Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Big 'B'

It was 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in July. I was already eating lunch -- a roast beef sandwich at Skip’s Deli down on 11th Street. They made the best coleslaw at Skip’s, and I was sure not to spill any of it on myself. I was wearing a lime leisure suit with a gold chain around my neck, with white athletic socks and white tennis shoes on my feet. I was everything a neighborhood kid ought to be except I wasn’t from the neighborhood. I was here to make a drop.

The Girl lived here. This was the kind of place where they spell “coffee” N-O, N-A-M-E, B-R-A-N-D-S, and if you suggested a chain store, they’d kill you.

The Girl and I first met at Barney’s, a coffee joint a few doors down. We’d only dated for two months and within a week had already shared a roast beef sandwich at Skip’s. We used to joke about other couples, how they’d come up with those ridiculous “pet names” for each other like Sugar Bub, Snooky Wookums and Baby Bunny Berry Pie. We promised that we’d never make up “pet names” for each other.

That is until today. The Girl had gone too far -- too far from home. She was on vacation at the other end of the country, visiting an aunt and uncle for recreational purposes. Yeah, The Girl had gone too far, and I’d make her pay.

At 10:30 a.m., The Landlord of the building usually stepped out to take The Mutt for a walk -- the kind of walk that means some poor homeowner would receive unsolicited lawn fertilization. Once The Landlord left for that walk, she’d leave the 4-unit complex vacant.

I’d utilize that time to slip into the building and into The Girl’s apartment unit with keys I’d secretly duplicated at the Do-It Center, and then I’d make the drop. Afterward, I’d high tail it back over to Skip’s before my slice of warm apple pie lost its steam.

It was to be an easy job, easy like finding trouble in Troublesville, only I’d be the trouble, and The Girl would find me -- or rather she’d find my handy work in her living room when she got back from her trip. You see, I’d created a giant looming-

Hold that thought. The Landlord just exited the building with The Mutt. They were early. It was 10:08 a.m. to be exact. She was making her way around the block, which meant I had about 20 minutes to get into the building, drop off The Package, and get out before she returned.

I finished off my coleslaw, asked The Waitress to hold my table and my tab, and made my way across the street to the apartment complex. I unlocked the front door of the building with my duplicate key and propped the door open. Then I went to the second door on the right, unlocked it with my other duplicate, and propped that door open.

With speed and skill, I nonchalantly sprinted out of the building, down the walkway to my parked sedan across the street, and then I looked both ways before I pulled out the six-foot tall-

Hold that thought. The Landlord and The Mutt were heading back to the building! There went my easy job. I was stuck, and my apple pie back at Skip’s would surely get cold. I’d never get those doors closed before The Landlord made it to the building entrance. She’d see me and wonder how I got a key, or she’d think I was a burglar and have me arrested. I could always tell her I knew The Girl. Perhaps she’d even seen me with her. But she’d never allow me in the building without The Girl’s company.

I acted before I consciously thought about what I was gonna do. I set off my car alarm, which produced the kind of noisy blast you might hear just before you die. It sent The Mutt, with The Landlord in tow, into a mad dash in the opposite direction.

Then I made my move back into the building with The Package, and made the drop. I buttoned up the place, de-squawked my car alarm, and was back at Skip’s finishing my lunch when The Landlord and The Mutt returned, looking like balloons that lost all their air. I had succeeded in a job well done.

When The Girl got home from her trip, she found a giant looming six-foot tall bumblebee -- stinger and all -- that I’d cut out from cardboard and painted. In the insect’s hands was a big paper sign with the words “Welcome Home, My Little Honey Bee” written on it. The Girl called and thanked me for the lovely and unexpected gesture. She even appreciated my ridiculous “pet name” humor.

Ever since then, The Girl -- who I’ve come to call my wife -- has never ever, not even for a second, gone too far from me. She also expects unexpected gifts at unexpected times all the time. Such is my luck.

-June 2008

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