Yesterday in the mail, I received a copy of the 2013 edition of Emerging Voices, a literary magazine produced by Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff. To my surprise, I discovered that one of my stories was published in this issue. I pasted it below. This was inspired by a news story I heard on NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Enjoy!
JUST MY LUCK
The weekend after I was laid off from my job as a guidance counselor at the local high school, my husband and I went skiing. I took a flying leap off a small hill and landed spread-eagled in the snow, my skis pointing in one direction, my poles in another. My right knee was badly twisted.
On Monday, my birthday, my husband announced that he had out of town business that just couldn’t wait. After promising to return late Friday night and kissing me on the cheek, he was out the door. Here I was with no job, no husband, no one to take care of me. I lay on the couch in the living room and wallowed in self pity, as I watched a mindless game show on television.
The doorbell rang. As I struggled to my feet, picked up my crutches, and hobbled to answer it, I heard a thud followed by a commotion. As I opened the door, I shivered in my bathrobe in the cold winter air and gawked at the sight in front of me. A box of fruit lay torn open on the porch, and pears rolled everywhere, some of them broken. Two guys were punching and yelling obscenities at each other. A UPS truck was parked in my driveway, and a sport utility vehicle stood on the street directly in front of my house. “What’s going on?” I yelled.
The two men stopped and looked at me with sheepish expressions. One of them stuck out his hand. In it was a business card. “Doug Ross, Certified Massage Therapist,” it read.
“Happy birthday,” he said. “Your husband arranged for me to give you a massage today.”
The UPS driver said, “I also have a delivery for you on your birthday. Your husband sent you a subscription to a fruit of the month club.”
“And you guys were fighting over who would make the first delivery?” They looked perplexed and said nothing. “Okay,” I said. “Come in out of the cold, and we’ll talk.”
Still mute, they followed me into the house. I hobbled into the kitchen and started making coffee. The massage therapist put a hand on my shoulder. “Sit down. I’ll do that.”
“I’ll clean up the mess on the porch,” said the UPS driver. “You’ll be reimbursed for what was broken. I’m really sorry.”
A few minutes later, we were drinking coffee and eating pears that weren’t damaged or dirty. “Would one of you guys like to tell me what’s on your mind?” I asked.
The UPS driver shrugged. “Doug and I have been friends for years. A couple of months ago, I met the most incredible woman. I made the mistake of introducing her to Doug. Now, she’s seeing him and wants to break up with me. But you know what, Doug? You can have her. I found someone better.”
“Me too, Brent,” said Doug. “Can we still be friends?”
“Sure,” said Brent, and they shook hands.
For the price my husband paid for one massage, Doug gave me daily treatments with special attention paid to my injured knee. Brent also came every day and brought fresh fruit he’d salvaged from other customers who weren’t home to receive their deliveries.
on Monday night, I called my husband’s cell and wasn’t surprised when a woman answered. “Melanie speaking,” she said.
“I’m sorry. I was trying to reach Charles Redford. I must have the wrong number.”
After that, Doug and Brent took turns spending the night. They gave me more than massages and fresh fruit. Charles never called, and I didn’t try to reach him again.
On Friday evening when they both showed up at the same time, ready for another fight, I said, “Both of you can have me tonight. Let’s get a pizza and watch a movie.”
When Charles walked in late that night, he found the three of us snuggled on the couch in the living room watching Casa Blanca. Doug was rubbing my injured knee, and an open box of oranges stood on the coffee table. As Charles gaped at us open-mouthed, I placed an arm around each of them and said, “Hi honey, did you have a nice time with Melanie? Thank you for the lovely birthday presents.”
In divorce court, Charles told the judge, “If only I’d picked either the massage or the fruit.”
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver