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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
Puzzle Pieces Image

Bee Meyer

13625 Southwest 79th Court

Miami, Florida  33158

 

I THINK YOU'RE JUST WONDERFUL, TOODLES!

[circa 1972]

 

 

     Lu's voice was wired for complaint.  It was low but it came through her nose and the pins in her mouth at the same time.  "Turn around," she said.  "Can't get the length right if you keep jiggling."

 

     I turned, resigned.  "I told her," she said, taking up from something she had been mumbling, "I told her for once and for all if she leaves this time I ain't leavin' the door open for her ta come back."

 

     I didn't ask who "she" was. I figured it had to be either her daughter Vonnie or her sister-in-law, Toodles.  I waited.  "Getting so he couldn't keep his hands offa her," she said through the pins.

 

     I had to ask who.  "Who?" Lu snorted.  "I toldcha.  Toodles is gonna marry him."

 

     I started to laugh.  I laughed so hard Lu got so mad at me she put the yardstick down and sat there on the floor with her big heavy legs stretched out wide in front of her.  I reached for my handkerchief, sneezed, coughed and started laughing again.  I couldn't stop.  It was wonderful.

 

     "He couldn't keep his hands of her?  How old is he?"

 

     "I know for sure he's younger than she is,"  Lu mumbled.  "Anybody can see that.  Even he knows it but it don't matter.  He's nuts about her."

 

     "That would make him about seventy three or four?"

 

     "Oh, I s'pose."

 

     "When did she meet him?"

 

     I was holding still enough now so that Lu could lean her yardstick against me and go on with her pinning.  Her mouth was full again so I missed some of the details but there were still enough to go on.

 

     "There we were....an' I kept wantin' to go home but you know that Toodles.  My God.  She can out drink anybody anywhere and her no bigger than Claude.  On his death bed that man said to me, "Now you be nice to Toodles," as if I had to be told that.  The day I married Claude I sure got me a couple of babies.  Between him and his sister I never knew what was what.  And she not bein' able to fix up a piece of toast for her own breakfast, even.  I hadda get her up early this mornin' counta your fittin' and you think she'd move faster than a snail?  Not much she'd move." 

 

     I heard some voices in the kitchen now.  There had been a kind of steady talking going on but I hadn't paid much attention to it.  Then from the kitchen I heard one of the women's voices cry out, "I could just die, honest I could, from bein' so happy for you, Mrs. Warehouse.  And you without a home and all, gettin' such a fine man who'll give you a home and all."  The voice broke into heavy sobs and I could hear the lighter voice pick up.  "Then you'll buy the piano won't you honey and we can get it moved over to your house just as easy as easy."

 

     "Listen to that, " Lu grumbled, pinning so hard she jabbed my leg.

 

     "Ouch." I said.

 

     "Sorry," she said which she wasn't at all.  "I hadda get that two-faced neighbor of mine over to have breakfast with Toodles.  She won't eat when she's alone, just pokes around gettin' up and down and sippin' on her coffee....drinks it black as sin...and I tole her, Toodles, you gotta keep your strength up you're gettin' such a good man and all.  And he sellin' his big ole house over there in town on account of she won't want to live there but in an apartment.  And what he'll do with his power saw poor man I don't know.  I tole him he could bring it over here and put it down in my basement, case he wanted to come over and do some sawin' which for God's sake he won't do in that apartment basement I'll tell you that much."

 

     "Now you go right along, " heard Toodles say.  "I'll call the moving man over and he'll run that piano over to you light and easy as can be and you might as well pay me in cash for it, since it isn't costing you very much really, you might say."

 

     The tearful voice went on.  "Oh, you dear thing, Mrs. Warehouse, you.  And I'll be so glad, I'll be so glad to have something which belongs to you.  I'll be able to look at it and think of you singin' your heart out night and day.  I'll miss you so havin' you next door like this, I'll just die, that's what.  You always have something real fun to say or do, I'll say that for you, Mrs. Warehouse.  There you are bereft, you might say, and plain......"

 

     The back door slammed and Lu looked up at me.  "Bereft!" she bit the word off sharp as a snap at a thread.

 

     Toodles Warehouse came into the living room.  Her cerise corduroy housecoat was neatly buttoned up to her thin little neck.  She was wearing dark glasses.  She peered at me and grinned.  Still has her own teeth, I thought.  I grinned back at her.

 

     "Heard some wonderful news about you, " I said.

 

     She laughed.  "Honest," she said.  "I don't know which way is what.  I'm just goin' around in circles."  She prances, almost on toetips.  I'm short, but Toodles is no taller.  But she's slim.  Not thin.  Slim.  She has a real cute figure.  Going on seventy-seven, which is what she admits, let alone wit Lu says she is, but pranced around that living room, her housecoat swinging around her, pranced around on the tips of her toes and grinned at me.

 

     "Can't see a damned thing in the morning," she said.  "Might as well be blind so I wear these dark glasses to excuse myself for not seein' but I don't fool myself.  I just blame don't see.  Oh, it's you," she said, finally focusing on me.

 

     "I said, I hear you're to be congratulated," I repeated.

 

     She sighed.  "Honest," she said.  "I don't know as if I should bring myself to marry that man, but I'm going to anyway.  I've just got to sacrifice myself whether I love him or not because it's the only chance I have to get a real good home and home care for myself."

 

     Lu snorted through her pins and nose.

 

     "Now Lu," Toodles said, "It's not that I'm not grateful to you.  I know I can keep on living with you as long as my money holds out but how long will that be, I'd like t know.  And you can't say I'm getting top dollar Social Security, exactly, either."

 

     "You keep buyin' cocktails in those downtown bars," Lu said, "and it sure won't be long fore you don't have a dime.  Not a single red cent."

 

     Toodles sat down at the piano and struck a treble chord.  "I don't know as I can keep teaching piano forever," she said, "Although I will say I made quite a hit at that TV station.  They had me back four times.  Did you see me?"

 

     "No," I admitted.  "What did you do?"

 

     "Well, they'd heard about how I'd been in show business with my husband all our lives and they asked me over to that noontime treasure chest program or whatever it is and I sang and played for them.  Well, I really didn't sing exactly, but I kind of talked and played.  Want to hear?"

 

     "I certainly do."

 

     Toodles adjusted her robe.  She flung her head back.  She began to play the piano.  It was good, too.  Corny but good.  Clear and clean and a good, strong positive beat.  And she began reciting soulfully in rythmn to the music, "I met you there.....in my garden.....and you were tall and stong.....I knew I was going to love you, but not for so long...."

 

     I looked down at Lu.  She had stopped pinning my skirt and was looking up at Toodles.  Her eyes were shining with pleasure.  When she caught me looking at her she pinked a little and said, "Well, she is pretty good, you hafta admit that."

 

     "She certainly is."

 

     "For goin' on seventy-seven," Lu siad.  "She's sure pretty good."

 

     "She's not only good," I said, "She's phenomenal."

 

     Toodles was finishing her song, now, her chords growing heavier and fuller for the grand finale.  "But you broke my heart....and left [me] there.....in my garden....in my garden chair....and I'll wait there still...with gray skies above, for you are my only.....my only......"

 

     "I'm through with you now," Lu said to me.

 

     "My only l-o-o-o-o-o-o-v-e,  Lu Foley, for heavens sake, can't you keep quiet when I'm playing?"

 

     "Oh my gosh," Lu said, "I'm sorry Toodles.  I was just tellin' Bee she was through for now."

 

     Toodles turned around.  Her eyes were happy when she took her dark glasses off to wipe them with the hem of her robe.  "How'd you like that?" she asked.

 

     "I think you're wonderful, Toodles."

 

     She sighed.  "That's just what Bill keeps saying.  Well.  I hope so.  But sometimes I just wonder if I ought to give up everything for him.  Except for the fact he keeps talkin' love, love love.  Imagine."  She grinned.

 

     "Toodles," I said.  "Why don't you write down the secret of your charm and sex appeal in a book.  I'd buy the first copy.  If ever I though I'd could have a man fall so madly in love with me at seventy-seven, I wouldn't worry so much about being sixty."

 

     "Well," Toodles said, sympathizing with me.  "The sixties aren't so easy at that.  Not old enough to be excused for bein' a damned fool, and not young enough to have too many chances to be one."  She loved that.  She slapped her thigh and guffawed.  "How about that, Lu, remind me to quote myself!"

 

     I wasn't quite as amused as she was.  After all, there was a little difference between sixty and seventy-seven.  At least I would have thought so with anybody but Toodles.  But she crossed the years with no effort whatever.

 

     "The point is," Toodles said, "When I was in my sixties I still had Fred and we were still makin' music together.  Sure it wasn't big time anymore, the way it was when we used to play the Guss Sonheim circuit and the Orpheum and all the big time.  You never caught our show at the Orpheum in New York?"  "Sorry," I said.  And I was.

 

     "But later, we got a lot of jobs around home, up in Minnesota -- Fred with his violin and me with my harp."

 

     "What happened to your harp?"

 

     "I sold it.  Lu said there wouldn't be enough room for it here."

 

     "I did not, Toodles Warehouse and you know it!" Lu scrambled to her feet and stood at her full five feet ten inches.  She was big all over.  Big breasted and soft, big boned, too.  She loomed hugely over Toodles.  Toodles look up at her bright as a bird.  "Lu Foley, you know darned well you didn't want that harp in the house."

 

     "Well," Lu said, scooping up the skirt I was dropping to the floor.  "I just said that when I was havin' so much hell on earth with Claude sick and all, that the harp in here made it seem like he was already in another world and I sure didn't feel like I was in heaven, I'll tell you that."

 

     Toodles laughed.  "That Lu," she said affectionately.  "Wouldn't you think she could run up a wedding dress for her poor sister-in-law?"

 

     "Wedding dress?"  Lu was indignant.  "For the land's sake, I ain't even had the time to turn up the hem of my ensemble which I gotta wear to the weddin' on account of I had to fix up your going away outfit.  Where in the world are you going away to, anyway?"

 

     "I am going away from this house where I have been a paying guest to the best of my ability," Toodles said somewhat frostily.  "And I am going away over to my new apartment, that's what."

 

     "Paying!  When you get around to it.  Now and then."  Lu was picking up pins, bending and grunting from the effort.  "Paying, nothing!  And so far's it bein' your apartment, it sure will be your apartment.  That poor Bill won't know what hit him.  And wait till he finds out you can't cook for sour apples."

 

     "Fred used to do everything for me," Toodles said dreamily.

 

     Lu grunted.  "Even washed her stockings."

 

     "He sure did," Toodles said.  "And he used to buy me those black stockings with clocks on, embroidered clocks in white, you know.  He sure liked to see me wear those black stockings.  When other men looked back after me, he'd pat me and say, "You're my girl."

 

     "Pat you nothin'" Lus said.  "He used to wham you on your rump and you know it."

 

     "I know it," Toodles sighed.  "Fred was all the man I ever wanted.  In or out of bed.  And now here I am marrying poor old Bill."

 

     "Old is it? Lu said.  "He's a lot younger than you are."

 

     "Younger isn't years, "Toodles said crisply.  "Younger is as younger does I choose to remind you and Bill is old.  Well, anyway, older."

 

     "He sure ain't very old when it comes to puttin' his hands on ya."

 

     "Oh, I know it."  Toodles shrugged, irresistible.  "Well, it isn't as if I have brought myself to tell him I love him.  I won't do that.  I will not be unfaithful to the memory of my dear Fred.  The Warehouses...Songs and Dances."

 

     "Did you really dance too?"

 

     "Well, not so you could really call it that, but we had to have something up on the boards and we didn't just want to call ourselves The Warehouses, Songs and Instruments. That would have been too stiff."

 

     "That Fred could sure play a mean fiddle."

 

     "Lu Foley, when will you learn to say violin?"

 

     "I learned how years ago.  Fred fiddled."

 

     Toodles got up from the piano bench, took a look at herself in the living room mirrow and said, "Ugh.  I sure have to get my hair fixed this morning.  I've got a beauty shop appointment downtown in an hour."

 

     "Can't expect miracles," Lu said, picking up the pieces of cloth on the floor.

 

     "Oh, Lu," Toodles said as she minced in her light light steps toward her room.  "You just wait till you get married again.  You'll see how light headed you'll be."

 

     "That'll be the day," Lu said.  "I don't want hide nor hair of any man anywhere anytime.  I had enough, takin' care of your brother."

 

     Toodles poked her head back into the room.  "He sure loved you, Lu, and you know it."

 

     Lu looked pleased.  "Well, he always said he did.  But he was a little old for me, you'll have to admit that."

 

     "There wasn't no more than thirty years difference between you and Claude, "Toodles said.  "No, that's true," Lu sighed.

 

     Toodles shut her door and I started dressing.  "When are they being married, then?"

 

     Lu sat down heavily and picked up her basting needle.  "Oh, it'll be two weeks this Saturday, I guess, although how she'll get everything picked up and outa here, I don't know.  It ain't as if she was gettin' so much hope she pays him back for it somehow, poor fellow."

 

     "Why do you say that?"

 

     "Because you know how a man is -- he likes his own place and his power saw and such things and to do his own lawn....and there's that old house he's been livin' in since the year one, and she didn't want no part of it so he hasta sell it and bring her over to a little bird-cage apartment and what he'll do with his time I have no idea."

 

     "He can always come over here and use his power saw," you said.

 

     "Yes, he can do that."  Lu sighed.  "I told him he was sure welcome."

 

     "Is he a nice man, Lu?"

 

     "You could say he's a real nice man.  Soft spoken and quiet.  What he sees in her though....and she not willin' to do nothin' for him...next thing you know he'll be washin' her stockings, maybe black stockin's with embroidery in 'em."  Lu looked down ruefully at her own heavy legs.  "Honest to God I wear I got to lose some weight but how I can do that and do everything else I hafta do around here I don't know."

 

     I pulled on my dress and Lu sighed.  "That's a real good lookin' dress to this day," she said.  "Wish I had time to make myself one like that.  Like I tole you when I finished it, I ain't never gonna finish a stich for myself but why I should I don't know when for heaven's sake I don't go no where or do nothing, except maybe play a round of bridge or go over to Blackie's for a drink with the girls."

 

     "You're going out more," I said.

 

Copyright Issues

 

This article is copyright, all rights reserved by the author, Bee Baxter Meyer.  It may be reproduced in single copy once for personal use, and in no more than ten copies total for educational purposes.  Fair Use is authorized for all purposes and under conditions established by US Statute and the International Copyright Convention, to which the United States is a signatory nation.  No person shall publish, distribute, copy, or by other means make this material available to others for purposes of personal gain or professional self-aggrandizement.  Individuals wishing permission to exercise other than fair use or limited distribution as outlined above must contact the author, in writing, and receive explicit written permission from the author prior to engaging in further use of this material.

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