“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

 

Day Brightener…

cropped-cropped-img_20191026_2247555703108068617307527417MY DAD WAS NEVER WITHOUT A LIGHTED CIGARETTE DANGLING FROM HIS MOUTH…

BUT HE WASN’T COMPLETELY STUPID…

I’m not standing there because I wanted to observe the fine art of re-fueling an empty gas tank…on some deserted road…God knows where…circa 1950.

His lit cigarette is in my left hand.  Safety first!  Oh.  My.

Have a nice day…

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

8th Grade Halloween.  I meet Johnny.

There comes a time in every childhood when you are told…you’re “too old to go ‘trick or treating’ this year.”

No more free candy from strangers.  No more running wildly around the streets in the deepest of darkness…screaming and hollering to your friends…stuffing candy in your mouth as fast as you can…yes, yes you heard right…even while you are running…and hollering.  It was…after all…1960.

All gone.  Forever…just because you got one year older.

In 1960, our suburb of Bloomington, Minnesota was new but growing fast.  There were acres of new housing developments with miles of streets that we could dash up and down…filling old pillow cases with candy and money and whatever else strangers were willing to give us.  Home-made fudge was the best.  Remember…1960.

There were no parents standing in the streets with glow lights or flashlights to guide us…or umbrellas to shield us from the rain.  If it rained, we got wet and we lived.  If we fell down…we got up.  And…we came home.

But this year…5 days before October 31, my mother said…

“Riley.  You’re too old to go trick or treating this year.  All of us moms got together and we decided that now that you kids are in 8th grade…you’re just too old.  No arguments (and here she held up her hand for emphasis)…we have all decided.”

Oh…we knew it was coming.  We had heard the whispers and had actually paid attention when the moms had dropped little hints…so we knew.

And we were ready.

 

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 3

The party was a HUGE success!  There must have been 25-30 kids there…some even Karla didn’t know…but the word got out and kids…out “trick or treating”… just knocked politely on the door and sweet mom, Liz let them in with a welcoming smile…and sent them down the basement.

(Karla’s party was probably the first prototype of the fantastic open house parties to come as we got older.  Those parties dotted the streets of our sprawling suburb every Friday and Saturday night in the late fifties and early sixties.

All you needed then was a car and maybe an address…or sometimes you could just drive up and down the streets looking for lots of cars parked in front of a house…with the lights blazing…a dead giveaway.

You just waked in, smiled nicely to the parent…who was usually sitting in the kitchen looking a little shell-shocked…and went wherever her hand pointed…usually to the basement.

Karla’s party had only walk-ins…no cars yet…and we all drank the pop, ate the sloppy Joes, did the little “scavenger hunt” Karla’s mom had organized and then about 9:00 Karla put red bulbs in the light sockets…and a ‘DO NOT DISTURB–THIS MEANS YOU MOM’ sign on the basement door.  It was time to have a real party!!!

The plan was to start slow…this was, after all…the first time most of us had been at a party like this…but Karla and I had done a lot of reading…

Spin the Bottle was first and everyone got into a large circle and got very quiet.  There was a lot of nervous laughter…from everyone…including me.

Truth or Dare would be last.  I had played ‘Truth’ once before…at a slumber party last summer with a group of girls…four of the girls went home crying.  It was pretty intense.

Karla, as hostess and most fearless of us all, went first and the bottle stopped in front of Ronald Simmons…the most quiet and shyest boy in our school…and Karla’s next door neighbor.

Everyone gasped out loud!  Why was he here?  Who invited him?  He never even talked to anyone…I wasn’t sure he could talk…I had never heard him.

“Ronny!!  I didn’t know you were coming tonight.” said Karla in a very friendly, non-threatening voice.

“I was #7 on your mom’s Scavenger Hunt list.” he said as he  pointed to Brian Carlson, one of our gang…who was looking slightly embarrassed…making eye contact with no one.

“Very funny, Brian.” said Karla with a disapproving tone to her voice.

To Ronny she said, “Well, good to…see you, Ronny…”  And then she gave him a big smile…and went to re-spin the bottle…but wait…

No one let Karla get away with that move…she and Ronny had to go into the storage area for a kiss…rules were rules.

They came out 30 seconds later…both of them with blazing red cheeks!

Later, Karla told me he refused to kiss her so she just grabbed him by his shoulders and kissed him anyway.

“I think he kind of screamed, Riley, honest.” she said.

(Side Note:  Ronny Simmons became a many times decorated homicide detective for the Minneapolis Police Department…after working Vice for ten years…he never married.)

The game continued and very quickly most everyone had their turns at Spin the Bottle and were laughing and having a good time.  Everyone was anxious to move up to something more daring.  I know I was…I hadn’t gotten ‘chosen by the bottle’.

It was time for Seven Minutes in Heaven…where two people spent seven minutes in a darkened room doing whatever they wanted.

John Taylor, a really good-looking new boy who had just last week moved to Bloomington from St. Paul, Mn., had been smiling at me a lot and I had been smiling back.  We hadn’t yet talked…only said “hi”.

He looked older and “exciting”.  Maybe it was his all black Zorro costume…but what did I know…I was only 13.

It turned out John had missed a year of school because of an auto accident and had to repeat second grade…so he was older.  He was…14.

When it was his time to spin …he reached out and stopped the bottle before it could go past me and looked right at me with a devilish grin.

I never went into the other room with anyone else all night…John’s turn always stopped at me …and he encouraged the spinning bottle to pass by me when the other boys had their turn…pretty heady stuff for an 8th grade girl like me.

John Taylor had an agenda that Halloween night and I was at the top of it…me and my Hawaiian Dancing Girl costume.

 

 

 

 

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…