Wednesday, December 29, 2021


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.  

1. What are you currently reading? And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I don't usually read mysteries back to back, but while reading The Sugar Cookie Murder (below), I was reminded of this wonderful old Christie chestnut. What if you were trapped inside with a group and knew one of them was a murderer ... but didn't know which one? In the right hands, that's scary stuff.

It's no reflection on Joanne Fluke that Dame Agatha does it better. She used this device in Murder on the Orient Express (train) and then in And Then There Were None (a deserted island). 

I've seen both movie versions of this story many times so I know the outline well. Yet I'm very, very into it. There's a luxury mansion on a secluded island. Everyone in the UK is talking about it. Who is renting it this month? A movie star? Put in today's terms, pretend it's a house a Kardashian used to live in. 

Anyway the mysterious Mr. and Mrs. Owen have rented it and hired a couple to maintain it, as well as a secretary for Mrs. Owen. They did all this through correspondence. Neither the butler/maid nor the secretary have met their new employers. Invitations went out to seven strangers who can't figure out why the Owens have chosen them for a visit, but they're too drawn by the mystery, glamour and luxury to say no to the free vacation.

Ten people arrive at the island mansion, but Mr. and Mrs. Owen are not there. There's only one way off the island, by boat, and the boat won't be there again for days. (Since this is 1939, it's not like anyone can use their cellphones.) And now, one by one, the ten begin to die.

Hooked yet? I am.

2. What did you recently finish reading? Sugar Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke. This seasonal murder mystery is long on Christmas spirit and short on murder. Know that going in.

Hannah lives in a small town in Minnesota. All the citizens are inside the school for a holiday testing and tasting party. The best recipes will make The Lake Eden Holiday Buffet Cookbook. Snowfall turns into a blizzard and it looks like everyone will be snowed in with music, good friends, great food and ... a murderer! For Hannah finds a corpse in the parking lot, and the killer could not have made it through the drifts surrounding the school.

I enjoyed the interaction among the characters. This is my first foray into the world of Lake Eden and got a kick out of everyone. The mystery itself? Eh. I was more interested in the romance between Hannah and Officer Mike. I wish there'd been more plot ... and more kissing!
3. What will you read next? I don't know for sure, but I'm ready for non-fiction.


Christmas Eve/Christmas Day 2021

The happiest I saw Henry was at church on Christmas Eve. He seems to feel he belongs with his congregation. He's lonely and rudderless since quitting his job, but among his fellow church members, he seems more comfortable and even a little happy. "Happy" is in short supply in Henry's and Reg's lives.

I loved it, too. Rev. Steve is very warm and a good speaker. His Christmas message was so positive. He likened each of us to the star that led the wise men. When we act out of love, we become like the celestial phenomenon that lights the path for others. When we find ways to love and grow, we lead the way. I love that sentiment. We can show we're grateful to God by being good to others and lighting their path with kindness.

After the service Henry and I had a fancy, if disturbing, dinner. He ordered the octopus appetizer, telling me over and over how excited he was to see it on the menu. His mother made octopus all the time and he always enjoyed it. I ordered the coconut shrimp entree with a side of rice. When our plates came to the table, Henry took mine. Now I've never had octopus before, but I know what rice looks like, so I know he took my plate. I didn't want to embarrass him, so I let it go. He ate my coconut shrimp and declared it just like the octopus his mother used to make. As I ate his octopus (which tasted like mussels), I found myself getting progressively freaked out. Our dinner conversation wasn't any more festive. He was dismissive of my fears about crime in Chicago. He insisted it really isn't that bad, that Miami is worse. It was freaky. He moved from Chicago decades ago and hasn't even visited in 17 years. He's never lived in Miami. What the fuck? I was happy when Reg joined us for coffee and finished Henry's plate. He never had octopus before and was surprised it was cooked with coconut (!).

Why must Henry argue about everything? Why does he think he understands what it's life to live in post-pandemic Chicago, or Miami? And why can't he taste the difference between octopus grilled with lemon and coconut shrimp? 

Because he's living with a traumatic brain injury. 

Talking to him is unpleasant and exhausting. I love him, of course. I was happy to try to be there for him, and to give him companionship and to give Reg a break. But I understand why he's lonely. Just conversing with is work. No wonder people no longer seek him out. I wish he was happier. I wish his brain worked. 

Christmas was only marginally better. Both Henry and Reg were emotional, missing their families (Henry's in Puerto Rico hadn't called for either his birthday or Christmas; or if they did, he missed the call and didn't check his voicemail). I realize Christmas can be a melancholy time, so I tried to cut them slack and I dialed up my own merry.

We had a light lunch at a beautiful setting on the Gulf of Mexico. 

Isn't this gorgeous?

Henry and Reg decided against gifts and that was fine. It was enough that we were together. Patrick and I exchanged, though. I had a mug made for him -- pictures of him all over Key West that will remind him of his "island home" when he returns to Maine. He gave me a book about movie making, told in anecdotes from the experts. The only really weird part was that Henry kept insisting that while he was enjoying his lobster quesadilla, it was nowhere near as good as the octopus he'd had the night before (I'm not kidding).

I had a turkey club sandwich. Hey! It's Christmas and I demand turkey! Because it was my last big meal in Key West, I went old school. I had a Key Lime Colada with my lunch and Key Lime Pie for dessert. (I like green.)

Our car was parked near the Custom House, a beautiful building that's home to the Key West Art and Historical Society. Out front is a bronze sculpture Pondering the Benefits of Exercise by Seward Johnson. I got such a kick out of it. I always like his work.

It was a good Christmas. Not a perfect Christmas, but it doesn't have to be perfect to be a good Christmas. Me and Patrick, Reg and Henry. We all love each other. That's what's important. I just hope 2022 is happier for those guys.

Duval: Where delightful meets despicable

Duval is the main drag. Key West's top tourist trap. I've always loved it. Henry, Reg and Patrick avoid it whenever possible, but not this girl. I'm only in town for a few days and I'm not going to pretend to be a local. I'm a Chicago girl on vacation so bring on the jewelry kiosks and the cafes and souvenir shops!

This year was different though. Disturbing. I've been going to Key West and doing The Duval Crawl for, literally, decades. The t-shirts have always been, in my mother's word, "smutty." Save a horse, ride a beard. Mustache rides: 25¢. They call me drywall because I'm well hung. You get the idea.

This year they are far filthier. Donald Trump flipping the bird with: Impeach this. Joe Biden with: Not My President. "I don't need sex. The government fucks me every day." Yes, this ugliness is for sale next to the muumuus and the sea shell earrings.

I walked this street when George W. Bush was President. When Obama was President. When Trump was President. Sex sold better than politics in those days, I guess. Or maybe the loyal opposition wasn't this hateful.

I also saw our fellow citizens not wearing masks but proudly wearing all manner of "Let's Go Brandon." Worst of all, I actually saw a man with a shirt emblazoned with an automatic weapon and the question: "Does my patriotism offend you?" No, but I'm offended that you equate a gun with burst mode with love of country. 

Hillary Clinton may have been inartful when she referred to these people as "deplorable," but she wasn't wrong.

Oh well, it made my shopping easier. I refuse to spend my money in a store that sells this filth. I'll take sex over hate any day. Isn't capitalism great?

On the plus side -- and nothing is ever all bad -- I found this place. Dancing Fingers Massage was delightful. New to me and a godsend! Clean, affordable and quiet. The 15-minute foot massage was only $20. I felt positively rejuvenated. I'm only sorry I didn't discover them earlier in the week. The flight down was 3 1/2 hours spent folded virtually in half. I think I could have benefited from Dancing Fingers on my back, too!

My oasis!

Here's a happy new year sign. At midnight on New Year's Eve, a drag queen named Sushi will descend from this 8 foot stiletto to ring in 2022. Now this is the Key West I know and love!

 And where else but Duval can you see a cigar that looks like Elvis?