It Was the Best of Times
Once upon a time, Rachel worked a forty-hour week at a high-pressure job, lived in a stucco lanai-with-pool apartment, drove a cute orange Honda CVVC, and dated Howard who lived on the floor beneath her. Rachel was very happy with her life until one morning when she woke up after a refreshing eight hours of sleep. She turned on the radio and heard her favorite record of the month, but immediately following that, she heard a weather report saying that rain showers were predicted for that afternoon.
“Shit,” said Rachel. “There goes my tennis game.” She resigned herself to this spot of bad luck and spent that Saturday afternoon rewinding her VCR tapes and watching the leftover TV reruns on them.
But the following Thursday, on her way to work, she heard her favorite song again on the car radio. Just as she was about to burst into harmony with it, a Porsche behind her rammed into her Honda. She wasn’t hurt but the Honda had to go to the shop.
What a nuisance.
That evening, when Howard took her to her favorite restaurant, Le Canard Morte, she ordered a delicious medium rare steak and a hot fudge sundae. The food was delicious and the live rock band was hot and Howard was so funny and she felt so relaxed. So naturally the gangs that lurked around West L.A. just had to hot-wire Howard’s car and take it for a joy-ride in the hills. Rachel and Howard had to end their date by going to the police station to fill out forms and answer dumb questions.
At work the next day, Rachel submitted a report that really pleased her boss. He introduced her to a new client, complimented her, hinted at a raise. Rachel took this happiness home with her and found that someone had broken into her apartment and stolen her VCR, her stereo, and all her underwear. The underwear was the crushing blow. She had to go to Pic’N’Save to get a few practical pairs to replace all those fancy lace ones from Victoria’s Secret that the thief had taken.
Two days later, Rachel got her car back and drove out to Malibu where she found the surf better than ever and the guys on the beach cuter than she could remember. She had a Long Island iced tea at the Pier View Café and drove home in a lovely sunset. But when she got home, the mailbox was full of horrors. Her landlord was evicting her to allow his brother-in-law move into her apartment, her credit was being cancelled for obscure reasons, and worst of all, there was a chain letter threatening her with dismemberment if she didn’t send copies of the letter to twelve friends.
That Saturday, Rachel went to her spa and worked off about ten pounds using the computerized exercise machines. Then she went and rewarded herself with a hot fudge sundae. “This is the life,” she thought. “Hot fudge life. I don’t give a shit about health spas and having the perfect body. I know I can have a perfect body whenever I want to.”
The next morning she woke up and felt terribly bloated. She couldn’t fit into her denim miniskirt. She got on the scale and discovered she was twenty pounds overweight.
That night, she discovered two skin eruptions on her face. The next day she went to the dentist and her worst fears were realized when she was told she had to have a root canal. That evening, she stubbed her toe and was in agony for an hour. The following evening, she was dancing at a lively disco with Howard when somebody spilled a drink on her foot. The ice cubes fell on her already stubbed toe and bruised her beneath the nail. She went home and put on a cold compress and then a hot compress because she couldn’t remember which was best to use. The next day she stayed home, called in sick, lay in bed, and heard her favorite song on the radio just minutes before she got an obscene phone call from a deep-voiced man who threatened to give her the venereal disease of her choice.
A few days later, Rachel limped downstairs to see Howard. He was quite sympathetic to her troubles. He’d ordered flowers for her and he cooked dinner for the two of them: tossed Caesar salad, Chicken Kiev, white Zinfandel, and cherry jello. He held her in his arms as they danced slowly to a Kenny G record. To further relax and get romantic, they undressed and took a bubble bath together, followed by a warm shower. Then they went to bed and made love and it was as if for the first time (but perfect). But just as they were reaching for their mutual pinnacle of heartfelt vibrations, a piece of the ceiling fell down on them. Rachel crawled out from under the scattering of white plaster and dragged a dusty, scraped-up, nerve-wracked Howard from the ruins of the bed. They spent the rest of the evening applying bandages and Neosporin and crying together.
Two weeks later, Rachel and Howard sat on a sofa in the lobby of a fashionable Melrose Avenue Italian-Cajun nouvelle restaurant.
“Let’s do it,” whispered Rachel. “Please. It’s probably the best thing for us.
“Yes,” signed Howard. “I’d really like to.”
They sent out the invitations, booked a hall for the reception, picked out an adorable all-denominations chapel for the ceremony. Rachel had a white lace Mexican style wedding gown. Howard wore a white suit which was not traditional but was still very chic-looking. As they marched down the aisle, with both their families and about fifty friends looking on, and with Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” playing softly in the background, they looked the perfect couple. Just as they had finished their vows and were about to kiss, a private jet plane whose pilot had dozed off crashed into the chapel. Debris flew for several miles around and the newspapers called it one of the greatest tragedies of recent years. Local residents salvaged scraps of lace from Rachel’s wedding gown and kept them as souvenirs. Within a year, every person who had collected a scrap of lace won the lottery, collected the money, and then was run over in a car accident. A French psychic told the tabloids that she’d predicted the whole story ten years earlier.
(Originally appeared in the anthology It's All Good copyright 2004 Manic D Press)