|Photo: Teece Aronin|
When Lucy answered the phone, she heard distant conversation and could tell that people were playing cards - three-handed gin. Lucy knew the voices well; they belonged to her mother, Darlene, her aunt, Zelda, and her sister, Jo-Jo.
Her mother's bag had apparently butt-dialed Lucy. Assuming that were true, the women were probably at Jo-Jo's or Aunt Zelda's. If they were at Jo-Jo's, they were gathered around Jo-Jo's glass-top wrought iron dining table, always splattered with wet rings because Jo-Jo didn't know what a coaster was.
If they were at Aunt Zelda's, they were sitting at the 1940's era enamel kitchen table that had been Lucy's grandmother's. The table had caused a huge fight between Darlene and Zelda when Darlene accused Zelda of practically snatching it out from under the bowl of oatmeal that was on it when their mother fell during breakfast and never got up. Darlene had said the oatmeal, like the body, wasn't even cold yet.
More ghostly chatter.
Lucy yelled only a few more times before the conversation sucked her into its weird spell.
Darlene: Her therapist told her it was free-floating anx-XI-ety. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Imagine having your anxiety hovering around over your head all the time - like a big, black cloud.
Aunt Zelda: For God's sake, Darlene; that's not what it means. It just means that you're anxious for no real reason. Your adrenaline cells have their foot on the gas pedal and the pedal's jammed. Don't you ever watch Dr. Phil?
Darlene: No, Zelda, I don't. I didn't have the good fortune of marrying a barber and therefore I have to work during the day.
Aunt Zelda: Jackie is a much in demand hair stylist, and besides, there's always TiVo.
Aunt Zelda had a way of sounding sage, droning, and boastful at the same time.
Jo-Jo (referring to her husband): I think Charlie has anxiety. I don't know if it's free-floating or on the ground, but he definitely seems anxious. Sometimes it drives me up the wall. He has issues up the win-wang."
Darlene: That's yin-yang.
Jo-Jo: Win-wang, yin-yang, whereever they are, they're there.
Darlene: You know, there's all kinds of anxiety. There's the free-floating kind, and there's panic attacks, and there's ODC . . .
Aunt Zelda: Good God, Darlene; it's not ODC, it's OCD - obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can make you do things and think things you don't want to. The obsessive part is thoughts you can't stop thinking and the compulsive part is things you can't stop doing. Some people have one or the other and some have both. I read about it in WebMD.
Jo-Jo: I think I have OCD. I can't stop thinking I want to divorce Charlie, and I can't stop myself from screaming at him.
Aunt Zelda: I knew a girl in high school who when she got her driver's license, she found she had a compulsion for driving into potholes. I mean no one knew she had OCD. But she just couldn't stop herself whenever there was a pothole coming. She'd even veer into them. I always emptied my bladder ahead of time if she was going to be driving.
Darlene: I might've known her. Who was she?
Aunt Zelda: I'm not telling, but she's a therapist now, which just goes to show you can conquer your demons.
Darlene: Come on, Zelda; what's her name?
Aunt Zelda: I said I'm not telling.
Darlene: Oh, screw you, Zelda.
Jo-Jo: You know, I hate it when the two of you talk to each other this way.
Aunt Zelda: Shut the fuck up, Jo-Jo.
Jo-Jo: Goddammit, Aunt Zelda. I hate it when you swear.
Aunt Zelda: Oh, I'm sorry. Jo-Jo, shut the frig up. How's that?
Aunt Zelda: Gin!
Darlene: Zelda, you asshole!
Jo-Jo: Ma! What did I just say?
Darlene: "You said that to your aunt."
Jo-Jo: I think next time we should play Scrabble.
Aunt Zelda: I once played Scrabble with a man who was a master at the game. When he played the word BEARS for 72 points, I said that's amazing! And you know what he said? He said: "It's not the bears, it's where you put the bears."
Darlene: I'd like to tell you where to put the bears.
Jo-Jo: You know, what that man said - about the bears - that applies to a lot of things in life.
Aunt Zelda: That it does, my dear niece, that it does.