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Helen raises hell

Helen St. James didn’t understand the maxim “If it’s working, don’t fix it.” They got started and before long he’d had to throw her out, banish the star from her from own session. Everybody loved Helen — was crazy about the woman — which was why everyone was happy as hell to sign on for this quick jaunt out to the middle of nowhere. But they also resigned themselves to her arduous method of rehearsing. Pausing to needlessly pick over every little thing. And have you play one line three different times, three different ways. Each. Continue Reading →

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Keith decides things could be worse

Right now, Lesli had raised something else to deal with. “Would you like,” he asked, “to tell me about this your-mother’s-not-going-to-like-me business?”

Turned out this was not something to which Lesli had looked forward. Since Mari, her mom, deliberately found something about all her boyfriends to intently dislike. You could count on it. Hence, she simply stopped introducing them to her. There wasn’t any two ways around this, though. Because she’d never been this sold on a guy. And knew there was no point delaying the inevitable. Knew it from the day she’d basically badgered Keith into proposing. That she’d finally landed that ever-elusive great catch, even if it took two years and change to reel him in. “So,” she said, “guess we better bite the bullet, hunh?’

“Well.” Keith sipped at his drink. “What about your dad?”

She shrugged. “Good old easygoing Hank Hall? He tends to stay out of it. Not that he’s whipped or anything. He just doesn’t want to hear her mouth if he doesn’t have to. Let’s say he picks his spots.”

Keith nodded. Sounds like a smart man. It might not hurt to take a page from his book. Continue Reading →

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Dinner goes sour

Lesli guardedly watched him as Keith coughed on a mouthful of fries, spitting out bits of short-rib. Managed to wash it down, wiping sauce from his face. He looked in his whiskey glass at specks of meat. What good mood he’d held onto since leaving the show, waiting for this shoe to drop, was gone. He sipped water and summoned the waitstaff, beckoning for the first person handy. Thinking, wasn’t this the greatest news? On this enjoyable evening? “Lesli,” he declared, taking the napkin from his lap, dabbing at the tablecloth, “long as I’ve known you, baby, girl, you full of surprises.” She sensed that was not quite meant as a compliment. Continue Reading →

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Meeting the in-laws grows complicated

That evening they stepped out on the town. They’d gone to see that revival of No Place to Be Somebody at the Apollo.  Leafing through the playbill, he’d idly suggested that it was time he met his in-laws-to-be. She had simply nodded, seriously reading hers. Going over the bios. The production was powerful. Greatly deserved the standing ovation it got. After, filing out with the crowd, they’d strolled the block or so over to Sylvia’s to have themselves a good soul food dinner. She laced her arm through his, leaning in, and said, “Honey?”

He never like it when she said that word quite that way. “What is it?”

“Now, baby, don’t be like that.”

Another dead giveaway that he wasn’t going to like whatever it was she’d eventually get around to saying. It was a good thing he was crazy about her. Continue Reading →

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Lesli joins the two-percent club

“I’ll grab something more to eat after I get there,” Lesli said as she prepared to leave for work. “Hit the commissary, then tackle that damned letter to the board. They have got to approve the plan to add a fourth floor. It’s expensive as hell, but baby, it makes sense. Even a big-shot operation like that has to keep up with the times and keep improving. Keep tourism here instead of losing it to other cities.”

She had a point. And he’d seen some of this woman’s well-written letters. The board would side with her on the expansion or have to come up with a damned good reason why. Funders knew about this beautiful, brassy exec with a mind like a steel trap. The director had seen to it. Yeah, that new floor likely was as good as done. “Know what I feel like eating?” she asked. Idly, more to herself than to him.”

“Nope.” He had clicked on the remote and was watching the news with a lapful of Bruno, Butch and Sundance. For once the kittens were leaving the old guy in peace, hanging out, watching the news with Keith. “Not ’til you tell me, no.”

“A banana split. With the works. Different kinds of nuts, rich whipped cream, lots of syrup, the whole nine.”

“Mm-hm, sounds good.”

“And a bowl of tomato soup.”

Keith lowered the volume on the television. “What was that? Did you just say—”

“Yeah. Continue Reading →

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Linda’s letter gets on Keith’s last nerve

Lesli’s ordering-in suggestion sounded good. Keith didn’t feel like cooking, and there should be a law against letting Lesli anywhere near pots or pans around a working stove. He grabbed a menu and picked up the phone. Her usual was French toast and sausage. His was grits and eggs. They both were going to have more strong coffee and plenty of it. Soon as he hung up from ordering, he got busy refilling the coffeemaker. That done, he called, “I’ll be in.” And sat, Butch immediately running up his leg, landing on his shoulder, nestling his muzzle into Keith’s neck and purring like a little motorboat. Sundance was taking a break, curled up in a corner fast asleep. Continue Reading →

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Keith’s cousin calls from the pen

Keith stood at the living room window, sipping coffee, staring out at a drizzling, early-morning rain, catching hell from Lesli. She was in the kitchen, barely wearing a short, silk housecoat that clung to her curves and, at the moment, was half-open, held together by a loosely tied belt.

“Would you for once and for all,” she railed, “do something about those two demons?! They are making life absolutely miserable for my little guy.”

She’d been rummaging in the cupboard, unable to come up with a single thing she felt like eating. It’d become kind of an ongoing argument. She kept trying to protect and defend Bruno, which was understandable, because Butch and Sundance messed with the poor guy pretty much every single chance they got. What, Keith wondered, did she think kittens were going to do to a full-grown cat? Leave him in peace? Before she’d moved in, the little beasts never even gave him a break. Being a natural-born pain in the butt comes with a kitten’s job description. And there is nothing, this side of a ball of twine, they’d rather target for unbridled, biting, clawing and kicking fun than a full-grown cat, especially one as big, slow and dull-witted as Bruno. Keith took another sip. “Love of my life, you want me to talk to them?”

“This is not the time, love of my life, to be a smart-ass.” The look on her face said that all he had to do was say one word and he would not be getting any affection tonight. He smiled. “No, no, I’m perfectly serious. I’ll have a word with them right now.” To prove the point, he hollered, “Hey!”

Both kittens stopped dead in their tracks and looked at him for all of about maybe 10 seconds. Then went right back to chasing her cat all around the place. Keith shrugged. Continue Reading →

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Lesli settles in

Lesli looked around and sighed at Keith’s overrun living room that was, she realized, now her overrun living room. What wouldn’t fit, Lesli had either left for Gwen or put in storage downstairs at Keith’s. Still, she had a lot of stuff to put away. “I’m taking a break,” she declared. Getting up from the carpet, she stretched and got a cold can of Heineken from the fridge. “So,” she asked, spotting Linda’s letter, which Keith still hadn’t opened and had no idea when he’d get around to it, “who’s the fan mail from? Nice handwriting. She pretty?”

Here we go, Keith rued and, before he knew it, blurted, “Yeah, Les. As ten sunsets. She’s also baby cousin, will y’?! Probably up in trouble. Otherwise, don’t never hear from the brat. That okay? Damn!”

He stuffed the envelope in his back pocket, gave Lesli an ugly look, and realized marrying this woman was not going to be an easy undertaking. Nonetheless, he was in love with her and, accordingly, going to take bad with the good. He made himself calm down. “Ain’t we just get done talking about this very thing?”

She tried to dissemble: “Oh, come on. I’m just kidding.” He practically stared a  hole in both her eyes. Continue Reading →

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Lesli and Keith set up house

He woke to Lesli turning her key in the door. Loaded down with suitcases. He watched her struggle to get in the apartment, keep the door propped open, and put her bags down all at the same time. She kicked a suitcase out of the way, the door closed, and she leaned against it, catching her breath. And shot him a look. “Oh, no thank you, sweetie. I don’t need any help. I’m fine.”

“Well, I know you good-lookin’, girl. No need to brag.”

“Go to hell.” With which sat on one of the bags, raking her fingernails through her hair, scratching the back of her neck. Then, nodded at the felines. The kittens were knocked out. Bruno lay staring into space.  Keith could’ve sworn the poor guy was shell-shocked. “So, how are they getting along?” she asked. “Oh, famously,” he lied with a smile. “They’re gonna be best buddies.”

“Good. I’ll unpack later. Meanwhile, come put these in the bedroom and fix me a drink.”

“You get one or the other. Either manual labor or bartender services.”

“Fine, smartass. Grab the bags.” Which he did, while she made a beeline for the liquor cabinet. He came back in from toting her suitcases to a scowling Lesli. “What’s this?” she demanded. “No rum? Just this poison of yours?”

He shrugged. “Call the store and have ’em send some over.”

“The hell with it.” She settled for an ice-cold can of beer, came back from the kitchen, rummaged in his DVD library and commandeered the remote, putting on 42. He and Lesli loved that flick about Jackie Robinson. Continue Reading →

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Keith pops the proverbial question


Keith woke drained. Praying, God, if I never do nothing else in life right, please don’t let me do this wrong. Please, keep me from screwing this up. He looked over at a contentedly sighing Lesli. Got up, went into her living room, lit a cigarette and went to the window. Continue Reading →

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