“A really, really, bad pick-up line…”

By

Tina Nelson

It was a chilly and bleak November day in Minnesota.  Normally, I love bleak days but on this particular day I wasn’t especially happy with my life.

Too many people who should be nice to me…weren’t.

Too many people who should appreciate me…weren’t.

Too many people who should love me a lot…or even ‘just a little more’…don’t.

And the worst part about this was that I couldn’t understand why.

If I actually thought that the problem was with me, I would have done something…anything to change the situation.  But it wasn’t me.

I had spent many hours soul searching and many hours asking questions…trying to know what it was that I was doing wrong…or not doing right.  But no answers…so no solutions.

So I got into my car and took a little drive down to River’s Edge Falls, a wonderful little park in the heart of Minneapolis, to watch the icy, cold water race fiercely over the rocks and then crash down to the bottom.

It was always a soothing place for me to visit but unfortunately, I found I was coming here more often…needing more and more comfort.

Sigh.

The park was beautifully deserted.  Good.  Mondays are like that.

I could just lean against the ancient stone wall and watch the water crash down…over and over…the rhythm so relaxing and the deafening noise somehow comforting and calming.

I knew I would get my focus back…re-charge…decide the correct path and take it.  I’d figure it out…I always did.  I wasn’t born yesterday.   I had some life skills.

“Hey there little lady, how would you like to come with me to those bushes over there and warm me up on this chilly day.”

The man’s voice was mean and angry.  His words slurred.  Could I feel a tiny prick of a knife in my back…?  No matter.

As I slowly turned, I reached into my inside jacket pocket and pulled out my loaded Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver that I always carried…because…why not?

And then I shot him through the heart.  Twice.

No one heard the shots as I watched him fall to the ground…left hand still clutching a very sharp-looking steak knife.

“Fuck …you…” he croaked as the blood flowed quickly out of his heart and in seconds he was dead.

“Apparently not…” I said and I walked back to my car.

The End

 

THE KIDNAPPING OF WESLEY

“Did I just say “kidnapping?”

By

Tina Nelson

When you are hopelessly in love, you will do anything.

You have no control.

You are ruled by your ever demanding heart.

You ignore the rights and listen to the wrongs.

You BEG your friends at recess to help you.

Did I just say “recess”?

You show off your most attractive physical feature (in my case…my legs) by not wearing corduroy pants under your pink dress when it is terribly cold outside even though your mother told you that you’d better wear them…or else.

Did I just say “corduroy”?

You brag about a lifestyle that doesn’t exist…except for the “pancakes” part.

“Did I just say “pancakes”?

And when all that fails…you lie.

“So, Jimmy…and you too, Wesley…my mother has said I can bring two friends home for lunch today and I have picked you guys because I know you are the best of friends…and I want to be your best friend too!”

Seeing the doubt in their eyes, you recklessly continue…

“My mother makes the best pancakes in the world!!”

And so on that Spring day in 1950 at noon, me, Jimmy (dearest love of my life) and his best friend, Wesley walked, ran and skipped the seven blocks from Cherryhill Elementary School…where we were all first graders…to my house where my mother was waiting for me to come home for lunch.

She had a tuna fish sandwich with soft Wonder white bread (it was 1950, after all) an apple cut in slices and a glass of whole milk (to build strong bones) waiting for me…just like she did every day since that was my very favorite.

There was no pancake batter sitting on the counter waiting to be added to a sizzling, hot skillet.

There was only one plate on the table…not three.

Suddenly, Jimmy stopped skipping and burst out, “I can’t go to your house!  If I don’t come home for lunch, my ma will kill me!!!!!!”

And then, Jimmy, the love of  my life, turned and ran like the wind down the street towards his house.

“I’m still coming!” said Wesley to me.  “I love pancakes!”

So Wesley and I slowly trudged the one more block to my house.  Okay.  Okay.  Only I trudged.

We dragged ourselves up the back stairs of the duplex where I lived.  Okay.  Okay.  Only I dragged.”

“MOM!!!” I shouted as I banged open the back-screen door.

“I brought my friend Wesley home for lunch…can we have pancakes?  I sort of promised.”

Did I just say “sort of”?

I walked further into the kitchen and sat down at my place at the table.

Wesley stood shyly by the door…not knowing where he should sit…a scared smile starting to appear on his little black face.

“Did I just say “black”?

My mother came out from the living room where she had been “hoovering” while she waited for me to come home for lunch.

Did I just say “hoovering”?

“Oh, hi mom.  This is Wesley.  I invited him and Jimmy Preston (the love of my life, although I didn’t say that, then) home for lunch.”

“I told them we could have your fantastic pancakes.  Jimmy changed his mind and went home.  But Wesley didn’t.”

“Hello…um…Judy’s mom.”  Said Wesley who didn’t know my last name or unfortunately…as it turned out later…his own phone number.

“Hello, Wesley! said my mother, giving Wesley one of her big, friendly smiles.  My mom was always happy and friendly.  Everyone loved my mom…and her pancakes.

She walked over to the kitchen table and pulled out a chair for Wesley.

“You can sit here, dear.” she said.  And as Wesley walked over to sit in the chair, she moved over to the kitchen counter, reached up to take down her big “pancake” bowl, grabbed it and then paused…as she looked at the two of us sitting at the kitchen table.

“Your mother knows you’re here, doesn’t she, Wesley?” asked my mother.

“No, ma’am” said Wesley politely.  Then he slowly tilted his head to the side…perhaps wondering for the first time if his choice to have pancakes this day was not a good one.

Here is the part where my mother swears a lot, drops the pancake bowl and somehow keeps smiling…

Here is also the part where Wesley’s unknown phone number complicates things…

“I think there is an eight and a six…” offered Wesley hopefully.

And further… no one at Cherryhill is available to answer the frantic calls made by my mother…since they were very busy looking for the missing Wesley.

Soon there were a lot of policemen and police cars…but no sirens.

“Did I just say policemen”?

I saw Wesley’s mother.  She looked like she had been crying but my mom was hugging her so I guess everything was all right.  No one was hugging Wesley or me.

The front-page headline of the paper the next day said:

“6-Year-Old Boy Kidnapped By Best Friend.”

The smaller headline had a quote from Wesley.

“I just wanted some pancakes!”

Jimmy Preston (the love of my life) moved at the end of first grade and I never saw him again.

P.S.  We never got any pancakes.

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Remember Me?”

By

Tina Nelson

 

I THOUGHT IT WAS ALL OVER.

I THOUGHT THAT I COULD COME HOME…

I WAS WRONG.  DEAD WRONG.

Prologue.

Fall in Minnesota.  Summer was gone…finally.  I hate summer.  I always have.  Too much sun.  Too hot.  Too many bugs.  And now…unfortunately…too old to wear really  cute sun tops…sigh..

November on the other hand, is the perfect month.  The sun hardly ever shines and when it does, it’s weak and getting weaker…almost dying…I’m okay with that.

The wind is chilly but not piercing…not yet anyway.  November here is just like November in Winnipeg, Canada.  I love Canada.

I lived in Canada for many years…beginning in 1969…yes…that date is correct…and whatever you want to wonder about that…go right ahead.

It makes no difference to me.  I am way beyond that.  But here is something you don’t need to wonder about…because it is true.

The Vietnam war was a horrible and tragic  mistake.

And…more than 58,000 young boys and men lost their lives because of that mistake…and one of them was my very best forever friend,  Johnny Taylor.

I met Johnny at an outrageous Halloween party in 8th grade.

From that night on, he was my only true friend in so many ways and later became my forever friend and then…my ever so sweet and delightful lover.

Johnny didn’t die in Vietnam…oh, he was there all right.  He was definitely there…for 365 long, brutal, killing days and nights.  He was there for every single one of them.

And then…he came back home…to die of a heroin overdose…in my arms…in the back of a speeding ambulance with me screaming into his beautiful, unseeing brown eyes.

“YOU CAN’T DIE!!  YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!!  YOU PROMISED YOU WOULD NEVER LEAVE ME AGAIN!  YOU PROMISED!!!”

It was 1967.  He was 19.  I was 18.

Fucking Amen…

 

 

Chapter 2

When I say “we” were ready…I meant of course…Karla Johansen was ready.  She was my excellent friend and self-proclaimed leader of our little gang of seven.

She…even in 8th grade…was ready for everything and anything at all times…and all of us just basically said “how high” when she told us to jump.

Her mother was an oddity for this time in history.  She worked full time…and was consumed constantly with guilt…even though she was an elementary school teacher and home almost as much as the other moms of our little group…who did not work outside the home.

But this was 1960.   Most moms stayed home…whether they wanted to or not.

So…because of her mother’s on-going guilt…Karla had an edge…and she had learned early in her young life how to successfully use that power.

Two years ago, in fact, she had managed somehow to convince her parents to build an in-ground, Olympic-size swimming pool in their backyard, even though they went to their summer cabin every weekend from June thru September.  Yeah…they had some money.

Karla loved her gang but not one of them had a summer cabin by the lake like she did.  But now they spent every hot sunny day splashing in “Karla’s pool”.   No one could ever accuse Karla of not being a great friend.  She was a wonder.

Even as my mother was delivering the Halloween bad news to me, I knew Karla was also receiving it from her mom…and responding with anguish, sobs and fake tears.  She had practiced how she would react in front of me and she was pretty damn good.

“NO TRICK OR TREATING!!!!!”  I could almost hear her screaming and I lived blocks away.

What I couldn’t hear was her poor mom, Liz Johansen (we all loved her, she was such a sweetheart) telling Karla how sorry she was for this terrible disruption in her life.

“Is there anything I can do, Karla?  Is there anything you want?  Please stop crying dear…there must be something that would make you happy…”

“Well…mom…since you’re asking…maybe a little Halloween party?  With orange and black crepe streamers?  And maybe you could (here, she told me, she paused for a little sob) make those fantastic brownies that everyone likes?  And remember that scavenger hunt we had on my 10th birthday?  The kids really loved that…” said Karla.

All of that was…of course…bull shit.

What Karla really wanted was a boy/girl party with food and pop and loud music and dancing and red lights and games like Post Office, Spin the Bottle and Seven Minutes in Heaven…and maybe a little Truth or Dare (if everyone was feeling risky)…and strict orders: to “not come down the basement and embarrass me”.

THAT was the party Karla wanted…and of course…got.

But Karla was a smart 8th grader…so her initial request for a small party was charming and innocent and sure to be granted and…it was.

As she told me later, “Riley.  It was a piece of cake.  I could have won an Oscar!”

Chapter 4

I will definitely explain my authentic (read very skimpy) Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume…a tin of dark brown body powder included with the rental price…but first…

…my life in a nutshell before this party.

My mom and dad didn’t always read the set of instructions that came with living in this world…which…if you don’t have children is workable…but they had me…

I was the first girl to wear lipstick, albeit pale, pale pink lipstick in 6th grade.  My dad brought it home because he thought I would like it.  I did.

This was scandalous in 1958.  But mom and dad thought it was cool.  And so did I.

I later wore it to my Wednesday confirmation class at some really strict (no-name) evangelical church (let’s not say cult, here).

A friend of a friend of my dad’s had recommended this church to him…one dark and story night in a neighborhood bar.

Someone had to have been very drunk at the time for this to have ever been thought to be a good idea.  Again.  Let’s not use the word cult.

I got banned and sent home on my red Schwinn bike because I was wearing lipstick.

I was allowed back to class after a very curt call from my mother who had just shelled out a ton of money for my expensive white confirmation dress with matching shoes.  She had also just prepaid for a confirmation group photo in an oak frame.  My mom was fierce when she was upset…

So…I was allowed to return to the fold…whatever…

But then I brought a nice Catholic boy to a confirmation class hay ride three weeks later and was then permanently banned from class…we were, however, allowed to finish the hayride.

However, the group picture had already been taken and paid for so it looked like I had actually been confirmed even though I had not.

“Screw it,” my dad said.  “We got the picture!”  And it hung ever so proudly in their living room for years.

My mom said she thought she was Jewish anyway…and so that was the end of my formal religious education.

I started using black eye liner in 7th grade but no one cared…

Now…about that costume…a friend of my dad’s…

Chapter 5

“No trick or treating!!” shouted my dad when he was told of the “new Halloween rule”.

“Has everyone gone mad?” he exclaimed..

“It’s a terrible idea!!!  Riley’s just a kid…she’s only 9…10…how old are your, darlin’?” he said turning to me.

“I’m thirteen dad and Karla’s having a swell costume party instead and I’m really looking forward to that!”

I gave him a huge supportive smile…because he seemed to really need it.

The next day he came home from work with a telephone number and an address he got from a guy he knew…who knew of a professional costume shop in Minneapolis.

My dad always knew a guy…or at least a guy who knew a guy.

“We’ll get you something really spectacular, Riley.  So…you won’t be so sad,” Dad said.

“I’m not sad, dad.” I said.

Mom just smiled and put three Swanson chicken TV dinners in the oven…they were her specialty.

After dinner, my dad made a phone call to make sure the shop was open.  We all trekked down to this really tiny (read kind of dingy) shop on Washington Avenue.

The costume shop was for adults…it’s okay to let your mind wander here…

I think he sold some other stuff as well…anyway…he had told my dad over the phone that he would give him a good deal…my dad loved a good deal.

Because I was thirteen and…you know…kid-short, I only had 2 choices of costumes.

A clown costume with blue and white baggy pants and red shirt…and a re-usable red ball I could pop on my nose…OR…a Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume–tin of dark brown body powder included with rental price.  The clown costume was really never even considered.

The night of the party, it took my mom over an hour to cover my exposed skin with  the dark brown powder but when she was done…I looked…like an 8th grade girl in a Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume…that was a  little too skimpy…but…

“Oh, what the hell,” said my mom…putting some more powder on my ‘chest’.

My dad gave me two thumbs up.

“You look great, kiddo.  Very…Hawaiian.”  He sounded so proud.

I don’t know if he was proud of the way I looked, proud of the costume itself or proud of the fact that he had indeed gotten a good deal.

He then leaned in to give me a big hug.  He pulled away and the front of his white tee-shirt was streaked all over with brown powder!

“Holy Crap!!” I said…not quite horrified.

My parents just laughed…and told me…”don’t go hugging anyone tonight!”

I thought…well, okay.

Do you remember Chapter 3…and my “Seven Minutes in Heaven”…with John Taylor and his black Zorro costume…many, many times?

Good memory.

Chapter 6

John and his parents had moved into a big, ranch rambler right across the street from Karla.  He had asked if he could walk me home…I lived about six blocks away.  Of course, I said yes.

“But first I want to show you my pet snake, Waldo.” said John.  “He’s super friendly.”

I was not FOND of snakes but I thought John was a pretty good kisser…so I pretended…

We left Karla’s party a little early and walked over to his house.

His parents were playing cards with some of their friends in the living room.

They were all dressed up and soft music was playing in the background.

It looked very elegant…with drinks and snacks scattered around on little side tables.  No one was in costume…

The front door opened right into the living room so when we walked in…everyone immediately looked over at us.

John introduced me.  “Mom.  Dad.  This is Riley.  She’s a friend I met at Karla’s party.  I wanted her to meet Waldo and then I’m going to walk her home.”

His parents rose slightly from the table, as if they were going to come over to us but  then sat back down.

I gave them all a friendly little wave and a smile

No one said a word.  Not. One. Word.  They just stared at us…mouths literally hanging open.

My hand slowly rose to my chest, just to make sure nothing was…you know…hanging out.  Nope.  I was good.

John’s father looked a bit upset…his face was quite red and John’s mom looked a little flustered as well.

Finally, one of the men…obviously more fortified with alcohol than the others…said a little too loudly…

“Well!!  It looks like Johnny and Riley have been having fun tonight…”

John smiled politely at his father’s semi-drunken friend and looked down at me…I also smiled and looked at John…and then I really looked at John.

Most of my body powder…if not all…was now all over the front of John’s black Zorro costume.

It was on his arms.  It was on his legs.  His whole fucking body was covered in dark brown powder.  Even his face was streaked with brown powder.

It was fairly obvious that Zorro had indeed been rolling around somewhere with the little Hawaiian girl…

John saw the look on my face and then looked down at the front of his costume.

He just grinned at me and chuckled…like it was no big deal…because…to John…it really wasn’t.

I, however, was so embarrassed.  I pulled at his hand and quickly edged back toward the front door.  There would be no “Waldo viewing” tonight.

I waved a polite good-bye to the adults…only one of whom waved back.

Through the years, as I got to know John, I was to learn that nothing ever really bothered him…which is why…I think…I came to like him so very, very much.

And…from that night on…we were each other’s best friend.

And…I was the only one who would call him…”Johnny”…