The Bank Job

I’m not one for banks. Bankers make me nervous. I don’t know if it’s the suits or the pinched look they get whenever you want your money in your pocket and not their vault.
“I’m going to the bank. You want to come?” This was a rhetorical question. Layce will go because they have a popcorn machine. She has actually gone in there just for the popcorn and if it’s all gone she waits until they make more.
“Of course,” she said.
We walked to the bank and on the way Layce explained her theory on banking. “So you give me your ball…” she started.
“What ball?”
“It’s a beach ball, okay?  And it represents your money.  So you give me your ball. You can have it anytime you want Monday through Friday nine to five, but not on weekends or federal holidays.”

beach ball

“But what about the ATM?” I said.
“You can’t get your whole ball, though. They will only give you some of your ball. A percentage. It’s no coincidence that a pie chart looks like a beach ball.”

pie chart

“Okay, but where is this going?”
“Let me finish. You can play with your ball but I will ultimately want the ball back. And I’m going to charge you to hold your ball and sometimes if you take you ball out to play too often I’m going to charge you for that too. Also while I’m holding your ball I’m going to charge you for doing it and I’m going to make money off your ball but I don’t give you any of that money. I keep it.”
“Why are you so focused on this ball thing? And what kind of ball are we talking about? A rubber ball, a volley ball, a bowling ball…”
Layce cut me off. “I just think it’s interesting that we’ve been trained to willingly hand over money to this institution that makes lots of money off our money and doesn’t share it with us and has the audacity to charge us for the privilege of keeping our money,” she said.
“Maybe I should just bring you home a bag of popcorn,” I suggested.
“Why? We’re almost there.”
“Because I’m sensing some hostility here.”
“I’ll get a sucker too. That’ll keep me quiet.”
The bank employee entrusted to help us was named Dusty Rose. Layce whispered to me, “Is that her stripper name? What sort of a mother names her daughter that?”
I wondered if bringing Layce along was such a good idea. She seemed to be in a mood. Perhaps it was the ball thing again.
Dusty Rose, the bank lady not the stripper, asked for my identification and then Layce’s because we have a joint account.
“I don’t have my ID on me. I just came for the popcorn,” she said, almost belligerently.
“That’s okay,” Dusty Rose said. “I think I can vouch for you since you come in here a lot.”
“So how much is a safety deposit box?” Layce asked after Dusty finished up with my direct deposit form.
I wondered where she was going with this. Did she want one to put her ball in?
Dusty handed over the price list and took us to the vault to show us the available sizes.
“Can anyone other than me get into my box?” Layce asked.
“Like who?” I asked. “The IRS, the FBI, drug lords, or aliens?
“I just want to know how safe my safety deposit box is,” Layce said.
“Nobody but you can get in, but it’s not FDIC insured,” Dusty Rose said.
“And why not?” Layce said.
“Because we don’t know what you put in it so how can we insure something we don’t know about,” she replied. She glanced over at me as if to say “Is there something wrong with your friend?”
“So can I visit my box whenever I want?” Layce asked. “I mean during business hours of course and not on federal holidays or weekends.”
“Certainly. We also have these climate controlled rooms where you can spend quality time with your box.”
“I find it hard to believe that nobody knows what’s in my box. Are you sure nobody goes through the boxes at night when nobody’s looking?”
“No. Nobody,” Dusty Rose said.
“How do you know?” Layce asked. “You’re at home watching TV or sleeping, right? How would you know if the bank manager doesn’t come in and take out everyone’s valuables and play with them?”
“Play with them?” Dusty Rose said.
“We should go,” I said.
“I’m just saying,” Layce added. “That’s all. You can’t be one hundred percent positive what happens to these boxes when you’re not here. Right?”
Dusty Rose shrugged. “I guess so.”
“Okay, we gotta go now. Thanks for all your help, Dusty,” I said, taking Layce by the wrist and led her away. “What’s wrong with you?” I hissed.
“I just don’t like banks,” she said, snagging a second bag of popcorn on the way out.
“I gathered that,” I said. I decided that my attitude towards banks did not hold a candle to my joint account holder’s animosity. “I think I’m going to get you a popcorn maker for your birthday.”
“Why when we can go to the bank and get free popcorn because they are charging us to keep our money. It’s my passive aggressive way of getting even,” Layce said.
I threw my hands up. Maybe there was a very good reason people kept their money under their mattresses.

The Little Turd that Could


I have a fear of public restrooms but my bladder doesn’t care. So when it was intermission at the Art House theatre and the bladder said we had to go—I lined up with the rest. My date was quicker than me and was third in line. I was number ten in line with at least fifty people behind me.  It was an old building and the women’s restroom only had three stalls.  While I waited I pondered why it takes women so long to go to the bathroom.  What are they doing in there – meditating?

So you can imagine as I finally got a stall how relieved I was.  I sat down, but couldn’t go.  My bladder had performance anxiety. I plugged my ears and hummed Frere Jacques. That worked.  I stood and flushed.  The toilet made a funny noise. I looked in the toilet bowl and there was a floating turd.  It wasn’t an enormous turd but evidently a big enough turd that when the person who left the turd flushed, it didn’t go down.  Maybe I’d have better luck a second time.  I crossed my fingers and flushed again.  The turdlet bobbed around like a sturdy little boat determined to weather the storm.

I silently cursed it.  I hissed, “Go away little turd.”  I flushed again.  The turd stared defiantly up at me.   Now people will think I did it because I had been in the stall so long.  I frantically scanned the stall for a plunger.  Surely, if the Art House had such defective plumbing they’d have supplied each stall with its own turd-removing plunger.  No luck.  I flushed again, holding then jiggling the handle.  I took the back lid off and stared into the innards of the toilet, fiddled around and flushed again.  Nothing.  Mr. Turd stayed right where he was.  I sat down on the toilet and tried to think.

Someone knocked on the stall door. “Is everything all right in there?”

“Yes. I’ll be right out.”  I refrained from screaming, “AS SOON AS I GET THIS FUCKING TURD DOWN INTO THE SEWER WHERE IT BELONGS.”   I hissed at the turd, “You miserable piece of motherfucking shit.”  I flushed again.  I whined and pleaded, “God, in your infinite mercy please make this turd go away and I will be the nicest and sweetest and most patient, kind and loving person on the planet.  I will end world hunger.”  I flushed.  No go.  I banged my head on the door.

“Ma’am do you need some help?” came the disembodied voice from the outside world.

There was only one thing to do – confess, tell the whole sordid tale.  I took a deep breath and opened the stall door.  Fifty sets of eyes stared me.

I said in the most confident voice I could muster, “There is a turd in the toilet and it is not mine.  I did not deposit it in the toilet and I’ve done everything humanly possible to send it on its way.”  I dramatically pointed into the stall.  “I will swear on a stack of bibles that it was there when I went in.  I apologize for the inconsiderate actions of my fellow man.  That is all.”  I ran out of the restroom.

I went back to my seat.  My date – this was pre-Layce – said, “What happened?”

“What gives you the idea anything happened?” I said, wiping my face with my sleeve.  I was sweating profusely despite the air conditioning.

“You looked kind of stressed, that’s all.”

I snapped, “Women are the most inconsiderate restroom users on the planet.  It’s all about them.  Once they finally lay claim to a stall they lose all sense of time and just sit there going la la la la la, imagining all the others waiting outside with bladders full to bursting and they don’t give a SHIT.  And to top matters off SOMEONE left a turd in the toilet bowl for me to deal with.  What sort of a person does that?”

My date colored. “It wouldn’t flush down,” she confessed. “I had no choice but to leave.  I didn’t think you’d get the same stall as me.”

I nodded sadly.  We watched the rest of the lesbian short films and when she dropped me off afterwards there was absolute silence as I got out of the car.  I nodded at her and she nodded back.  We both knew that turd had come between us before there had ever been an “us.”


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The Trivia Train

We were in the kitchen when it started.  It usually started when we were all together in a way that didn’t allow for an immediate exit—in the car, in the bathroom brushing your teeth, in the kitchen preparing dinner or doing the dishes.  It would begin slowly and grow exponentially until my mind felt like Munch’s painting of the Scream. This time I was setting the table for dinner.

“Did you know that hippo milk is pink?” Emma said.

I made the mistake of acknowledging the statement.  Layce shot me a look.  I’d forgotten the cardinal rule—do not engage the trivia train.

“Did you know there was this guy down south that they called the Phantom Barber and he would break into people’s houses and cut their hair at night.  We had this guy here who was the Phantom Pooper.  He’d go all over town and dump a load in the fast food restaurants so people wouldn’t go have lunch anymore and he wouldn’t have to wait in line at any of the places.  Did you see that sock in the street in front of our house?  It’s not any of ours.  I was looking at the tulips when I saw it.  Did you know the tulips have bloomed?”

She broke into song.  It was the refrain of a song from Alice in Wonderland that concerned flowers.  That done, she continued her monologue.

“Did you know that the can opener was invented 42 years after the can was invented?  How did they open cans?  Do you remember that time you (Layce) cut your finger on the can lid and Saxon had to get the Band Aids and you couldn’t look at your own blood?  But you looked at mine then I fell in the shower and cut my eye.”  She showed her scar.  I knew without a quick diversion The Map of Scars would be wheeled out.  Too late. “See this one…”

“Speaking of which, will you put Band Aids on the grocery list,” I said, trying to divert her.

Unfortunately, the list was attached to the fridge by a magnet.  “Did John bring this magnet home from China?  Did you know in China they used to tie people down on top of a bamboo plant and the bamboo would grow right through them?  Do you remember John’s eyebrows?  He shaved off one half while he was fixing them and then he had to shave off the other side so it would match and then he went to China.”

I glanced over at Layce.  Her eyes had glazed over.

“Did you know that the widow of the gun guy Mr. Winchester made her house have all these mazes and weird hallways so the ghosts of all the people who died by the gun couldn’t get her?  That would be like the maze the church puts up on Halloween.  This year for Halloween I want to be a unicorn.  I could use part of my costume from last year.  I have a drawing of it right here.”

There was a knock at the door.  “Em, will you get that?” I said.  A distraction might derail the trivia train.  A stranger at the door was ideal.

“Who is it?” Layce called out as she put the pasta in pot.

“It’s a lady handing out pamphlets,” Em said.

“Why don’t you two have a chat out on the porch until dinner is ready,” I said.

“Okay,” Em said.

When the pasta was al dente, I stepped out onto the porch to retrieve Emma.  She was trivia-training the poor Jehova Witness lady.  The lady was catatonic.  She rocked back and forth and her eyes were glanced over.

“What did you do to her?”

“I told her every bible story I knew.”

“I see.  Well, tell her goodbye.  Dinner is ready.”

Dinner was a quiet affair.  Evidently the trivia train had run out of steam.  After dinner I went to check on the lady on the porch.  I was just in time to see two other Jehova Witnesses lead the catatonic lady off and into a waiting car.  She was mumbling something her cohorts, “Did you know…did you know…did you know… that it was a Blue Whale that swallowed Jonah and not a…”

They haven’t been back since.

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The Great Scheduler


“What are you doing?” I said, coming down the stairs.

“I’m thinking,” Layce said.

“We don’t have time for that and it’s not in the schedule,” I said, holding up a newly printed piece of paper.

Layce eyed me with evident suspicion. “What’s that?”

I handed it to her.  “Our new schedule.”

“Schedule for what?”  She glanced down at what I viewed as a masterpiece of time engineering.

“Our day.  I think we need more structure.  I’ve done it up in thirty minute segments except for writing for which I allotted three hours – but that includes breaks because of my medical condition,” I informed her.

I’d twisted my tailbone so I couldn’t sit for more than thirty minutes without a stretching break.  “You, of course, do not have a medical condition so you can keep writing or take one of the prescheduled break times if you’d like, but it’s not mandatory.”

“How generous of you,” Layce said.  She continued reading the schedule.

“So as you can see after we write then we exercise; then we have lunch; then we have a music appreciation hour but I’ve tied that in with the craft hour so we can multi-task; then we…”

She cut me off.  “God forbid we had idle hands,” Layce said.  She held the schedule like a used tissue.

“As you can see I did schedule in ‘alone time’ so you can get your business done.”

“What business?  You mean like book marketing?” Layce said.

“No, we do marketing in the late afternoon because people are at work and I don’t think we should encourage people to take valuable time away from productive work hours to shop online or use social media.  They can do that when they get home.  So if we market after 3 p.m. we’ll hit either lunch time or after work depending on the time zone.”

“God forbid anyone goofs off at work,” Layce said.

“I’m getting a hostile vibe here.”

Layce ignored that statement.  “So what’s this alone time thing then?”

“It’s so you can poop.  You always say when you go upstairs to poop that you need some ‘alone time’ so I scheduled it in which I thought was rather decent of me.  Most schedulers don’t figure in personal time like that.”

“You are scheduling WHEN I can take a shit????”

“It’s an efficient use of time.  I would also recommend taking the Writer’s Digest so you can bone up on the latest trends while you poop.  It’s another prime example of multi-tasking.”

Layce stared at me open-mouthed.  She evidently was super-impressed with my scheduling abilities.  “I know. It’s a marvel of time management.” I said.

She wadded up the schedule and threw it at me.

“Not a problem. I have more,” I said, calling out after her.

She opened the front door.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Someplace where they don’t have a schedule.”

“But that’s not in the schedule.”


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Basics of baking

Bake, Bake, Let’s bake a cake.

I had been terrified most of the day. Emma and I were going to bake a red velvet cake for Layce’s birthday. Emma was under the mistaken impression that I knew how to bake a cake. I am a grown up after all. And grown ups know how to do every thing. I was not willing to admit in my newly acquired parenthood that I do not know all things. I was enjoying my “All-Knowing” status. I wanted to hold onto it for a little while longer. I just had to get through the baking thing. I mean how hard can it be to bake a cake? It comes in a box. With directions.
blog photos
Emma came home from school and she was super-psyched to make this cake. We donned our aprons. She got out the mixing bowls. Layce was eyeing us. I felt her stare on the back of my neck. I studied the box.
“You’ve made a cake before, right?” Layce asked.
“Well, of course I’ve made a cake,” I replied indignantly.
“When?” Emma said, expertly sifting the flour stuff into the mixing bowl.
Why are children forever interested in specifics? Okay, it had been a while and at the time there had been some issues.
“Yes, when?” Layce asked.

Ugh, this was proving more difficult than I thought. I couldn’t break the social contract and lie because telling the truth was imperative to preserving the very framework society was built upon. I hedged. “Well, I’ve never made a red velvet cake. That’s a down south kind of baking. Up north we bake different kinds of cake.”
“What, they have special northern cakes?” Layce inquired.
“Like what kind of cakes?” Emma asked.
“Oh, you know, linseed oil cake and huckleberry double layer cake,” I said.
“I’ve never heard of those kinds of cake,” Layce said.

“You need to crack the eggs. I’m not very good at it,” Emma said, handing me two eggs.
“Sure,” I said. “Not a problem.” I cracked the egg and put my thumb through the shell. Several chunks of shell fell into the bowl. We all looked down at egg in the bowl now flecked with shell.
Emma stared at me incredulous. “I could’ve done that.”
“How long has it been since you made a cake?” Layce demanded.
My skills were obviously in question. I did the math. “It had only been forty-six years. That’s a mere blink of an eye in a geological time. I mean the Rockies weren’t created in a day.”
“FORTY SIX YEARS???” Emma said, astounded.
“It seems like just yesterday.”
“Let me do the eggs,” Emma said. She carefully and expertly cracked the eggs and folded the egg mixture sans egg shell into the flour.
Layce beamed.
“Show off,” I said.


Emma must have felt bad for me because she offered me the job of beating the mixture while she greased the cake pan.
Now you put a little flour in the cake pan so after the cake had cooled it will come out easier,” Layce instructed. “Just a trick my mom taught me.”
“Know it all,” I said.
Layce shrugged. “Just saying.”
I snapped the beaters into the beater thingy. I tried not to remember what happened the last time forty six years ago that I held this particular piece of kitchen machinery. I was older now. I had better motor skills. Every thing would turn out fine. I took a deep breath and turned the fuckers on. They worked great.
“Aren’t you going to put them in the batter?” Emma asked, watching me holding the beaters in the air while they whirled.
“Of course,” I said, confidently. I turned them on high and stuck them into the mixture. Evidently one should immerse the beaters and then turn them on because when I stuck the high speed beaters in the red mixture all hell broke loose.
Red stuff went everywhere and I mean everywhere. The beaters got away from me and bumped around the bowl sending batter all over Emma, Layce, myself, and the dog who happened by on the way to her food bowl. I was confused and rendered senseless in this crisis. Layce took control of the situation and yanked the cord out. The maniacal beaters stopped beating.
“Is this why you haven’t baked a cake since you were six?” Layce said.
“Yes, last time it was chocolate. I was banned from the kitchen forever.”
“I can see why,” Emma said. She licked her arm. “It sure is tasty though.”
I grabbed the car keys. “Come on, Em.”
“Where are you going?” Layce asked.
“To BUY a cake like a normal person,” I said.
“You might want to wipe some of that red shit off your face first,” she said, throwing me a dish towel. “You look like an axe murderer.”
“No, she’s a cake killer,” Emma said.
They laughed uproariously. I didn’t find it funny in the least. Where’s a bakery when you need one?


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The Magic of Panties

No matter what they say about diamonds, it’s panties that really are a girl’s best friend.  You should always wear panties.  You should always wear clean panties in case you get in an accident as mothers will always tell you.  And buying new panties is as good as getting your hair cut or buying new shoes.

Emma had just discovered all of the above, excepting the accident.  She is going on her first long distance trip sans parents.  She is going to spend a whole week in Biloxi, Mississippi with the Science Club.  Layce took Emma to the store for a bra and panty run, saying, “Other people judge you by the condition of your undergarments.  You don’t want them to think you are raggedy-ass poor white trash.”

I came home to find Layce and Emma awash in new under things.  The array of colors and patterns were amazing.  Gone are the white granny panties and dull bras—brash neon and polka dots had taken their place.


“Look at this, now see how this fits under my tank top, just a dash a pink and feel how soft this is,” Emma said, walking toward me in a bright pink sports bra.  I backed up.

“Wow, you won’t get lost in a crowd in that thing,” I said.

“She won’t be wearing it like that in a crowd,” Layce said.  “Will you?”

“Some of the girls just wander around in them,” Emma said.

“But you won’t,” I said, feeling like an utter hypocrite as I used to wander around in shorts and a sports bra when my boobs were where they originally were supposed to be and my stomach had the nubile glow of youth.

“I won’t.”  Emma sighed.  She went to her room and came out wearing a different bra.  “And look at how I can move around and everything stays where it’s supposed to.  Isn’t that amazing?”

“Truly,” I said.  “Whoever invented sports bras was a saint and should be canonized.”

“And my panties fit just perfect.”  She brought out the panties.  “They’re boy shorts—see they have this fake pocket thing.”

“I never did understand that part,” I said.  I got my computer out.  I Googled, “Who invented sports bras?”

Emma took her panties back to her room.

“Wow, I wish I was that excited about my panties,” I said, waiting for Google to come up with the answer about the bras.

Emma came out again.  “You know the other thing about good new bras and panties?”

“I do not,” I said.

“They just make you feel…more confident.  Like you can do anything.”

“Like fly?” I said.

She rolled her eyes and went back into her room.

Layce glanced over at me.  “I bought new panties too.”

“You did?” I said.  “Let me see them.”

“Maybe later.  If you’re a good girl,” Layce said with a wink.

Okay, now I was excited about the arrival of new panties in our house.

“I heard that!” Emma yelled from her room.  “Do you two have to be so gross?”

**The first sports bra was invented in 1977 by Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith who sewed two jock straps together.  There is a bronze version of it in the Smithsonian.


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The Pulse in her Pants

This sounds like a brilliant title for an erotic novel, not the story of a near death experience. As it turned out, it was a little of both.

Layce was in the kitchen wearing nothing but her apron. Okay, okay, she also had pants and a shirt on. She was rummaging around in the cupboard. “Do we have any cough drops? I think I’m coming down with a sore throat.”

“Yes, they’re on the top shelf,” I said, pointing because I can’t see or reach the top shelf in our kitchen without a step stool which we don’t have so I just point when I need something up there. She located the cough drops and popped one in.

Emma came racing through the front door. “I ran all the way home from school.”

“Are you in training?” I asked, pouring myself a cup of coffee.

“No, I just get bored walking. It’s slow and slow things are boring. Think of sloths. I’ve been watching them on Youtube. Hold on,” she said, and disappeared into her room.

“Is this going somewhere?” I asked.

“Yes, I think we’re going to get a lesson in sloths,” Layce said, the cough drop clicking against her teeth.

“Maybe I should pull up the Webster’s definition of sloth so I can add to the discussion and lead it around to the fact that having a messy room is a prime example of slothing.”

“I don’t think that’s a word.”

“It should be. Slothing as pertains to the rooms of certain teenage humans who will do just about anything not to clean their rooms. That would be my definition.”

“Yes, it would.”

Emma returned with her Kindle. “You’ve got to see this video about the flying sloth. Hold on while I find it.”

I usually try to sneak out of the room at this point so as not to be barraged by thirteen-year-old humor that I do not understand. It was a fortuitous thing that I didn’t.

“I have a pulse in my pants,” Emma said.

My head whipped around. Had our little girl just had a sexual awakening and experienced her first quivering of adolescent lust?

There was a gasping noise. Layce had swallowed her cough drop and was making death rattles in her throat. She did the universal signal for choking – clawing at her own throat. Emma, who has been trained in CPR and the Heimlich, was right on it. She gave her mother a good whack on the back. The cough drop became a projectile missile aimed right at me. I ducked and narrowly avoided losing an eye.

When Layce could speak again, she asked the question on both our minds. “A pulse in your pants?”

“Yeah, you know like the one in your neck only it’s in your leg.”

“You mean your femoral artery?” I asked.

“Yeah, when I ran home I could feel it pulsing. It was really neat.”

“Oh,” Layce said.

“It was a good thing you saved your mom because it would have haunted you for the rest of your life knowing that last thing you said to her was ‘Have you ever had a pulse in your pants?’” I said.

I looked over at Layce just in time to see her pluck the cough drop off the back of the sofa and blow on it.

I gasped. “You are not going to put that back in your mouth, are you?”

“Look! Layce said, pointing to Emma’s Kindle. “Is that sloth really flying?”

I looked.


When I turned back to Layce the cough drop was gone and she was smiling slyly. “Is that a pulse in your pants or are you just glad to see me?” she asked with a wink.

“You guys are so gross,” Emma said, slamming her bedroom door behind her.


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