How Hard Could It Be?

For two car-deficient broads to burn rubber on Beach Road?

Holly Nadler with her son Charlie, standing; Trina Mascott (Holly's mom) behind the wheel of the Fiat Cinquecento. (Photos by Michael Cummo)

As a citizen of Martha’s Vineyard, I live car-free. I avoid the term car-less because that implies a lack. Homeless, brainless, like that. Ever since the fall of 2001, when my yellow Dodge Dart died and I put it on the barge of defunct junk that leaves the Packer wharf, I have cycled and ridden the buses, and I walk. I walk a lot.

Holly on the Cinquecento.
Holly on the Cinquecento.

It helps that I don’t go out much. Tell me about a wonderful potluck supper in Chilmark with Venetian maskmakers and Tanzanian giraffe wranglers, and I’ll suddenly recall I’ve got to read Chapter 7 of “The Brothers Karamazov,” a book I’ve been meaning to revisit since my sophomore year in college, and that I’ll probably re-finish during my last gasps at Windemere.

So when my mother comes to stay for her month of sea breezes after the scorched-earth policy of a Palm Desert August, she mostly falls in with my plan of living la vie sans voiture. But alas, this 94-year-old woman still lusts after a car, specifically a car with herself in the driver’s seat, so she can chew up the macadam like the little old lady from Pasadena — cue the Beach Boys: She drives real fast and she drives real hard, she’s the terror of Colorado Boulevard.

The only reason she’s spared speeding tickets is that cops are beguiled by the date of birth itemized on her license. “This can’t be your age!” they guffaw, forgetting she just whizzed through a stop sign, and moreover, clunked it hard enough to turn it the wrong way.

During our first few summers together, my mom begged, borrowed, and even rented cars from people hoping to sell but willing instead to take the short money.

Surviving the drive, near the Inkwell.
Surviving the drive, near the Inkwell.

But now that I live smack in the middle of Oak Bluffs, it’s easy to walk everywhere, and to catch the bus below Ocean Park, and be driven to worlds beyond worlds. For a while now my mother has bided her vacation time without any car whatsoever, until —

Until last weekend when her grandson Charlie, now living in New York, proposed a 23-hour furlough to come see her. Suddenly we had to rent a car. A car you could hug — my own stipulation — a Smart car, a Mini Cooper, a go-cart. My mom paid a call to that rental place at Five Corners and came up with — ta dah! — a Fiat Cinquecento.

We knew these cars from 1960 when our family lived in Rome and everyone-but-everyone had a Cinquecento. Think of an automobile smaller than a VW Bug. Now picture 9 million of these things buzzing around the Piazza del Popolo at one o’clock in the afternoon. And what happened if you crossed over to the next piazza — the one with the fettucine Alfredo joint? Same thing; another 9 million Cinquecenti.

Once, as we entered a tiny cobbled lane in the ancient city, a gray Cinquecento swooped past us close enough to flatten our toes. My dad lifted his right foot and kicked a hole in the rear flank of the car. The driver screeched to a stop, got out, and made the customary death threats. My dad hustled us into a shop of Florentine leather goods, down the basement steps, up a ladder, and into the safety of an alley with drifts of people’s laundry.

So what did we do this past weekend with this white Cinquecento, with a top that peeled down, insuring a cannoli-sized tan on our heads? Also on the funky side, the drive gear gave us an illusory frisson of wielding a stick shift: As the car rolled, the engine whined like a manual transmission’s, so we tapped the gear. The engine smoothed, until five seconds later it required another tappity-tap-tap. (Later, when Charlie arrived, he demonstrated a place where the drive gear could hang out on full automatic.)

Italian engineering! Cue “Volare”: Nel blu dipinto di blu tap tap!

So what did we do? Errands! A run to the Tisbury Farm Market for Marvin Jones’s guacamole! A dash to the library to return books! Come night, we scanned the paper for a movie: nothing of interest to anyone who’d made it by hook or by crook out of the ninth grade. But what’s this? A Buddhist speaker at the Yoga Barn in Chilmark?!

Off we went. My mom tried to bluster her way out of removing her shoes. I blew my cool by revealing to all and sundry that we decided on this talk for lack of a good movie.

By Day Two, car ownership — however temporary — lost its magic. We drove to Edgartown to dine at the Seafood Shanty, found NOT ONE parking spot, not even way-the-heck down on South Water Street, nor under the shaggy magnolia of an unused church parking lot. Back we circled to the edge of town. We enjoyed a stop ‘n shop at the — golly! what a coincidence — Stop ‘n Shop, before looping up to the airport to collect Charlie (I could swear my mom negotiated the roundabout with her eyes closed).

It was, admittedly, a treat to drive to Vineyard Haven for our last-ever dinner at the soon-to-be-closing Le Grenier. The next morning we “wasted” our car by walking to breakfast at Beetlebung in Oak Bluffs. After that we drove Signore CinqueC. to East Chop to pay respects to our past which includes, over the fence from our old house, the burial spot for our old trusty cocker spaniel.

We dropped Charlie at the ferry, where I restrained myself from wrapping my arms around his ankle as he shuffled off to the boat.

Our final pilgrimage took us to the sweeping view beyond the West Chop Lighthouse where my mom and dad, when they used to visit in the fall, renting both a Tashmoo condo and some clunker car, came to sit and stare at the Sound, the whole time discussing what they’d have for lunch.

Was it worth it? The use of a car that enabled us to do a gazillion things in 48 hours? You bet! But once the novelty wore off, the nuisance factor kicked in: parking, gas, traffic, parking. Two days of driving every 12 months is really all you need to feel truly alive.

Now where did I put “The Brothers Karamazov”?

Singing in German and smiling at triumph.

Holly Nadler joined opera professionals (from left, in red sweater) Erika Person, Nora Graham Smith, Sarah Callinan and Glenn Seven Allen. — Photo by Susan Safford

It defies credibility how I get into these jams. For my next How Hard challenge I signed up to take a workshop for aspiring performers of all types, to be taught by internationally revered choreographer and opera director Wendy Taucher of New York and Martha’s Vineyard. I planned to kick-start a monologue in the Spalding Grey tradition (meaning you get to sit at a desk and read from index cards) about me and, um, Anne Frank. (I know, it’s a stretch, but give me time).

Michael Fennelly and Kelly Crandell.
Michael Fennelly and Kelly Crandell.

You’d think that was scary enough, but Wendy emailed me: “Why don’t you come rehearse with some opera singers? We’re gearing up for ‘The Magic Flute.’ Wouldn’t you love to be an opera performer for an afternoon?”

Well, no. Of course, like everyone, I fantasize about opening my mouth and having a rich coloratura emerge, “Il dolce suono…” Who among us who taps “play” for an Opera Hits CD doesn’t, in the privacy of her own home, fling out her arms and allow Cecilia Bartoli to open all the stops?

And yet Wendy issued the invitation as if I could sing.

Here’s a conclusive story about how I unequivocally cannot sing: It was 1968 at the Pasadena Playhouse where I was taking two of my many gap years to study theater arts. A scout for a musical rep company in Laguna caught me in “Twelfth Night” and tried to recruit me.

I shook my head. “I can’t sing.”

“Anybody can sing!” she chirped, offering to drive up to Pasadena weekly to give me lessons.

After the first session, she plunked down the piano lid, and announced, “You can’t sing!”

Holly discusses details of "The Magic Flute" with  Erika Person, one of the "ladies" of the opera.
Holly discusses details of “The Magic Flute” with Erika Person, one of the “ladies” of the opera.

So what was I doing in a rehearsal hall tucked down a long West Tisbury lane, as I came upon Wendy, an upright piano presided over by a tall bespectacled man named Kelly Crandell, another man with a baton, musical director Michael Fennelly, and three gorgeous young women who Wendy introduced to me thusly:

“These are the Three Ladies of ‘Flute’ [as they call it in the biz]. We’re adding you as the Fourth Lady. Ready?”

“I-I can’t sing!” I gasped.

Michael escorted me to the piano. “Let’s just see about that.”

If the following events appear like antic farce where people pop in and out of ungodly situations — just as they do in “Flute” — that’s exactly how it happened: How else do you get a hapless non-singer to participate?

A page of music was spread before me on the piano top, with lyrics highlighted in yellow. Gristly, unreadable German words. Ach du liebe!

The Four Ladies of The Magic Flute.
The Four Ladies of The Magic Flute.

The ladies crowded round with smiling faces: Sarah Callinan, petite, with copper-red hair in a bun, eyes jade green, dressed in a lacy dress over black leggings; Erika Person, with black bangs, wearing a long-sleeved red silk blouse over black leggings; and Nora Graham-Smith, with to-die-for halfway-down-her-back dark blond curly tresses, herself in a black and white polka-dot blouse and, surprise!, black leggings.

Like all elite opera stars, they had studied German, Italian and French, and now they articulated the line we’d be trilling: Strib, ungeheurt, durch unsre Macht! For the uninitiated that means, “Die, monster, through our power.” Say what?

I hadn’t been forced to sing yet (drat! where was that cyanide capsule that spies of the Cold War era used to tuck inside a molar?), but now, just speaking these words was agonizing. Sarah, Erika, and Nora enunciated each syllable sounding like Klingons translating some impossible Earth lingo, all the while beaming at me as if I could now deliver this line as snappily as I could, “Jingle bells, jingle all the way!”

Kelly rumbled the piano keys, nodding at me to sing. Everyone gazed expectantly as I mangled the die monster bar of music enough to make Mozart, thousands of miles away in his grave, not only roll over, but perform a convulsive gavotte.

But here’s the thing: No one shuddered! Wendy simply nodded and slotted me in to pitch my notes to Nora: “She sings mezzo, so you’re all set.”

Was I?

We began. Kelly raised thunderous music. The drama unfolded within the most ferocious part of the story (and I entered into this part of the fray why?) as, sprinting behind Sarah, with Ericka and Nora close behind, we charged at the monster, he for the time being invisible, but scheduled to be played by a ballet dancer. We scampered around him once, twice, then raised our swords (also imaginary for the rehearsal) and jabbed him hard, then dug in our spears, shaking them around to make sure his organs got agitated into a nice green shake.

As we stabbed that bad boy, we sang the “stribe, ungeheurt” bit with all our might (don’t worry, I was basically lip synching here although, admittedly, it’s easier to reach some of those notes when three of New York’s premier opera singers fill the air around you.)

Holly takes notes next to opera choreographer and director Wendy Taucher.
Holly takes notes next to opera choreographer and director Wendy Taucher.

Next we stepped free of the monster mess to chortle, “Triumph! Triumph!” (it’s a German word too — cool, huh?), holding our fists high like Wonder Woman after a similar success.

And then, be still my heart, Wendy stopped the scene, and said, “I like what Holly is doing here. She smiles on the second ‘Triumph.’ That’s the happy moment the Ladies would savor after this victory. We’ll make that a part of the blocking. Thank you, Holly.”

Thank you, Holly? This in the midst of rehearsals with what Michael called “The top one percent of the one percent of opera talent in the country”?

Afterwards I watched rapt as baritone James Martin in the part of Papajeno, half-bird, half-man, and tenor Glenn Steven Allen, a prince from a faraway land, get acquainted over the slain ungelheurt.

The opera is scheduled for August 1, 2, and 3 at Featherstone. Wendy invited me to attend. Of course I’ll be there! I want to see if Sarah, Erika, and Nora smile on the second ‘Triumph!’

The best part of farming at Slip Away was the piglets. — Photo by Susan Safford

The first thing an idealistic and determined journalist does before she shows up for a morning of farm work is to pick out a suitable wardrobe, right down to the most cunning accessories. I decked myself out in an orange jumper that had received enough paint splotches to put one in mind of a de Kooning canvas. In place of muck boots I had my black rubber rain boots with pastel dots — $15 at a New York thrift store. I also popped on my favorite straw bonnet, an eccentric choice for a job involving mud, dust, and manure but, well, what can you do? A favorite hat to a new farmhand is like a binky to a baby.

A sunny Chappy day was perfect for a farming adventure.
A sunny Chappy day was perfect for a farming adventure.

At 8:30 on a recent Monday morning I appeared at the year-old Slip Away Farm on Chappaquiddick to begin my apprenticeship. A little under two miles in from the ferry landing, the nine acres have been cleared across hill and dale, and early crops of spinach, onions, radishes, greens and baby peas shake their booties out of the soil under pristine white tarps. As soon as these first plantings are plate-ready, a farm stand goes up alongside the road and 55 happy Chappy families will show up for their CSA shares, along with everyone else eager for random goodies

Behind the antique farmhouse, I found Lily Walter, 28, tall, thin, with green eyes and clad in faded grey-green jeans. Her two live-in co-farmers are her brother, Christian Walter, 23, and Collins Heavener, 27, a carpenter throughout the work week, making him a Saturday Slip Away wingman. Farmer newbie Kendyll Gage-Pipa, 24, has also been adopted into the fold.

American Gothic redux, at Chappy's Slipaway Farm. Farmer Christian Walter is on the left.
American Gothic redux, at Chappy’s Slip Away Farm. Farmer Christian Walter is on the left.

Christian sat atop a spanky new green Deere tractor, hauling a chicken house that looked charming enough for the witch in Hansel and Gretel to set up her infamous oven inside. Lily guided her brother in his trajectory up one hill and down another; the plan was to reposition the coop so that the 25 hens could set down fertilizer in a new spot — one of their manifold talents — and to gobble ticks and other assorted pests.

Christian invited me to help him lug three sets of scaffold-braced nets down to the hen house.

“Do I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger?” I almost asked him, but when I lifted my side of the first cage — big as a VW bug — it was surprisingly light. We humped all three units down to the hen house, and within moments the red-ruffed Red Stars and the black-and-white Baard Rocks spilled out through their front door for a peck-and-poop party on their new front lawn.

Lily pointed to a set of cabinets built into the coop and suggested I grab a basket and collect whatever eggs the little darlings had deposited in recent hours. But who needs baskets when you can fold up your jumper like an old-fashioned pinafore, and place the eggs in that?

I noticed one of the Red Stars frozen in an odd contortion on a top berth of the egg-laying shelves. Oh, my heavenly stars, she was laying an egg! I felt an urge to rush it to a tiny omelet pan.

Next we filed to the greenhouse, entering a space of diffused white light, redolent of herbs, hummus, sawdust, and the subtle fragrances of impatiens, coleus, and rosemary. We carried out flats of seedlings ready for prime time in the soil: today it was cabbage, onions, and garlic.

I was also allowed to sit on the tractor, although I lacked the nerve to turn it on. I could see myself bouncing haphazardly down the slopes, then hurtling over the road — Evel Knievel on the high ramp — to the astonishment of everyone motoring up from the ferry.

As much as I yearned to dig trenches, lay in sewer lines, and shovel doo-doo, I mostly longed to hang out with the pigs.

There were three of them, 10 weeks old, pink and wriggly and weighing about as much as my Boston terrier. They tumbled, they jumped and cork-screwed around each other, they dashed to and fro as if forgetting what they’d dashed to, then reconsidered, only to dash fro again. But their main activity was rooting their absurdly long snouts into the soil to dig for edibles of suspicious origin, thus aerating the soil and shoveling around all the effluvial nutrients deep where the veggie roots go. Each time these frenzied critters resurfaced, they had dirt up to their eyeballs — a laugh out loud sight — but then, moments later, you’d glance at the begrimed baby pig again and, holy self-cleaning!, its face was restored to its original pinky luster.

I climbed into the pen and knelt on the ground. They dashed over to see if I were, quite possibly, a walking talking Fudgesicle. They sniffed my arm, and even licked it a couple of times, but after seven seconds of ADD-addled curiosity, they charged off again to roister in their turf.

We should all have farms. Why don’t we? Our famous founding fathers were gardeners and environmentalists, every one of them, and they never could have conceived of a world where anyone traveled to a market to buy anything for dinner: dinner was right outside the kitchen door. Methinks we’d worry less about dips in the Dow if we knew we had food from our own green acres — or the acres of Slip Away Farm — to put on the table.

Lily studied anthropology, Christian attended Emerson to find out that he’d rather farm than write the Great American Novel. Collins graduated from UMass Amherst. This is the new demographic of agriculturalists: young creative people who’ve turned their back on the Tantalus of Wall Street and law degrees to get soil under their fingernails and figure out a way to make the world whole again, farm by farm.

Lord knows I’ve now done my bit.

Holly Nadler with students Morgan Michelski and Camilla Prata. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The diabolical Mathea Morais invited me to spend a session with her high school history students, assuring me that I could devote the time to any timeline in the human experience. Really? The Chinese Opium Wars? Mussolini’s Horrible Architecture?

Mathea Morais, social studies teacher at the Mathea Morais, social studies teacher at the Charter School, teamed up with Holly Nadler for a day.
Mathea Morais, social studies teacher at the Mathea Morais, social studies teacher at the Charter School, teamed up with Holly Nadler for a day.

In actuality, Mathea is anything but diabolical. She’s beautiful and brilliant and was once my beloved editor with another publication whose name shall not be mentioned. Now she teaches at the Charter School, and her invitation was kindly meant, without any idea on her part that I am, in fact, terrified of teens when facing whole gaggles of them — those underage persons who, when listening to an adult — say, myself, — relate fun stories about ghosts, or gossip you’ve written for Cosmo magazine, would present faces as blank as any phalanx of flesh-eating zombies. The inability to make them crack even the faintest smile can be depressing enough to make you wish you had one of those fake beepers you can press to beat a hasty retreat.

In advance of my stint at the Charter School, a friend who works with teens told me it helps to be low key, as deadpan as they are. Well, there’s the rub. I’m way too enthusiastic.

I screwed my courage to the sticking point or, more accurately, because I haven’t got much courage when it comes to so called “young adults,” I screwed whatever passed for courage – maybe a self-bribe of ice cream later in the day – Ben & Jerry’s dulce de leche? – and entered the halls of the charter school in West Tisbury.

It’s an enchanted place, somewhere Mary Poppins might have taken her charges, to show them an alternate reality from their bland middle class lives. The wall sags with shelves of books. An array of scarves and flags hang from rafters and windows, art is everywhere displayed. Non-conformity reveals itself in a variety of attire – from baggy old garments, to brown-blazer-cum-brown-bowler hat, to a mini-skirt over black leggings and faux leopard skin boots.

Mathea introduced me to her class of 14 kids seated around a rectangular table. My fears dissolved when I saw how engaged they were and willing to let themselves be grilled: I wanted to know, individually, which period of history had so far grabbed their attention.

class.JPGBut first I confided my own passion for history. “When you have that gene, it enthralls you for your entire life. One of the great compensations for getting older is you become your own museum. You’ve lived through so many cultural eras, and through your parents’ and grandparents’ eras, you can reach back to what they’d told you for firsthand knowledge of over a century of history.”

See what I  mean about over-enthusiastic?

The first student on my right was a young woman named Bean, 15, who’s fascinated by the Civil Rights, but (I later learned from Mathea) I misheard as Civil War, an event with which I have a bone or two to pick. Inside I was screaming at myself, “Nadler, go easy on the opinions,” but I couldn’t help declaim, “If only Lincoln had been controlled enough to achieve change through nonviolence! We could have let the South secede and then, like South Africa in recent years, no one, not the North, not England nor France, would have traded for their cotton until they freed the slaves!”

The kids looked at me with that expressionless stare that spooks me, so I shut up and passed on to Lucy, 15, who loves the Renaissance. I learned the destinations for the 8th grade trip are Rome and Florence. Be still my heart! I’ve got to find a way to get in on this action; what if I brushed up my Italian? Galen, 15, also admires the Italian Renaissance, in particular the architecture and art. I was tempted to make a bad quip about the Borgias and their chalices of poison, but thankfully I got a grip.

Astrid, 16, expressed a strong attachment to Island history; she descends from one of the founding families, the Tiltons. “Oh!” I cried. “I’ve seen a lot of your ancestors in our old cemeteries.” Astrid looked pleased.

Cassius, 15, ventured his favorite periods – the Vietnam War and the Russian Revolution. Holy Heroically Interesting Kid. I had to brag about my own single degree of separation from the Bolshevik Revolution: My creative writing teacher at UCLA, Bernie Wolfe, back in the 1930s in the mountains of Mexico, had served as one of Leon Trotsky’s bodyguards. How cool was that to have on your resumé?

Whoops. Blank stares.

Mateo, 14, went one better in the uncommonly curious department: He loves Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. “Think you’ll be an anthropologist?” I asked. He nodded. I said, “Good idea. We have a shortage of those, what with ninety-nine percent of kids wanting to be rappers or movie stars.”

Isabella, 15, is smitten by the early 19th century England, through the novels of Jane Austen. My kind of girl.

Camilla, 14, is riveted by Nazi Germany. Once again my opinion machine kicked into high gear. I said, “And are you trying to figure out how evil could descend on an entire nation, not just the demented creeps at the top, but all the way down to the train station workers who watched the cattle cars of people rumble through, and everyone who serviced the concentration camps? They all lived in small towns. There was no one who didn’t know what was happening.”

Camilla blank-stared me, so I zipped it up, and turned to the last of the kids, Morgan, 15, who also harbors an abiding interest in the Civil Rights era, which I also learned belatedly I’d once again misheard as The Civil War. I had more to say about that but I pictured duct tape stretched over my mouth.

Our hour was up. We parted on good terms. We all loved history. I simply had a few more decades of it under my belt, and it had made of me a bit of a crackpot. As for these kids, fear not for the future. We’re in much better hands than we’ve ever been in our own.

Several thousand roses later, Holly embraces the job. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

 Roses are red
Yours are yellow
You are loved
Very much by this fellow

Such was the poem my new boyfriend, Marty Nadler, enclosed with a pot of yellow roses which I placed on the deck of our funky apartment on what was known colloquially as Dog Beach in Malibu.

Marty and I had recently moved in together, and for our first Valentine’s Day he gave me those roses and the rhyme. You might have said he was a better comedy writer than a poet — at that time he was story editor on the hit TV show “Laverne & Shirley” — but I was enchanted by this attempt at a sonnet. If you put it up there with “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate,” it might come up short, but for the rest of our years together — 25 in all — we invoked this poem when we felt affectionate. Or needed a good laugh.

Relationships are built on memories. Inevitably there are two piles, one GOOD, one BAD, and whichever one outweighs the other is going to be the decider. Valentine’s Day presents all lovers with an opportunity to place another weight on the GOOD side of the scale.

Lots and lots of leaves to sweep.
Lots and lots of leaves to sweep.

With this idea that Valentine’s Day is more than a cheap bid for consumer dollars, I volunteered to help this past Monday at Morrice Florist in Vineyard Haven. Although I have no sweetie of my own, and find all my need for unconditional love met by my Boston terrier, I nonetheless threw myself into this heady occasion to see how things fared on the love front as signified by the purchase of flowers.

I was greeted by owner Kim O’Callahan. It was 10:30 in the morning, and she was already ambushed by lots and lots of red roses spread out on the long work table facing the eastern bank of windows. Boxes of flowers, newly delivered, were stacked up close behind her.

“This is our biggest time of the year!” she said. “It’s the whole reason to keep the heat on in the winter. We get orders coming in all this week, but most of the men come in on the 14th. They pack the store. Sometimes there’s a line out the door.”

I wondered how 99 percent of the men in the world could be Last Minute Guys? Maybe that explained why men rushed their countries into war? They sat around and stood around and played around and took meetings until in the 11th hour when they phoned their generals and said, “What the heck, let’s send in the troops and drop a whole buncha bombs!”

The rose among the thorns, indeed. Luckily, there's a tool for that.
The rose among the thorns, indeed. Luckily, there’s a tool for that.

But there was no time for further scrutiny because I was handed a few dozen roses and a clawed device for stripping down the leaves and thorns. Kim’s helper, Linda Carroll, took whole batches of flower stems and lopped off the ends in a single stroke with a pen knife. Then Kim, Linda, Laurie Meyst, and I ripped through bundles of tulips, baby’s breath, blue and white hydrangeas, lavender mums, and a ton of more red roses with a zeal that astonished me. I wondered if the indescribably sweet fragrance of flowers lifted one’s mood, and maybe even, while it was at it, healed boo boos and cured cancer.

I told the others about the roses Marty would give me all the time in our early days — until I heard how expensive they were, whereupon I said to him, “Could you just give me the cash?”

Moments like that put a weight on the BAD side of the love scale.

Out in the store, Sue Peters helped a man in his forties, tall, thin, with a black cap that read “ARMY” on it. I sidled out to meet this fellow who was ordering flowers on the early side. His girlfriend had said ix-nay on the flowers, but this smart man double-checked with his g.f.’s b.g.f. who said, “Of course get her flowers! And send them to her work place!”

Every woman wants others to see what a sweet guy she has, right?

Back in the work room, Kim related stories about her family. The business had originally belonged to her grandparents. One time grandpa was dispatched to Boston with a wad of money to buy roses. The blizzard of ’78 blew in, and grandpa filled the time by drinking. He returned to the Island with a new Camaro.

Some years later, Kim’s mom fell sick and underwent chemotherapy, but she still insisted on supervising the crew at the Valentine’s rush. When Kim showed up, her mother and her helpers, pranksters all, pretended to be engrossed in a game of cards around a folding table.

After I’d spent hours amid the scent of flowers, and with tumblers of blossoms we’d prepped now encircling the workplace, I was intoxicated. I wanted someone to buy me roses.

I dialed Marty in Florida. “Would you like to order some roses for the mother of your son?”

He said without missing a beat, “I called Morrice’s earlier. No matter how much I begged, they refused to deliver a bouquet of dead flowers.”

As millennials write in their texts, hahahahahahaha!

I could always send myself some roses, but…I’d rather have the cash.