When Tommie said that Huey Lewis and the News didn’t ring any bells I knew I was getting old.
“You’ve never seen ‘Back to the Future?’ Michael J. Fox, Doc, the Flux Capacitor?”
“Nope, nope, nope.”
“Well that’s a goddamn shame” I said “You don’t know what you’re missing. Huey Lewis is one of the defining voices of the 80s.”
“I hate 80s music. It’s so blasé.”
“Blasé?! You’re kidding right? You do realize that all the popular crap today is just recycled 80s music, don’t you?”
“Can I get you anything else? More coffee?” surely this was an empty gesture motivated by the thought of added percentages.
“No, I’m fine. What’s your shirt mean?”
“It’s the name of a band.”
“How the hell do you even say that? Valms?”
“It’s pronounced ‘Volumes.’” slowly pointing to the letters V-L-M-S on her tie-dyed T-shirt one at a time in a way I found both condescending and strangely enticing.
“I bet they suck.”
“They’re better than Dewey Hewis.”
“It’s Huey Lewis” I said, “…and The News.”
“Whatever. You ready for the check?” a question of obvious retort from someone highly rhetorical.
“Give me five minutes.”
“I’ll just bring it and you can take your time.”
“Then what’d you ask for?”
Tommie gave a smirk that was really more of a one-finger salute without the use of hands. She’d had enough, and besides, I couldn’t stand the thought of being subjected to an 80s bigot any longer.
“It’s only cotton you know.” Tommie tossed the paper slip in my direction, which would have landed in my lap if not for the permanent film of grease that layered every surface of Ritters Diner.
“The socks. They’re just dryer food you know. You’re better off without them. Nude ankles are in style these days.” Maybe she was right, but for some reason I still couldn’t shake the idea of salvaging the remnants of my second skin from the metal basin. The thought of a nameless face slipping their sockless feet into a warm pair of my woolen Ls sent a shiver down my lower third. To add insult to injury, it had been nearly 32 hours since my letter to Dr. Croakman at the Journal of Near Death Experience, for which there was still no reply. Needless to say, things were below average.
It was the fourth Tuesday of the month, which meant I had to drive my mother to her Ladie’s Lollipop Guild which met every fourth Tuesday with the exception of February. The L.L.G was a “Who’s Who” of devout catholic mothers who, in their younger years, dressed up in nun habits and dreamed of convent life. Yet in their adolescence, the prospect of motherhood was too enticing, and their monastic fantasies went by the wayside. The L.L.G. was formed in tribute to those childhood pipedreams and their collective love of, “The Wizard of Oz.”
My mother was no exception to the L.L.G.. A woman far more interesting than her jeans would suggest, she too had grand notions of nunnery from an early age. That was until the hypnotic allure of local news media cast its spell. With a child on the way and no job openings at Chanel 7, she compromised her passions for a life of sore feet and summers off. Such was the story of the L.L.G.. A collection of teachers, nurses, secretaries, and stay-at-home mothers who, as if by mandate, collected in the church basement to discuss God-knows-what till God-knows-when.
The luke-warm coffee of Ritters was sloshing back and forth in my belly as I took the curves of Whirlwind Hill with geometric precision. New England roads in October were like something out of a Windows desktop photo. This thought crossed my mind and then intersected with the realization that I was completely unable to separate real life from digital life. The curves suddenly became wider and the tangents were completely lost, at which point I was no longer interested in the geometry of things.
“What’d you do to your car?”
“It’s a side job. Well, not exactly a job as much as an additional revenue stre—”
“Hemorrhoids? You quit your job at the University?” the sense of a concerned mother was pungent.
“No, I said it’s not a job exactly. They pay me to advertise the company. I drive arou—”
“Is it dangerous?”
“What? Of course not.”
“Ok. That’s good. But what kind of company is this?”
“It’s a new startup. It’s an app—for people with hemorrhoids. It uses the new face-recognition thing on your phone to help diagnose and manage hemorrhoids.”
“Hmmm. But did they have to make it so big? I mean it takes up your entire car.” My mother’s delicate hands grazed the puss-filled abomination plastered to the passenger-side door.
“I didn’t have a choice in the matter.”
“That’s not very nice.” She inspected the exposed butt-cheeks and their cleavage. “Oh my, it’s on the roof as well.”
“That’s for the drones.”
“Nothing. You ready?”
“Give me five minutes.” I could feel Tommie smirking and the thought sent a second shudder even colder than the day’s first.