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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)

TITLE: Pops Laroni With Extra Cheese
By Kenny Blade


1:14 a.m. and still sleep just wouldn’t come. I lay there wedged in the bathtub like a fat man on a Carney ride. I glanced over at the full length mirror mounted on the bathroom door and grimaced. This last bout with insomnia was taking its toll. The bags under my eyes appeared to be packed for an overseas excursion. The combination of time missed at the gym and too many late night deep-dish pies from Sclenory’s were showing. I looked like a flesh covered beanbag folded up in a lawn chair.

My thoughts drifted from my age riddled physique to more pressing matters. Maybe it was the case I was working on. Maybe it was Rhonda’s decision to leave for Boston. Maybe it was the sweltering, unbearable heat that had been oppressing the city since early June. I wasn’t sure. I just knew sleep had to come soon. I buried my face in the washrag and sighed.

I’d been up longer than a campaign sign after the November elections. As Paul Simon belted out “Kodachrome” from the shower radio hanging overhead, I finally began to feel drowsy. Slumber was encircling me like smoke from a cheap stogie. I was headed to the land of 40 winks and the bags under my eyes were packed for a long stay. The mellifluous tones of Sly Stone’s “Family Affair” whispered in my ear as my eyelids dropped like the blinds in my adulterous neighbor’s boudoir. Sleep had come.

Minutes into my romp through a field of daisies with Rhonda, consciousness pushed its way in like a Jehovah’s Witness with a new tract. I was jolted back to reality by a knock at the door. I fumbled for my housecoat and pried the tub from around me. Staggering to my apartment door, I slid the safety chain out of its slot and opened the door. No one was there.

Glancing down the hallway, I noticed that Pauley, the delivery boy from Sclenory’s Pizza and Lube Shop was standing at Pops Laroni’s door with a large pie. My frustration with being awakened melted into guilt as I remembered that I hadn’t been by to see Pops since his wife Martha had died. I had promised him I would stop in. My case load had swallowed up my good intentions. I slipped on the pair of trousers hanging from my coat rack and made my way to Pop’s door. Rhonda would have to run the field alone for awhile.

I made my apologies to Pops and asked if I could join him for a slice. For the next several hours, I didn’t utter a word. The problems that had turned my solemn slumbers into crude catnaps seemed a million miles away as I listened to Pops talk about the life he had shared with his bride. I knew that gleam in his eye. I had the same one when I talked about Rhonda.

Pops cried. Pops laughed. Pops laughed through his tears. She was an incredible woman. He talked about the day when they would see each other again in heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted better Italian pie.

Sunlight flooded the room as I promised to come by again later in the week. This time I would keep my promise. 7:18 a.m. I splashed my face with water and stared into the bathroom mirror. The day ahead would be difficult. Sleep had evaded me for another night. Something told me that the Sandman and I wouldn’t quibble over lost minutes when nightfall came around again. I would snore like a farm boy at a Fellini film festival.

My time with Pops was well-spent. Even from the valley, Pops could look up and see his precious Martha waiting for him in heaven. Listening to him helped me see that my problems weren’t so big after all. He also taught me that sometimes the best thing you can say is nothing.

The caseload will be here today. Rhonda won’t. Weather guy says it’ll be hot enough to burn your lips on an ice cube. It’ll get better. It always does… as long as you keep looking up.

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This article has been read 1188 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 08/17/06
Loved your descriptive phrases in spite of the fact that I was getting a little annoyed with the seemingly never-ending "like a …" There's a conundrum for you! But this is a terrific story.
Helen Paynter08/19/06
I felt exactly the same as Lynda. I did enjoy it, though. Thank you.
Venice Kichura08/22/06
I really enjoyed this...was sooo readable & touched the heartstrings!
Beth Muehlhausen08/23/06
Great images...I could "feel" the story, although I agree with the previous comment about the way they're presented. Great message about relationships...and valuing what's most important. :-)