Friday, 19 September 2014

License to Drive by Naomi Elana Zener

Inside the bright, nondescript, muggy classroom, five disgruntled students, John, Mary, Irv, Michael, and Sally, were seated at their assigned desks. Not happy to be inside on a beautiful, but humid July day, there they waited, notepads and pencils at the ready to house the learned wisdom to be dispensed by the teacher who had yet to arrive. The room was hotter than usual. The air conditioning was busted, which made everyone more agitated. Outside, the students’ walkers lined the hallway, neatly arranged one next to the other, patiently awaiting the return of their respective caregivers.  The octogenarians were getting restless.

“How can they leave us in here to wait so long?” John complained. He pulled off his glasses to clean them. Still groggy, having forgotten to set his alarm clock to wake him up for class, John didn’t have enough time to change before the cab arrived. So, there he sat in his robe, atop a mustard stained white t-shirt, flannel pajama bottoms, and slippers. “I need to get home to take my medication.”

“We’ve only been waiting ten minutes,” Mary retorted, adjusting her brassiere strap that had poked out of her top. Mary was primly dressed in a cotton tank top adorned with pearls, and Bermuda shorts that were starting to chafe. “Stop complaining.”

“At my age, ten minutes is a lifetime. I have angina. I could’ve dropped dead already,” John responded.

“Well, you’re not dead yet, so I’m willing to bet that another ten minutes won’t kill you,” Michael advised. “Meanwhile, could one of you open a window, it’s a sauna in here.”

Realizing that their walkers were in the hall, and that their creaky, arthritic bones had settled comfortably into the plastic chairs, no one moved. Michael, a professor by trade prior to retirement, was growing hot under the collar from his get up. He squirmed uncomfortably in his wrinkle and iron free khaki pants, before finally removing his tweed blazer and unbuttoning his bow tie for some relief.

“You don’t have a vagina, you’re a man,” Sally shouted, waving her hot pink Addidas tracksuit clad arms about. Sally, the youngest of the group, but a little hard of hearing, had come from the gym where the blaring speakers didn’t help her hearing deficit.

“I think it’s time to get your hearing aids checked. I said ‘angina,’ not ‘vagina.’ Helen Keller had better hearing than you,” John shouted back.

“When do you have to be home?” Irv inquired. Decked out in his favourite neon green and purple plaid golf knickers and matching hat-sweater vest combo, Irv 
looked at his watch, hopeful that if the teacher arrived soon, he could go to the driving range.

“By six,” John said.

Irv, Sally, Michael, and Mary looked at the clock. It read 2:11p.m.

“I think you’ll make it,” Mary deadpanned.

Finally, a strapping, twenty-something young man named Bill strode into the room with purpose, marking his name on the chalkboard in bold block letters. He then meandered over to the front of the teacher’s desk at the head of the class, leaning back on it, trying to seem casual. For all Bill knew, any sudden movements could cause one of his students to drop dead from a heart attack or stroke.

“My name is Bill. Well, Staff Sergeant Bill Myers. You can call me Officer Bill. I’ll be your remedial driving education instructor today. By the end of today’s class, I hope you’ll all be prepared to retake your driver’s license written and road tests, or realize that your driving days have driven off into the sunset. Any questions before we begin?”

“How old are you?” John asked.

“Twenty-six. How old are you, John?” Officer Bill queried, taking note of the name tag on John’s robe. After years of interacting with the elderly, he knew better than to ask them about their attire.

“Eighty-six. That makes me your elder, Billy boy. Kindly call me Mr. Smith.”

“Fine. And, John, you can call me Officer Bill. Does anyone have any other questions?”

No one raised their hand, or batted an eyelash, except for Sally. She began to aggressively wink and make eyes at Bill, who did his best not to make eye contact with her.

“Based on your assigned seats and name tags, I can see that everyone is here. So let’s begin.  Do you know why you’re all here?”

“Yeah, to get our licenses back,” Irv said. The rest of the group, except for Mary who was ensconced in knitting an elaborate scarf, nodded in agreement.

“Ma’am, could you please put your knitting away. This is a very serious class, and if you don’t pay attention, I won’t let you take your driving test,” Officer Bill advised. “But, maybe you don’t want to drive again?”

Mary shot Officer Bill an evil eye and muttered to herself under her breath as she begrudgingly shoved her knitting needles and yarn in her purse.

“Mary, since I have your attention, why don’t you share with the class why you lost your license.”

Mary remained mum and averted Officer Bill’s gaze.

“I gather from your silence that you want me to share your story. It says here in my notes that you have a penchant for failing to put your car in park. That on two occasions you left the keys in the ignition, the car was in drive, and you got out, walked into a store as your car rolled away. One time it rolled into a wall in an underground parking lot, and another it rolled into a busy intersection causing a five car pileup.”

Mary started to tear. Officer Bill walked over to her, handing her a tissue.

“I could’ve sworn I’d parked the car and turned the engine off,” Mary sobbed.

“Luckily for you, the only injuries sustained on both occasions were by the wall and the cars. No humans were hurt.”

“I was hurt. I lost my license,” Mary whined. “I’m on a fixed income, and taxis are expensive.”

“Maybe if you’d paid attention then, you wouldn’t be here today. So, the moral of the story is stop knitting, pay attention today and you may have a way to get your license back.”

“What about me? I don’t even know why I’m here,” Michael advised.

“Yes, Michael, that’s part of the problem,” Officer Bill retorted. “You have Alzheimer’s, so you don’t remember that your license was revoked by your doctor and you keep driving.”

“If his license was revoked, what the hell is he even doing here?” Irv bellowed. “If he can get back on the road, I’m getting the hell out of here. You can keep my license. I’ll take the bus to the golf course.”

Officer Bill ignored Irv’s outburst.

“Michael, you came here yesterday and last week too. Each time I told you that you couldn’t get your license back. The woman at the DMV gave you the wrong information. You’ll have to stick to taking the bus and cabs, or getting rides from friends.”

Michael nodded his head and wandered out of the classroom. Officer Bill knew he’d be meeting him again in a few days, since dropping into remedial driving education class had become part of Michael’s new routine.

“Getting back to my rounds, why don’t we talk about John’s reason for being here today.”

“Let’s not and say we did,” John retorted, adjusting the belt on his robe.

“My notes tell me that two police officers found you in your driveway trying to drive your car after your neighbours called them. It says here that your son removed the engine because you’d had one too many fender benders.”

“Listen sonny, I’ll tell you just like I told my son and those coppers, I know how to drive. I’m an excellent driver,” John advised.

“Maybe you were, but according to your son’s statement to the police, and the accident reports we have on file for you, you clearly forgot that if you don’t put the car in park, it’s going to roll. That seems to be what got you into trouble in the first place,” Officer Bill countered.

“When you reach my age, you’ll roll too,” John shot back.

“With all due respect, when I reach your age, I won’t be driving. I know better.”

“Why I oughtta…” John shouted, shaking his fist at Officer Bill from his chair.

“Quit your macho display, you old cook,” Sally chastised John. “He’s only doing his job.”

Sally gave Officer Bill her best ‘come hither’ look.

“Ma’am, I don’t actually see your name on my list.  Could you please tell me who you are?”

“You don’t remember me? I’m devastated,” Sally whined.

“I’m sorry, should I?”

“You’re the cutie patootie pie police officer who gave me a speeding ticket a few weeks ago.”

Sally could see that Officer Bill still couldn’t place her. She was offended.

“You must remember me. I’m Sally. I was driving a cherry red Mercedes-Benz convertible.” Officer Bill’s face remained blank.  “I was wearing a bikini top, and you said that you were impressed that a woman of my age had the confidence to dress like a woman in her twenties. Especially since I’m only fifty.”

“Ahem, try more like seventy,” Irv coughed under his breath. Sally shot him a nasty stare.

“Right, I do remember you. But, why are you here? You still have your license. It was only a forty-dollar ticket and it wasn’t for speeding. You were going fifteen under the speed limit,” Officer Bill advised.

“I wanted to thank you for the caution. And, when I looked at the note you gave me with your name, I noted that you forgot to leave me your number if I had any questions,” Sally explained.

“You have a question about the ticket?”

“No, silly. I needed to ask you about when you were picking me up to take me to dinner,” Sally admonished.

Officer Bill turned beet red. John, Mary, and Irv broke out into hysterical laughter.

“What’s so funny?” Sally asked miffed. “Is it so inconceivable that a young man finds a fifty year old woman attractive?”

“Stop embarrassing yourself,” Mary advised. “He’s not interested in you. Did you even bother to pay any attention to anything but his face?”

“What are you talking about?” Sally queried.

“Look at his left hand,” Mary instructed. Sally searched her purse for her glasses.

“Jesus Christ woman, the cop’s married,” John shouted. “I’m older than you and I can see that.”

Sally’s face’s burned with fifty shades of crimson.

“Ok, let’s get back to why we’re here today. Sally, I really appreciate your offer, but I’m a happily married man. Since you don’t need to be here, you’ll need to go. Just remember to drive the speed limit.”

Sally gathered her belongings, and ran out of the room in haste to escape her humiliation, stopping dramatically at Officer Bill’s side before exiting.

“If something changes, and you’re suddenly single, call me,” Sally offered, securely placing a piece of paper with her number scribbled on it in Officer Bill’s hand.

Officer Bill smiled awkwardly, as the class watched Sally sashay out of the room, swinging her hips for added effect. With the door finally closed behind her, the group of four breathed a collective sigh of relief.

“Irv, you’re last, but certainly not least in my eyes. My file tells me that you lost your license after you had a stroke. But, you didn’t let a little stroke or lost license get in your way. Instead, you wanted to drive so badly that you hired a neighbourhood punk to break into your car and hotwire it for you after your kids took away the keys.”

“I still don’t see the big deal. It was my car. No law was broken,” Irv stammered.

“You called the cops on the kid you paid to steal your car,” Officer Bill retorted.

“He’s a little shit. He stole my newspaper, so we’re even now.”

“Why did you need your car that badly?” Mary asked.

“I had a golf game to get to, and my ungrateful kids wouldn’t drive me,” Irv explained.

“What about taking a cab or a bus?” Officer Bill asked.

“Buses don’t go to where I play golf. And, before you tell me I should’ve taken a cab, I’ve seen how those drivers handle luggage. No way are any of them gonna get their mitts on my clubs. They cost thousands of dollars.”

Officer Bill shook his head. He could see that they’d wasted almost an hour just going through the introductions. Based on everyone’s testimonial and litany of excuses, he knew that none of them were going to get their licenses back, but didn’t know how to put it delicately so that none of them would have a heart attack at getting the news. Plus, he didn’t want to waste a day indoors trying to plead with deaf ears about the importance of why they had to stay off the road.

“So teach, are you going to get started telling us what we have to do to get our licenses back, or not? I’ve got medication to take, Irv would like to try to get back to the range, and Mary’s got a scarf to finish in this heat,” John pressed.

“How can I put this in terms that you’ll all understand?” Officer Bill wondered aloud. The three remaining pupils looked at him confusedly. “Do you know who the author Isaac Asimov was?”

The group nodded.

“If I let any of you back on the road, the police department is going to have to systematically revoke everyone else’s license to keep them safe. To paraphrase and modify Asimov’s immortal words: ‘life is pleasant, death is peaceful, but it’s your driving that’s troublesome.’ None of you are ever driving again.”

© 2014. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Hello…Girl? By Naomi Elana Zener

Dearest Kitty,

As the news broke that your species is in fact that of a human, mewling cries were heard around the globe, for no more could we launch cat calls your way, since society frowns upon bestiality.  Each of us had hoped and prayed that one day you’d finally accept one of our marriage proposals, succumbing to one of any of our overtures of love we’d respectively sent your way: the bouquets of catnip, lifetime supplies of tins of white albacore tuna in water (since we know how you like to keep a trim figure), scratching posts, balls of yarn, and gift cards for grooming at Pet Smart. But now, all dreams of becoming Mr. Hello Kitty have been dashed.

Why did Sanrio have to do this to us? Did your master not approve of any of us as suitable suitors worthy of your love? Did not a single one of us earn a decent enough of a wage to keep you in the lap of luxury to which you’d become accustomed?  None of us outshone your celebrity. Any one of us would have been thrilled to become Mr. Hello Kitty, basking in the shadow of your bigger-than-Godzilla glory.

All we have now are our memories to keep us warm at night, as we curl up for our nightly slumber. Each of us will dream of what could have been, knowing that no other kitty will ever hold a candle to or be a star that will burn as brightly as you. We’ve written this poem to express each of our eternal devotion to you, hopeful that when you gaze upon it with your Homo Sapien eyes, you will remember each one of us fondly.

Oh Kitty, my kitty, a sweet little pussy no more.
The foxy feline whom I’ll always love and adore.
Sanrio has killed my chances of becoming your fiancé,
My betrothal dreams dashed, each one thrown away.
I now grieve the love I hoped one day to share,
To lick each other freely as we groomed our hair.
Now a girl with whiskers, is what I’m told you are,
You’d better hoof it, you biped, to a hair-waxing bar.
Of a little mustache, human men I’m told aren’t fond,
While you’re at it, I hear that gentlemen prefer blondes.
But, if Sanrio flip flops realizing a genome mistake was made,
Know from deep in my heart my love for you will never fade.
Waiting in the wings, in my claws I will dangle a mouse,
A cat’s an engagement ring, hoping you’ll become my spouse.

Yours forever,

The Cheshire Cat
The Cat in the Hat
Puss in Boots
Simba (sorry Nala)
The Pink Panther

© 2014. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Author's note: Originally published on Absrd Comedy: