“I’m being sued by the Catholic Church again,” Laverne announced, while reorganising her purse.
“I have no words for that.”
“How unlike you,” she mused.
“Hold on, I thought you were working on a piece about the East African Lion,” I suddenly remembered.
“Turns out all they do is sleep. My son can do that.”
“Have you ever been to Africa? I haven’t.”
“Yeah, with my sister for her fortieth. We went on safari in Malawi.”
“So is that where …“
“… my people come from?” Laverne zipped her purse and placed it on the chair next to her. “Couldn’t tell you; the furthest back I’ve been able to trace my roots is to The Shirelles.”
“Ha, ha. Very funny. I was actually going to ask if that’s where your sister went with the Peace Corps.”
“Oops, sorry,” she giggled. “No, that was Mozambique.”
“I’d like to ask you another question though. When you were there did you feel any connection to it?”
“Well now, funny you should ask that,” she became more pensive, “because I expected to feel African from the moment I arrived but the whole time we were there I felt like just another tourist. People are people wherever you go so, yes, we had that in common. Culturally, however, I struggled to make a connection and that bothered me. I think maybe we’ve been gone too long.”
“I felt the same when I met my Scottish relatives for the first time,” I concurred. “We shared the same name, same sense of humour and some even look liked me but culturally we were raised in two very different worlds.”
“Not even close!” Laverne screamed with laughter. “Honestly, are you kidding me with that? Your parents emigrated using Air Miles!”
“But their journey to The New World was horrific; first, they ran out of headphones and then they gave my mum’s gluten-free meal to someone else,” I grinned. “Anyway, cut me some slack – you’re my only ethnic friend.”
“Hey, I’m your only friend. I’ve got more in common with those lions than I do with you.”
“They don’t like to cook either.”
“And we have our connection!” I declared, triumphantly.
“Okay, but back to this business with the Church,” she lowered her voice, “it’s over a certain someone I told you about at Christmas.”
“Is this the same someone with the thing?”
“And are you telling me they’ve now found the thing?”
“Oh yeah, they found it alright,” she confirmed.
“Was it on him?”
“No, up him.”
“Whoa!” I leaned back in my chair. “And the monkey?”
“Still missing,” she arched an eyebrow.
I love secrets and Laverne knows plenty. A freelance journalist, she moved to the UK from Seattle over thirty years ago after meeting and marrying Elliott, a sound engineer at the BBC. The three of us first met at The Pu Pu Pot, our local Chinese restaurant, after she’d overheard my accent.
“I need some human conversation while I’m on this island… I need someone who doesn’t talk about Bobby Charlton in his sleep!” she blubbered into her chop suey.
“Who’s Robby Carlson?” I asked.
“Exactly!” she cried. “And do you know where I can score some Fruit Loops because the last people to eat porridge were the Vikings!”
That was twenty years ago.
Tonight we were out for our weekly meal at The Pu Pu Pot but without Elliott, who begged off to attend a Bolton Wanderers match.
“What’s the viral load of the Szechuan Chicken today?” Laverne asked.
“Slightly elevated I’m afraid, so I’d be happy to pee on it for you. We Chinese believe that urine possesses magical properties,” our waitress took her on.
“Is that like chlorinated chicken?” I followed through on the logic.
“Well, if you’d prefer you can bring in a pet and we’ll cook that for you,” she smiled, sweetly.
“We’re gonna need a few more minutes,” Laverne smiled right back at her.
Just then, the kitchen doors swung open to reveal a sinewy, old man lifting the lid off a huge cauldron. As he did so, he stepped back to avoid the rush of steam which escaped.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“We’ll be cooking shrimp in it once we take the shirts out,” our waitress stated matter-of-factly. “Would you excuse me for just one moment? I need to inform on my neighbours.”
“She’s good,” Laverne nodded her approval, as she watched the diminutive figure disappear behind the bar. “Is she still in med school?”
“She’ll have them in stitches.”
During the course of the evening Laverne made a visit to the Ladies’. While she was gone from the table an attractive young woman breezed into the restaurant and joined her friend at a table nearby. Tall, elegant and stylishly attired, she quickly attracted the attention of other diners.
“I’m back,” she announced, resuming her seat. “They have the nicest hand lotion here.”
“Uh huh,” I replied, looking past her at the young woman.
“What’s up with you?” she shot me a quizzical look.
“It’s what’s behind you.”
“What’s behind me?”
“A girl walked in while you were gone and she’s gotta be a model. She’s absolutely stunning. Definitely a model,” I surmised.
“Wow,” she was genuinely interested but it was now Game On. “So, on a scale of 1 to 10?”
“She’s gotta have a flaw, everyone has a flaw.”
“If she does, I can’t see it.”
“Then maybe it’s hidden,” she paused for a moment, then lit up. “I’ve got it: slug feet.”
“Fifty bucks says she uses disconnect as a noun.”
“Another fifty says she’s planning to call her at least one daughter Chandelier.”
“Hmm… not even a split end?” Laverne wasn’t having it.
“Turn around and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.”
“Have I taught you nothing?” she reached for her purse. “Watch and learn. Which shoulder?”
She took out her compact and opened it, angling the mirror until she caught sight of her quarry over her shoulder. At that same moment, the young woman put on her glasses to read the menu. Closing her compact again, Laverne chuckled to herself as she looked across at me and mouthed, “Four eyes.”