By David Garber
Ever have one of those days when everything seems to be going great? Well, today wasn’t one of them.
You know what they say, “a day without sunshine is, well …night!” And it was feeling pretty dark right about now. I’d just been accused by my supervisor of stealing from the returns bin at the electronics store where I work. I didn’t take anything, but I knew who did — my new co-worker, and a pretty chill guy, Mike Smolarz.
He had this scam. He’d have a friend come in, buy something Mike wanted, and in a few days, return it as broken. I’d write it up and give the customer back his money. Mike would volunteer to take it to the return bin in the back, but instead he’d cop the item and stash it in his car. I saw him do it once and called him on it. After a sob story about his being on probation for some vague “legal misunderstanding” and needing this job or returning to the slammer, I felt sorry for him. So I promised to keep my mouth shut.
And I did. But about an hour ago, my department supervisor dropped a bomb on me – not the “F” bomb or the S.B.D. kind. This one stunk a hell of a lot worse. The store manager, the big boss wanted to see me. It was going to be the Kyle Inquisition.
Now I was being accused of stealing and if I didn’t rat out Mike, I’d be crushing rocks, doing hard time. I took a deep breath and tried to see the upside of keeping my yap shut. I’d be a man of my word.
A lot of good that would do me inside of the state correctional facility. Though Shelby’s told me I have a cute butt, I don’t think she would enjoy seeing “Bruiser’s Bitch” tramp-stamped on it when I was released.
A crazy thought danced in my head. I could make a break for the border. Nah, then I’d never see Shelby again or find out if Deputy Rick survives “The Walking Dead,” or as they probably call it Mexico, “Los Walkos el Deados.”
“El Caminar Muertos. I picked that up from my ex,” came this phantom female voice from behind.
I looked over and this tall, smiling redhead was beaming at me. “Lucille Ball?” My Paranoiac Schizophrenic Disorder was obviously kicking in again.
“You can call me ‘Rucy’ like Desi did or ‘Lucy’ like normal people. Looks like you got yourself into a little pickle. Or as Ethel Mertz would say, ‘That’s one pickle I wouldn’t relish.’”
“What do I do? I gave my word and I’m not a snitch and I’m not a crook.”
“That leaves out becoming a politician or a Hollywood executive,” she retorted. “Sinatra used to say to me, ‘you go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company. Pick your poison.’”
I got to thinking, this woman always got into jams like the conveyor belt at the chocolate bonbon factory.
Somehow she always managed to fumble her way out. Surely she could she wrest me from this desperate situation.
“You could get some padding, dress up like a big, tough gangster and threaten your supervisor to ‘Lay off the kid,’” she suggested, using her tough guy voice.
“You really think that would work?” I asked with a ton of doubt.
“No, but we’d have done that on my show. It wouldn’t have worked there, either – that’s when the writers would bring in a guest star, like Eddie G. Robinson or John Wayne.”
We both laughed.
“You’ve got a good sense of humor, Kyle. Desi used to say, ‘When life gives lemons, make lemonade. The trick is to find someone whose life gives them vodka. Then you make a party.’” She banged on the counter, “If that fails, try ‘Bobaloo!’”
Reassuring as Desi’s homily was, especially the bobaloo part, I don’t think that was going to get me by. Lucy saw that in my face so she took a different tack. “To relieve a really stressful situation, Desi taught me how to cook, Cuban style, with wine. Sometimes I’d even add it to my food,” she chuckled.
“You really lived some life!”
“You try being married to a wild, Cuban, womanizing lush and raising two kids despite having your own career. It’s not easy, but I handled it by controlling events, not letting them control me.
“So what you’re saying is I have to take charge of my own life.”
“Now you’re talking,” she reassured me.
I was starting to understand her… But what I didn’t understand was how come everything around me was in black and white, like I was watching an old episode of her show?
I plowed on despite feeling ‘drained.’ “But what if that means I have to name names and that could send someone to jail?”
Oops. I might have touched upon a sensitive subject. I suddenly remembered from a political science class I had in college that Lucy supposedly gave up names during the communist witch hunts back in the ‘50s.
She shook her head. “You have to do what’s right, regardless of the consequences.”
As Lucy brought me around, I wondered if she was really going to confess the secret she held for all these years. Did she or didn’t she name names?
“Back in the ’50s, I faced the hardest decision of my life… I had to decide whether to speak out about some things — some very private things. If I gave up names, I could keep everything I had worked so hard to achieve. If I refused, I might lose my show and everything I struggled tirelessly to build.”
“So you did squeal, I mean give up names?” I shockingly asked.
“Of course I did. They say the truth will set you free – that and a great divorce lawyer.” She snickered.
Now I was really confused. A divorce lawyer at a congressional hearing? She stopped for a moment taking in my perplexed expression.
“I’m talking about my divorce from Desi. I gave up the names of Desi’s cheating paramours and that’s how I got control of Desilu Studios in the settlement.”
“Why? What did you think I was talking about?” she asked very slyly.
I stammered a bit, then meekly confessed, “the communist hearings?”
“Sweet boy,” she continued, “You didn’t really think I was going to talk about that thing, did you? I never spoke about it then, and I’m not going to speak about it now in the hereafter. My current neighbors would turn over in their graves, literally, and in my peaceful resting place, I couldn’t stand the noise.”
Made sense, at least to me, someone who sees dead people.
This striking woman went on, “You know, in a funny way, you remind me of Desi… He was very charming, sometimes confused, but oh so cute, just like you.”
“Thanks,” was all that I could muster.
“Only he was a philanderer and God, was he ever cheap! On our tenth anniversary he gave me a fur coat – and to this day, I’m still looking for our dog. ‘Here, Rover. Here, Rover!’”
With that, I burst out laughing.
She reassured me, “Kyle, I have faith in you. I always did what I felt was right and I never lived with regrets. Now it’s your turn. What’s it going to be?”
Suddenly all the color in my world came back. “Kyle!” A shout came from aisle 12. It was my supervisor, motioning me to follow him to the boss’s office. I turned to say thanks to Lucy, but she was gone. But not her advice. I was going to do what was right for me.
On my way to judgment, I had to pass by Mike. He grabbed me for a second. “Thanks for not ratting me out, earlier.” Before I could tell him of my change of heart, he confided, “Have them check the returns bin again. They’ll find whatever went missing.” He gave me a wink, and I continued on my way – totally relieved.
I had learned a lesson — never be afraid of confronting the truth — but fortunately wasn’t going to have to use it today. And I even turned a thief into an honest man. I was feeling pretty good. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, I heard Lucy’s voice calling out again, “Here, Rover, here, Rover!”
From scared and confused, I was now laughing.
God, how I love Lucy.