Friday, April 6, 2012
Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 11 - At Home With Kitty
There was a simple advantage to rising two hours prior to the crack of dawn. Kitty Richardson was in her truck, in the Tommy parking lot, preparing to depart by 3:00 PM.
Kitty wasn't in any hurry to get home. Home wasn't fun. Tommy's wasn't always fun, but it sure beat home. Kitty turned the key in the ignition of her old Chevy, the truck roared to life with a pathetic growl, and the old beater backfired.
One row away, Penelope Ross hit the deck. Kitty saw the girl drop in the rear view mirror.
"You okay?" Kitty said, with her head out the driver's side window.
"Maybe I need to lay off the video games," Penelope admitted. "I thought I was being fired upon."
"Sorry about that. Charlie's on her death bed," Kitty said of the old truck.
"See you tomorrow, Kitty."
"See ya," Kitty called back. Penelope Ross got into her cute little red compact. Penelope could afford the sweet little car. She didn't have six ex-boyfriends who had all used her Mastercard.
Kitty's truck back fired again.
"Piece of crap," Kitty groaned. Reluctantly, Kitty put the truck in gear and headed home. Home was a single story rambler, with an in-law suite for an unmarried grand daughter, five minutes from the Tommy compound. It was filled with latch-hook rugs, old TV Guides, Madonna posters, and endless grumblings.
Stella Catherine Richardson, aka Kitty, spent half her life at Tommy's, and the other half taking care of her aging mother, Helen, and her fruitcake of a grandmother, Ada. Helen was seventy-five, and acted ninety. Ada was ninety-nine and acted twelve. Kitty lived in hell.
Kitty pulled into the driveway next to a behemoth Buick. Pink fuzzy dice hung from the Buick's mirror. The Buick belonged to Helen. The dice were Ada's doing.
"Mary, mother of God, give me strength," Kitty muttered as she exited her vehicle. She scuffed up the walk to the front door, then let herself inside.
The kitchen was filled with smoke.
"Hello??!!" Kitty yelled. "Does anyone realize the house is on fire?"
Family Feud screamed from the living room. Kitty found it fitting.
"Something's burning!!" Kitty yelled, and Ada appeared in the doorway.
"Shit!" Ada said, shuffling along in her pink Chuck Taylors. "We didn't hear you come in, dear. We were arguing about how long to leave the brownies in the oven."
"Well, whoever wanted to take them out an hour ago wins," Kitty said, and Ada shrugged.
"That would be her," Ada said.
"My name isn't 'her,'" Helen yelled. "It's Helen."
"They look okay," Ada said. She had opened the door to the oven, and had mostly disappeared into the billowing smoke. Only her pink sneakers were visible in the carnage. Ada emerged with a tray of blackened brownies.
"They're not okay, Gran. They're like a rock,"
"That's what the Fixodent is for," Ada said, and Kitty laughed.
"Why didn't the smoke detector go off?" Kitty asked.
"Oh, we always disconnect it when we cook," Ada explained.
"That might not be the best idea," Kitty explained.
Kitty let herself into the back of the house, into the wing addition that was Kitty's own private space. Three dogs met her at the door, with noses in the air.
"It's okay, babies. The old biddies were cooking again. Fire's under control."
"We heard that!" Helen yelled.
"They've bugged the place," Kitty whispered.
Kitty let the dogs out the back door, into the fenced-in area installed to precision by Tommy's Tool Town. Kitty checked her personal email, and the email account attached to a dating website for animal lovers. There were no emails, and Kitty was grateful. She'd had two dates in three years, and the last one had invited her over for dinner, then asked her to whisper so they didn't wake his mother.
Kitty sighed, and dealt with her despair like a normal person.
An instant message popped up. It was Ada.
Ada: Helen wants to know what's for dinner.
Kitty: Arsenic chili
Ada: I'll lay out the Maalox.
Kitty: I love you, Gran.
Ada: I love you too, Stella.
Stella. No matter how many times Kitty asked them not to, they still called her Stella. She heard her name called at all hours of the day and night. "Stella! Stella! Stella!" It was A Streetcar Named Desire, 24/7.
An hour later, Kitty had dinner on the table. Helen had opted for a Stouffer's Pot Pie, and Ada gobbled up a Mac & Cheese with her Wonder Woman spoon.
"This is the best food ever. Imagine, in my day, women slaved for hours over dinner. Now it's ready in eight minutes, and it comes with its own bowl," Ada exclaimed in sheer wonderment.
"We didn't work. Now women work," Helen griped.
"I have to work," Kitty said.
"Because you don't have a husband," Helen reminded her.
"Don't start, mother," Kitty said.
"Arlene's grandson is single again," Ada said, through a mouthful of noodles.
"He's been married six times, Gran," Kitty said.
"Maybe he's good at it by now," Ada said, and Kitty laughed. "You know, it's really a shame about that lovely Stella. She's such a nice girl, and when she wears a good bra and the Maybelline, she looks ten years younger, and she's very kind to the animals. She's a good catch."
"I'm right here, Gran," Kitty said, and Ada dropped her spoon.
"I'm going bat shit. It's the age, and the nicotine gum," Ada whined. "I was a whole lot better off when I was on the Lucky Strikes."
"It's okay, Gran. Everyone's mind and body wears out. Look at Mom."
"Watch it, Stella. I'll kick you out."
"You'll burn the house down," Kitty said.
"At least I won't have to vacuum this dump anymore," Ada said, and everyone laughed. "Tell us about work, dear," Ada said, so Kitty did.
Kitty ran through her day, leaving little out.
"That poor Mags," Ada said.
"She's a hypochondriac," Helen said.
"No she's not. She has the scars to prove it. Besides, mother, a hypochondriac pretends to be ill, a hypochondriac doesn't pretend to get hit by a two-by-four."
"What's the word for someone who pretends to get hit by a two-by-four?" Helen asked.
"Bernice," Ada said with a wink. "Did you really have to go over bomb threats?"
"We did, Gran. It's a strange world we live in. We have to be prepared."
"I miss the eighties," Ada said.
"You're still in them, mother," Helen complained.
"I like the spandex. It's flexible when I have the gas," Ada explained, defensively. "Like now," Ada said.
"Speaking of bomb threats," Helen complained.