Crisis, what Crisis?
“OH MY GOD, Oh my God, oh my God.”
Jim and Abdul were in their customary spot for a sunny, summer afternoon, in the shade of the old cedar tree on the expanse of grass, garden and lawn they shared at the back of their properties.
They both sat on upright, rattan chairs, facing each other. On the glass topped, rattan table between them, was, a pitcher of iced water with fresh lemon slices while they both nursed glasses of iced tea, one, Abdul’s, scented with a healthy sprig of fresh mint. They were both intent on studying the checkers board and the squeal of female distress made them both look up.
Jim, the older of the two, shifted his gaze from the checkers to peer over his bifocals, into the half distance, questioningly, as though the answer to the question he hadn’t asked, be found somewhere out there, in the air, beyond the comforting rim of the canopy, cast by the tree.
Jim was sprightly, for his age. In his mid-70s, he affected the air of an older man, rigid and halting in his movements belied by the two mile hike he took, around the park near their house, every morning before nine and every evening, around 7pm.
Abdul, on the other hand, ten years Jim’s junior, walked with the aid of a stick, having lost his right leg, below the knee, in an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon in 1982. He avoided public forays, preferring, instead, to sit on his porch and drink hot or cold mint tea, depending on the time of day or year.
Abdul shared the same hint of confusion and question. Neither of them were used to such outbursts. Both were bachelors and lived alone in their respective houses, even if they were adjoining. Both employed female housekeepers, matronly ladies who attended to housekeeping duties including shopping and keeping larders stocked for all eventualities. Both ladies arrived at 10am but left before dusk. They took turns to prepare an evening meal that Jim and Abdul enjoyed together.
Both listened now for any further outbursts that might disturb their afternoon sojourn in the shade. Sure enough, the ‘oh my Gods’ were followed by an ear shattering squeal that caused Abdul to drop his iced mint tea, in fright, and Jim, the checker he was poised to crown.
Abdul levered himself out of his rattan chair, as quickly as his prosthetic right leg would allow, and proceeded to brush the front of his trousers with a napkin, to soak the spilled tea. Jim looked on, exasperated. They both shared a look without words that spoke of tolerance and dismay.
At that moment, the object of the squeals and howls of distress, emerged with a leap and youthful flounce from the back porch of Jim’s house.
“Uncle Jim,”, she squealed, again, causing both Uncle Jim and Abdul to wince, even though the decibel level was dialled down a fraction. “Uncle Jim,” she continued, arriving at the table in the shade of the cedar tree, “I have a zit that looks like a suppurating boil, what’ll I do?”
Barefooted, she was dressed in cerise pink, elasticated waist, Capri pants and a lime shaded, crop top that exposed her belly and pierced navel. The offending ‘zit’ she presented to her uncle Jim, tongue in cheek, to accentuate its offending protuberance. Jim, for his part, sat agape and silent. Abdul, forgetting his sodden trousers, flopped into his, still wet, rattan chair.
To say Jim was shook would be like saying Donald Trump has nice hair, a subject he and Abdul had discussed at length over lunch, along with the general catastrophic state of crisis in the country and the world, in general.
Persy, his grandniece had elected to stay the night with her grand uncle Jim, primarily, he suspected, because his house was in the same neighbourhood as the dance she was going to that evening and also because, and this he didn’t suspect but knew, she could borrow her granduncle’s motorcar, his prized Porsche Targa 911, lovingly and lavishly restored with engineering perfection by Singer.
“Persephone,” he said, “please turn the dial down a little. It’s a placid afternoon and we’d like to sit in comfort and enjoy our drinks in this Elysian setting. A pimple is hardly something to get so worked up about. They happen. It’s natural. You’re a teenager.”
She listened barely able to restrain herself. Jim was well aware of this. First, he knew she hated to be called by her full name, Persephone and second, at 19, he knew she hated to be reminded she was still a teenager. But he was going to have his fun even when he knew it would cost him.
“Eeeeeek,” she squealed with a sound that reminded him of a wet finger being rubbed around the rim of a wine glass or a fingernail scraped on a blackboard. Abdul spilled what was left of his tea out on the lawn and slapped his glass down on the table. Jim winced but resisted putting his fingers in his ears.
“There is nothing you can do, my dear, the pimple or ‘zit’ as you call it, will have to run its course. I know you know you could squeeze it and then risk a horrendous explosion, followed by an angry red crater, on your face,” Jim explained with as much sympathy as he could muster.
Abdul felt ill and Jim could see him visibly blanch and unconsciously scratch his right leg, above the knee.
“You’ll just have to make do but I’m sure you’ll contrive to make the best of the situation and, given your obvious attractive poise and elegance, be the belle of, well, whatever the event is you’re going to this evening,” he continued.
Pouting now, Persephone, gave her granduncle a long and beguiling, half lidded look, as she leaned her thigh against his shoulder and slipped her arm around him and said, “Uncle Jim, are you using your car this evening?”
“If I loan you my car will you promise to keep the keys on your person, park and drive it yourself, without, and this I must stress, without consuming alcohol or any psychotropic drugs or narcotics?”
“Oh Uncle Jim,” she squealed again, causing Abdul to wince, again and with that, she threw her arms around her granduncle, planting a sloppy, wet kiss on his cheek, with a flounce and a flit, was gone, almost as quickly as she arrived.
Abdul poured them both glasses of the iced, lemon water while Jim rearranged the checkers board. They settled in their seats, exchanging a look that said, crisis averted.