Chapter 20 ~ Doing It Our Way

Chapter 20 ~ Grace Was Speechless

Grace emptied her handbag searching for lipstick, lip gloss or anything to make herself look a bit more attractive. She found a tube of hand cream, a tampon, her cell phone, a package of gum, rosary beads, a prayer card, a wallet with her ATM and credit cards and photos of Mike, Matt, and her parents. She sighed, “I don’t even have a mirror.”
Grace’s thoughts were interrupted by Matt, “Mom, I don’t feel like going. I think I’ll stay in the cabin for a little while. You don’t mind, do you?”
Grace was working on her hair with her fingers, she had no comb and brush. I remembered Matt’s favorite socks and I forgot my brush. Forget about asking Jane, she said to herself.
She called to Matt, “That’s fine Matt. Did you bring your hair brush?”
Matt called back, “Why? Did you forget how short my hair is?”
Grace rolled her eyes. Matt’s blond hair couldn’t be more than a half inch high, if. She decided to go with her old reliable. She pulled her hair back into a ponytail. She pressed her loose-fitting white t-shirt against her flat stomach and tucked it loosely into her jeans. She looked in the mirror, not too bad, Brad will know I’m low-maintenance, natural, and approachable. For the first time, she felt comfortable and a surge of confidence flowed through her.
“Mom, you look great,” said Matt standing in the doorway.
Grace turned, “How long have you been watching me, Matthew?”
“I just got here. I wanted to tell you something,” said Matt.
Here we go, thought Grace. I wonder what objection Matt has now. She said, “What is it, Matt?”
“I’m okay with you dating Brad. He’s really a cool guy. When you guys come back, he’s going to work with me on my jump shot.”
Grace was speechless. She tried to think of something to say. She wanted to say thank you. She wanted to hug Matt. Instead, she blurted out, “You sure you don’t want to come along? You can talk sports with Brad.”
The second she said it, she said to herself, “Are you crazy?”
Matt smiled, “No, Mom. You and Brad need some time away from me. I’m all set. I’ll see you when you get back.”
Grace walked over to Matt, and hugged him and kissed him on the top of his head, then said, “Thank you, Matt.
Matt shrugged, and pulled away. “It’s not a big deal. There’s nothing for me to do at a coffee shop, anyway. Besides, the park has Wifi for the cabins.” Matt turned and went to his cot, he climbed on his cot, lied down, picked up his tablet, and turned his tablet on.
Grace had her handbag over her shoulder took a quick glance at Matt, then walked out of the cabin. Brad was standing up against the side of his pickup truck.
“Where’s Matt?” said Brad.
“He said he didn’t want to go. He’ll be okay. Jane and Larry are in the next cabin. He has his cell. He was looking at his tablet.”
Grace walked around the pickup to the passenger’s side. She stopped and looked at Brad who was staring at her cabin. “What’s wrong, Brad?” she asked.
“Nothing’s wrong. You sure Matt is going to lie on his cot all the while we’re gone?” said Brad.
“He must be exhausted. He went running and swimming and he wants to play basketball with you when we return.”
“I’ve only known Matt for a few hours, I don’t think he’ll stay on his cot, he’s all boy,” said Brad.
“He’ll be fine,” said Grace reaching for the door handle.
Brad turned and said, “Let me get the door for you.”
Grace nearly fell over. Even Mike never opened her door. What kind of man is Brad, she asked herself. Her heart started beating a bit faster.
Brad closed her door, Grace fastened her seatbelt, and Brad returned to the driver’s side. He got in, fastened his seatbelt and started the engine. He turned toward her, and said, “It’s only a ten minute ride. You have a nice natural look. It’s a good look. Thank you.”
Grace felt like crying, she was so happy.
Brad shifted from park into drive and pulled out.
Matt stood in the cabin doorway, not visible to either Brad or Grace. He watched the pickup drive past the registration and ranger’s office and head toward the park entrance. He turned, walked to his cot, opened his backpack, checked to see if he had two water bottles, an orange and the knife his dad gave him three years ago.


Is She Dead?

Chapter 6

Nonna placed three saucers and cups on the table. She walked to the kitchen counter and lifted an old coffee percolator and carried it to the table.

“You boys need cream, or you men?” she said.

Zeke said, “No cream for me, Nonna.”

“That’s a my boy. What about you, Palitroni?” asked Nonna.

“If I have sugar, will I still be a man?” asked Mickey.

Nonna stared at him, “I never know a Palitroni who’s a real man. You just like the rest of your scum family. No sugar. Grow up,” said Nonna.

“Mickey’s okay, Nonna. His mother, Gina, was a Strollo. She left Tubby Palitroni when Mickey was four. Then she got an annulment because Tubby was involved with Mary Luizzi,” said Zeke.

Nonna whacked the side of her head and then blessed herself four times, “The Luizzi’s they worse than the Palitroni’s. I tell you Tubby’s a no good son of a you know who,” said Nonna.

Mickey said, “Who?”

Nonna looked at Zeke, “He’s a not too bright of a bulb, am I right?”

Zeke shrugged his shoulders. He knew Nonna was right, but didn’t want to hurt Mickey’s feelings. Zeke took a sip of his coffee, set it down, picked up a biscotti and dunked it into the coffee before taking a bite. When he finished chewing his biscotti, he said, “I love your biscotti. I can’t find good biscotti in stores, where do you get them?”

“My friend, Angelo Marcella, he got a friend who has a friend, who knows somebody. That’s how I get them. Now no more small talk. I got things to do. I can’t waste my time talking to two losers, now what you got for me to help you with?” asked Nonna while she took the plate of biscotti’s away.

Zeke said, “We got a problem. You know Tony Gallino?”

Nonna said nothing. She closed her eyes. For a moment, Mickey thought she died. He nudged Zeke and mouthed, “Is she dead?”

Before Zeke could say a thing, Nonna said, “I’m a not dead you jackass. You still got a lot a Palitroni in you. Now keepa you mouth shut while Zeke tells me about Tony Gallino.”

“It was this way, Nonna. Mickey and me were in Gus’s bar having a few beers because we had a tough day.”

“That’s a bullsheet. How can you have a tough day at ten in the morning? No more lies big or little.”

“How’s she knows this stuff?” whispered Mickey.

“What I tell you Palitroni, keep a you mouth shut. I gotta the inner eye. I know things nobody knows, even me,” said Nonna.

“Well were in Gus’s bar talking about this and that when Tony Gallino walks in. He says he’s looking for Mickey and me and he wants us to do him a favor. He says he has box at one of those postal stations in Brockton. He wants us to pick it up a package. I’m supposed to hold on to it until he tells me to bring it to him. He said not to open it or shake it. I’m supposed to hide it so nobody knows nothing about it. He already gave us a hundred and he’s going to give us another hundred when we bring the box to him. We figure if we do a good job, he’ll hire us, then we’re on easy street. Gus thinks we’re crazy for getting involved with Tony. We’re also on a first name basis. What should we do, Nonna. Do we give Tony his money back? Do we pick up the package?”

Nonna had her hands folded across her belly. The index and thumb fingers of her right hand were twisting a gold wedding band put on her finger by Rocco.

What will Nonna tell the boys? Will Tony Gallino like what Nonna tells the boys?

10 Tips To Make The World Better

Let’s make the world better today.

  1. Plant a tree seedling.
  2. See a piece of trash on your walk? Pick it up and put it in a trash can.
  3. Smile at everyone you meet.
  4. Pay for the coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbucks.
  5. Toss stale bread out to the birds.
  6. Surprise an old friend with a “thank you for (fill in the blank) email.
  7. Invite a neighbor, colleague, friend out for coffee or lunch.
  8. Post an inspirational photo or quote on your favorite social media.
  9. Hold the door open for the person behind you.
  10. Send an video message to a parent, child, friend and tell them to have a great day.

The following short YouTube video will inspire you to do even more. Making the world better doesn’t cost much, a bit of time, a coffee, and a loving heart. Let’s do it!

The Simple Things of Life

Want to feel a bit better? Connecting with the simple things in life works wonders. Life’s pleasures surround us. It’s always a good time to slow down, smile more, enjoy a good conversation and cup of coffee with a best friend. Simple things make big differences in the quality of our lives. The following video shares the simple things of life that bring joy.

He’s The Perfect Accessory

I’m acting like a child. I am embarrassed. I am hiding in the closet. It’s the only place where I can find peace and quiet. There are no windows, but I have photos of the Grand Canyon, Padre Island, and the Rocky Mountain National Park scotched taped to the back of the door. Next to me is my Keurig Coffee Maker. My cup of coffee, fresh, hot, and all mine, until . . .

“Ray, I know you’re in there,” said La Flor*.

“No, I’m not,” I said in a falsetto voice and realized the mistake I made by saying, ‘No, I’m not.’ Hopefully, she won’t pick up on it.

“I know it’s you. I can smell my coffee,” said La Flor

“How do you know? Your coffee?” I’ve truly lost it. I’m hiding from an alt ego and her boyfriend. I’m using a falsetto voice as a disguise. And, now, I’m debating whether I’m in here or not. Where’s Dr. Phil when you need him. That’s right, according to La Flor, he’s an alt ego.

“Either come out, Ray or LC will break down the door and drag you out. It’s for your own good,” said La Flor.

“My own good is to stay inside here until you two, too, or to go out for chicken wings,” I said.

“Do you have a stuttering problem? Asked La Flor.


“It sounded like you stuttered when you said to, two, or too,” said La Flor.

“You’re not going to let me alone until I come out, am I correct?” a moment of silence. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t want Little Carmen to kick down the door. I said, “What?”

“I nodded my head, Ray. What are you waiting for?” said La Flor.

I can’t answer. There is no logical response to seeing a head nod while behind the door. If I had a white flag, I’d wave it. I opened the door, coffee in hand, and stepped out.

La Flor reached for the cup, took it from me, and sipped, “This is good. I needed a good cup of coffee. Thanks, Ray.”

Will I ever get to drink a cup of coffee? I wonder what the Vegas odds are on that one.

Little Carmen, who occasionally can read my mind and little else, said, “About 75 to 1.”

La Flor looked at him, “Is it football season already?”

“No, beautiful, tough, and edgy sometimes a thought comes into my head.”“I like it better when you’re thoughtless.”

“I like it better when you’re thoughtless.” said La Flor.

“Me two,” said Little Carmen (it’s really not that hard to use too instead of two. Why can’t he get it?).

“We need too talk, Ray,” said La Flor (Okay, La Flor is using too instead of to – did they both miss it in alt ego grade school?).

“You’re always saying we need to talk,” I replied.

“No, I’m not. Sometimes I’m saying where are we going tonight. Sometimes I’m saying LC I need a glass of wine.”

Little Carmen interrupted La Flor before she could give another example, “I’m on it. White vino, which rhymes with dino, beautiful, tough, and edgy woman who needs to speak to Ray about whatever.”

“Yes, LC, not in a Styrofoam cup this time,” said La Flor.

“That’s the way Big Carmen serves it,” said LC.

I want to go back into the closet. No, I want to climb on the roof and signal passing planes to send help.

“I don’t care if he serves it in a Starbucks venti cup, I want it in a fancy wine glass.”

“Use gonna get more if I goes and gets a Starbucks venti cup,” said Little Carmen. The expression on his face looked like he was pleased with himself.

If she sends Little Carmen to Starbucks as she did yesterday, I wondered if the paramedics will bring him back.

La Flor turned to me and said, “Ray, it’s time for an intervention.”

I said, “Please don’t watch Dr. Phil or talk to the alt ego who plays Dr. Phil.”

Then Little Carmen joined the conversation, “I can helps you, beautiful, tough, and edgy wonderful woman. I am very goods at interventions. I intervented a square pizza cutter.”

“You intervented a square pizza cutter? How does it work?” I asked.

“Use uses it for square pizza. The round pizza cutter is for the round pizza. Nobody thoughts of that before me. That’s not alls I intervented, Ray-mo,” said Little Carmen.

“Why? Ray. Why?” said La Flor.

“I’m asking myself the same question,” I said.

Little Carmen is warming up for what, I don’t have a clue. Certainly, Seinfeld isn’t coming on next. He said, “I intervented a menu use can reads upside down.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Use asks the customer if they wants the regular menu or the upside down menu. If they asks for the upside down menu, I gives them the regular menu and tells them it’s upside down.”

“Little Carmen, good idea about the Starbucks venti cups. Can you get two of them?” I asked.

“I’ll have to buy coffee first, then dump it out. Is that okay?”

As soon as he left, I turned to La Flor, “Why don’t you hold an auction for him with the alt ego girls?”

She glared at me, “And let go two-hundred five pounds of male hunkiness go? Never.”

“I don’t think you love him,” I said.

“I’m not talking love. I’m talking accessory,” La Flor responded.

“Accessory?” I asked.

“He goes perfect with whatever I’m wearing,” said La Flor smiling. She’s staring out the window watching Little Carmen jog to Starbucks.

“Ray, Ray, I just had a horrible thought,” she shrieked.

“Take it easy. I’m here for you,” I said. I immediately regretted using that line and hoped she wasn’t listening to me.

“I know you’re here. It’s LC. You sent him alone, without a guardian to Starbucks. He’s probably fighting the women off. He’ll come back disfigured. He’s doing this all for me.”

“You’re the lucky one.”

“I won’t be if they maim him. I can see it now, he’ll be outside Carmen’s Pizzeria selling slices with his left hand because they cut off his right hand for a souvenir.”

“You’re not making sense, La Flor.”

“I always make sense. Go save him.”

“Can I call the paras?”



Random Thoughts Flying Toward Me

There are times when the unexpected is normal. Living with La Flor* not like anything I previously experienced. The abnormal is normal. The unexpected is expected. And, as far as La Flor is concerned, the world and all its inhabitants, including at ego inhabitants revolve around her. For La Flor, this is life as it is meant to be.

This morning, for example, I decided to break my routine and pass up on the oatmeal and Greek yogurt and opt for a perfectly toasted English muffin, with organic peanut butter spread over it, filling every crevice; Then I drizzled dark golden brown raw honey on it. My taste buds were salivating. I went a bit overboard and sprinkled flax seeds on top of each half. I placed them on my plate and set my plate on the table on the patio. I returned to the kitchen and took hold of my coffee pot. I poured a cup. My coffee was hot, dark, and gave off a caramelly sweet aroma trailed by a hint of smokiness. All was right in my world. La Flor was sleeping, or so I thought. I sat, my hand reached for my cup of coffee when my reverie was broken.

La Flor said from 4 feet behind me, “Ray, is your shampoo safe?”

I need to become more aware the signs of random thoughts flying toward me from La Flor’s cosmos.

“I haven’t given much thought as to whether or not my shampoo was safe, La Flor,” I said without turning around.

“You should,” she said, pulling a chair up next to me and taking my cup out of my hand.

I said, “There are so many other important things to worry about besides shampoo. There are cups in the cupboard.”

“Is that so?” She said and took hold of one-half of my English muffins. She looked at it, and said, “Next time leave the flaxseed off for me, Ray. They get caught in my teeth.”

“I’ll have to remember that, La Flor.”

She took a small bite, chewed for a second, then took a sip of my coffee.  After she swallowed, she said, “Coffee and an English muffin toasted to perfection with creamy peanut butter and raw honey is a great combo. You need to try it sometime.”

I rolled my eyes and said, “What about the shampoo?”
“Oh yah. You know when you’re washing your hair you’re just tossing chemicals on it. It’s not good for your skin or your hair.”

“Did you wash your hair today, La Flor.  It looks especially radiant.”

“Of course, I washed my hair.”

“Why are you complaining about my shampoo?”

“Do you think I would use your shampoo? The Target special.”

“I did not get it from Target.”



“Where did you purchase the plastic container of chemicals that can peel paint off a car?”

“I will tell you if you first tell me where you are getting your information.”

“Okay. My mystery writer friend and I stopped over at the natural food store. We were in the shampoo aisle when this guy took a look at me and fell in love on the spot. I have this effect on men.”

“My species can’t help themselves when you enter the room.”

“It’s a curse I live with,” said La Flor.This is new. What’s his name and what does he do?”

“What’s his name and what does he do?”

“He is a naturalist. His name is Juan.”

“Do you know what that means?”

“Are you talking about Juan or being a naturalist?”

“Let’s stay with naturalist for the moment.”

“For sure, Ray. It means he naturally fell for me.  Of course, he couldn’t help but fall for La Flor the beautiful, tough, and edgy PI.”

“How does he wash his hair?” I don’t know why I asked this question. I think I have low blood sugar. She is now eating the other half of my muffin.

“You’re getting very personal, do you care to rephrase that?”

“Okay, does he wash his hair with chemicals?”

“No, Ray he buys it the Natural food store. This goes with his being a naturalist and falling for me naturally and the shampoo container says all natural. It’s like the perfecto stormo.”

“And, why are you listening to him?”

“He is 6 feet 2.  He has the most gorgeous brown eyes. And, I think I’m in love. And, he has money.”

“Sounds like he has all the right qualifications. And, all this happened over shampoo?”

“Go figure,” La Flor said.

“Can you tell me a bit more about Juan?”

“He is Juan der ful.”

And to think how peaceful my day started. I said, “I think I’ll make myself an English muffin, do you want anything?”

“A warm up on my coffee, if you don’t mind.”

Our best plans often get interrupted. Getting upset or angry over the interruption doesn’t recreate the ideal we wanted. Going with the current eliminates the anger, resentment, and often offers some pleasant surprises. 

* La Flor is a fictional character and acts as my alt ego. Her character has evolved over the blog posts. She began with a single letter as her name. Her name gradually grew to two letters, then three before she settled on La Flor. She liked the name because it fit her idea of a beautiful, tough, and edgy feminine PI.  It is my interaction with her persona that serves as the source of these blog posts. I have no notion how La Flor will continue to evolve. It is an adventure for me as well as the reader.



Please Don’t Take My Coffee

Sometimes the simple pleasures in life are the best pleasures; like sitting down at my breakfast bar enjoying a hot cup of dark roasted coffee. I like my coffee in a clear cup that way I enjoy the variants of the coffee’s colors. I smell the aroma of cocoa and the smokey scent as it wafts up to my nose. I anticipate my first sip the way a young child anticipates Christmas. As I’m bringing my cup to my lips, I hear…

“Ray,  Ray don’t take that sip. Hand me your cup, por favor,” said La Flor*.

I hand my cup to La Flor. She takes hold of it. Steps away from me and simultaneously grabs the coffee pot. She carries my cup and the pot of coffee to the door leading to the patio.

“What are you doing, La Flor? Leave my coffee alone. Don’t take it away from me. Why are you wearing sunglasses? The sun is barely up?”

“My sunglasses are a statement any time of day. The coffee’s mine, Ray. It’s all mine. Don’t dare follow me. I’m desperate. I need it all.”

“Please, La Flor don’t kid with me. I’ll get a caffeine headache. I’ll have the shakes by 9 a.m. I’ll be mean-tempered by 9:05 a.m. I won’t be able to finish my blog.”

“I’m saving your life.”

“You are not saving my life,” I said.

“Am too,” she said.

“Are not,” I said and wished I didn’t say it. When am I going to get out of third grade?

La Flor had one leg out the door, her butt pushing the door open. Her eyes darting between the patio and me. She said, “Am too.”

I had to break the cycle of silliness. I said, “How are you saving my life?”

“I’m saving you from someone who could be potentially dangerous if she didn’t have a lot of coffee this morning.”

“Do I know this person?” I asked.

“La Flor PI doesn’t want to answer that question.”

“Why are you talking in the third person?” I asked.

La Flor took a quick look around the kitchen, then said, “I only see you, Ray. Then, of course, there is me, whom I can’t see because I can’t hold a mirror, coffee cup, and coffee pot at the same time. I don’t see a third person. I don’t understand why you said I was talking in the third person.”

“You’re taking this too far, La Flor. Take my XBox. Take my iPad. But, please don’t take my coffee.”

“Too bad, Ray. It comes with the territory of living in the same quarters with La Flor, beautiful, tough, and edgy PI. Think of me as your personal security.”

“I don’t recall hiring you as a bodyguard. I don’t recall hiring you for anything. What time did you get in last night?”

“Let’s not change the subject, Ray.”

I knew I was on to something, I pushed on, “Let’s change the subject, La Flor. Did you get in?”

“Let’s put it this way, The time I got in is the time I got in. Does this make sense to you?”

“La Flor, do you think you are talking to one of your alt ego males?”

“It was worth a shot, Ray. They’re not too bright.”

“How much sleep did you get?”

“La Flor, beautiful, tough, and edgy PI, doesn’t sleep when she’s on the job.”

“Please quit with the third-person. It’s going to give me the hives. Did you just get home?”

“I’m home now. That should count for something. I was out having breakfast with my mystery writer blog friend. We wanted an early morning breakfast. I knew this day would be action-packed trying to keep you out of trouble. I chose a healthy breakfast instead of eating something you might make for me.”

“You don’t think oatmeal and Greek yogurt and fruit are healthy?”

“Oh, heavens no, Ray. And when you add walnuts and flaxseed to your Greek yogurt, it’s a turnoff.”

“May I ask where you had breakfast and what you ate?”

“Sure, we got breakfast tacos at Paco’s Taco food truck.”

“I think I am catching on, La Flor. Let me guess, Paco’s Taco food truck happened to be in front of the alt ego bar. Is this a correct assumption?”

“You’re on fire. You didn’t need your coffee. I’m going to sit on the patio. I have a headache, my eyes feel swollen, and my tongue tastes terrible. Please don’t play music.”

“Are you hungover?”

“I like to experience all life has to offer.”

“Enjoy the coffee and peace, La Flor. I’m headed for Starbucks.”

“Thanks, Ray.”

One thing we share in common is imperfections. Recognizing my imperfections helps me to accept La Flor in her imperfections. She didn’t need a lecture or to feel shame for her long night or hangover. She was being who she is and figuring her way through her alt ego life in much the same way as I am figuring my way through life. We all need more understanding and lot less criticism.

* La Flor is a fictional character and acts as my alt ego. Her character has evolved over the blog posts. She began with a single letter as her name. Her name gradually grew to two letters, then three before she settled on La Flor. She liked the name because it fit her idea of a beautiful, tough, and edgy feminine PI.  It is my interaction with her persona that serves as the source of these blog posts. I have no notion how La Flor will continue to evolve. It is an adventure for me as well as the reader.