March 24, 2019. Sunday.
Ladies and gentlemen, the world, especially all life, love, and spiritual gurus — Edmonton TV and Sherwood Park media are glorifying my walnut mall stunt — and canonizing my walnut flesh — as if I am a Hollywood or New York jazz superstar — rolled into one nutshell!
— On Sunday morning news headlines — Two woozy male TV anchors/commentators —
“Are you ready for this?” one announces, grinning, wide-eyed — his extreme enthusiasm electrifies through the TV screen — “Sherwood Park went oh-gaga yesterday — And no, it had nothing to do with hockey, neither the Titans, nor Dolly Parton’s surprise visit — It was all about one classy, jazzy, and sassy name – Ace Hansel! Roll the clip — and here she is!” —
And there I am. There’s my walnut. My first public singing performance — a fun duet with a delightful man — the father of my one and only LUSH — all the good human hearts — This purity and pride — One of the most heart-rending moments of my life — that I will never regret — Regardless of how much the public may consume off my privacy, my secrets, and everything else that blends along with my pulverized vanity — I would do it again in the name of my loving pulse — and grits!
Mr. Dawson appears in an ambushed interview after our singing smack-down. “She’s my daughter’s good friend,” he says. “She’s a very nice girl.” — The reporters rumble at him with more provoking questions — “She’s just visiting. They’re just visiting. That’s all I gotta say. Thank you.” And he breaks away from the harassment.
And fanatical random witnesses pan through the screen, expressing their distraught devotion:
“Oh, man! That was pretty surreal! I got no words for it! My mind was just — all over the place! I could not even think!” one teenage boy fusses.
“She’s gotta be somebody! She’s gotta be!” one man insists.
“Gorgeous, like drop-dead-gorgeous with a drop-dead-gorgeous voice!” one lady flaps.
“Ace Hansel! Doesn’t the name sound famous already?” one teenage girl wonders. “I think I must have already heard of it somewhere! But yeah, I’m glad I went and saw her in full flesh! It was very exciting!”
“Oh yes! My wife has also fallen in love with her, all right!” one young man reveals.
“She waved and smiled at me! She looks like an angel!” one fair female senior shares her propensity.
“Oh, I broke my ankle! My friends and I ran after her!” one young woman confesses —
Dylan grabs the remote control and taps the TV off! Mr. Dawson, Mrs. Dawson, and I are all frozen on the couch, motioning with our troubled heads, exchanging looks. “Never mind Sherwood Park paper headlines!” Dylan clamors. “THIS — is already spreading way too fast, infecting the rest of the country, all over freaking North America, not to mention Social Media, and the rest of the WORLD!!!”
“It wasn’t Ace’s fault,” Mr. Dawson mutters. “It was my fault. I shouldn’t have insisted on joining the mall show again, anyway. It was only supposed to be for kids.”
“Yes, honey,” Mrs. Dawson says, holding his hand. “But it was your dream. To be on stage and to — serenade the public.”
It breaks my heart. “Well, I do not regret any of it at all,” I say, then turn to Dylan. “Not one bit! Now they know that this delightful man right here can sing and pull off a great show himself! That’s all that matters to me! I don’t care about my walnut being trampled to death like that! They’ll get over it in time, anyways! So please — stop freaking out like we’re about to be assassinated — We’ll be okay!” I step closer to her and lift her face. “We’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
“It’s just scaring the hell out of me,” she mumbles, sobbing. “Now they’re all gonna wonder about who you are, then –”
“Hey hey,” I interrupt her, “stop. Dylan, just — stop. I wouldn’t put you through more mess anymore. This is just –”
A knock busts in!
“Are we expecting anybody?” Mrs. Dawson asks her conscience-stricken husband.
“I think they must have gotten our address from the mall show organizer,” he replies. “And they must have figured that – Ace is staying here with us — so –”
“So?” Dylan flies off the handle. “So we’re on a house arrest ‘cause those psyched out paper and TV people are out there! Is that what’s going on here now?” She stomps to the window and flips away the curtain, then takes a peek and spins back to us — GROWLING!!! “This is my suicidal pit — RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW!!”
Mr. Dawson rises. “I’ll go talk to them.”
“Really, dad!” Dylan slams him. “Even if you’d have to come up with a white lie, they’d still keep on harassing you, even mom, the house –”
“It’s not only about the show!” he spouts out. “This kid from a bookstore has been razzing about you two! All over! Everywhere! With a clear surveillance video to prove it!”
“That Jason prick guy?” Dylan bellows. “I knew he was gonna do something evil! He was coming on to Ace! I even wanted to punch his groin for being so pushy and whatnot!”
“Look, darling,” he sighs, “we live in a very demented world, all right? Your mom and I got fired, Ace rescued my dignity, and both of you still have a lot of insane things that you must surmount together. What I’m trying to say is they’re not harassing us out of hate. They’re harassing us because — somehow — we’ve fascinated them. We’ve invigorated their lives a little bit. We’ve probably even taught them a little lesson there. That anyone deserves to be up there. Deserves a chance to make a dream come true — Deserves to stand up for her heart’s joy — No, they’re not angry about what they’ve seen on the surveillance video. They just want to know the truth. ‘Cause perhaps — it resonates with a piece of themselves or their friends or their loved ones. It was a display, yes. But it was also courage and pride –” — he looks at me — “It was Ace’s courage and pride.” — back to Dylan — “Because she loves you this much. And there’s no other better explanation than that.”
I have found a third home. A home with Dylan. A home with mom and dad. A home with the delightful Dawsons a.k.a. my future in-laws.
“Dad,” Dylan snivels, “we were only there to pick up a box for our sacred seven decades.”
“A what, darling?” Mrs. Dawson yelps.
I press Dylan’s hand. “Babe, can I please talk to you upstairs?”
“Okay,” she agrees.
“May we be excused?” I ask for Mr. and Mrs. Dawson’s permission. They nod, and I drag Dylan up into the bedroom.
I shut the door and convulse into a loud cry, confounding her. “I — I — I’m really deeply wildly in love — with you! And your parents! Your hearts! Your wonderful hearts! Your beautiful and simple life! Everything about you! Everything that connects to you! Everything that mirrors who you are! I am really deeply wildly in love with you and all of that!” I weep some more — out of rapturous euphoria and breathing fears. “Your fears may not equate with mine at all, Dylan. They keep on magnifying up every second. I don’t want you to be overwhelmed by stupid hysteria surrounding my flesh. I’m worried that by the time we get to Vancouver, you stumble on a chop of my reality, and then you’d run away from me. I’m just a walnut. I worked for Alex. So I used to top manage her business because I loved it. To me, it was a significant run. It shaped a part of who I am today. When I could have had a better career than that. But I chose not to. I dismissed my master’s degree for something that my heart enjoyed doing, and it took a lot of courage for me to do that and defend my decision to my parents — The bottom line is — I am no better than anyone. Than you. Than anybody out there who likes me, who stares at me, who seeks for my attention. If there’s one amazing lesson that my walnut life has taught me, it would be claiming happiness regardless of the sacrifices that I would have to make — I’m with you and I want to be with you for the rest of my life because I’ve claimed my happiness, and I pray that it wouldn’t run away. I pray that — whatever happens from here on — I don’t want you to have a change of heart. I don’t want to wake up one morning — and you’ve gone your way. I don’t want to lose my one and only LUSH — Because it’s mine, and it will always be mine! No matter how many times you doubt it! And you — you will always be mine. Always — And we don’t have to question the universe anymore. Because you and I hold the truth. And we’re trapped in our sacred seven decades together — So would you — be kind enough to promise me that I wouldn’t lose you anytime — and any day?”
Her tears roll down on her pristine face. She nuzzles my chin and reveres my lips. Oh baby — kiss me — please kiss me now! — She honors my eyes with a confident smile. “Walnut — I’d love to kiss you now — But we still have a vicious monster to take down — So we’ll claim it until then –”
“Clinched,” I reply. “Wait a minute. Is that your term of endearment for me? Walnut?”
“I like the sound of it. And everything about it. And its happiness crack.”
“Yeah, but — could you please come up with something — anatomical — instead?”
“Out of all your million beautiful things? How could I slam them altogether into one nutshell?”
“Please! Just — come up with something — adorable — Anything that sounds — humanly adorable!”
“Okay okay! God, walnut!”
I peep through the window — and — Argh! “They’re really out there.” A group of local media and some delirious community residents are still mooning over the house, fawning my arrogant walnut away!
“I’m not looking anymore,” Dylan protests.
“They’ll get tired of it, anyways!” I slump down in bed. “Any word from Vancouver yet?”
“Nope,” she says. “No reply yet.”
“I’m getting really worried now!”
“Just now? I’ve been worried since day one!”
“Dylan, baby, I’ve just delivered a heart-wrenching speech!”
I pull her into me for a snuggle. “Come here!” She buries her face in my neck, and I press my lips against her temple. “We’ve gotta book our flight now.”
“We should leave tonight,” she replies. “I don’t want those people tormenting you more. It sucks me into my fears, like my suicidal pit is already welcoming me in.”
“Baby,” I sigh, “I’ve just delivered a heart-wrenching speech.”
“I’m sorry, Ace. My paranoia just can’t help it, all right?”
“Your paranoia is driving me to dig my own grave myself!”
“I’ll try harder to kick it out of the way. Just — give me some time.”
“Fine. Now we need to use your folks’ computer. See if we can fly tonight.”
“Use my phone,” she says.
“All right, then,” I yelp, and she rests her leg over me, with her arm limping around my stomach. It vamps up my lower abdomen that I wind my head away, fracturing into a romantic reverie of our — first time. “Babe –”
“Don’t move yet,” she moans, closing her eyes. “I like this. It makes me feel like — you really are mine — forever.”
“I am yours all through our sacred seven decades,” I reply. “What are you talking about? Are you pulling the fear trigger again?”
“I don’t know,” she mumbles. “I just have a feeling that — something — very atrocious is about to happen between us.”
“Please don’t say that,” I beg, pulling her closer. “Please — don’t you ever — EVER — say that!”
“Okay,” she groans. “Just don’t move yet.”
I kiss her head. “I really like the smell of your hair. I’ll find out what brand of shampoo you use — since you’ve said it’s — just something random.”
“You still remember that?” she laughs.
“It was one of your cute moments. How could I forget? — So what was my cute moment? Do I have one?”
“What’s my deal? I’m a walnut! I’m a walnut! You see me otherwise, I know– but inside — I’m a walnut!”
“Oh my god!” I crow out, clapping! “That was hilarious!”
“So then I said –” she continues, “– where is this walnut introduction going, Miss Ace Hansel? — You could have just said — I’m dragging you around the country to stop a vicious monster! And then — you ended up rescuing my dad’s dream — along the way — And you became a superstar!”
“I’m afraid I would have to disagree,” I say. “You — all of you — have made my All of Lush true love wish — come true –”
She kisses me on the nose. “I love you very much, walnut.”
“You really are settling for walnut, huh?”
“I’m still thinking of a humanly adorable one. Cool it.”
Her cell phone rings! She rolls away and picks it up from the bedside table. My mom’s number is flashing on the screen. “It’s my mom!” She hands it to me, and I answer it. “Mom! Hi!” I shriek on the mouthpiece — then put her on speaker —
“Hey, honey,” she says on the other line, sounding worried. “Are you okay? Is everything okay?”
“It’s fine,” I reply. “Well, not really. But — it will be okay — hopefully –”
“We couldn’t get back to you right away,” she explains. “Your dad and I have been in panic — and deliberating over — this — reprehensible case — We’d like you to know that — the only thing that has made us go off the deep end — is — how you sold your soul to Alex –”
“I’m really sorry, mom,” I weep — as Dylan locks me in a tight hug — “I’m so ashamed of it! I’m so sorry!”
“Most of your dad’s clients have dropped him,” she continues. “And some of my lucrative accounts have also backed off. At once.”
“Mom,” I wail on, “please — I didn’t mean for all this to happen — I’m so sorry that you and dad got into this mess — my mess!”
“We’re not worried about that at all,” she replies. “We’re worried about you and Dylan — and her mom and dad –” Dylan and I gape at each other in a reserved wield. “Honey,” mom carries on, “as long as everybody is safe and sound, that’s all that matters. We only regret the fact that you’ve finally found the courage to share your truth and happiness with us at an inauspicious time — and through — virtual messages — However, no matter what, we’re glad that — your heart is proud and smiling now.”
“Thanks, mom,” I sob.
“Please — give our hugs to Dylan’s parents,” she says. “Love you. Ciao.” And she hangs up.
Dylan gazes at me in ironic woes. I wipe off her tears with my fingers. “What’s the matter?” I ask.
“You did not delete those sent messages,” she responds. “But I refused to read them out of respect — Did you really tell them everything?”
“Every truth that I could ever snag out of me,” I confess, “yeah. Except for the — you know — engagement bash — or –”
“I’m already falling in love with your parents. This is even becoming more dangerous.”
“I’ve told you, they’re kind and warm!”
“What’s gonna happen to the vicious monster mission now?”
“We’re still taking her down!”
“And how exactly are we gonna do that? She’s vicious and powerful, for crying out loud!”
“Vancouver will give us the major light bulbs!”
The house arrest lasts for the rest of the day. It is only until evening that the front lot is cleared off. Though some media trolls — and maybe — even a few stalkers — may still patrol around the area — the public delirium is dying down now. In the open air, at least. But who knows how my walnut virus has poisoned the world wide web and the rest of the major media outlets across the country. Do I have to justify what’s in the surveillance video? Nope. It was for what it was. It is. It will always be about — how baby carrot has reached the finish line of her potato search. Do I have to take pride in my mall stunt? Nope. I am taking pride in sharing the moment with the delightful man. So I have nothing to say to the curious, the fanatics, and the internet glues. I wholeheartedly thank their admiration — in good or bad definitive sprout. I am on a mission to take the vicious monster down the drain. For justice. For courage and pride. For true love.
Our flight is around 11 o’clock at night. The delightful folks drive us to the airport. As I hug them both a momentary goodbye, Mr. Dawson whispers to me, “Thank you for making my dream come true.”
“Thank you for making my All of Lush — true love wish come true,” I whisper back.
“What did she say?” Mrs. Dawson inquires.
“She’s thanking us for making her All of Lush true love wish come true,” Mr. Dawson replies.
“Oh, darling!” Mrs. Dawson cups my face with her hands. “You’re a family now! Come back soon?”
“Uh, mom,” Dylan butts in. “The walnut is squashed here in Alberta. So no.”
“We’ll ship you both over to –”– I turn to Dylan — “Baby — Toronto –?”
“Yep!” Dylan snaps.
“Toronto it is!” I address the delightful folks. “That’s what she said.”
“We should do that, too,” Mr. Dawson informs his delightful wife. “They ask each other. Over certain things.”
“You’ve just asked me this morning over a baking soda case,” Mrs. Dawson replies. “Whether it’s good for hair or not.”
“We haven’t come to a conclusion yet,” he argues. “It didn’t even take a second for Dylan to answer Ace’s question. So is it good for hair or not?”
“Well –” Mrs. Dawson stammers, contemplating.
“It is!” Dylan and I yelp at once.
“That’s just settled it then,” Mr. Dawson says.
Dylan spreads her palm before me. “Claimed.”
I meet it with a high-five. “Clinched.”
We hug them both again, then roll our way into the terminal. “You think Alex has been back in Vancouver by now?” Dylan asks.
“Maybe,” I sigh.
“So have you got anything in mind yet?” she bombards on.
“Vancouver can answer to that,” I reply.
“Can you turn yourself into a walnut superhero? Or a baby carrot air missile? We are up against a vicious monster who can even destroy Venus and Mars. How on earth are we gonna outwit that?”
“Dylan, please, have a little faith in me.”
“I just don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“Nothing is gonna happen to me. What do you think she would do? Poison me?”
“Or trap you in a wicked setup,” she surmises.
“Let’s talk about how we’re gonna outwit the vicious monster,” I insist, “instead of the vicious possibilities that could happen to me.”
“If something happens to you,” she grunts, “I swear to god, I’d go for the mushing mission with a very dangerous weapon.”
“Dylan,” I giggle, “you’ve almost convinced a bug around here!”
“I’ll show you some courage soon,” she yaps, pouting.
“Some courage with a pout?” I laugh. “That would work!”
The arrogant walnut in me is bestowed by feverish rubbernecks and avid news mongers — from checking in — to security — all the way to terminal waiting areas — as the outrageous mania — caused by my impromptu singing exhibition — along with the flashing pride of introducing my sacred seven decades beauty glistening through the bookstore surveillance video — streams on TV news feature reports emblazoned around the airport — overlaying political chaos and worldwide concerns — Nothing rude at all. In fact, Dylan gets venerating heads and fair amount of attention as well — All eyes and all smiles hail us — It’s cute in a way. And my wife seems appeased about it now, though — I know — her doubts, fears, and screaming insecurities would smash in at any given time.
We occupy a spot away from any human contact. As we take our seats, with our suitcases and hand-carries plumped beside us, I notice her pale face. “Babe, are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she mutters.
Her eyes are dilating. I feel her body temperature with the back of my hand. She’s burning up. “You’ve got a flu!” I yelp. “Do you feel dizzy and nauseated?”
“A little bit,” she replies.
“Oh my god!” I scrabble for the aspirin bottle from my purse. “I gotta go grab some water.” I kiss her on the cheek — and RUN!!!
I spot a coffee shop along the way and screech to a full stop. An aghast young woman tends to me. “Hi,” I pant, “may I please get a bottle of water?”
“Ace Hansel,” she uproars. “Oh — my — god!”
“Thank you,” I reply — in the spirit of awkward society — “I just need a bottle of water, please?”
“Absolutely!” She hops away and snatches a water bottle from the fridge, then hands it to me — still star-stricken — “Oh — my — god — You’re — just — amazing — and drop dead stunningly — GORGEOUS!!”
And I forgot my wallet! “Oh, shoot.” I place the water bottle on the counter. “I’m sorry. I’ll be back. I forgot my wallet.”
“No! It’s okay! You can have it! All yours!” she offers in a blasting tone.
“No, that’s not right,” I insist. “I’ll be back. I promise.”
“No! Just take it! And just swing by later!” she thrills on.
“Oh, okay,” I say, smiling. “Thank you. I’ll be back in a sec.”
“Is it true that you’ve got a wife?” she mouses in.
“Yeah,” I answer, with gleaming confidence. “She’s caught a flu all of a sudden, and this water is for her.”
“Wow,” she snaps, pleased! “Well, I hope she feels better soon.”
“Thank you!” I scurry back to Dylan — who seems to fall asleep in her seat now — I sit beside her, then give her the pill and the water bottle. She pops it in and swooshes it down. I feel her head, and it inflames my skin. I want to screak my heart out — but it might only worsen her condition. So stalwart walnut must leap up!
“I think it’s because we haven’t had good rest and good sleep,” she murmurs, “and then there’s the Alberta weather –”
“Oh, baby –” I moan, soothing her hair, “– I’m so sorry for putting you all through this mess!”
“It’s okay,” she shrugs, and I quash her with kisses all over her cheeks! “Ace!” She scruples away and looks at me. “I’m already cramped up. You’re making it worse.”
“Sorry,” I giggle. “Oh, I gotta head back to the coffee shop lady.” I nab my wallet out of my purse. “I forgot my wallet. I haven’t paid for it yet. She just let me take it.”
“Even if she didn’t recognize you,” she says, “she’d still let you take it, anyway.”
“That’s not nice,” I reply and kiss her on the nose, then whish back to the coffee shop. “Hi!” I greet the coffee shop lady, who has been anticipating for my reappearance right outside of the stand. She rewards me with a beseeching smile. Uh-oh. This is trouble! I kick the thought out of my head and slip out a bill from my wallet. “Here’s for the water.”
“May I please have a selfie with you?” she prays.
“I — I –” I hesitate — “I — I’m not –”
“PLEASE!!!” She almost kneels down before me.
“Okay,” I give in — I would rather dunk myself in a dam of ketchup —
“YAY!!!” she cheers and reveals her smartphone. As she poses close to my face, I force a logical smile — Oh. Yeah. Logical smile. Whatever that means — And she snaps a shot — “Oh my god!” she lauds over the photo. “You’re such a — total goddess!!”
I want to gag! “It’s just grits, as my wife would say!”
“Ace Hansel??!!” A group of female travellers — hollers and dashes over! WITH GUNG-HO SHRILLS!!! WHOOPS!!! OH NO!!! NO NO NO NO NO!!! Others catch on — and jump towards the commotion! MORE SOULS SWARM IN!!! Oh, dear god!!! What has the world become??? I AM BEING MOBBED —
— in a Hollywoodish kind of way!!!
I stay collected and smile, though my chest explodes with a murder of crows! I let them take videos and pictures while some manage to sneak away with selfies! Until I can’t breathe anymore and — “It was nice meeting you all, but I really have to go now! My wife’s got a flu — so –”
“We love you! I love you! Love you, Ace Hansel!” they jam on, as I break away and strut back to Dylan!
I throw my exhausted walnut into the seat and pant. Dylan looks at me, snickering. “It is not funny!” I yelp.
“I’ve heard the hysteria from here,” she smirks. “It’s like — The Beatles mania.”
“That would be way too much for my walnut to take on,” I say. “I’m not going for that route. We — are not going for The Beatles mania route.”
“Just pray that the rest of the country is still clueless about your walnut epidemic,” she stresses.
“How are you feeling, though?” I feel her head.
“It’s okay,” she replies. “I’ll feel better once we get to Vancouver.” A text message spurts into her cell phone. She checks the screen and hands the device to me. “It’s your mom.”
I read the message, and — “Oh my god!” I squeak. “Dad’s just been rushed to the hospital. Very bad hypertension kick. And here you are with a flu! Argh!” I poke my head with my fist.
“Ace!” She catches me by the wrist to calm me down. “It’ll all be fine.” And she strokes my face — with her impassioned fingers — then rests a longing smooch on the side of my lips. I am compelled to dodge up for our first — but I don’t want her to get mad for breaking the rule! Even more — ARGH!!! “We’ll be fine,” she pledges.