Tuesday, September 21, 2004

At least she didn't say, "Freddie Krueger"

6:03am, Friday, September 10. Dan Johnson has just teed off, and he, Ross and I are walking down the first fairway.

"I spoke to Raul, our head groundskeeper," Dan says.


"There was a hole in the pipe."

"I know," I say.

"I almost fired him for it," Dan says. "I asked him how someone could notice that, driving by in a car, and he could not when he looks at it all day."

"It was hiding in plain sight, I guess."

"I guess."

"Steve, we've got a big client coming in this afternoon. Kind of unexpected. I want you to meet them. I think it's a good idea that you start to interact with these people, let them see how competent you are. Put their minds at ease."

"As long as they don't see my tee shot," I say. I suck at golf.

He laughs. "Well, we've changed your travel arrangements a bit. You're flying out at 3:30 now."

Fair enough. I was supposed to leave at 11:30, but 3:30 works too. So long as I get home today.

My office at corporate is blissfully quiet and comfortable. No one interrupts me for about three hours straight, and I get a pile of work done.

2:15. Our client arrives, several hours late. So much for my 3:30 flight. There's usually a later one, though. Hope I make it.

The man coming to see us represents a large food-service chain. You've heard the name. They drop millions every year on premiums with us; that qualifies them for the royal treatment up here.

I shake the man's hand, make all the appropriate small talk, and laugh fakely at his jokes. I can't wait to get home.

"Holy cow!" Dan says at 2:30. "You have a 3:30 flight, don't you?"

I'm glad he said that. I think he did it on purpose, so I would not have to be rude and say it myself.

I say my goodbyes and dash to the airport. And miss my plane by 20 minutes.

There's another plane at 5:00, but it's oversold and there are 10 people on standby.

"When's the next one," I say.

"10:00 tomorrow morning," the clerk says.

Fuck. I could get a hotel room, or sleep at the airport. I've done it before. But I made a promise to Lila and I don't want to break it.

I know we didn't have any big plans. I just told her she could stay with me tonight. But I really want to show her how important she is to me. I have to get home, somehow.

It's a five-hour drive home, at least. And that's with no traffic. There's no chance I'm getting on that plane, I can tell you. That 5:00 flight is always jam-packed.

I rent a Buick Century and get on the road. I call Lila from the highway.

"I missed my flight. I'm driving home."

"You're DRIVING? Why?"

"I promised you I'd be there."

"But Steve! We didn't have plans or anything!"

"So what? I want to be with you."

"Me too."

Long pause.

"What did mom say to you?" I say.

"I put onions in the salad. She asked me why. I told her because I like them there. She looks at me and she goes, 'You're a bitch!' and she just starts going off on me! She is scary, Steve."

Dammit. All because of some stupid onions.

"And hey! Who is that guy who makes those scary movies?" she says.

"Alfred Hitchcock?"


"Stanley Kubrick?"


"Umm....George Romero? M. Night Shayamaylan?"


"Why are you asking?"

"She kept telling me I was like him. It was Charlie something. Charlie..... CHARLIE FARRUM!" she says.

"Who the fuck is Charlie Farrum?"

"I don't know! Doesn't he make scary movies or something?"

"Not that I know of."

"She kept saying, 'You're just like that Charlie Farrum in the movies'," Lila says. "And she called me a Barbie doll."

"Damn. I'm sorry you had to go through that."

"It was horrible. She called me a little bitch and a whore. And....she said I was just after you for your money."

"Well, that's stupid. Everyone knows it's actually for my 12-inch pecker."

"And your nice tongue," she says.

"Are you ok?" I ask.

"Yeah. What did you say when you called her?"

"I just let her know I was a little upset with her."

"Oh, God," she laughs. "I can't wait to see you. I love you."

"Love you too."

"You know why I was crying so much?" She says.


"I just kept thinking about you when you were a kid. How the hell did you put up with that?"

"You get used to it."

An hour later, I'm at a highway rest stop urinal, dick in hand, when out of nowhere it occurs to me who "Charlie Farrum" is, and I realize what movie mom was referring to.

Maybe it's best Lila didn't know what mom was talking about.