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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Kiki Lowenstein and the Bad Day (Final Installment)



Note: I asked my Facebook peeps to suggest starting sentences for a Kiki Lowenstein short story. There were so many terrific ideas that I have decided to try to incorporate more than one –and write a progressive short story. You'll be reading this as I create it! Wish me luck!

Note: This short story comes before Ready, Scrap, Shoot—and Kiki is six weeks pregnant.

Summary: In last four weeks’ installments—Kiki walked into Time in the Bottle only to discover papers scattered everywhere. Detective Chad Detweiler arrived to pronounce the store “safe,” but Kiki’s still wondering what’s up. Her co-worker Margit has shown up and reminded Kiki that she needs a great idea for May to boost their sales. As she’s pondering what to do, Teresa Alvarez stops in to drop off a gift for Kiki. Teresa is planning to become a US citizen on May 5, but her joy is diminished because her cousin Juanita cannot afford the increased fees for citizenship applications. Seeking to change the subject, Kiki opens her present, which includes white chocolate tamales and several cascarones, the brightly colored eggs used to celebrate the arrival of Spring. When Juanita leaves, Kiki is still stuck with her original problem. She needs to create a special event and use up all the shredded paper found in the backroom. Plus, now she’s pondering how to raise money to help Teresa’s sister Juanita, who wants to apply for citizenship.

By the way, you can read Installments #1, 2, 3 and 4 by going to older posts on this blog.


          Detweiler came by as I was leaving work. His dad had asked him to drive over to the farm because he needed help with his new computer, and of course, he was willing to go with my blessing. I stood there, hugging him, just looking into his eyes and wondering what he sees.*
           My daughter Anya called to ask if she could spend the night at her grandmother’s house because she wanted to watch The Game of Thrones on Sheila’s big screen TV.
          “That leaves you and me, girlfriend,” I told Gracie, my Great Dane.
          Since he’s moved in, Detweiler has done most of the cooking, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that all we had in the refrigerator were six uncooked eggs, a potato, a few broccoli florets, and an onion. He’s such a fresh-freak that he buys whatever he’s cooking on his way to the house. I’m a last minute, if-it-slows-down-I’ll-eat-it, sort of girl.
          Studying the eggs, I thought about the cascarones. After washing a craft knife, I opened one end of the shells and dumped the yolks and whites into a bowl. Next I rinsed the eggshells out and set them aside to dry in the Styrofoam egg carton.
          Then I made myself a frittata and went to bed.
          I ate the leftovers the next day for breakfast. I just knew that this day was going to be different; I could feel it in my heart! ** I still hadn’t conjured up a great idea for our store, but I was in a pretty good mood when Gracie and I arrived at Time in a Bottle. All that changed in the blink of an eye when I discovered yet another pile of shredded paper. 
“Woof!” Gracie shot across the backroom floor, jerking her leash out of my hands.
“What on earth?” I ran after her, noting as I did that the entire floor was covered with torn papers.
“Woof! Woof!” She danced and pranced on her hind legs, pawing at the metal shelf units. From the top shelf, a gray head with bright brown eyes peered at us. A squirrel! And he was not happy we’d invaded his territory.
I went over to the desk in Dodie’s office and called Critter Control. Once I explained the problem, they promised to send a man over right away. “Do not engage the rodent, ma’am. Leave him to us.”
“You aren’t going to kill it, are you?” I rubbed my baby bump as tears prickled behind my eyes. Gosh, but hormones make me weepy.
The dispatcher assured me that they had a catch and release program.
After convincing Gracie that a dog yummy was a far, far better treat than raw squirrel on the run, I walked her to the front of the store and turned on my computer. Drat. Now I had more shredded paper to contend with, a bill coming for squirrel removal, and no idea how to entertain my scrapbookers.
So I piddled around on the Internet, deciding to look up the history of cascarones. There I learned that the idea is thought to have been brought from Asia by Marco Polo. The trinkets were filled with perfume and to have one broken over your head is supposed to be “good luck.” Typically these activities are enjoyed at Easter.
But every custom can be revised to fit the times, can’t it? I wondered to myself. By the time I let Barney, the Critter Control guy, into our backroom, I had the inkling of a plan.
#
“Wow! A Cinco de Mayo party! What a brilliant crop idea!” said Bonnie Gossage, my dear pal and sometimes legal counselor.
“Actually, this is the pre-party,” I admitted. “We’re going to fill the empty eggshells with homemade confetti.”
I’d enlisted the help of five of my best customers for this job. They sat next to me at my work table awaiting instructions. Over the past few weeks, I’d begged everyone to empty their eggs gently, rinse out the shells, and drop them off at the store in their egg cartons. Eventually I collected twenty-five dozen eggshells. Detweiler and I colored them at home and let them dry. I gathered a variety of punches and a stack of papers, the same papers that had once been damaged by the squirrel. (For cleanliness sake, I’d simply cut off the yucky parts, sprayed them with Lysol, and ta-da! Clean, fresh paper. Or so I hoped!)
Bonnie, Julie Essler, Angie Folger, Jennifer Moore, and Lisa Brunswick had agreed to help me punch the papers into bits of confetti. Once we had a nice pile of bits, we spooned the confetti into our eggs and passed them along to a card table where Anya and Nicci Moore, Jennifer’s daughter, smoothed and glued bits of tissue paper over the open ends.
Into ten of the eggs, I carefully inserted a lottery ticket. Into another ten, there were coupons for discounts and five received gift certificates.
All in all, the assembly took about three hours, probably because we were having so much fun.
“See you all tomorrow!” I said as I escorted my friends to the front door.

#

What a grand time we had the next night! Twenty-four customers paid $25 a person to come to our special crop. In exchange for their money, they received supplies for a “make and take” scrapbook project, and five cascarones each. They could purchase additional cascarones for a dollar each. I’d priced out the “make and take” projects so that they wouldn’t cost a lot, but there are always expenses and overhead that must be considered, so I thought that giving a portion to Teresa was still fair.
Of course, the $25 fee also included a great meal! I made chocolate tamales for all our guests, Teresa brought two pots of her special Mexican rice, and Clancy made the fixings for tacos. For drinks, I bought margarita flavored Crystal Lite and iced tea. I ate until I thought my tummy would burst.
At the start of the crop, I had announced that half our proceeds would go to pay for Juanita’s citizenship application. An hour into the evening, we’d sold all the cascarones! We had more than enough for Juanita’s application, so I was able to announce that Time in a Bottle was also donating an additional $100 to Juanita to help with her expenses.
“But remember, everyone. You have to promise not to smash your egg until midnight,” I told them. Every hour that went by, the anticipation grew. My customers were eager to see if they’d won a gift certificate or a lottery ticket. I’ll admit it was almost as much fun as Christmas because each woman had a white bowl heaped high with the brightly colored eggshells.
I’d set six alarm clocks to go off at the stroke of midnight. Clang-clang-clang! What a clatter they made.
My customers began to giggle as they slapped their eggshells onto their own foreheads and later onto the heads of their neighbors.
Of course, Clancy and I got into the act, too. I slapped a blue egg against the crown of her head. Brightly colored confetti and a lottery ticket floated down.
“Woohooo!” she yelled. “My turn!”
And with great glee she smashed an egg against my head. To my shock, a cold gooey trickle slid down my forehead and dripped off my face.
“What?” I jumped up from my chair. “Clancy! How could you!”
She stuck her tongue out at me. “Got you back for that April Fool’s joke!”
Two dozen cameras clicked at once. My customers had been in on the prank!
Argh. But I had to laugh. This crop had started with a very, very bad day—and it was ending with a fun night. Egg-sactly what I’d hoped for!
--The End--
Thanks to:
*Dru Ann Love
**Pamela Hargraves

2 comments:

Dru said...

Loved it. Did you know how it was going to end? Were you surprised?

Joanna Slan said...

No, I had no idea the final direction it would take! It was a challenge to weave together all the separate ideas and make it still read like a Kiki story.