I’m out on the driving range before noon today, but I can’t concentrate.
Today, I will blame the New York Yankees since their fans are coming out of the woodwork to mourn the passing of their blessed temple in the Bronx. All my hits are off kilter, low, and lethargic, obviously affected by all that negative energy. In time, I give up and go back into the pie shop to get out of the heat, as much as anything.
I take out my notepad and start working on a recipe for “Spawn of Satan Pie” with a special Derek Jeter Crust. Jeter’s favorite food is chicken parmesan, so this is a no brainer, and I know I’ll be getting calls from Sue Ten over at the Swing Barn once the pre-game show starts at six.
It’s one of those hot, humid SoFLA days that keeps people indoors, so I’m not expecting much excitement today. I gave The Usual Idiot the day off, and I’m thinking this might be a good time to varnish the new combination step-ladder book selves out in the back room, with the exhaust fan going full blast. The Morning Guy copied the design that I found last week, and he’s already built the prototype, finished the sanding, and vacuumed up every stray bit of sawdust. He’ll be leaving me snitty notes if I don’t get moving on this project soon.
I like varnishing, especially roll-and-tip with warm varnish. It goes on fast, the tipping with a foam brush breaks down the bubbles, and then I can just pull up a chair and watch it dry. In truth, it’s more fun to watch it dry if someone else did the application work, but I know I’ll see plenty: curtains, holidays, bugs in their death throes, visions of alternate universes, dreams of another time and place. It’s all entertainment to the receptive mind. Varnish, sand, repeat. Shampoo, rinse, repeat. Signs of infinity in the known universe.
I’m sure, too, that the sound of the fan will drown out the noise from the over-emotional Yankee fans at the swing barn. If not, I have a set of Ruger firing-range ear muffs that should do the job.
Before I can put them on, though, the phone rings. It’s Sue Ten. “Boyd’s here.”
“I wondered why Hercules was heading that way.”
Hercules is our resident feral green iguana, a gargantuan beast by all accounts, and for some reason, he has an attraction for my second ex-husband Pretty Boy Boyd. Hercules’ affection, however, is not returned. Boyd has a deep abiding dislike of all things reptilian, including his own lizard brain.
I look out the window and see my old car in the far side of the parking lot. A lime green Toyota Celica, it was a parting gift, or bribe. Call it what you like. It was the WD-40 that lubricated the exit door to get Boyd out of my life.
“What’s he up to?” I ask Sue.
“He’s pretty quiet so far,” says Sue. “Not annoying anyone too much. Just the usual ranting about The Royals and how many players started out in Kansas City. Apparently, he no longer has a television at home.”
“And what’s he calling home these days?”
“Hard to tell,” says Sue. “A couple more drinks, and I’m sure I’ll have his full life story. Again.”
“Sorry, honey, but he’s your customer,” I say. “The restraining order has expired. Give him some waffle fries on the house. If he’s busy eating, he won’t be able to talk as much.”
I’m rattled, but I go back to varnishing anyway. Roll. Tip. Roll. Tip. One. Two. Lift. Swing. Lift. Swing. I’m reviewing this morning’s practice, more convinced than ever that negative Yankees energy was my enemy, and Boyd was all too often a fan of The Best Team That Money Can Buy.
I had not watched baseball for years when I met him, but he awoke something deep and significant in me: A Red Sox fan’s utter hatred of the New York Yankees, and it felt good for me to know an emotion that deep and pure. Yes! It’s the opposite end of the mood-spectrum from that mystifying ability that some people have that allows them to say, in any situation, “It’s all good.” Anti-Yankeeism consists of a certaintude and clarity of vision found primarily in extreme religious sects, and it’s a wonderfully cleansing experience. I do recommend it.
Boyd was never much of a golf fan, though. So, now I can picture him at the bar, telling his usual two golf jokes. “Oh, yes,” he says, “I agree with Mark Twain that golf is a good walk spoilt.” Not that he’d know what a good walk is either.
And when someone asks him if he plays, he say, “I do. I love golf, but I always have trouble getting the ball through the windmill and into the clown’s mouth.”
By now he is telling Sue his one remaining joke. “You know why a bartender is like a priest?”
I can see the beatific look of unbearable patience on her face now, her chin cocked to the side, her hand smoothly reaching for the taser under the counter.
She doesn’t answer, just raises her eyebrows a bit in a questioning glance.
“They both serve wine and take confessions,” says Boyd, laughing too loud, and then raising his own eyebrows — in surprise.
The bar goes silent, except for Madeleine Peyroux on the jukebox singing “I’m All Right.” Maybe even singing my favorite line, “Wherever you are, you’re still driving my car.”
Hercules has planted himself directly behind Boyd’s bar stool. Boyd’s already pale skin goes white, and then he yelps. As I hear it later, Hercules has nudged off one of Boyd’s baby-blue flip-flops and has chomped into Boyd’s big left toe.
Everyone else in the room backs off, except for Sue, safely behind the bar.
There’s that beatific smile again. “I believe you are supposed to remain calm,” she says. “Can you do that, Boyd?”
“Now, my understanding is that we need to turn this sucker upside down to get him to release you. Are you ready?”
She motions to a couple of the regulars, one in a Yankees tee-shirt and the other in a faded-orange Oriole shirt. They pick up Hercules and twist him, and Boyd’s toe in the process, with no positive results.
“What about the alcohol trick?” Sue asks.
“Okay,” says the Oriole’s fan. He picks up Boyd’s schooner of Guinness and pours it over Boyd’s foot and Hercules’ face. The well-fed iguana still does not budge.
“Only one more thing to do,” says Sue. “Load them both up and get them to the emergency room.” She points to the door.
“I can’t do that,” says Boyd.
“Oh yes you can,” Sue. “It’s either that, lose your toe, or spend the rest of your life with an iguana attached to your foot.”
She gives the two good Samaritans a quick hand signal and twenty dollars, and they load up Boyd and Hercules, droppng them both in the back of a blue Chevy pick-up truck.
I look out the window just in time to see the truck take off down the hot and dusty road. Boyd’s white ponytail has come undone, and I know by the time they reach the hospital, he will have a serious case of uncombable hair syndrome, as well as the more obvious foot-in-iguana-mouth condition.
Sue is already on the phone giving me the delicious details, but I notice, as we talk, that there’s a little activity going on by the back door of The Swing Barn. Usually, Sue keeps that door shut tight to minimize uninvited guests, such as large feral green iguanas.
I’m about to tell her I’m surprised to see the back door open, and then I see The Morning Guy, laughing to himself, closing the door and walking away. No need to mention that to anyone.
And it’s time for me to bake some chicken-parmesan pie before the game gets underway.