latelythe on-line diary of
ralph robert moore
the official website for the writings of ralph robert moore
Copyright © 2013 by Ralph Robert Moore. All rights reserved.
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dramatic drum roll
october 1, 2013
Our day started out normal.
I woke first. Mary was still asleep, beside me. I could make out her profile on the pillow, her soft breaths. Those quiet moments we're so privileged to have, in our really long, really short lives, watching someone you love, sleeping. I see her face, and I see nearly four decades of us living together. The red digital numbers on my bedside table read 4:10 AM.
I slipped out of bed, padding quietly through our kitchen, trailed by our cats.
Climbed the stairs, went into my loft, sat in front of my computer. Lit a cigarette (I only smoke in my loft, since Mary's stroke.) Checked my emails. A novelette submission of mine had been moved by an editor to their shortlist. They asked for two more months to make a final decision. Someone wanted to be my friend on Facebook. There was an email from a guy who read one of my Lately columns from a couple of years ago, and wanted to comment on it. A Cooking Tip of the Day: Lo-Cal Carbonara!!! I couldn't share that kind of enthusiastic punctuation for anything lo-cal. Delete.
About six in the morning, I heard Mary's voice from downstairs. "Hello?"
That's our routine for getting our day started. I called down, "Hello?" and signed off my computer.
Downstairs, I made coffee, fed the cats. Windows still dark.
Met Mary in our bedroom off the kitchen. We kissed, hugged.
Once the coffee was ready, I poured some half and half in each mug, then raised the coffee pot high above the cups, so the impact of the hot, dark coffee down into our mugs created a white-bubbled foam across the top. Tasty.
We were on our second cup, lying side by side in bed, watching a recorded episode of Chopped, when a white-haired, well-dressed man entered our bedroom. I sat up, sloshing some coffee on my pajama top.
"Well, good morning sleepy heads! I have some people here who would like to meet you."
And they just spilled into our bedroom behind him. Mostly older folks, but a few dark-haired middle-aged men who didn't look too cool.
The man in the expensive suit flapped his big palms against his suit trousers. "I would guess an explanation is in order about this point! Rob, Mary, I would like to introduce you both to these wonderful people milling around your bedroom who are all part of a new reality program called, Meet the Author!"
I sat up in bed. "What the fuck?"
"My name is Tom Allen, and I am the host of this new show! So why don't we all make our way out to your kitchen for proper introductions?"
They all filed out, Tom guiding them with light pats on their backs. One of them had taken my box of Kleenex with them, holding it up next to their face, taking a picture with their smart phone.
We made sure our pajamas had all the buttons fastened, then followed after them.
The crowd was in our kitchen, flowing over into our breakfast nook. One of them hoisted our white mini blinds behind the breakfast nook table, exposing our backyard, birds of different colors flitting among our bird feeders. "Look! Those are the bird feeders he wrote about in some of his Latelys!"
I came around in front of the host. "Listen, Tim--"
He shut his eyes patiently. "It's Tom, actually."
"Whatever. Get out of our home!"
"But we want to observe you! How can we observe you if we're outside? These people paid a lot of money to fly here from all over the country. This is a highlight for them!" He gave me one of those, Don't you get it? smiles. "They're meeting an author. It's the title of our show, for goodness sake! So what's on the menu for breakfast this morning? You've written about a lot of the different breakfasts you and Mary have prepared over the years."
I glared at him. "We're making BLTs."
His disappointment. "We were hoping for maybe the breakfast burrito Mary makes? Or her Mary McMuffin sandwich?"
"Well, we're not doing that today."
Tom clapped his hands together. "People? Rob and Mary are going to make a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich today." Saw some of the disappointed looks from the crowd. "I know."
An old man. "Can't you make that sausage and egg sandwich? I sent my grandson the recipe, and he messed up. He keeps calling me, crying on the telephone! I didn't fight a war to have to deal with that kind of shit. When's it my turn to take it easy?"
"Nope, not today." I pushed through the crowd to our refrigerator. Got out our green leaf lettuce. An old woman followed me over to the stainless steel sink. "What type of lettuce is that?"
I pulled off a couple of outer leaves, snapping them free from the pale base. Avoided looking at her. "Green leaf lettuce."
"What did you call it?"
"Green leaf lettuce."
"But does it have an actual name?"
Tilting the two leaves under the cold water tap.
"Why are you washing it?"
"To get any sand out."
"It grows on a beach? What kind of lettuce grows on a beach? Are you sure that isn't just seaweed? Seaweed grows on a beach."
One of the weird-looking middle-aged guys caught my eye, leaning over the old woman's shoulder. "Bet it's fucking bitchin', dude. Does it make you see things that don't really exist? That'd be a fucking trip, Rob. Everybody thinks you're eating a Goddamn simple BLT, but here you are, eating the sandwich and actually transporting to another planet." His slanted forearm pounded his fist against his chest. Voice filled with passion. "I salute you, man!"
Mary and I had planned to go to her doctor's afterwards for a blood stick, then since we were out anyway, stop by a local supermarket to pick up some fresh produce.
We insisted everyone stay out of the doctor's waiting room. That didn't go over well, but Tom raised his hands. "Privacy, people! Let's let them go in there by themselves, with just our camera crew. We'll wait out in the parking lot, and then I'm sure they'll make an announcement about Mary's latest Coumadin levels once they come out. In the meantime, let's play a game. Who can name the most Ralph Robert Moore story titles?" He glanced at me like, See how I'm helping you? This is fun, right?
From the crowd: "Ralph Roger Who?"
Elsewhere in the crowd: "That guy with the long hair who made the BLT sandwiches!"
The camera crew followed us into the waiting room, despite us asking them not to. One of the microphone guys kept trying to give me unwanted help with my Sudoku puzzle. "Put a 5 in that square over there. Seriously." Once the nurse opened the door to the back area and smiled at Mary, they all trooped after us into the examination room. The nurse asked if Mary wanted a finger on her left or right hand pricked. Mary held up her left hand.
We had to push through the crowd to get out of the office, everyone crowding back around us like water. Tom made his way to the front. Shut his eyes, opened them. "So the results are…Dramatic drum roll..." Sliding both palms in our direction.
"Mary had a 2.6 reading."
"What was it? Is that good?"
From the back of the crowd: "2.8! That's great!"
Applause in the parking lot.
We travelled in a car caravan long as a funeral procession to the local supermarket.
Mary had the shopping list. As usual, we needed some bell peppers. We cook with them a lot.
"What are they doing?"
"He's looking at some green bell peppers. He has an empty plastic bag in his right hand!"
"What's the empty plastic bag for? Is he going to suffocate someone?"
Retiree with big, black-framed eyeglasses on his face. Leaning in. "China is the largest producer of bell peppers now. In the entire world. Those peppers probably came all the way from China."
I tried to avoid his eyeglasses. Smelling his medicine breath against my cheek. "I did not know that."
Shout from the rear. "Is he buying any?"
"I can't tell! He's picking one up, looking at it."
"Is he squeezing it?"
"I'm not sure."
"Well, why not let someone get in front of you who can actually tell us what's going on? I didn't fly all the way from Albuquerque to hear someone say, I don't know!"
We wanted a few more provisions down one of the aisles.
The crowd thundered behind us down the aisle, shoulders knocking boxes and cans off the shelves, women in walkers advancing, wheelchairs trying to get to the front.
"What the fuck's he doing?"
"He's holding a can of Underwood Devilled Ham!"
"Like the devilled ham Mary used to make a sandwich for him after he had his colonoscopy last year?"
"I think so!"
Flashbulb strobes as I self-consciously put the small, white-wrapped can in our shopping cart.
"What's he doing now?"
"He looks put upon."
"He's looking at what?"
"When does he actually start writing?"
We still had a long list of items we needed to buy. Mary and I glanced at each other. A wink, me to her. A wink back, Mary to me.
Fame. She's a bitch.