"You hungry? You said earlier we were going out to dinner that night. That means you haven't eaten in a pretty long time. There's a still-warm bucket of KFC and mashed potatoes with gravy near the stove. And some leftover Popeye's shrimp from yesterday in the fridge. Help yourself. Have at it. But tell me, what the hell really happened back then?"
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"Dottie, you've said these events occurred more than four decades ago. That's double my age! And I keep trying to tell you the crash happened less than four or five hours ago. GTO goes bye-bye in blizzard. Wicked lightning and thunder all around me. Boom! Here I am. What more can I say that I haven't already told you? We're going in circles here."
"Some circle, John," she said in a low voice. "But this is February 10th in the year of Our Lord two thousand and ten." Her voice began to rise in frustration and incredulity. "It's the end of the first decade of the Twenty-First Century, for God's sakes!"
John said nothing for several minutes. He noted that her face, though worn by life itself, was still attractive in its mature incarnation. It had retained some of her youthful sparkle. Her hands, however, had become wrinkled, and Dottie frequently walked over to a bottle of Norwegian Formula hand cream and applied it liberally.
Finally, he asked, "What did I miss out on in 1969? Besides my twenty-first birthday, I mean."
"Oh, Lord, there was so much that year. Would you believe we put a man on the moon that summer? And the Beatles had a huge hit, 'Get Back,' one of their last before they called it quits. And those Miracle Mets? They won their first pennant and World Series! Can you believe that?"
"I'd believe men on the moon a lot sooner than the Mets winning anything."
"But it's true. They beat the Orioles, and in five games! Aw, you would have loved it, Johnny."
She wracked her tired brain trying to recall other events from so long ago.
"Well, there was Woodstock - three days of peace, love and music upstate. Free hippie love in the rain and the mud at some guy's farm, but by year's end, the music took a real dark turn at Altamont."
"Altamont? Where's that?"
"I dunno. Out in California somewhere. The Rolling Stones hired the Hell's Angels for security, only to have some poor guy in the audience get stabbed to death. So much for the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
"And you didn't want to be in L.A. when some whacked-out nutcase named Charles Manson and his pals killed actress Sharon Tate andsome others in her house that summer. He's rotting away in the slammer. They'll never let that psycho out."
"Yeah, sounds like I missed a lot." He paused and looked around. "So you're selling this house?"
"After Casey and I hold an estate sale this spring. That's what we've been preparing for. It's my turn to sort through saleable items today. Gosh, the family has lived in this house since I was five. Dad bought it from a little German lady for a great price. But with mom gone now, it's time to put it on the market, depressed as values are these days. Just a year ago, the country almost suffered a second Great Depression, a financial meltdown, what with big risk, wildcat investors and two wars going on. Sure glad Casey and I each have our own Long Island homes out near the old summer place. Paid for in full."
"Miller Place. Near Port Jeff. Yes. You never did get it right, but you remembered."
"I was there with you and your family. Last August."
"August, 1968, dearie," she corrected, her sassy sarcasm perfectly preserved and intact.
"But you said two wars. Laos? Cambodia? We're not done with Vietnam?"
"No, that ended in early '73. We had the World Trade Center, tallest buildings in the city - not built yet when you took a powder. They were destroyed by Arab terrorists on September 11, 2001. Those al-Quida bastards hijacked commercial airliners out of Boston and flew them, no, crashed them into the towers and into the Pentagon. The twin towers imploded. Thousands were killed, more than at Pearl Harbor. We retaliated against them, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq. It was a costly mistake. This new president - our first black one, by the way - hasn't been able to end either conflict begun by the guy before him, and it's costing us trillions."
"I'm...not sure...I want to know any more, Dottie. Not about world affairs, anyway. Glad my number remained so high for the early draft lotteries for 'Nam - but back to your dear mom. My deepest sympathy. I loved that lady almost as much as you. Can't believe she's gone. How old was she at the end?"
"Eighy-eight. A good life. Better after dad passed, though. No one else drank like he did. Except that I need another one now. You?"
John shook his head. "Still waiting for that coffee you promised. Sorry about your dad, too." he took out a small cardboard box with its ubiquitous red and white logo. "Okay if I smoke?"
"I'd prefer that you didn't. The chain-smoking Caseys, father and son - and you, too - did more than their fair share of stinking out this house back in the day. Nearly killed mom and me. And it took me ages to wash wall, windows and TV screens to fumigate the place thoroughly of all that yucky stuff."
Before he could replace the pack in the side pocket of his coat, she asked, "How much did you pay for those? I'm curious."
"Fifty cents. Got 'em this morning from the blind guy who runs the concession stand in the bank building lobby. Why?"
"Know what the same pack costs today?"
"I don't know. Maybe a dollar by now? One-fifty?"
She threw her head back and laughed hard. "Depending on where you go to buy them, try ten or eleven bucks."
"WHAT? For a single pack?"
"Uh-huh. Plus almost ten-percent sales tax on top of that."
"Guess I'll be giving 'em up cold turkey mighty damn fast if I have to stay here. No matter how decent insurance salaries are, I wouldn't be able to afford those prices..."
[To be con't.]
Copyright © 2010 James D. Young