangling black goatee to put an end to his mischievous expression. “Two days ago you promised to bring her back before dawn!” Rubbing his chin to soothe the smarting pain I had inflicted on him, he surrendered to his sense of humor and, black eyes twinkling, that damn Genie giggled and bowed deeply, saluting me with greatly exaggerated respect. “My Princess, we are early! It’s not yet dawn, oh Queen of the Western Casbah!”
Staring at the strange display appearing magically on the screen of my cellphone, I started pressing buttons randomly with both thumbs, holding it as I had earlier seen that damn Genie doing. Colorful fireworks were still spraying out the end of the antenna like a rainbow sparkler, dazzling my vision and making it difficult to see the ship in the display screen. Entranced and enchanted, I marveled as the ship came clearly into view, as though by focusing my eyes clearly on the ship I zoomed in on the pilot’s window. Or maybe I hit the right button at the right moment. There at the helm stood the captain of the ship in a navy blue suit!
Friday morning, I rose with the bright and early dawn of a hot summer day in Virginia. I rose with a new conviction. No longer satisfied to confide only in a figment of my imagination regarding the authenticity of the man in my email inbox, I sidestepped Scheri on the way to my computer.
“And a pretty good morning to you, too,” Scheherezade snapped in her snarkiest tone. She followed me, knowing exactly where I was going. I rushed to my chair, hurrying to sit down before she could pull it out from under me. She wasn’t fast enough and we giggled together as she tried to pull me out of my chair, but I held on strongly to my seat. Needing to get my email, I turned serious. “Scheri, sit down! I’m trying to be serious today!” I flapped her hands away from my chair and pushed the power button on my computer. “Serious, huh? I’ll show you serious!” Scheherezade stuck her tongue out at me and vanished into a rose scented mist before the sound of her words faded away. Tickled, I laughed out loud, “BUH-bye!” I called after her, pursing my lips and making the sound of a noisy long drawn out kiss to follow her. I heard her giggle in the invisible distance, and she shimmied to make her coin belt tinkle.
Happily finding myself in the driver’s seat of a new car, and my old car now firmly in my own posession, I returned to my usual daily routine, imagining that my life was regaining stability. “Stable” is a relative term, however, and totally related to factors usually beyond human control. It’s not a generic term like “normal,” whose definition can apply even to the roller coaster track as long as it’s what we’ve become accustomed to. No, I was dreaming of life on a level playing field, a bowling lane where troubles lay only on the extreme margins of the track; a nice, flat, smooth surface where good aim and a prayer could strike success and make us jump for joy.
Returning home from a stressful weekend in Pennsylvania, I felt like a young bird returning to the nest after her first solo flight out. The hunt for a new car had been successful and all the necessary red tape to drive it legally was accomplished before noon on Friday. It was an amazing morning, everything fell into place with uncanny ease, and we set off on our roadtrip happily munching on lunch from BurgerKing.
The lights were low and the music was playing softly in the background. My usual nightly routine after tucking my children into their beds always brought peace to my little condominium on the edge of the pine tree forest. Our street was the last one in our community, dead-ending at the woods, which sloped gently down to the bank of a creek. My condo was one half of a duplex, the last building on the street, enjoying this prime location of quiet, undeveloped woodlands. The community was gated and guarded and a very peaceful place to live. Leaving my patio door open at night was never a concern, and as usual, this night the warm breeze drifted lazily in, bringing with it the clean scent of pine. Continue reading →