Mix Tape

Dominique Maclean knew her high school sweetheart, Jacob Alda had an ‘old soul’ the moment she met him.  The armful of textbooks she was carrying that day was making it difficult for her to pull open the door leading up to her third floor class.  Jacob not only jumped in to open the door, he offered to carry her books.

“It does my heart good to know that chivalry isn’t dead,” Dominique’s grandmother said when she heard the story.  “You hold on to that young man.”

Jacob’s friends weren’t too keen about that idea, though.

“Don’t you know?” they all said to him.  “She’s cheated on each and every one of her boyfriends.  She’s just going to do the same to you.”

But Jacob believed all Dominique needed was the love of a good man, or in his case, the love of a loyal and old fashioned fifteen year old.  There were dates to the ice cream parlour, a single red rose placed inside her locker each month on their anniversary, and quiet strolls along the beach.

So it came as no surprise to her when she opened her locker one Friday afternoon to find another present from Jacob waiting for her.  On the top shelf, nestled between her gym clothes and her emergency stash of lip gloss, sat what Dominique recognized from visits to her grandmother’s place as a cassette tape.  Jacob’s Mix Tape for Dom, the label read.

“What’s a mix tape?” one of Dominique’s girlfriends asked when she showed it to her.

“It’s something old people used to make, like, a century ago or something for their girlfriends and boyfriends,” Dominique explained.  “All of their favourite songs would be on it, or songs that reminded them of the other person anyway.”

“How do you play it?” her friend then asked.

“I think my Grandma’s cassette deck still works.  I’ll go over to her place after school.”

An hour later, Dominique was at her grandmother’s house, asking if she could use her old tape deck.

“Of course!  You can use my old headphones, too.  Something like this should be private,” Grandma said.

Dominique marveled at the size of the ancient headphones.  It reminded her of the ones people who stand on tarmacs directing planes with miniature light sabers wore.   She was also surprised by how much difficulty she had trying to figure out how to make her grandmother’s tape deck work.

“I will never make fun of her inability to understand Snapchat again,”  Dominique said as she hit play.

The first song was something her Grandma definitely would have loved, Carole King’s It’s Too Late.  The next song was also from the old gal’s era, Blondie’s Heart of Glass.  Then came Fleetwood Mac’s You Can Go Your Own Way, followed by Paul Simon’s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.

“Who is this tape for?  Me or my Grandma?” Dominique wondered, unsure of where Jacob was going with the song selection.

Paul Simon was immediately followed by Roxette and their 90s hit, It Must Have Been Love.

“Great, Mom music,” Dominique said. “When am I going to hear a song I like?”

A few minutes later she had her wish when Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone came on.

“Finally!!!” she said, although her joy was short lived because it was followed by Wilco’s I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.

“Shouldn’t I be the sensitive one in the relationship?” she asked.

Two seconds later, Alanis Morissette screamed  You Oughta Know into her ears.  Then Cee Lo Green sang a very clear Fuck You to her.

“Gee Jacob, what’s with all the shitty relationship songs?  I thought mix tapes were supposed to be romantic.  I don’t get what you’re trying to say here.”

The next song, which happened to be the final one as well, spelled it out to her best of all.  Taylor Swift, the queen of all bad relationships, told Dominique in no uncertain terms that We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.

“What the hell?  Did he just break up with me?  Through a mix tape?”

Jacob had most definitely broken up with her through a mix tape.  His friends were right, she was nothing but a cheat.

Dominique was so mad, she kicked in her grandmother’s tape deck.  Grandma was so mad about her ruined tape deck, she kicked Dominique out of her house.  Meanwhile, across town, Jacob was listening to his grandfather’s collection of old Johnny Cash LP’s.  Grandpa knew a thing or two about heartache.  So did the man in black.

Jacob never spoke to Dominique again.    That mix tape said everything for him.

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Eloise Starts Over

Eloise was positive that Albany, New York was the fresh start she needed. No one in Albany knew her; neither did anyone in the rest of the state for that matter. There were people who knew her in Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida but she had never travelled as far north as New York before, and that’s why she thought it was the perfect place to start over.

“A new town, a new job, a whole new set of people to meet! They may even find my Southern accent cute!” she said as she pulled up to the apartment she had found online to rent.

A baker by trade, Eloise had lined up work in the city’s fanciest restaurant. She was going to wow people with her pastries, make everyone fall in love with her because of them, and who knows…perhaps find someone she could love in return.

One month into her new life she found herself bored. Everyone at work seemed nice, but they had already established their own little cliques, so no one wanted to hang out afterwards. She was going to have to look elsewhere for companionship.

“That place looks just as good as any,” Eloise said of the five-star hotel across the street from her restaurant. “I bet it at least has a nice bar.”

It had a very nice bar, a bar that was filled with women dressed as though they were on their way to a charity gala and men who looked as though they closed huge business deals before breakfast was even over. The outfit she had changed in to after her shift wasn’t anywhere near as impressive, but it was decent enough to allow her entry. She found an empty stool and ordered a martini.

Five minutes later a gentleman who had been sitting all alone at a table near the back sat down at the stool next to Eloise. He was handsome, almost movie star so, and his suit was definitely not off the rack.

“I’m not going to ask you what you’re in town for because that would sound like the start of a bad pick-up line, so I’m just going to say ‘Hello, I’m Martin,’” he said, assuming she was a guest of the hotel’s.

“I’m Eloise,” she said, smiling in return, even though she knew what he had just said was a pick-up line in and of itself. But he was well dressed, and Eloise had a thing for well dressed men. She liked how it made them look successful, how being next to one made her feel successful, how the presents they bought her made her feel loved. They had all been married, of course, and this one likely was too. But four weeks was a long time to go without having anyone to talk to, so why not enjoy a bit of conversation and a drink or two?

“You know, there’s this great music club a few blocks from here. I’d love to take you dancing,” Martin said after an hour. “Care to go?”

Dancing sounded wonderful, but just as she was about to say yes, she heard another voice.

“It doesn’t matter where you go, Eloise. You always bring you, don’t you?” it said. It was the voice of reason, warning her that if she hooked up with this married man, then she’d have the same problems she had when she hooked up with those married men down in Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Florida. If her life was to change, then she had to change.

“Thank you, but I think I’m going to call it a night,” Eloise said. “All the best to you, Martin.”

“And all the best to you, Eloise,” he said as he watched her walk out of the bar.

With a change in ways, maybe she’d one day come to know what that’s truly like.

Zach and Francesca Want Marilyn To Stay Away

It was a glorious week at work for Zach Innes and Francesca Dooley, those five days that their boss, Marilyn Thompson was away on holidays. They got to do things they never could under her watchful eyes.

There was the two o’clock tea party they threw in the office they shared the first day of Marilyn’s absence. Scones and grape jelly were served. Then there were the sculptures they created out of sheets of paper sitting in the recycling bin and staples. Zach would tell you that he had the most fun on Wednesday when they photocopied everything that wasn’t too heavy to lift. Francesca would say it was the morning they answered their coworkers questions with their best celebrity impersonations. Then again, both had a blast anytime the other one had a squirrel moment. “Did I ever tell you about the time I lost my wallet in Montenegro?” Zach had said one morning. “No! When were you in Montenegro? That’s in Italy, right?” Francesca replied. “Southeast Europe actually, near Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Zach corrected her. “Herze-go-where?” Francesca asked, still unsure of where Zach was talking about.” “Here, I’ll show you on a map.” Then they spent the next fifteen minutes looking at pictures of what Francesca agreed was a beautiful country as Zach told her about the hassle he had to go through to get out of the country after he had lost his identification.

The two of them spent a lot of time online…looking up random facts about random things, seeing if there were any good travel deals to places besides Montenegro, and whether or not the tingling Zach felt in his left hand was cause for concern or if he was just being melodramatic. He was.

They also spent a lot of time making jokes about things Marilyn would have said was inappropriate to joke about in the workplace. Marilyn was such a drag, as far as they were concerned. The way she made note of when they arrived in the morning, what time they left at night, and how long of a lunch they took. She made them sign a sheet each week as well, agreeing to the fact that she had their hours right. It was always work, work, work  with her. They wouldn’t be surprised if she was just as big of a task master at home with her husband and kids. They sure hated the thought of her returning Monday.

Unbeknownst to Zach and Francesca, Marilyn hated the thought of returning to work on Monday just as much.

“Why can’t I hang out at the beach and go snorkelling with Rick and the kids all the time? I’m so much more relaxed when I’m not at the office,” Marilyn cried out to the universe. “Instead, I have to document my coworkers every move otherwise Corporate throws a hissy fit. What do I care if they come in five minutes late or spend a few minutes here and there checking their Facebook account? As long as the work gets done. But nope, ‘It must be in writing Marilyn in case someone files a lawsuit down the road.’ I am so dreading Monday.”

“Hi Marilyn,” Zach said feigning enthusiasm when he arrived that morning.

“Hello Zach!” Marilyn said in return.  “Hello Francesca!” she then said when her other underling arrived two seconds later. “All ready for another fun week at work? I know I am!”

According to the vacation schedule, Zach and Francesca wouldn’t have another fun week at work for two more months. That was when Marilyn was scheduled to take her second and final week of the year.

All three of them have already begun counting down.

The Car Rally

There is nothing sexy or fun about a Mazda 3. The car’s manufacturer will try to convince you that there is with their brochures and commercials, but there isn’t. That’s not to say it isn’t a good car. There are plenty of nice things one could say about the Mazda 3. It takes the same amount of time to get from Point A to Point B in a Mazda 3 as it does in a luxury vehicle. It’s reasonably priced, decent on gas, and its solidly built. So really, there’s no reason not to get a Mazda 3 – unless you’re looking for something that’s fun and sexy.

Fun and sexy cars are drooled over, they’re coveted, and they show up in movies. People save for a fun and sexy car. They make sacrifices in order to have one. They even hold rallies in their honour. You’ve heard of a Mustang Rally, right? But have you ever heard of a Mazda 3 Rally? That’s because there’s never been one…until now.

Three weeks ago, twenty-eight-year old Greg Norton, the proud owner of a 2011 Mazda 3 himself, was out for a casual walk around his neighbourhood when he noticed a neon green lawn sign sticking up from a corner lot. There was another neon green lawn sign twenty feet from that one, and another one after that, and so on as far as the eye could see. Mustang Rally it read, with a hand underneath the words pointing in the direction of the town’s biggest park.

“How come everyone’s always having a Mustang Rally?” Greg said to himself. “How come no one ever throws a Mazda 3 Rally? Hey….!” he then said after having one of those lightbulb going off moments.

He immediately raced home and got down to designing a flyer of his own.

Automatic…Stick…

Bet It’s Your First Car!

Let’s All Rally Together And Swap Road Stories!

Saturday, July 23rd, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Fernwood High School’s Parking Lot

Afterwards he drove around town to places he thought he’d find Mazda 3’s – apartment building parking lots, grocery store parking lots, shopping centre parking lots – and wedged a flyer underneath their wipers. All he had to do next was wait. He had no idea if anyone would show up that day, or what they would actually talk about, but he knew what he wanted. He had visions of his beloved Mazda 3 joining the ranks of the sleek but impossible to drive in the winter Mustang, the cool but a bitch on your hair soft top Jeep, and the funky but you’d better pack light Beetle. Or in other words, cult status.

Before he knew it, the big day had arrived. He got up early and ran his car through the car wash. He even went so far as to vacuum it out, something he hadn’t done since his sister’s wedding two years earlier. By 9:45, he was at the school, waiting for his first fellow Mazda 3 devotee to arrive. At 10:30, he was still waiting. At 11:15, he was still waiting. When noon rolled around he was starting to give up hope.

“Maybe I’m the only who appreciates the Mazda 3 and all of its practical glory. Maybe I should just go home,” he said feeling somewhat defeated.

Just then he heard a sound. A completely generic, non-obtrusive, you’d have to be an auto mechanic to identify what it was really, sound. The sound of a Mazda 3, and it was pulling into Fernwood High School’s parking lot. It was grey, the least sexy colour ever inflicted upon a car, and a sedan. Judging by the body, Greg figured it to be around the same age as his model, which made him smile.

“New-ish, but not new enough to make me feel intimated. I wonder who’s behind the wheel,” he said.

He didn’t have to wait long to find out. Ten seconds later it came to a rest forty feet from his, just close enough for him to see it was a woman behind the wheel, yet far enough away for her to make a quick getaway if she thought Greg looked dicey. She must not have because she turned off its engine and stepped out.

“Hi, are you here for the Mazda 3 Rally?” she asked.

“I am,” Greg responded.

“Pretty small turn out by the looks of things. I’m Rachel,” she said.

“Greg,” Greg said. “It’s too bad. I see a lot of these cars around town, so I thought more would show up. I don’t get it.”

“Neither do I. It’s a good car, not too expensive, the kind you’d feel safe driving across country,” Rachel said back.

“Have you ever gone across country with it?” Greg asked.

“Yeah, last year. I took a road trip to Newfoundland to visit a friend who moved there after university.”

“Newfoundland, eh? What’s it like out there?”

So Rachel told him – about how beautiful the place was, how nice the people were, and how free and independent she felt out there on the road. Greg had only ever been as far as Quebec City, but he told her about that trip anyway because it reminded him of when he was a kid and how much he enjoyed learning about French explorers in school. She then told him about another trip she took down to Tennessee and he followed that up with one about the time he locked his keys in his car while it was still running. Two more hours and a lot of other stories passed before they realized what time it was.

“I love this little car of mine,” Rachel said.

“I kind of like mine, too,” Greg said. “Say, you want to go grab dinner or something?”

“Sure,” she said. “Do you know McGillvary’s over on 9th? How about I meet you there?”

It’s far too early to know whether Rachel and Greg will one day need to trade in their Mazda 3’s for a Mazda CX-3, but it certainly looks as though they might be heading in that direction.

Your Server Hates You

“You smell like defeat,” Jared said to Victoria.

“Whose feet do I smell like?” Victoria asked, after she misheard Jared.

“I said ‘de-feat’, as in, you’re surrounded by losers,” Jared clarified.

“Oh yeah? Well you smell like every hope and dream you’ve ever had has been barfed back up all over you.”

“I’ll have you know that it was not my hopes and dreams that were barfed back up all over me, but two hot dogs, a plate of nachos, a big of peanuts, and cotton candy,” Jared corrected her.

“God, I hate this job,” Victoria said.

“I hate it even more.”

It only took two weeks of the baseball season for Jared Branson and Victoria Hantz to discover that the food concession biz was a horrendous way to earn money for college.

“The team scores and everyone wants to celebrate with a beer. The team loses and everyone wants to drown their sorrows in a beer. Only they end up spilling half of it all over me when they try to do that dorky wave,” Jessica lamented.

“Or they try to get their kids to stop fussing by shoving food into their mouths all afternoon. How many hot dogs can a kid possibly eat? And what the fuck are they doing bringing a kid under the age of eight to a ball game anyway? That’s like expecting a junkie to not freak out after telling him he has to sit tight until his next hit four hours from now. People are so stupid.”

“Baseball is stupid,” Jessica added.

At that moment, baseball most certainly did seem stupid to her, but in a few months she’d head off to business school and learn that baseball was actually a very profitable industry. There were plenty of other profitable industries out there as well, and if she studied hard she might just get a job in one of them. Maybe even one that paid well enough to allow her and Jared to take the future kids they would one day have together to a ball game. Not until after they were eight-years-old, of course. They weren’t that stupid.

“I hope I never see another bratty kid as long as I live,” Jared said with the innocence of someone who had yet to have children of his own.

“And I hope I never have to see or smell any of this crappy food after this season,” Jessica said with a world weariness more suited to someone her mother’s age.

She would, of course, because the day would come when she, too, would discover that it’s sometimes easier to give into your kids demands than to fight with them. She had another ten years before she learned that life humbling life lesson though. Another ten years to fool herself into believing her kids would only ever ask for fresh, healthy food.

Don’t Worry, He’ll Get Around To It Eventually

Randy Ouellette is the type of guy who gets things done. Do you care for me? I care for you. Why bother with a third date? Let’s get married now, Lucy. He operates that quickly. You need a shed built? I can have that up for before the dew disappears from the grass! He’s that efficient. I heard your house caught fire. Don’t worry, I rescued all of your possessions and doused the flames before the fire department even put on their boots. He…well, you get the point. The man does not like to waste time; which is why everyone he know finds the way he chooses to tell a story so strange.

As Reader’s Digest Condensed Notes as he is about affairs of the heart and household projects, Randy’s downright War and Peace-like when it comes to spinning a yarn.  Everyone tries to avoid getting snared in one.  Unfortunately for his friend, Steve that’s exactly what happened to him earlier today at the hardware store.

“Hey Steve, isn’t that Randy over in the lumber section?” Steve’s wife, Betty asked.

“Crap, it is. Don’t make eye contact or he’ll come over and talk our ears off,” Steve answered.

“Steve! Betty! How are you two?” Randy said by way of a greeting after Betty had clearly failed to heed Steve’s warning.

“Good, Randy. We’re just picking up some paint. Got a long day of painting ahead of us,” Steve said, hinting that he didn’t have time to chat.

“I hear you. I’m here for some wood. Got a big job of my own to tackle. You know Andrew, my son-in-law?” Randy asked.

Of course Steve and Betty knew Andrew. There were both at his wedding to Randy’s daughter, Bridget.

“He and Bridget were over for dinner last night and afterwards we went into the family room to watch the hockey game. Toronto took on New York. Did you see the game?”

Steve shook his head to indicate no.

“Oh, you missed a good one. Lots of fights. Toronto’s Captain – what’s his name?”

Steve hadn’t watched a hockey game in years, so he just shrugged his shoulders.

“Anlov, I think,” Randy continued. “Anyway, he was so mad at New York’s right winger I thought he was going to rip the laces off his own skates and use them to choke the guy. I can’t say that I blame him, what with the way he checked him into the boards and did that ridiculous victory lap around the rink once his team went up 1-0. Who does that?! I mean, try a bit of humility there, buddy. But players aren’t humble these days, are they? What with their big contracts, and endorsement deals, and the private jets they ride around on, and their supermodel wives. You never saw Rocket Richard act like any of those clowns, now did you?”

Steve didn’t know who Rocket Richard was, but he did know he and Betty had a two hundred square foot room waiting for them at home and it wasn’t going to paint itself, so he tried to move the conversation along.

“So…Andrew?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, Andrew!” Randy then said once Steve had steered him back on course. “He sits down and plops his feet down on the coffee table. You know the one I’m talking about – the one I made in high school, when we were in shop class together. How long has it been since we went to high school? Thirty years, I think.  Wow, it just seems like yesterday. I know I shouldn’t brag – it’s not like I’m Rocket Richard, but Mr. Tidbull said it was one of the finest coffee tables he had ever seen a student make. He’s dead now, of course, Mr. Tidbull. Cancer, someone told me. Did you know that? Cancer’s a terrible way to go. My parents both went that way and suffered right the end. My dog got it too, but you can put a dog out of its misery once it gets cancer. ‘It’s the humane thing to do’ people will tell you; so how come people have to stick around and suffer? It’s cruel I tell you, cruel.” Randy rambled.

“Feet on the coffee table…Andrew…?” Steve interjected.

“Right, so he’s a big guy, that Andrew.  Two hundred and fifty pounds easily, and I swear half of his weight is in his feet alone because he no sooner had his feet on my table when wham! It collapsed faster than a teenage girl’s resolve on prom night. Everything went flying – the remote controls, the candy dish, the wife’s scented candle…not that I was sorry to see that thing get ruined. It drives my sinuses nuts. I was thinking about putting up one of those This is a Fragrance Free Facility signs you see posted at businesses around town, but she’d likely get in a snit if I did that. She gets in a snit over everything these days. Probably going through menopause. Have you gone through the change yet, Betty?”

Betty was too stunned by the question to do anything other than blink, so Randy rambled on some more.

“Of course, my coffee cup had to go flying too. It landed clear on my lap. Fortunately, Lucy’s coffee is colder than her feet when she gets into bed, so I wasn’t burned. I was bummed out about the coffee table, though. I loved that thing.”

“So, you’re here for some wood so you can build a new coffee table then?” Steve asked once Randy had stopped to breathe.

“What? Oh no, Lucy insists we buy a new one from a store,” Randy said.

“Then what do you need the wood for?”

“I got a new dog and Lucy wants me to build a dog house for it. We had to put our last dog done two months ago. It had cancer. Cancer’s such a terrible way to go. M parents both went that way. Suffered…”

“Yes, cancer is terrible,” Steve said interrupting his friend before he had a chance to repeat the same story. “I seem to have lost Betty. She must have wandered off somewhere. I better go and find her. Nice talking to you Randy!” he then said before making his escape.

“You too!” Randy replied before heading back to the lumber section.

“Hello sir, how may I help you?” the associate in Lumber asked.

“I need to buy some wood,” Randy said. “Do I ever have a story for you!”

Oldies Music

The Chrysler Building.

It’s more than just one of New York City’s tallest skyscrapers. It’s also the nickname people gave to Cindy Tierney’s ridiculously big hair years ago. Cindy wasn’t born with big hair, of course; she achieved it, with a little help from the 80s.

It was the 80s that bestowed upon Cindy the greatest haircare product of her generation: mousse. By applying just a dab of mousse after her morning shower, Cindy’s baby fine hair magically develops the body of a surgically enhanced stripper faster than what it takes a sad and lonely man to pay for a lap dance. Is it any wonder then why she loves it so much? The only thing she loves more than mousse is hairspray. Not the type you spritz your hair with here and there, but the aerosol kind you circle around your head until not even a race car driver used to the demands of the Indy 500 can keep up with you. Sure aerosols are bad for the environment, but fuck the environment. There’s a woman’s beauty at stake here!

Naturally, Cindy would never dream of applying her hairspray until the very last second. There are things she has to do beforehand. First she has to dry her hair – in a bent over position, because as any hair architect will tell you – that’s the start of a solid foundation. Once dry, she must flip it back up with the precision of a gymnast, tease it, and then get out a ruler to make sure it’s the proper height. What’s that? You’ve never seen a woman measure the height of her hair before? Run away because she obviously doesn’t believe in taking proper care of herself. If she doesn’t care about herself, what makes you think she’ll give two hoots about you? Anyway, then she will run a clump of hair between her fingers and spray, spray, spray, spray, spray. Then she will run a second clump through her fingers and spray, spray, spray, spray, spray. Then she will run a third clump through her fingers and so on and so on, until there isn’t one molecule of clean air left to breathe.

That’s just her hair ritual. Her makeup ritual is just as elaborate, and very colourful. Like, did she just steal some kid’s box of crayons? colourful. Then there are her jeans – each pair victimized by a cruel acid attack. Her earrings – longer than a four-year-old’s violin recital. Last, but not least, her Peter Pan boots – cute, but totally impractical in the difficult Northern climate she calls home.

Getting ready for tonight was worth all the trouble, though. For tonight, Cindy, her gal pals, and their husbands had tickets to a Guns ‘N Roses concert. No one ever thought they’d see Axl and the gang perform together again, but if Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono were able to find a way to tolerate each other, why not Axl and Slash? Every second of the show was glorious in their minds, from the pyrotechnics to the songs. Cindy and the crowd were so busy taking a trip down memory lane, they failed to notice the young ushers laughing behind their backs.

“Someone needs to tell these old farts the 80s are over ,” one said between chuckles.

“Yeah, really,” laughed another. “And if Mr. All Business in the Front, Party in the Back over there doesn’t start laying off the brewskies, his beer belly is going to grow to the size of a beer vat.”

“Please promise me you’ll shoot me before I get that old or trapped in time,” the first one implored his fellow usher.

“Sure, although you might want arrange for a back-up because I plan on shooting myself the second our music ends up on an oldies station.”

Cindy and the others wished that the night didn’t have to end, or at the very least could have happened on a Friday instead of a Tuesday. Then they might have been able to go out for more beers afterwards. But they had work in the morning, plus it was already ten o’clock. They hadn’t stayed up that long in ages. Time to get home and go to bed.

It Was 9:30 a.m., On a Thursday, When It All Started

He walked into my office wearing a set of Viking horns, a waist length coat made from some animal’s hide, and a pink tutu.  He had opted to leave his hairy legs bare, perhaps to prove that not much time had passed in the grand scheme of things between our cave man days and the climate-controlled edifices in which we now spend so much of our lives.

“You know that clothing made from animals is politically incorrect, right?” I asked, as if the other two articles were perfectly acceptable things to wear on a work day.

“I do know that, but did you know that I officially stopped caring about such trivial matters yesterday afternoon at three o’clock?” he asked.

“No, but thank you for keeping me abreast of your ever changing political leanings.  May I inquire as to what may have precipitated this change in philosophy?”

“Certainly, Priscilla,” he said to me. “In approximately twenty-seven minutes I am going to be relieved of my duties.  If one must go out, then one should go out with a bang, wouldn’t you agree?”

I most definitely agreed, but it took me awhile to say that I did, because I needed a few seconds to process what he had just said.  Did I hear him correctly?  That my boss, my mentor, someone I consider to be a personal friend, and – I’ll be frank here, the only thing that keeps me from losing my shit on some of the idiots here, was about to be fired from his General Manager’s position?

“What do you mean, you’re about to be relieved of your duties?” I asked once I had regained my composure.

“Remember the e-mail I sent out yesterday afternoon, the one that said the big wigs were coming to town today, and that there’d be a staff meeting and that I didn’t know what the meeting was about?”

How could I forget?  I had secretly hoped they were coming here to pull an Oprah and give us all cars.  I guess I was wrong.

“What makes you think that means they’re firing you?” I asked.

“Because, they told me to make sure I was available at 9:30, for Bob in Shipping to be available at 10, for Lois in Billing to be free at 10:30, and for you to be free at 11.”

“Me?  Why would they want to see me?”

He just looked at me as though he was debating whether or not he had perhaps been speaking to my Swedish doppelganger the whole time.

“Oh,” I said, suddenly understanding that I was to be fired as well.  Then I said, “How come you didn’t tell me any of this yesterday?  I have a slutty French maid’s uniform that would have been perfect for the occasion!”

“Because, I wanted you to have one more good night’s sleep.  I wanted you to go home wondering if maybe they were coming here to declare every Thursday moving forward All You Can Eat Banana Splits Day, or something nice like that.  More importantly, I wanted you to come here dressed appropriately in case they were saving you for last because they were waiting until the carnage was over before telling you they were giving you my old job.”

That’s why I adored my boss.  He wasn’t a dickhead like bosses traditionally tend to be.  He was a nice guy, the kind who worked his way up from the bottom, who never stepped on anyone along the way, and who remembered his humble roots once he got there.  Bob, Lois and I all had an indeterminate number of stressful days ahead of us, but our boss was kind enough to give us one more good day.

“I cleaned out my office last night after everyone left.  You have less than two hours before they come for you.  I brought the empty boxes with me this morning.  They’re in my trunk if you want me to go and get them for you.”

“Sure,” I said in response.

By 9:45, word had spread throughout the building that he had been axed.  By 10:10, everyone had heard about Bob.  People only had to see Lois walking towards the boardroom to know what was about to happen to her.  I have no idea when people started talking about me because I just grabbed my purse and immediately left after getting the boot.

It was weird, looking at the boxes waiting for me in the backseat of my car.  It was kind of sad, too, to think that I had spent fifteen years giving my all to a business that took less than five minutes to toss me aside.

I wish I had woken up this morning with some sort of gut instinct to wear my French maid’s uniform to work today.  I would have liked to have worn it while walking side by side, arm in arm with my boss, as we made a grand exit together.

Here’s to you, boss.  Thanks for giving me one more good day, and for making this bad day a little less bad.

Two Weeks

Abigail Henderson has done a lot for her adopted community. Ten years ago, she single handedly created a program that gave women a telephone number they could call if they were stranded and needed a safe ride home. Three years after that, she organized a fundraising drive to help the residents on the west end of the city who lost their homes and belongings in a tornado. Just last year, she spearheaded an anti-bullying campaign and presented it to all of the local schools. Name a march, any march, and she’ll be there. Casually mention that you’d like to have a charity walk, run, or bike ride for a cause near and dear to your heart and she’ll sign up. Tell her about a sad story you heard on the news and she’ll be on the first plane out to go over and see what she can do.

She’s a giver and a doer, that Abigail. Some would even say her heart’s bigger than a Hollywood starlet’s pair of breast implants, that her soul is softer than a four hundred thread count set of sheets that has just been treated to the finest fabric softener money can buy, and that her love for man knows no boundaries.

Her love for her mother, however, well that’s a different story. Abigail hasn’t spoken to her mother since she refused to give her twenty-five thousand dollars for her second wedding.

“It’s not that I don’t want to, sweetie. It’s just that cancer treatments are expensive,” her mother told her that day two years ago while on the phone from Abigail’s hometown four hundred miles away.

“Always thinking about yourself, aren’t you mother? How typical,” Abigail said, completely forgetting that her mother had already paid for her daughter’s university education, the first wedding, the subsequent divorce, the healing week long retreat at a spa that followed, and for the down payment on her house.

Abigail’s mother tried to reach out to her a number of times after that, but she refused to take her calls and deleted her emails before she even read them. That’s why Abigail missed the news that her mother’s treatments had stopped working, and why she later let a call from Wendy Dupris of West Daneville Community Hospital go to voicemail.

Abigail was to call her back right away, but she couldn’t do it that day because she was too busy with one of her marches. She’d be too busy tomorrow as well, serving lunches at the local soup kitchen. The day after that wouldn’t work either, she had hats to knit for premature babies. This Wendy person was just going to have to wait.

It would be a solid two weeks before Abigail got around to calling Wendy back. Two long weeks before she could be bothered to learn that her mother had passed away. The babies got their hats, though, and for that, Abigail was honoured six months later with a dinner for being such a fabulous person.

How Good Are We Talking?

Andrea and Tina do what best friends do. They go out to eat a lot together, they indulge in retail therapy together, and they talk about everything under the sun. Their favourite topic of discussion is their love lives. No more than a day passes before the one is on the phone with the other filling her in on how the latest date went. The good, the bad, the ugly…nothing ever gets left out; especially the juicy bits. Those are the best.

“So, tell me,” Andrea says to Tina after they have both paid for their coffees and sat down at a corner table. “How was last night?”

“It was good,” Tina responds.

That illicits a raise of the eyebrows and a tiny smirk from Andrea.

“How good are we talking?” Andrea then asks. “Average good, or good good?”

There are varying degrees of good in Andrea and Tina’s world, just as there are different levels of bad. Neither one is sure of which one they enjoy hearing about more from their friend. Good is nice, but what if it was actually very good? That might mean losing her best friend to a guy. Hearing it was bad is sad in its own way, but on the other hand that would mean having her best friend all to herself for longer, and the chance to be the one to find Mr. Right first. Andrea and Tina are both selfish in that regard.

“I don’t know,” Tina tells her friend while shrugging her shoulders. “Good, you know.”

“Help me out here,” Andrea urges her friend. “Was it ‘this beats sitting at home inhaling a bowl of popcorn all by myself and crying while watching a Jennifer Garner film’ good? ‘He doesn’t seem to be still hung up on his ex or his mother’ good? ‘I’m really glad I didn’t order anything spicy to eat’ good? Or ‘I am so glad I went to the trouble of shaving my legs this morning’ good?”

“I’d say it was more along the lines of ‘He’s an easy guy to talk to, but it’s still going to be awhile before I tell him about my fear of light switches’ good,” Tina says.

“Yeah, you really don’t want to bring that up too soon,” Andrea reminds her friend.

“Laugh at me all you want, but those things can kill you if they’re not wired properly!” Tina says in her own defense.

“What did you say this guy does for a living?” Andrea then asks.

“He’s a stockbroker.”

“It’s too bad he isn’t an electrician. You’d be set for life.”

“Ha ha,” Tina says trying to make it sound as though she hasn’t had the same thought about every guy she has dated. “Anyway, how’s your love life going?”

“Horribly,” Andrea says.

“As in ‘Mother Theresa got more action in her lifetime than I’ve had in the last six months’ horrible, or merely ‘Things are bad, but at least I’m not to the stage where I have to apply to be a contestant on The Bachelor horrible?”

“Somewhere in-between.”

“Jesus, I had better go and get us more coffee,” Tina says. “Don’t worry, I won’t touch any light switches on my way.”

Andrea laughs at her friend’s joke, and wishes she could find an electrician just as funny.