I Never Kissed Judy Garland
And Other Tales of Romance
Michael A. Kechula
(Free sample story from the I Never KISSED JUDY GARLAND collection)
Copyright May 2010 by Michael A. Kechula, all rights reserved.
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This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations are
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COFFEE AT DENNY'S
Tammy was ancient history. So, why did I suddenly get light-headed when Mom called to say she'd found an old prom picture of Tammy and me? And why did my stomach knot when mom remarked how cute we looked together? After all, that prom was a million years ago.
"Do you want me to send it? Now that she's thirteen, Lisa might get a kick out seeing what her daddy looked like, back in his puppy-love days."
Puppy love? Puppies couldn't do what Tammy and I'd done when Mom had to tend to her sick sister, leaving me home alone. It took Clorox and elbow grease to remove evidence of Tammy's first time from my sheets.
"Throw the prom picture away, Mom."
"But Eddie, it's part of your history."
"So's the time I broke my arm. Not to mention my kidney stone seven years ago when I was thirty-five."
"I'll just keep it," she said. "Someday you'll want it."
I could visualize her waving her finger when she added, "You aren't getting any younger, you know. One day, all you'll have is memories. And then you'll be looking for all your old pictures--including this one. Mark my words."
If I'd marked all the words Mom told me to over the years, I'd have filled a hundred volumes, by now.
Why did mom have to bring up Tammy? And why did I get such powerful reactions when her name was mentioned? After all, she broke it off a quarter of a century ago. What was going on with me? Was it because I was so lonely since my wife died?
Losing my wife was difficult for me, but more so for our daughter, Lisa. She was five at the time, and needed a mommy. I did all I could, but a dad can't replace a mom. Yeah, I could cook, tidy up the house, run the dishwasher, and handle the washer and dryer. Yeah, I taxied Lisa everywhere. Yeah, I could give her all my fatherly love and attention, take her places, give her things, joke around. But that didn't fill the gap left by the train wreck.
I'd lie awake wondering how things would be when Lisa got older. When the time came, how would I explain about her approaching womanhood? The sudden appearance of hair in private places, the budding chest, buying sanitary napkins for her at the supermarket--how does a single dad deal with such things? It hadn't been easy explaining when she turned seven that I couldn't wash her back anymore when she bathed. Try explaining father-daughter modesty to your little sweetie-pie, when she looks at you crestfallen, asking "Why Daddy?"
I prayed hard, asking for strength and wisdom to do everything right, so my daughter would grow up well adjusted. I also begged God to send me another Eve.
It was one of those times I went to church to pray, that I ran into Tammy. Talk about long shots! Who'd believe that after not seeing her for twenty-five years, I'd walk right into her in the church vestibule?
We stared at each other for a few moments. Then we were hugging.
Stepping outside, we chattered like chipmunks. Then more talk over pie and coffee at Denny's. Damn she looked good! And somehow it seemed as if I'd just seen her yesterday.
My insides flopped and fluttered. Her ringless fingers heightening my expectations. I had the uncanny feeling my prayers had finally been answered, and the woman, whose mouth was indigo from blueberry pie, was my Eve.
"Do you remember the time we got stuck for an hour on top of the Ferris wheel at Atlantic City?" I asked.
She laughed. "How could I ever forget? I still talk about it, and how it started to pour. The lightening scared me the most."
"Yeah, me too. I played macho-man, but prayed like hell."
"Well, your prayers worked. We're still here and laughing about it."
"Remember that night at my house," I said, "when we had to clean the sheets with Clorox?"
She stiffened. "Please. Let's not talk about that."
I didn't get it. I figured she'd relish the memory of our fumbling, first time. If she were to be my Eve, there'd be plenty more in our future to make up for my years of abstinence.
"Why shouldn't we talk about those times? It was wonderful for me---you know?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Eddie. I thought you knew."
"That I'm a..."
The waitress tripped and piles of dishes crashed on the floor.
"What did you say? I couldn't hear with all that noise."
Face flushed, she said it again.
"What do you mean by that?"
"I don't know how else to explain it. You know what a nun is." She said.
"You mean with vows and all?"
"But where's your ring? Don't all nuns wear a ring to show they're married to God?"
"I can't wear it. Irritates my skin. The Bishop gave me dispensation."
My head spun, my stomach got queasy. Somehow I managed, "I'm sorry, Tammy...uh...Sister Tammy. I really didn't know."
"It's Sister Marie Louis Ignatius. For twenty years. Little Sisters of the Poor. Been overseas most of that time. Africa. Now I work in Haiti. They sent me here for a while. My mom's terminal. Afterward, I'll return to Haiti."
Tammy wasn't Eve. It didn't seem right, somehow. I'd have to start all over again.
I wished her well. We hugged awkwardly, then she was gone.
Well, it was a long shot, anyway. After twenty-five years, even if she weren't a nun, we probably wouldn't have done well together. She had her baggage, I had mine. We probably would've argued. Lisa might not've liked her. A hundred things came to mind, reminding me how much better my life was without her.
Then I passed a billboard advertising Clorox.
That's when I came apart.
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