Science had more questions than answers, and Ray wondered if the poet knew something science didn’t. He knew two poets in the Quincy correctional facility, coincidentally both were named Pliny. The younger and more buffed was fond of enchiladas, and his poetry reflected themes of wrapped foods, but lately he started experimenting with frittatas and his poems took on a morose tone, and left you feeling full without the guilt.
Sure Ray Norsi had questions about life, politics, and mail delivery. Who didn’t? But there were deeper concerns that kept him awake nights, even when he was sound asleep.
An hour passed and Ray Norsi, a statue in stiff overalls and square, black prison-issue shoes, was still hatching his simple but sinister plan, one that involved revenge and pain and ringing people’s doorbells.
The chilling atmosphere of the secluded old mansion on the mountaintop was enough to give anyone the creeps. Given the choice, Nelie would rather live in a trailer park or a tree trunk but, alas, living in the old mansion had been her childhood dream.
She had other dreams but those were about naked men and winning the lottery and finding a word that rhymed with eggshell.
She knew it was a flimsy, paper-thin excuse, as brittle as his promises to watch his diet or remain faithful.
The wedding that afternoon of Giselle Crumley and Myrtle Sansox would be Nelie’s last chance to win the affections of Lance Boulder, for tomorrow Lance would be thousands of miles away fighting a war. At times Nelie thought Lance’s military duties were just an excuse to delay their marriage. It seemed odd that a war would break out every time she mentioned marriage and the men wouldn’t know what to eat unless Lance was there.
The sudden loud rattling of chains and beer cans made Nelie recall a long-forgotten memory of her first love, Guy Deepinpoo. They’d met on a train platform on one of those long and easy summer afternoons when it looks like rain and everyone’s carrying an umbrella except you. Nelie was waiting for the local. It was late as usual, and Guy made a little joke that Nelie didn’t understand at the time, but now, as she thought back, still wasn’t funny. It wasn’t even humorous. In fact, it was merely clever. Worse, it was high-brow clever. The kind of remark no one laughs at because it would be impolite to spit out the caviar.
She couldn’t stand guys like that, clever but not funny. They took up your time with long and painful anecdotes (they were never jokes), so dry you choked on them.
Never funny. Always, “Oh, yes,” nod, nod, “Yes, that was clever, very clever.” Yawn. Let me get back to my annual report.
All the while, you’re saying to yourself, what a bore, what a monumental tsunami of a bore. As much fun as a weekend nap. As witty as dustballs. As playful as rug burn after a bath. As entertaining as a windless day’s smog.
What was it he said when they first met? Oh yes, that he came from a long line of waiters.
Eye roll. That was Guy.
Still, he had it all. And he kind of did something for Nelie.
He was about to start his first run as a conductor. Although she wasn’t attracted to him at first—he needed to lose the hat—he helped her solve a crossword puzzle she’d been working on for days. At least that’s what she told him. Little did he know she’d been working on the tattered and yellowed crossword since twelfth grade.
They made love that afternoon and again during the evening news and afterward ate spoonfuls of rocky road ice cream while playing scrabble until dawn. They ate a light breakfast, made love again, (first brushing their teeth), and enjoyed a long, leisurely round of scrabble, although both their scores were pitifully low because several of the high-numbered tiles were mysteriously missing.
Nelie had never seen a man as deft with a pair of dice as Guy.
And Guy thought he knew the pleasures a beautiful woman could bring to a man in a conductor’s hat, but here was something else. Something his long-dormant heart had not experienced since he discovered night-vision goggles.
Nelie wasn’t sure how it felt to be in love. Was it like a toothache, hunger pangs, or a paper cut? An eyelash in your eye, a leg cramp, or a stubbed toe? Maybe like none of these. Maybe it was like being first in line at a concert, or getting dismissed from jury duty.
Everything she knew about love and Scrabble could be inscribed on the inside of a greeting card, but she knew one thing for certain. The wooden tiles left a mark.
Excerpt from Love in the Time of Rising Gas Prices, A Romantic Spoof, available now on Kindle $0.99