For all my friends who’ve been begging me for a humorous story—enjoy this parody of quasi-true events!
Tim and I recently spent a weekend with Maxine, an elderly widowed friend. She’s lived alone for years and was quite excited when Tim and I accepted her invitation to spend a weekend at her house. When she opened the door to let us in, she didn’t look well, but I assumed that we awakened her from an afternoon nap.
Maxine has always been quite the hostess and she handed Tim and me a thick, chocolate drink served in her prized Waterford goblets after she set a lovely plate filled with cheese, crackers, and dip on the coffee table.
“Is that gorgonzola cheese?” I asked politely, noting the deep blue swirls.
“What’s that? Oh, just a minute. Where did I put that hearing aid?” Maxine seemed to be looking in the extra crystal goblets sitting on the counter. “Well, I’ll find it later. I always do,” she smiled sweetly. “That’s Swiss. How do you like it?”
I’ve told my husband a million times to drink slowly, that gulping the entire beverage at once belongs to college boys. So, when I saw Tim chugging down that delicious chocolate drink, I just rolled my eyes. That’s when the choking started. One Heimlich manuever later, and Maxine’s hearing aid rolled across the carpet.
“Just like magic!” Maxine joyfully exclaimed as she picked up “her ear” off the floor.
Why do I never think to bring our video camera on trips?
When suppertime approached, Maxine asked if Tim and I would mind preparing dinner as she was experiencing some indigestion from something she believed she ate at lunch. Glad to be of service to our dear friend, we followed Maxine to the kitchen where she opened the pantry door and gave us free rein to choose supper from stacks of canned goods while she returned to the family room and stretched out on a recliner.
“Ugh. Not this!”
Tim’s eyes bugged out as he beheld the broth seeping from a seam. ”I’ll find the trash can, Cyndi.”
By the time he returned, I had carefully examined every box of jello, cake mix, and canned good on the middle shelf. “This pantry is nothing short of a lethal weapon!” I handed him a bottle. “The date on this is 1990.”
“What is it?” Tim is curious by nature.
“It was honey. I don’t know what you’d call it now. Poison maybe?”
“We’d better get Maxine. She ought to get rid of the expired foods.”
Maxine hobbled to the pantry holding her abdomen. “There’s nothing wrong with anything in there,” she insisted.
“But, Maxine, most of this stuff is from the early 90s. It’s—”
“And you can’t buy it anywhere now for those prices.” She was beaming with pride at her shopping prowess.
“What’s that noise?” Tim wondered, looking from me to Maxine.
“Just my innards,” Maxine explained.
Tim and I looked at each other. Someone had to ask the question, but Mr. Curiosity was suddenly silent.
“Maxine?” I purred.
“Hmm?” she groaned.
“What did you have for lunch today?”
She held her middle with both hands as she shuffled to the sink. Holding up an empty can wrapped in faded paper, she announced, “Stew. But I won’t buy anymore of that brand, I can tell you. It was so stiff that I had to use a knife to get it out of the can. Darn manufacturers trying to cut corners. They think we won’t notice. But I’m onto them, don’t you worry about that!”
Tim took the can from her and, for a minute, I thought he was having a heart issue because the color drained from his face. “Maxine, the expiration date is 22 years old!”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you! Those food companies aren’t making food like they used to.” Maxine looked over at me. “Did you find something you can make for us for supper, honey?”
The look that passes all understanding passed between Tim and me. “Maxine,” Tim asked, ”when’s the last time you went out to dinner?”
“Well, that depends on how you define dinner.”
“How does a steak, baked potato, and salad at the Lone Star sound?”
Maxine’s face lit up like her 85th birthday cake. “I’ll be ready in two minutes, honey.” She was holding her tummy like it held her savings account. “I just need to freshen up first.” She winked as she shuffled past me. ”That’s code for using the bathroom.”
“Thank you,” I silently mouthed to Tim, giving him my most grateful smile.
“Cyndi, I want you to have me put down if I get—”
“Now don’t worry about lunch tomorrow, you two.” Maxine poked her head around the corner. “I’ve already made us a jello salad. I’ve been saving that cherry jello and canned peaches for a special treat.”
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22 (KJV)
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Photograph by Cynthia Howerter © 2013
Dear Readers, my first writings as a teenager were humorous short stories. I would take something ordinary that had actually transpired and after finding the levity in it, compose a story. My closest friends have been the recipients of these stories in recent years, but until now, I’ve never published them. While the following incident actually occurred, my husband wants you to know that I, as an author of humor, have embellished it (but not much). I hope you enjoy it! Without further delay, I bring to you my husband’s incredible dance debut.
For the first time in 20 years, my husband and I found ourselves alone on a Saturday. It didn’t seem right to spend a free day at home, so we decided to visit Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum.
As soon as we entered the temporary exhibit about life in the African Congo, I took note of several cute young men dressed in African attire.
“They’re probably local kids earning extra money,” I whispered knowingly to my husband. He nodded his agreement.
Further into the exhibit, we encountered an older man, similarly dressed.
“Must be members of a local church group,” I mouthed to hubby. Tim wasn’t so sure.
Upon leaving the exhibit, a docent asked if we’d like to watch a show in the auditorium. “It’s the Wacongo Dance Company from the African Congo. They’re on an international tour and they’re going to perform traditional African dances.”
I looked at hubby, eyes pleading. What could be more fascinating than an authentic African dance recital?
We sat close to the stage. Hand-pounded drums, straight from the Congo, signaled the start of the show and pushed the room’s acoustic system to the limit. The audience sat mesmerized as a young man pranced, swooped, jumped and whirled in the air. He wasn’t a local school kid after all. Who knew?
Several dances later, the older man from the exhibit, the Chief, stood on stage and asked the audience for a show of hands from those who had toured the exhibit. My hand shot straight up.
Tim leaned over and said, “I wouldn’t do that.”
I ignored his comment. The stage lights were surely blinding the chief’s eyes because he repeated the request.
“Tim, put your hand up and make them feel welcome!”
My husband ignored me.
“Come on,” I insisted.
Hubby sighed as he complied. “I hope I don’t regret this, Cyndi.”
I realized the chief’s vision was extremely impaired when he asked everyone who had toured the exhibit to put their hands down and stand up. “He probably hasn’t had an eye exam,” I told hubby. “You know, over there in Africa and all.” My knowledge made Tim close his eyes and shudder in awe.
By now, all of the young African men were standing in the aisles.
“This can’t be good,” Tim muttered.
“The young men will escort everyone standing to the stage,” the Chief announced.
“What?” I asked.
“I knew it!” Tim shot a not-so-nice glare at me.
One of the young men took my arm and, even though I graciously declined, pulled me to the stage. “Oh, crap,” I gasped. Horrified, I turned to tell Tim to help me, but he, too, was being pulled toward the stage.
With all of the foolish people in the audience who had stood up now lined across the length of the stage, the chief instructed us to imitate his dance movements as the drums began. It didn’t take me long to get the hang of it, the movements loosely resembling my aerobic class dances.
Tim, on the other hand, was putting on a show all by himself. If the chief lifted his right arm, Tim lifted his left arm. If the chief turned to the left, Tim turned to the right. This wouldn’t have been so bad except that when Tim threw his arms the opposite direction of the chief, he belted me in the mouth, the face and various parts of my upper anatomy. It was obvious that Tim had never set foot in an aerobics class.
“Stop it,” I said as I smiled through clenched teeth. Smack. Tim’s wayward arm hit me again. “What are you doing? Stop hitting me!”
Tim stopped gesticulating and turned to face me, both hands on his hips. “I can’t figure out which direction to go.”
“Just do what the chief does.”
“No, you’re not! You’re out of sync and smacking me.”
“What do you want me to do, Cyndi?” Tim threw both arms in the air. At least he missed me.
“Here, trade places with me. You’ll be on the end and you won’t hurt anyone.”
Before we could trade places, peels of laughter from the audience nearly drowned out the drums. It only took Tim and me a second to realize that we were stealing the show.
The chief, sensing trouble, came over to us. “I dance wit chew,” he said to Tim as he jabbed his index finger into Tim’s chest.
“Oh, no you’re not,” Tim replied with a wild-eyed look.
“You dance wit me,” Chiefy said as he again jabbed Tim’s chest.
“No! I am not dancing with a man.” The arteries in Tim’s neck began to bulge.
“You dance wit me.” Another chest jab.
While in college, Tim worked summers as a baseball umpire. Hand signals that had laid dormant for years sprang to life as he spoke with Chiefy. “I’m not dancing with you and that’s final!” Tim returned the chest jab.
The audience was screaming with laughter. I rolled my eyes and wondered why I had let Tim talk me into this. “Let me dance with you, Chief. I’m a much better dancer.”
“I dance wit him,” Chiefy insisted, again poking hubby.
Oh, no. This wasn’t good. Tim had that look that comes right before he does his Jackie Gleason meltdown.
“Ya gotta leave my husband alone, Chief. He’s about ready to blow.”
“How do I get off this stage? Where’s the steps?” Tim frantically shouted off to the right.
The chief and I both turned and looked at Tim. Standing precariously at the edge of the stage, it looked like he was going to belly-flop into the audience.
The music ended. “Thank God!” Tim exclaimed too loudly. The audience loved it.
The remainder of our museum tour was one interruption after another. It’s what happens to celebrities. Not only had every person in the entire museum watched the Congo dance recital, they each had the same question for Tim and me: “Did you two rehearse that scene with the Chief beforehand?”
On the drive home, hubby enlightened me. “Now you know why I have never danced with you.”
“Now you know why I will never dance with you!” I informed hubby.
Tim says I always have to get the last word in.
But that’s not true.
Author’s Note: The Wacongo Dance Company is a traditional ensemble of master drummers, musicians and dancers, residents of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who perform the ancestral songs and dances of Central Africa.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2012