Sunday, 16 May 2021

The Hills: Nursing Home Edition by Naomi Elana Zener

Molly, a young reporter from Variety, the TV/film industry periodical, found herself reluctantly at the Hollywood Hills Home for the Preternaturally Preserved to conduct a ‘where are they now?’ piece on the remaining cast mates of yesteryear’s celebutantes from MTV’s hit and rebooted show, The Hills.  MTV died with demise of cable TV, leaving behind a litany of MTV-stars who couldn’t find fame, fortune, or relevance with the network now long gone.  To Molly, the article made no sense, but she was told there was a story there, so like any good newbie journalist who was underpaid, she followed the story.  But, to her, society no longer needed to hear from a gaggle of no longer girls without a flotilla of cameras trailing behind them, while they coquettishly batted eyelashes at never men who never were interested in them in the first place.

 

Each had their reason for agreeing to the interview: remaining relevant, hoping to be cast on a new show (there was a resurgence on geriatric programming given the success of Grace and Frankie—there was even talk of a Golden Girls reboot), or reminding the world they weren’t dead yet. However, whatever their reason, they would only participate in the interview on the condition of complete anonymity, in case it led to bad press. The adage of any publicity is good publicity no longer being true, the surviving Hills stars were savvy enough to remember that reputation was everything, and they wanted to preserve whatever good reputation they had left with the public that once adored them.

 

“Ma’am, these folks don’t have much attention to give these days, if you know what I mean, so please be brief,” the nurse at the front desk advised.

 

Molly nodded her head. She laid down a tape recorder in the middle of the table, where the four original cast members sat around the table.

 

“So, I understand you want to tell me about your days making The Hills and all of its reboots. The tape recorder is on, we are now on the record.”

 

“Who’s filming this?” Mr. P asked.

 

“No, no one is filming anything. I’m here to interview about what life was really like when you did The Hills all those years ago.”

“No one cares about back then. This is us, now. We are ready to show the world…” Mr. P continued.

 

“So, basically, you want to bring the series back now?” Molly asked.

 

“Isn’t that why were all here? Living together like we used to? Why Variety sent you?” Miss A inquired.

 

“I’m in!” Miss S shouted, waving her cane in the air before breaking out into the show’s original theme song.

 

“Staring at the white walls and bedpans,

Nurse brings you your medication.

Reaching for your walker in the distance.

So close you can almost feel it…

 

Feel the life in your heart,

Others no longer have it!

You live another day, but

Not your friend, not your friend…”

 

 

“Stop changing the lyrics to that fucking song,” Miss A croaked. “I can’t stand hearing it anymore.”

 

“Why man, it’s funny,” Mr. B replied. “It’s the proper homage to our real life, like now, but a throwback to when it all commenced in the deep roar of motorcycles….”

 

“Enough with the words. You make no sense,” Miss A squawked. “You never did!”

 

“I’m an urban philosopher,” Mr. B countered.

 

“You’re a bullshit artist,” Miss A retorted.

 

“Sing your truth!” Mr. B shouted to Miss S who never stopped humming the tune.

 

“No one wants to be reminded how old we are,” Miss A cried.

 

“Only you know how old you really are. Your face still looks like it did when you were 22,” Mr. P retorted.

 

“So, did any of you actually get along?” Molly inquired. “Like, ever?”

 

The four former cast mates turned nursing home neighbours exchanged glances furtively.

 

“No,” they replied in unison.

 

“It was all staged for the cameras,” Mr. P advised.

 

“Well, everyone knew it was scripted and staged,” Molly interrupted.

 

“She was never my sister!” Mr. P shouted, and then paused. He looked over at Miss S who continued to hum the show’s theme song. Then lightening struck. “No, she was my sister. But, she’s dead now, so I guess I won!”

 

“We made money. We spent the money. We had fame. We lost fame,” Miss A added.

 

“Man, that’s the most profound you’ve ever been,” Mr. B said to Miss A.

 

“Fuck you! That show was made to make us look stupid.”

 

“What’s it like living together now in this nursing home?” Molly interjected.

 

“Like before, but no cameras, food is lousy and we ain’t getting paid,” Mr. P advised.

 

“I don’t mind the food,” Miss. S offered.

 

“That’s because you eat now and have no frame of reference to what food, tasted like in your twenties” Mr. P added. “You never ate any!”

 

“Too bad your wife didn’t outlive you. She was easier to deal with.”

 

“Peace be, my friends. Be like the planets and just rotate around and away from each other,” Mr. B offered to no one in particular.

 

“Oh, shut up already!” Miss A spat.

 

“There’s so much great tension here. I wonder what The Hills – the geriatric edition would look like?” Molly pondered aloud to herself.

 

“You know, that’s not a bad idea,” Mr. P replied.

 

“It’s better than selling crystals,” Miss S muttered.

 

“What was that?” Mr. P asked. “I thought we were planning on doing a show. Isn’t that why we’re living here?”

 

“We live here because we are geriatric and your crystals didn’t pay the mortgage,” Miss A shouted.

 

“No, I wasn’t suggesting anything…” Molly interrupted.

 

“We could get a camera crew,” Mr. B said. “Hell, we can film it on our phones ourselves.”

 

“Why would anyone tune in to watch a bunch of old people in a nursing home?” Miss S asked before returning to her humming pursuits.

 

“Why did anyone tune in to watch a bunch of kids with no direction live in homes they couldn’t afford or own? Nothing better to do.” Mr. P stated. “This is the best idea I’ve ever had.”

 

“Five minutes ago you forgot all your ideas. Now you’re full of them?” Mr. B chided.

 

“It would be real reality TV this time. Doesn’t get more real than bedpans, dentures and dementia cause that’s what every wants to watch. Old people shitting their pants,” Miss A added. “I’ll pass.”

 

“Why do you have to label everything? It’s bad for your inner calm.”

 

“If I had any more calm in my life living here, I’d be dead,” Miss S added.

 

“I wish you were dead,” Mr. P chuckled.

 

“Oh, shove a crystal up your ass.”

 

“Maybe it’s time to end the interview,” the nurse suggested upon walking into the sunroom and witnessing the former reality stars growing agitated.

 

“Let’s talk about something else, since no one is bringing the show back?” Molly suggested.

 

“MTV needs us. They should bring back the show,” Mr. P proclaimed.

 

“MTV doesn’t need you…” Molly started.

 

“I can’t even find the channel anymore on the TV,” Miss S advised.

 

“MTV is dead. The channel went off the air decades ago,” Molly advised.

 

“Wait, what?” Mr. P asked.


“MTV, is like, gone?” Miss S whispered.

“That’s what she said. You never listen,” Miss A added.

 

“Wait, why?” Mr. B asked.

“People stopped watching reality shows about people who do nothing all day,” Molly explained.

 

“Good riddance!” Miss A proclaimed.

 

“Dude, why do you have to be so down on MTV?  They made you,” Mr. B asked.

 

“They made me “like” you! I never liked you,” Miss A replied.

 

“Who’s gonna watch us now?” Miss S asked.

 

“No one watches you. You live in a nursing home!” Mr. P shot back.

 

“But, we’re famous. Everyone watches us. They love us,” Miss A whined.

“No one loves you. No one ever did,” Mr. P cried, throwing his hands in the air. He desperately wanted to storm out of the room, but his arthritic everything forced him to stay put until the nurse brought him his walker.  “I’m done with this shit. Nurse, I need my walker!”

 

The nurse brought the walker over to Mr. B. She pulled his chair back away from the table and put the walker in front of him. She helped him slowly to his feet, placed his hands around the bars of the walker and stood behind him as he shuffled his right foot forward slowly. About a minute later, his left food started to shuffle forward. Everyone looked on in silence waiting for Mr. P to make his dramatic exit.

 

“Mr. B loved me,” Miss S whined, breaking the silence.

“No, he loved Miss A,” Molly reminded her.

 

“Didn’t you even watch the show?” Miss A asked.

 

“Why would I watch the show? I was on the show,” Miss S shot back. She looked confused. The nurse rubbed her shoulders to help calm her down. “Wait, so you didn’t love me?”

 

“Babe, I love, love. The world is love turning around and if you’re on the ride, I love you cause I love the ride,” Mr. B chimed, looking dizzyingly into Miss S’ eyes. With the interview running longer than anticipated, he’d forgotten to take his medication and he began to act loopy.

 

“Oh, get on your dirt bike and ride away,” Miss A spat.  “I’m done with this interview.”

 

Miss. A put her motorized wheelchair into drive and rode back to her room.

 

Miss S continued to shake from the shock of learning MTV had moved on to greener, heavenly pastures.  Mr. P had managed to make it halfway to the door to the sunroom. The nurse remained steadily behind him.

 

“Nurse, please take me to my room. I need to rest,” Miss A request.

 

“I’ll have to call someone to come help you since I can’t let Mr. P walk by himself, in case he falls again,” the nurse explained. She pressed on her walkie-talkie to call for a colleague to assist Miss S back to her room.  The second nurse arrived before Mr. P managed to take five more steps towards the door. The second nurse led Miss S away to her room. Only Mr. B and Molly remained in the sunroom.

 

“I think we’re ready to wrap things up,” Molly suggested. “I do have one last question. If you could tell give your audience and our readers one piece of advice, what would it be?”

 

Mr. B sat silently, letting Molly’s question marinate in his mind.  He closed his eyes and begun to sway his head from side-to-side. After a few minutes passed, Mr. P finally crossed the threshold and left the sunroom, and Mr. B opened his eyes slowly, looking straight at Molly with his signature-penetrating gaze.

 

“The song was right, man. The rest is still unwritten.”

 

 © 2021. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

I Bequeath To Thee by Naomi Elana Zener

“Amy, you are beyond late!” my mother shrieked. 

“I’m sorry. I had to stop by FedEx to pick up a package,” I replied.

 

“Today, of all days. You couldn’t go tomorrow? Or, next week? I don’t understand how a package could be so important that it had to be picked up on the day we buried my father!”

 

“Ma, I had to get it. The notice came four days ago. I was already late in getting it.”

 

My mother shook her head. Nothing was worse than the castigation of Jewish motherly disappointment.

 

“They’d have sent it back to the store, and I’d have lost my money! It was a final sale.”

 

My mother ’s head shot up.

 

“Why didn’t you say that in the first place? I don’t want you to lose your money.  Did you get a good deal?”

 

“80 percent off!”

 

“Ok then. Now, go upstairs, put your stuff away and then help me put out the food. You can show me what you got later.”

 

I started towards the stairs.

 

“And, don’t forget to wash the cemetery off your hands.”

 

I nodded. I went back out to the front porch, and used the cup in the water bucket left by the funeral home to wash off any trace of the funeral from my hands. It’s not like I buried anything. I had worn gloves when I used the shovel to toss dirt on the casket. But, tradition is tradition. So, I removed my gloves, rinsed my hands and said the requisite prayer before returning inside.

 

I ran up the pink-carpeted stairs of my grandparents’ side split-level bungalow. They lived there together for 70 years. They moved in shortly after their wedding. Now, it would it be known only as ‘Bubbie’s House’.  I went into her bedroom: the walls papered with giant green palm leaves, the bed dressed to match with a palm-themed bedspread and sheets. The ceiling was painted in a soft blue, and the carpeting was brown—the only place in the house where it wasn’t pink. Bubbie never had grandiose tastes or dreams, in fact, she only had one dream: spend her winters in Miami Beach. Since she could only afford to go there for the winters, decorating her bedroom to look like the beach was the next best thing. So, a small 1950s style bungalow became Bubbie’s version of Miami Beach 365 days of the year. I tossed my coat and package on her bed, and retreated to the kitchen, where my mother was with Bubbie, to help serve food for the shiva mourners.

 

“Hi Bubbie.”

 

I leaned down to hug my five foot minus three inches grandmother, who was seated at the kitchen table. She claims she’s really 5’3” tall, conveniently ignoring the fact that the extra three inches come by way of her orthopedic high heels. What she lacks in stature she makes up for in hugs, as if she’s a polar bear standing on her hind legs and bringing you into her fold with an invitation to hibernate inside her forever. You could live in her hugs.

 

“Oh, my shaina Amy maidel,” Bubbie said.

 

She pulled me in closer than usual. She missed my Zaidy. He was 97 when he died suddenly and painlessly in his sleep. It was like he died on the beach, she said, which was how he wanted to go. What Bubbie failed to tell my mother, and only told me in an unguarded and unfiltered moment after his body was taken to the funeral home, was that he died having sex on the beach. “Do you know what I mean, bubbaleh?” Bubbie asked, winking at me as I escorted her to the limousine. I gave her a knowing smile. “Just don’t tell your mother. She wants you to keep thinking that you were made like Jesus. He was Jewish, you know.”  While lust ran deep in my grandparents’ genes, it clearly skipped a generation—my parents stopped having sex once my mother’s pregnancy test came back positive.

 

“I know you miss, Zaidy. We all do.”

 

“Married for so many years, I don’t know what I’ll do without him. I’m all alone.”

 

“Ma, you’re not alone. I basically live next door.”

 

“At least I have you,” Bubbie said, patting my back and ignoring my mother.

 

“You have all of us,” I offered.

 

 “My children abandoned me!”

“Ma, I live down the street.” My mother rolled her eyes.

“Exactly, down the street. Not next door. It’s like a need a passport to see you!”

 

“Bubbie, maybe I could stay with you for a while. So you don’t have to be alone?”

 

“Such a good girl.”

 

“Enough hugging.  Amy, take this to the dining room.”

 

My mother shoved a platter into my hip to break up our hug. Truth be told, my bond with Bubbie bond always rubbed my mother the wrong way. She thought I loved Bubbie more than her. I didn’t, but she didn’t care for the truth. She cared about what she could use to guilt me to her will. Clearly, that gene didn’t skip any generations.  

 

“Ma, go out and sit with your guests.”

“They’re not my guests. This isn’t a party. I’m sitting shiva. And, if I want to sit shiva on the floor of my kitchen, so help me, I’ll sit shiva on the floor of my kitchen!”

“Don’t be ridiculous. People are here to pay their respects to you and daddy.”

“The schnorrers are only here for a free meal. I bet you no one signs up to send us a single meal for this whole week.”

 

“I bet if you put out a bag of potato chips, no one would stick around to help make a minyan for evening prayers,” I added.

 

“Would it hurt you to take my side instead of Bubbie’s for once? I am your mother.”

 

I took the tray from my mother and kissed her on the cheek.

 

“I’m going. I’m going. Bubbie, come with me. Let’s go see Bev and Erica.”

 

“If you see my good-for-nothing sisters, tell them to bring their tuchuses into the kitchen and help me bring out the food.”

 

I nodded my head and escorted Bubbie into the dining room adjacent to the kitchen, which in turn opened onto the living room filled with mourners. It was a packed house. My father was in the corner pouring shots of schnapps for a group of Zaidy’s gambling buddies. My mother’s sisters were sitting on the cushion less plastic-covered sofa, half a foot lower than everyone else who was seated, in accordance with Jewish custom out of respect for my departed Zaidy.

 

“I forgot to ask, did you get the package?”

 

“I did. I put it on your bed.”

 

“Thank you! You’re such a good granddaughter,” she said, kissing my hand.

 

“I still can’t figure out how to order things from that jungle.”

“It’s not a jungle, Bubbie. It’s called Amazon. I hope it’s what you wanted.”

“Ma, sit next to me,” Aunty Bev ordered.

 

“No, sit next to me,” Aunty Erica pled.


“First you abandon me. Now, you fight over me?” Bubbie shook her head. She went over to the couch and wedged herself between her other two kids. The ones she “never” saw anymore because they each lived on separate Canadian coasts, except for when they visited for the high holidays and every other Passover, to enjoy some kugel and a lecture on how they abandoned their mother and father in Toronto without anyone to care for them – even though my mother never left their side since we lived five houses down the street from theirs. I perched myself on the armrest of the couch. “So, I see you came back for the funeral.”

 

“How are you doing, Mommy?” Aunty Bev asked a little too sweetly.

 

“Now I’m Mommy? When your father was alive I was ‘Ma’.”

 

Aunty Bev rolled her eyes.

 

“Can I get you something?” Aunty Erica asked.

“You’ve been parked on this couch since we got home from the cemetery. Now, you’re suddenly going to get up and help me?”

“I’ll ask Amy to get you what you want. Or, Sheila’s in the kitchen, she can get you what you want.”

“Always getting someone else to do your work. If I want something, I’ll get it myself.”

 

“So, um, we want to talk to you about something,” Aunty Bev said.

 

“Yeah, we do,” Aunty Erica added without really adding anything.

 

“So, spit it out.”

“When are we going to read Dad’s will?” Aunty Bev asked.

 

Bubbie gaped. She said nothing.

 

“I have to get back to Vancouver in a few days…” Aunty Erica started.

 

“Get back? You just got here last night,” I shot back. “Zaidy has been lying under a duvet of dirt for barely an hour, and you have the nerve to…”

 

“I get everything. You get nothing. There, you’ve read his will,” Bubbie advised, patting my knee—her way to quiet me. “Go back to the city of vans.”

 

“Um, you didn’t actually read anything,” Aunty Bev said.

 

“I gave you the audiobook version. Now, shut up and mourn fast so you don’t miss your flight.”

Aunty Bev and Aunty Erica were stunned into silence. Bubbie turned to me. I smiled at her. She knew how to shut people up.  I always told her that she should take her show on the road, but Bubbie would always say the world wasn’t ready for two Joan Rivers.

 

I returned to the kitchen to help my mother, who was being run off her feet replenishing the food that the mourners ate to fill their bellies while regaling Bubbie with stories of Zaidy. Bubbie was right, these people were only too happy to eat free food—if you cook it, they will come.

 

“Sweetheart, come toast your Zaidy with us. You know my daughter, Amy?” my father called out to me.

 

Dad poured me a drink. Then he poured all the men and himself another. The men’s cheeks were redder than the beets on the dining room table. The sweats had set in, and a few of the men had loosened their ties. They’d all removed their kippot to allow the heat to escape. A bare head was the body’s natural air conditioning system, my Zaidy always said. Being bald, he never appreciated that fact more than in summer or while waiting out winter in Miami’s sweltering heat.

 

“How many have you had?” I asked.

 

My father shrugged, swaying side-to-side ever so slightly.

 

“Who’s keeping count? This is a shiva!

 

“During shiva, we drink,” one of the men ordered.

 

“To your Zaidy!” another man announced.

 

“To Zaidy!” the chorus echoed.

 

We all tossed our drinks back.

 

“Another!” the chorus commanded.

 

My father poured another round.

 

L’chaim!” my father shouted.

 

“You don’t say l’chaim during a shiva! Show some respect,” Bubbie shouted.

 

“That’s like saying Macbeth in a theatre,” Aunty Erica shouted.

 

“What does Macbeth have to do with sitting shiva?” I asked.

 

“It’s bad luck.”

 

“What kind of back luck could you be worried about? We’re at a shiva!” I laughed.

 

“Someone could drop dead,” Aunty Bev advised.

 

“Zaidy already did.”

 

Bubbie shook her head.

 

“This is too much for me. I’m going to my room. I need to lie down.”

 

“Ma, do you want me to take you upstairs?” my mother offered, running over from the dining room while untying her apron.

 

“Oh, so now you want to help me? Where were you when Amy was offering to move in with me?”

“Ma, I live five houses away from you. Amy lives in New York. She was offering to come home for a while. I never left.”

“That’s because she loves me more.”

 

My mother threw up her hands and returned to the kitchen. Bubbie walked up the stairs, shooing visitors away.

 

The cacophony of voices resumed their natural cadence as conversations naturally resumed after Bubbie left the room. Dishes clanged. My mother continued to cook. My father continued to get drunk with a group of nonagenarian men who’d left their dentures to soak in Bubbie’s fine crystal tumblers full of seltzer. Bev and Erica remained on the couch, happy not to help my mother or be with their mother, and remaining lost in the endless scroll of whatever app they were preoccupied with.

 

Suddenly, we heard a big bang. Voices quieted to a dim hum. Then, we heard another loud bang. Followed by another. The voices stopped altogether. Everyone listened intently for the source of the noise.

 

“What’s that sound?” my mother cried out from the kitchen.

 

“Shh!” Aunty Bev ordered. “We’re listening for it.”

“Listening for what?” my father asked.


Another bang was heard.

 

“It’s coming from outside,” someone shouted.

 

“Probably a raccoon going through the garbage.”

 

“I don’t hear anything,” my father advised.

 

“You’re drunk” Aunty Erica said. “Now, shh!”

 

“It sounds like banging against the wall.”

 

Bang. Bang. Bang.  Then suddenly, a muffled sound was heard.

 

“Ooooooh!”

 

Followed by silence.

 

“It’s not a raccoon.”

 

“I think it’s a raccoon,” Aunty Bev said.

 

“Where is that coming from?” my father asked.

 

Then, the sound became louder. Everyone congregated in the living room.

 

“Ooh! Oh! Ah!”

 

“It’s not a raccoon. It’s a person,” one of the mourners cried.

 

“Someone’s in trouble,” a woman shrieked.

“Maybe it’s ma,” my mother cried. “I think the sounds are coming from her room. Everybody shut up so I can listen.”

My mother stood on a chair, with a glass in hand, trying to listen through the ceiling.

 

“What are you doing on that chair? Just go up and check on her,” Aunty Bev ordered.

 

“You get off your fat ass and check on her.”

 

“I’m mourning.”

“And, I’m not?”


“Well, you’re actually standing on a chair,” my dad chortled.

 

“Erica, you go up and check,” my mother instructed.

 

“My back is sore,” Erica advised rubbing her low back.

 

“It’s been sore since you were eight,” my mother retorted.

 

“Oh, shit” I muttered.

 

“What’s wrong?” my mother asked.

 

“Nothing’s wrong. Everything is fine. Let’s just let Bubbie rest. Go back to whatever you were doing.”

 

Bang. Bang. Bang.

 

“Ooh! Oh! Ah! “Ooh! Oh! Ah! “Ooh! Oh! Ah!”

 

“It doesn’t sound like she’s resting,” Bev offered.

 

“I think she’s in pain,” Erica added.

“I’m sure she’s fine,” I said.

 

“I’m going to check on her,” my mother advised, climbing off her chair and starting towards the stairs.

 

“You really don’t need to check on her,” I countered. “She’s fine.”

 

“She’s not fine! She’s shrieking in pain. Erica, Bev, come with me!”

 

“No one needs to check on her!” I shouted, following after my mother, Aunty Erica, and Aunty Bev, who had began to climb the stairs.

 

Then, the banging sounds increased in intensity and frequency.

 

““Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!”

 

“What the hell is going on in there?” my father shouted from the living room.

 

“Nothing. Nothing is going on in there,” I replied.

 

And, then the noises stopped.

 

 

“Ma, you ok?” my mother cried out from the top of the stairs.

 

Her question was met with silence.

 

“Ma! Ma!”

 

Thirty seconds later, Bubbie came out of her room and stood outside wearing robe and slippers. Her face was dewy and her hair could stand to be brushed.

 

“What’s with all the shouting down here? This is a shiva!” She pushed past her daughters and walked downstairs. 

 

“We thought you were having a heart attack up there,” my mother advised, standing at the foot of the stairs with Bev and Erica at her flank.

 

“I need a drink,” Bubbie announced.

 

My father poured her a schnapps.

 

“Make it a double.”

 

She slammed it back.

 

“Give me another.”

 

My father obliged.

 

“What was all that noise coming from your room?” my mother asked. “I thought you were resting.”

 

Everyone leaned in for her answer.

 

“I was praying.”

 

Everyone leaned back, nodding their heads, and returned to their conversation. Aunty Bev and Aunty Erica returned to their phones. My mother returned to the kitchen to check on her cholent. Bubbie walked over to me and gave me a hug.

 

“Amy, you’re a doll. Thanks for the vibrator. It’s the exact one Zaidy told me to get in his Will. He said it would give me the same orgasms he gave me for 70 years. And, boy did it deliver.”

 

“I'm so glad. I got it on sale, too. 80% off!”

 

“Well, it got me 100% off, so hallelujah and thank God for that.”

 

© 2021. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Friday, 23 October 2020

Rules of Engagement

    Rubbing his eyes, not having been out of bed for more than a mere 45 seconds, Louis stumbled into the ensuite bathroom to take his morning shower. He opened the shower door allowing steam to escape, shocked to find someone inside. He always took the first shower of the day. Louis was irritated. 

     “What are you doing here?” Louis asked. 

     “Knitting a sweater,” Ethel replied, scrubbing Louis’ loofa all over her body with purpose. Soapsuds flew onto the glass; some went into Louis’ eye. “What do you think I’m doing?” 

     Louis squinted from the sting. “But, this is when I take my shower.” 

     “Well, it’s my shower, too” Ethel replied. 

     “But, you never take a shower this early!” 

     “We are living through a pandemic. Thought I’d change things up is that going to be a problem?” 
    
    Louis shook his head. The steam continued to flee, lowering the temperature of Ethel’s warm morning start. 

     “Are you in or out?” Ethel asked as she scrubbed her face. Distracted by Louis’ whining, face wash suds (not the teardrop-free kind!), which had been sitting on her face, dripped into her right eye causing her eye to burn. “MOTHERFUCKER!’ 

     “You talking to me?” Louis was not entirely sure if she was directing her vitriol at him or at the irritant invading her ocular cavity. 

     “Who else am I talking to? Robert DeNiro? Stop acting like a territorial asshole and just get in. You’re letting all the heat out!” 

     Louis sighed. He squeezed his corpulent embodiment of a once fiddly-fit male specimen past the shower bench to reach the free flowing spring of water emerging from the rain shower above. 

     “Do you think I can get in there?” He pointed at the showerhead, holding the soap in his other hand. Then, he gave a once over of what remained of Ethel’s thrice-child birthed heaving belly. 

     “There’s enough room for two.” 

     Maybe 25 years ago, he thought. Louis realized he almost spoke his mind – a dangerous idea considering that the worst accidents befall those in the bathroom, especially those brought on as a result of a self-inflicted verbal gunshot wound to the brain. However, with 30 years of marriage under her birthday suit belt, Ethel instinctively knew what Louis was thinking. They’d met as kids, but reconnected as adults, giving them ample time to learn for themselves what they did and didn’t want in a united love life. Ethel was bold, vivacious and enjoyed a vigorous debate. She didn’t shy away from confrontation and knew she needed a partner who could match her sharp volleys with killer returns. Louis, a more mild-mannered man, generally, lived equally for verbal sparring as a great meal, and knew that with marriage his appetite for both would grow. When they found each other again having finished post-secondary matriculation, it was kismet – a match between ticked off checkboxes of two sometimes ticked off people. 

     “Do you know what it feels like to be sucker-punched in the gut?” she asked innocently.   Louis nodded his head tentatively, afraid of the repercussions caused by any answer he’d give her. “Well, that’s exactly what being married to you for 30 years feels like. Just when I think it’s safe to go in the water, you attack. Now, pass me the soap.” 

     A direct hit! Louis, a kind man albeit with a wry sense of humour, was more capable of dishing out the zingers versus taking them. Defeated, Louis relinquished the soap to her custody. Placing it gently into Ethel’s hand, with the tenderness that only decades of rollercoaster matrimony can bring, he locked eyes with his bride. 

     “I’ve never meant to hurt you.” He cradled her hand lovingly. This gave Ethel pause. She never knew if Louis would follow up a kind word with an attempt at his Borscht Belt comedic styling, which 50 percent of the time fell flat with his audience, with her being his audience 100 percent of the time. Or, whether his seemingly insulting barb was really a compliment. Not wanting to give him an opening, like the Mossad, Ethel went in for a pre-emptive strike. 

     “No? Well, tell that to your farts. 30 years of silent-but-deadly Dutch-oven bombs under the covers that you think that’s a form of foreplay have burnt out my olfactory bulbs.” 

     Louis’ head shot up. The water continued to beat down on Ethel’s head from the rain showerhead above, with Louis benefitting from droplets of spray that were deflected from Ethel’s shower cap. She only washed her hair twice a week, and today was not one of those days. 

     “My dear, what a portrait of loveliness you are to behold. Let me tell you how attractive you are, my darling.” Louis sang these words. His eyes burned with fire. Ethel knew this meant war. “While I adore your Don King-meets-Trolls hairdo hat greets me at daybreak, and it’s quite the turn on I might add, nothing is more appealing than watching you get out of bed, your nightgown hiked above your ample bare buttocks, to see you stroll into the bathroom where you leave the door wide open allowing me to watch your morning routine. I really love the enticing invitation to observe you in your natural habitat taking a dump upon rising and then wiping your ass with wild abandon. Nothing says lets have morning sex than that!” 

     Ethel threw down the loofa. This means war, she thought. The shower glass walls were all steamed up from the hostility rising from the hot water Louis now found himself in. 

     “You think your ass shits roses? Last time I checked, there wasn’t a room spray strong enough to mask the aftermath scent from your Hiroshima turd explosions you leave each time you spend 30 minutes on the can! The only thing that kills that smell is bleach. Fuck nuclear warheads, you should patent your asshole and sell weapons of mass destruction to the highest bidder!”  

    Ethel stood hands-on-hips, ready for Louis’ comeback. There was always a comeback. Yet, this time he stayed silent, clearly planning his next strike. In the mood for a fight, and not wanting to wait for his return, she preemptively goaded him. 

     “And, if your bowel Olympics weren’t enough of a turn off, do you think that your ivy-like back hair trellis that’s climbed so high like Jack’s magic beanstalk, now intertwining with your unwieldy ear hair, screams foreplay? Ha! Ever hear of clippers?” 

     Louis shook his head in fury. Now, she’d done it. Talking about his gas was one thing, but going after his genetically blessed, out of his control, manly body hair, and limited manscaping thereof, was another. 

     “Listen up, Baby Beluga, if you want me to trim my natural manliness, how about you do something about that situation.” He pointed mercilessly at Ethel’s lower abdominal area, which sagged over an invisible panty line. “It’s quite the pooch.” 

     Ethel was furious. The accouchement of three babies in five years has a way of turning a woman into a kangaroo. 

     “You try squeezing three babies out your dickhole who you carried around in your body hotel to grow them and then you still don’t have a right to body shame me, motherfucker!” 

     Louis hung his head. “You’re right. That was a low blow.” 

     Ethel raised an eyebrow. 

     “Speaking of blowing, we are in the shower together for the first time in years. I was thinking…” 

    “That I’d get on my knees?” Ethel cackled. “Yeah right! You just mocked my body that birthed your babies. My body is a temple! What’s your excuse? Your gut hangs out so far over your pants, that your belly needs its own zip code. Sir Mix-A-Lot called and told me you’ve inspired him to write a new rap called Daddy Got Fat!” 

     Louis rubbed his belly, slightly injured then looked at Ethel’s so-called place of worship. 

     “Whatchya rubbing there, Captain Underpants? Last night’s four beers and pizza?” 

     “Well, don’t get me wrong, but didn’t some of those Victoria Secret supermodels have multiple pregnancies, too? I don’t recall see them strutting down the runway sporting an ass in the front, while wearing wings on their backs. Just sayin’.” 

     “What’s your point, Jabba the Hut?”  

    “If it didn’t chafe so much when we engaged in sexy time…” 

     “So, you’re saying that if I looked like a Victoria Secret supermodel, we’d be having sex?” 

     “It wouldn’t hurt.” 

     “So, you’re saying I’m fat? I wasn’t’ too fat for a blowjob 30 seconds ago.” Now, she had him backed into the shower corner. She knew he hated being asked that dreaded question. The billowing, collecting steam appeared to be waving around like a white flag in front of Louis’ face. 

     “I never called you fat. I never used the word fat. I don’t think you’re fat. Don’t put words in my mouth like you put donuts in yours.” 

     Louis didn’t recognize the expression spreading across Ethel’s face. 

     “WE ARE LIVING DURING A PANDEMIC! And, you brought the donuts home!” 

     Louis got down on one knee, an act of contrition, hoping to redeem himself before she could insult him again. 

     “What are you doing down there? Proposing again?” Louis gazed up at her with puppy dog eyes. Ethel, not having any of it, was ready to cut him down. “Cuz’ I know I you ain’t down on your knees to give pleasure me that way. We both know you don’t do that.” 

     Louis sprang back up as fast as his knee replacements would allow, doing his best not to slip in the shower for he would undo the good work done by his orthopedic surgeon. 

     “Listen, don’t blame me for our lack of sex life,” Louis cried defensively. 

     “That’s not what our therapist said. He said it is your fault.” 

     “Um, that’s not how I remember it. The bottom line is that couples who engage in coitus together, stay together. That’s what he said. You don’t engage, so whose fault is that.” 

     “I think you have early onset Alzheimer’s. Or, maybe it’s Covid. Memory loss may be a symptom. Let me jog your memory.“ 

     “My memory is just fine.” “Oh, really. Do you recall why we don’t have sex?” Louis shrugged his shoulders. 

     “What do you do to signal you’re in the mood?” 

     “I lovingly caress your arm.” 

     “You don’t lovingly do shit. You tickle me! My name is not Tickle-Me Elmo.” 

     “Tickling is a form of foreplay.” 

     “Not, when you’re a fifty-something year old woman, whose pelvic floor is less stable than the San Andreas Fault. Unless you want our 400-thread count Egyptian cotton white sheets to have the River Nile running through it, you’ll stop tickling me and just start by fucking me!” 

     Louis was fed up. He didn’t want to argue anymore. All he wanted to do was simply take his morning shower, as he did every morning before, and he’d barely even be able to wash half his body thanks to Ethel. He swung open the shower door and stepped out. He reached out for his towel and covered himself. He idled over to the bathroom door, and stopped. With righteous indignation, he whipped around to face the firing squad one last time. 

     “Start fucking you? Ha! I’ll tell you one thing I am going to start doing.”  

    “Oh yeah? What’s that tough guy?” 

     “Showering when you’re not home.” 

     “I guess you’re not showering until 2025 then!” 

     “Why’s that?” 

     “Because that’s probably when the pandemic will be over and I’ll finally be able to leave the house,” Ethel spat, slamming the shower door in Louis’ face, the steam finally able to caress her body once more. 


 © 2020. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, 26 September 2020

We’re Through by Naomi Elana Zener

    I don’t know how to tell you this any other way: I’M BREAKING UP WITH YOU! 

    I can’t believe this would come as a surprise. It’s not hard for me to do this. I never liked you during the best of times. And, if I’m being honest, I really would have done this a long time ago but for social convention happy to see us staying together. 

    My relationship with you was really out of necessity, and now that necessity has passed. We never go anywhere anymore. We can’t. Physical distancing, quarantine, house arrest, self-isolation, confinement, or whatever you want to call it prevents us from doing so. And, for the mere, brief daily exposure to the outside world we are still permitted, I don’t see the point in us being together anymore. When every level of government said everyone has to stay six feet apart from each other, I jumped for joy – to be six feet apart from you feels like heaven! 

    You gave me more displeasure than comfort. You certainly were agonizing to be around. To be with you stretched the limits of the bandwidth of my patience. I constantly had to pull at you to get what I needed, or rather what you promised to give me. Your limited adjustability always put me on the offensive—I was forever in a state of reacting, adapting and readjusting to bend to your will—rarely were you ever flexible. It was only as we neared this now inevitable breakup did you finally show some give, a tiny bit of willingness to see how I was feeling. But, even when you finally did that, it was too little too late. You couldn’t even stretch an inch, but for you I had to run miles. 

    And, I know what you’re thinking, what you’d accuse me of: I got fat. I became unattractive to be around; too much burden for you to bear. Well, that’s just nonsense. I’m the same size I was when we first met, the day you first embraced me and hooked me in. It’s you who changed, and not for the better. You may think our relationship made you worse for wear, but it’s me who bears the battle scars, and I’ll have to bear them for the rest of my life. 

    Truthfully, no one cares if we are together, either. It was a social courtesy for us to be with each other. Well, now thanks to the pandemic, much social courtesy has disappeared. So too, has this relationship. I’m finally free of you. While I should have done this a long time ago, I have this pandemic thank for helping me finally see the light. Staying home means I never have to see you again. There are many expressions of gratitude I need to share with you that were shared with me upon learning of our break up: 

    1. My shoulders thank me for doing this – the way you dug into them, no matter how well-fitted you were by the so-called “bra expert,” caused indentations for days; 
    
    2. My ribs are happy to no longer be the victim of abuse from your underwire;
    
    3. My back echoes the sentiments of my shoulders. At the end of the day, when I got home, my back (and my shoulders) was always relieved to be rid of you;

    4. My dresses are happy to see you go, as they felt unsightly when the bulge of skin in my back caused by your inflexible elastic pushed through their fabric. And, again, I’m not fat. It was always you, not me; 

    5. My husband is relieved on many levels. He no longer finds you lying in strange places in the house, after being flung about in my haste to be free of you. He’s thankful to no longer see our kids wearing you as a bizarre hair accessory. He’s thrilled to not having to hand-wash you. And, most of all, he no longer has to unhook you, a skill he failed to master, when he’s feeling “in the mood”; and 

    6. My breasts have expressed the deepest gratitude of all. They feel free, no longer restricted to each living daily in solitary confinement under your reign of oppressive terror. 

    Farewell, brassiere. Can’t say you were an old friend, or a friend at all. The only good thing to come out of this pandemic as I live in quarantine with my family is that I never have to wear you again. And, before you make plea for clemency, or say that I’ll need you again when we emerge from social solitude, to that I say, I’ll use glue or duct tape to bind my breasts if I have to before I ever wear you again. 


    Sayonara. Shalom. Dasvidaniya. Au revoir. Goodbye. Enjoy the Viking funeral that awaits you! 

 © 2020. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.