Describing Miss Daisy
As expected, Kate and Lucy were late for lunch. They were out shopping, and nearly always lost track of time as they scoured their favorite boutiques for deals on insanely cute shoes and to-die-for handbags.
Since we would to be four for lunch, we convinced the waitress to give us the corner booth near the jukebox. This was an excellent bit of luck, as corner booths always provided the best vantage point for our game. We slid into the far back corner, giving ourselves the widest possible view of the restaurant, and more importantly, its patrons.
The cafe in question was one of those upscale eateries ubiquitous in trendy shopping areas in every city in America. Five booths with vinyl seats along the wall, a long counter with perhaps a dozen round stools, windows from floor to ceiling, the walls covered with historic local photos and tasteful but serene paintings, and a clientele that ranged from well-dressed middle-aged shoppers to young hipsters with a piercing on or near every possible orifice.
Joel and I scrunched close together in the back of the booth, probably looking more like guys on a date than two middle-aged husbands waiting for their wives. It was a warm spring afternoon, the first really beautiful day without any rain in over two weeks. These days usually made for our best sessions.
A tall, middle-aged, well-dressed gentleman walked in. He slumped down on a stool at the counter, and sighed. He ordered coffee, and added a few spoonfuls of sugar and a generous serving of cream, before he began reading a newspaper.
Joel discreetly pointed to the man and said, “Oh, let me take this one. These guys are my favorite.”
I shrugged and took a sip of my coffee. “OK, but I get the next one. You always try to do two in a row when we start.”
Joel jumped in. “His real name is Bob Smith, but after all these years he still goes by Daisy Dave, and his closest friends and lovers have been known to whisper his other name, Miss Daisy, into his ear on appropriate occasions. He was part of the Northwest’s pro wrestling revival in the 1970s. That impressive batch of gray hair on this head, well, that’s actually a high-quality wig, but he had a mane of blond hair and rippling muscles back in the day. He was Oregon State wrestling champ in high school. His father ran a tire store in Pendleton, and he worked there after school through most of high school, proud that he could carry more tires than anyone else. He went to Washington State on a wresting scholarship, but got kicked out for behavior,” Joel paused to make air quotes, “unbecoming an athlete. Rumors swirled about IV drug use, acting in both mixed-race and mixed-species pornos, and even dating some of his fellow wrestlers, but none of it was ever verified. His dad silenced the editors of the local paper with below-cost studded snow tires, and the rumors blew away like so much Eastern Oregon tumbleweed.
“His shame and ignominy may have been liabilities in the respectable world of the God-fearing Christians and one Jewish family who called Pendleton home, but they were assets in the theatrical world of pro wrestling. Unafraid of drugs, he took huge amounts of steroids and bulked up until he looked like a blond gorilla. He grew his hair until it reached his butt, took a few singing lessons, and hit the circuit. He was a big draw for a few years, playing the part of a sexually provocative glam rocker turned wrestler. Most of his fans pretended to hate him, but if you looked hard enough you’d see a variety of complex emotions on the faces of some of his mostly blue-collar, male fans.
“He’d jump into the ring and prance around like a rock star, belting out a few lines of a David Bowie or ABBA song, Dancing Queen being his favorite, relishing the jeers and beer cans emanating from the redneck crowds. He made it to the big time, fighting the likes of the seven-foot Ugandan Giant and the devastating Russian duo, the Krushing Korsky Brothers. At the height of his career, he even teamed up with Andy Kaufman for a short tour of the South, but that came to an end when Kaufman got jealous of his charisma and hair, and told him to shave his head, or head home. He chose to keep his golden locks, and bought a 57 Chevy and a dog named Blue, and made the long trek home.
“He slid right back into the Northwest wrestling circuit, but it all came to a crashing end a year later, when, during a Saturday Night match in Portland against hometown favorite Rowdy Roddy Piper, a folding metal chair hit him over the head and knocked him cold — for real.
“It did some kind of brain damage and he lost all his desire to battle it out in the ring, a kind of lobotomy miracle they called it. He took his winnings and the proceeds of his small lawsuit, and opened a flower shop on Northwest 23rd, and has been happy with the petunias and peonies ever since.”
“Not bad,” I said as I answered my cell phone. “Yes. OK, no problem. Try and get something made out of alligator. I think those Stone Age throwbacks deserve what they get.” I closed the phone. “The girls are on their way.”
Joel ordered wheat toast to tide him over, and I requested a butter scone and Guatemalan coffee, black.
“OK, my turn,” I said. I pointed to two, thin older ladies sitting at a table by the windows. “That one on the left. Name’s Melba Miller, age 67. She’s a Capricorn, and likes long beach walks in the rain and flashing truckers on the freeway, being ever so proud of her third nipple.
“Not even her closest friends know it, but in ’74 she killed her husband in Pittsburgh, and headed west to avoid the law. She caught him in bed with their neighbor Julie, the night-shift manager at the local yogurt factory.
She didn’t speak to him for a week. When Earl came home on the eighth night Melba told him she understood his strayings, and wanted to work things out as long as he’d promise it would never happen again. She offered him a beer, and with it, drugged him. She’d been a trained as a medic for the Black Panthers in the late 60s and had learned a thing or two about illicit drugs, urban warfare, and the importance of protecting her honor. When Earl was good and passed out she put a garbage bag over his head and taped it around his neck. Then, she cut a hole in the top and filled it with as much cherry yogurt as it would hold without bursting, put her wedding ring inside, and tied it shut. Police reports said he was dead within five minutes, at the most.
“She ran off to Orcus Island and lived on a commune, raising goats and learning throat singing from a Tibetan Monk. He turned out to be her best lover ever, and one hell of a goat herder.
“Once she had fully assumed her new identity she moved to Oregon and became an arborist, and eventually the Northwest’s premiere authority on flowering dogwoods and wild madrone. She did a few bank jobs in Canada over the years to make ends meet, and now that she’s old she lives with her latest lover — gender unknown—in a trailer on Sauvie Island. These days she’s at peace with her past, and weather permitting, she gardens naked and paints fantasy scenes featuring fairies on the backs of things that wash onto her beach.”
“Good,” Joel chimed in, “I like how you made it so heartwarming at the end. So unlike you.” His toast arrived and he lathered it with butter and strawberry jam.
I said, “You’re such a sissy. Only little kids eat strawberry jam.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He paused, then said, “Damn, I can’t think of a good comeback.” He pointed to the front of the restaurant, where two women were looking at the spinning rack of artsy postcards. Joel raised his chin toward them and said, “What about one of those two who just walked in?”
“Hmm,” I said, “OK, the hot one with the big hooters on the right, holding the black shopping bag.”
Joel giggled. “Go for it.”
“She may look normal, but from a very early age she’s had one characteristic that dominated her world view and warped her very sense of reality. Something so visceral, so dark, and so shameful that she’s fought all her life, in vain, to control it. No amount of rebirthing therapy or prescription drugs can seem to cure her.”
“Wow, what could warp her reality that bad?”
I pointed to the middle of Joel’s face, and said slowly, “Nose fetish.” I continued, in a deep, dramatic voice, “An overpowering fetish for large nasal cavities and the men who possess them.”
Joel laughed and spit toast and jam halfway across the table. Through his giggles he said, “Go on, I must know more about this woman of such deep perversion.”
“Well, early on, it was quite innocent. As a baby she was a nose grabber, and no one thought much of it. In grade school she gravitated toward the bookish Jewish boys as friends, as her inclination was just a curiosity at that age, and still not a full-blown fetish. Then, in high school, when the other girls were scouring fashion magazines and giggling about the hunky guys with their shirts off, she found herself drawn to their proboscis, or probuscusus, or whatever the hell they called them back then. In college, when she became, well, a bit more sexually active, her leanings became a full-blown fetish and she gained quite a reputation.”
The two women left the postcard rack, heading toward us.
I spoke faster as they neared. “I don’t have the time or the resources to go into it here, but let’s just say that by her senior year,” I spoke as quickly as I could, the women only a few feet away, “she had married a good-looking Jew with one of the strongest noses on campus, and the rest is nasal history.”
We burst out laughing just as they reached us. Lucy put her black shopping bag under the table and slid in next to Joel, and Kate did the same with her bags and slid in next to me.
Lucy said, “And what’s so funny?”
Joel replied, “Oh we were just talking about life as Jewish men in the 21st century, and our wonderful wives.” He kissed Lucy on the nose.
Kate said, “I don’t buy any of it. You guys are like little kids. I’m famished, let’s eat.”
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Portland Fiction Project
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