The Grocery List

by Lubrican & Stormy Weather

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Chapter Two

Thursday night, August 9th {Bob}

I needed to think about how to find my dream girl. The way I think best is when I'm doing my favorite hobby. I build ships. Not big ones, like you sail, but models. You can get a kit, which costs between three and seven hundred dollars. I know that sounds like a lot for a model kit, but what you create with that kit is about three feet long and two and a half feet high, with full rigging and sails, and individual planks on the hull and decks. You have to build your own staircases and railings. You have to nail each plank on, just as if you were building the real thing. And I'm talking tiny little nails here, much smaller than a straight pin. This is tweezers and needle nose pliers work. You put together tiny little cannons, and cut gun ports in the hull for them. Stuff like that. My last one, which was the H.M.S. Victory, took me about six hundred hours to build. I don't quite build to museum quality. You have to paint them for that, and I can't bear to put paint on the beautiful and exotic woods that come in the kits. I just put a clear finish on everything, or wax, and leave them their natural colors. That's the way most of it would have been back in the sailing ship days anyway, except maybe for the hull, which might have been painted to make it last a little longer, exposed to salt water. They painted the gun decks red, so that the crew couldn't see the blood splashed all over the place, but you couldn't see that in a model anyway, so I don't do that either.

Anyway, while I'm carving a yardarm from a dowel, and then sanding it smooth, I think about stuff. My hands know what to do, so I don't have to think about what they're doing. I think about whatever needs thinking about, such as this woman, and how I was going to find her.

It was clear to me that I had to find her. Her list spoke to me in so many ways. I was twenty-eight, which isn't all that old, if you've been married for six or seven years and already have two kids. I wasn't married. I had no kids, because I was a virgin, something I didn't advertise at the gym where I played racquetball. And I was a geek, so I didn't have many prospects, in terms of women, virgins or not. I wasn't particularly worried about whether the woman who would eventually have my children was a virgin, though it would be kind of cool if she was when I met her. I'm a fairly traditional kind of guy, and I figured it would be pretty special if we could find out what this sex thing was all about together.

Of course I knew a little about sex. That was because I had practiced my part. Alone, of course. I knew how to make it spurt, and kept it in good working order so that, when it eventually got the call, nothing would be clogged up or anything like that. I might only get one chance to impress a woman, and I wanted that part of me in tip top condition. Besides, if you use a muscle, it gets bigger ... right?

Friday morning, August 10th [Chris]

Some mornings, I look in the mirror and smile ... something Grandma taught me to do. Other mornings, all I can do is groan, which is what I did Friday morning. My mousy brown roots were shining as bright as the Christmas Star and I'd forgotten to pick up some more coloring to keep my shoulder length strands looking the shade of blond from Miss Clairol, which was called Sunblonde Brown. When I'd decided to follow the advice on changing my hair-color to enhance my love-life, which I'd read in a magazine in the doctor's office, I hadn't realized there were a thousand shades of blond ... well, maybe not that many, but all the boxes on the shelves for that color sure looked like a thousand when I was trying to decide which one I wanted to be.

"You're lucky you don't have to worry about your roots showing," I said to Lady, who was sitting in her usual morning spot ... the frog-themed bath rug in front of the shower that she helped pick out.

She gave a short bark.

"Okay, I wouldn't, either, if I didn't color my hair. But blondes have more fun."

She whined and left a question mark at the end.

"Okay. Okay. Things haven't changed just because I colored my hair. Guys still don't look at anything but my boobs. That's all they've looked at since I was twelve."

She whimpered.

"I never will forget Rachel Johnson's twelfth birthday party. She turned twelve a month after I did. Her Mom let her have boys over too, which we were all excited about. Turned out to be the most gosh awful night of my life. All the girls got mad at me because the boys were practically fighting over me just so they could dance with me and touch my boobs. I slapped several hands before I refused to dance any more. Then, of all the stupid things, some of the boys tried to talk me into playing spin the bottle with them. They wanted to go in the closet with me so I could raise my blouse up for them. I told them to go to hell and had Rachel's dad take me home. And you know what?"

She cocked her ears.

"He told me boys were pigs and could be pretty stupid and would stay like that until they graduated to being just plain dumb, which is what they become when they mature... if they mature. Otherwise, they just stay stupid and those are the ones to avoid. The dumb ones are the ones to stick with because even though they're still pigs, they at least mean well. He and Daddy are the reasons I didn't swear off men forever."

She wagged her tail in response to my mentioning Dad, which I'm pretty sure was part of her training. The same as when I mention Mom, she rolls her eyes and howls. Dad is really fond of Mom, but he has a warped sense of humor that he manages to pass on to all of his dogs. I swear I know a Dave Bryant Golden Retriever the minute I look into its eyes.

Pulling my over-sized Snoopy sleep shirt over my head, I tossed it toward the hamper, and carefully checked over the prize melons men admired so much. My pink nipples always looked erect, even when they weren't aroused. Mom had once told me they were suckable, and I about died ... I was only thirteen at the time. My areolas were a darker shade of rose, and I pressed them gently with my fingers. When nothing felt out of place, I began a careful check of the rest of my breasts, which currently required a B-cup. I performed this self-examination once a week since I'd had a benign lump removed from the left breast two years earlier.

Finding nothing unusual, I reached for a button-up shirt I'd found at a yard-sale last year. A man's, it was big and roomy and I was comfortable moving around. I have several of these shirts, along with over-sized pull-over shirts. When I'd pulled on my cut-off shorts, I padded bare-foot into the kitchen to stir up some breakfast for Lady and some orange juice for myself. I was due at Lacey's in another half-hour and was looking forward to her blueberry pancakes, which she makes from scratch. She teaches cooking classes at the local college three days a week.

Feeding Lady, and making sure she had fresh water, I reached for the handle of the fridge and noticed, again, the invitation and the ticket for the Fine Arts League's First Annual Mens Benefit Auction next month. Unmarried men would be bid on by single women for an evening out. My friend Rachel, who is in charge of the event, had talked me into buying a ticket ... not that she had to do much talking. I was thrilled at the prospects of fate leading me to this ... of finding my toad and falling in love at first sight. The proceeds of the event would go to the Children's Hospital, it was worth going to even if nothing exciting happened. On a more practical note, I was also attending for the chance to gain some experience for an idea I was playing with for a future romance novel.

That's right, I'm one of those romance novelists who write pages of escapism, the kind I shamelessly read when I was a teenager. How else was I supposed to learn about the relationships between males and females? My sisters found their guys quickly, the minute they turned sixteen, which was the age we were allowed to date. Mom figured if we were responsible enough to drive a car, we were old enough to have a boyfriend. But they got their guys so fast that I hadn't had a chance to see how they went about doing it. And they'd refused to give me any pointers, claiming they were looking out for their baby-sister the way Grandma Sparks had told them to do, which I believe was a load of hooey. They were just jealous because I'd developed boobs at the age of twelve and mine were bigger than theirs. I'm still bigger than them, but they're more mature now and don't let it bother them, at least not too much.

My success as a writer irritates them no end, too. Not because they're jealous -- because of the plain and simple reason I was supposed to become a teacher. That had been their plan for me since the day I was born and I was messing up my life because I wasn't following the plan. According to them I would be married and pregnant by now if I'd done what they'd told me to do, which is the reason they're not much help when it comes to my search for the man of my dreams.

"I'll show them," I said out loud as I reached for the juice.

Lady whined questioningly.

"My sisters," I told her. "The man I bid on will be the man I've been looking for all this time and I won't ask either of them to be in my wedding. They don't help me at all. Why should they be part of the fun? Grandma always says when people don't help carry the load they shouldn't reap any part of the gold."

The phone rang and Lady went down on her belly and covered her eyes with her front paws. Another Dave Bryant touch.

"Stay inside and don't go out 'til Monday," Lacey said into my ear when I picked up the receiver and spoke. "While you're at it, maybe you should just stay in bed."

Lacey and Paula are redheads just like Mom. I got Dad's hair and his eyes and his freckles. I even got his build ... other than the boobs. I have no idea where they came from. No woman on either side of the family has ever had anything bigger than AA, and Mom is convinced they resulted from the fact I was born under a full moon.

Anyway, in spite of her hair color, my second oldest sister has always "been" blonde ... the stereotypical blonde like Chrissy, from Three's Company. Lacey believes everything she's told and wouldn't know a bad guy if he was a wearing a sign saying, "Look out! I'm a bad guy!" One time, when she was thirteen, Paula was paying her back for something or other and convinced her our neighbor's newly adopted two-year-old son was a leprechaun. His ears were an odd shape and she told Lacey those were the type of ears leprechauns have. Lacey spent two months trying to get the kid to tell her where his pot of gold was hidden. She would have been at it still today, I have no doubt, if I hadn't overheard her asking him one day and got the whole story from her.

So I was used to hearing her weird and strange pronouncements whenever she called me and was unfazed by this latest announcement.

"Have you been talking to your psycho psychic, again?" I demanded with a giggle as I filled my glass with orange juice.

"Shhh! Don't talk about her that way."

"Lacey, for gosh sakes! The woman is your mother-in-law and she's a nut if ever there was one. Nice, but nutty. Did her shovel talk to her today? Or was it the water hose?"

"Her mirror. She saw a terrible disaster befall you."

"For the third time this week and nothing has happened. Well, if you don't count losing my grocery list. I just know it's the key to finding my toad."

Groaning, she said, "You're one to be talking about Harmonia being nuts!"

"Well, whatever is going to befall me will just have to befall me. I'm not staying inside for the next three days. I want blueberry pancakes. I'm also driving down to Dad's later today. He called last night and asked me to come down."

"But you went down last weekend."

"I know. I think he's got some match-making scheme going."

"Hang on. I'll ask Harmonia if it's safe."


She was gone and I was left listening to the theme of Dark Shadows coming from her TV. She has the whole series on DVD and watches two episodes a day religiously at the same time every morning unless something major comes up.

Harmonia adored Lacey from the moment George took her home after their first date when Lacey was sixteen. She told Lacey right before George was about to bring her back home that she was the one her son was supposed to marry. Her coffee pot told her, just that morning; he would be bringing home the girl he was going to marry that very day. Of course, Lacey did the appropriate thing and adored Harmonia right back. And, after George's dad died last year, Lacey insisted she move into their basement, which they finished out into a very nice apartment. Harmonia tends their garden, spoils her grandchildren, puts together five-thousand piece puzzles, bowls in the park, and is a psychic to anyone and everyone she meets.

Knowing Lacey could be gone anywhere from ten minutes to a day (Harmonia gets on a roll when she's being psychic), I hung up the phone and grabbed my things to head over there. I would keep Harmonia entertained while my sister cooked breakfast.

In case you're wondering, Lacey didn't carry the phone with her because Harmonia doesn't allow phones anywhere near her. She says they interfere with her psychic vibes.

Friday morning, August 10th {Bob}

I was almost late for work Friday morning. I worked pretty late on the current ship, which is a Spanish Galleon that had a lot of intricate detail work on the hull and cabin areas. When I went to bed and set the alarm, Bandit was lying in the middle of the bed, on his back, doing a good imitation of a dying cockroach. He hated to be moved, and wouldn't even begin to listen to me when I told him to move over. He just showed me all those white teeth in his mouth, and let his tongue loll out to the side. Then, when I had to shove him over, he growled at me.

"Knock it off!" I growled back. "This is a people bed. I got you your own bed which, I might add, I could return to the store in unused condition!" The stub of his tail wagged, as if to say that was the way things were supposed to be.

Bandit also hated my alarm clock. So, after I was asleep, and he jumped down off the bed to do his rounds -- he thought he was a guard dog -- he pulled it down with his teeth and danced on the controls. He'd done that before, and had learned that it didn't make that awful noise in the morning if he danced on it long enough.

So, when I woke, refreshed from seven hours of sleep, and realized that it should have only been six, I rushed getting ready and barely made it to work on time. While the company might make tens of thousands of dollars on my work each week, they were pretty picky about me being late. Oddly enough I can leave pretty much whenever I want to, as long as my quota of work is done for the day. Since nobody has the faintest idea whether my work is done or not until I turn in the whole project, I could tell them just about anything and they wouldn't know the difference.

I got to work on the drawing for the new museum the city fathers had decided had to be built. I was working on the cornices for the building, which was way too fancy for this day and age. Just for fun, I made a couple of tiny alterations. When it was built, the cornices would contain some of the design elements of a 16th century Spanish Galleon. I wondered if anybody would ever notice.

Friday morning, August 10th [Chris]

As predicted, The Sisters meeting went nowhere other than over ground I'd seen before and ended up right back where the trip had started ... with one exception. They were putting forth a plan to go to Paris and kidnap Mom to bring her home where they would have Harmonia deprogram her from the spell Mark had obviously cast over her.

If it wasn't for Dad, I'd swear I was adopted.

Letting them know in explicit terms they'd lost their minds, I grabbed up a blueberry pancake and left with their growls ringing in my head. They accused me of rushing off on some hormonal, crazed man-catching scheme while our mother was in the clutches of an obvious gold-digger. I would be lucky if I saw Christmas presents from them this year. This threat washed right over me. I'd been hearing the same thing since I was a kid, when I didn't do whatever it was to please them, and had yet to not receive gifts from them.

As I took a bite of the pancake, I punched the button on my phone for Dad.

"Hey, Sprig," he answered. "Don't tell me you're not coming down."

"Hey, Dad. No, it's not that. I need you to talk to some sense into my sisters. They've completely flaked-out over Mom going to Paris with Mark."

"How bad is it?"

When I told him about their plan, he howled with laughter. "Abbott and Costello Versus Godzilla!"


"Not funny? I thought it was funny."

I had to giggle.

"That's better. Now go home and play with Lady and let me take care of your sisters. By the way, wear your black dress this evening."


He hung up and I discussed ... with my car ... out loud ... the probabilities of him driving me crazy before I reached thirty, as I drove to my AA meeting. My AA meetings take place on Friday mornings in the basement of the Lutheran church a couple of blocks from my house.

No, I'm not an alcoholic, having never touched anything harder than wine, but I began attending the meeting two months ago when I read the success of a couple in one of those true love confession magazines while standing in line at Wal-Mart. The lady decided to attend the meeting at the advice of her mother who said, "Go to an AA meeting. These are all men who are trying to solve a problem in their lives, which takes great strength to deal with. Many of them know what they've already lost, and will treasure what they find with you." It was one of those love-at-first-sight kinds of things at that first meeting and they'd lived happily ever after for the past twenty-years.

Since it worked for her, I figured why not me?

So, I found the meeting at the Lutheran church and made my way there one Friday morning. What I hadn't expected was that, though I didn't have to say anything (not even give my name), I was the only woman in attendance and all the men instantly decided they were my knight on a white horse. That they all cared about me was obvious. Within the first half-hour each one of them encouraged me to introduce myself, and admit I was alcoholic.

Of course, I couldn't do any such thing and, being too embarrassed to admit the real reason I was there, which I doubt they would have believed anyway, I planned to get away during the break where they served donuts and orange juice. I never even made it close to the exit. I was surrounded by fifteen sweet well-meaning married older gentlemen and ended up staying the entire meeting. Not only that, I told them my name was Chris and admitted I was an alcoholic.

I got a standing ovation.

I know I could have stayed away after that first meeting, but I promised them I would come back every week, and when I make a promise I can't not keep it unless it's a life or death situation or an act of nature or something else along those lines. I'd even discussed it with Grandma Sparks to maybe see if it would be okay to get out of it since she's the one who taught us about making promises. She told me that's what I got for lying to begin with and I'd better be a good influence, support and example for those troubled men or she'd paddle my behind every day for the rest of my life.

So, I'm an alcoholic and attend my meetings regularly. I even have a sponsor ... Ed. His name was chosen out of the hat when the men decided that was the only fair way for them to choose a sponsor for me. He's fifty years old and has three grand-children between his daughter and son. He's shown me pictures of them over lunch which we have once a week. They're a really nice-looking family. I've shown him pictures of Lady and of my nieces and nephews.

Ed thinks I'm doing wonderfully, since I never even glance at the wine list at lunch.

I often wonder if my dream toad is going to be able to accept the double life I lead.

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