The novel is primarily about the lives of the residents of a suburban commuting town during an unusual economic boom. However, there are many amusing chapters about everyday living including the antics of the morning regular crowd at Ben’s Deli. Here is a funny scene about re-gifting Valentine’s Day unmentionables.
Excerpted from Hedge Fund Grannies Copyright © 2014 by Gerard Herlihy
This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part or in any form
ISBN: 0692241744 ISBN 978-0692241745
Late January in North Jersey was always gray, cold and dreary. Today, a heat wave of 90 degrees surprised everyone. Men wore polo shirts. Women wore shorts and miniskirts. The weather was getting downright wacky. In the last eight months, the Northeast had experienced Hurricane Irene, horrible flooding, an earthquake in Virginia, tornadoes and now summer weather in January.
Ben’s air conditioners were running full blast. Bart, the town pessimist and conspiracy theorist, hadn’t been seen in a while. He panhandled the table for spare change to buy a coffee. He once again claimed he had left his wallet at home. The table ignored him, but JB reached into his pocket for a couple of bucks.
JB: “Bart, you missed your calling in life.”
Decker: “What, as a beggar?”
JB: “No, as a monk. It seems our Bart here pledged a vow of poverty.”
Bart: “I’m sorry JB. My wife won’t let me turn on the lights in the morning to get dressed. I can’t see a thing. I thought I grabbed my wallet, but I must’ve dropped it before I left.”
JB: “It’s okay Bart. You’d think your wife would be a little more supportive of the breadwinner. Why isn’t she up when you’re getting ready? Does she at least make the coffee?”
Bart: “Make coffee? Are you kidding? She sleeps until ten. Then she beats the crap out of me when I get home from work. All I hear is what a failure I am. And I’m on an allowance. It barely pays for lunch. My life sucks.”
JB: “Sorry, man.”
Suzanne reached the cash register. Her new song played on the old jukebox. She thanked Ben and laughed as she joined the table. “I thought you guys were joking, or I would’ve put more thought into my selection.”
“Don’t worry. He won’t play it every day, but he always seems to sense the day you need cheering up,” said Allie.
JB stood and banged his spoon against his coffee mug. “May I have the men’s attention? Before you head off to work, I have a proposal which requires board table approval. It’ll be fun and save you money. This Valentine’s Day, I recommend we hold a lingerie exchange!”
The table of twelve groaned. It was another of JB’s crazy plans. Allie cried out, “You perv!”
“No girls allowed, Allie!” said a mock-serious JB. “This’ll save you guys big money. Every year you spend three or four hundred bucks on this ridiculous day created by restaurants, chocolatiers, florists and lingerie stores. It’s time we fought back.”
Decker said, “There’s no way we spend four hundred bucks.”
JB countered, “Add it up. Roses – $75 dollars. Candy – $25. Restaurant – $200. And lingerie is another $100. Well, I have a way to save you the cost of the unmentionables.
“Look in your wife’s dresser drawer. How many pairs of panties, nighties and camisoles still have the original price tag? They’ve never been worn. Every year, you’re obligated to buy something, and every year it goes in the ‘drawers’ drawer.”
“Maybe your wives would wear it if you guys stopped buying trashy and started buying classy,” said Allie.
Ben stood over the table. He said, “I gotta side with JB on this one. If you don’t buy lingerie, you’re not romantic. If you do buy it, she won’t wear it. It’s a ritual or something. Every woman has the drawer. It’s like a sacred burial ground for undies.”
“You’re right, Ben!” said JB. “Listen, this’ll be fun. Here’s the deal. Everyone bring in an item of your wife’s lingerie that’s never been worn. To be safe, it has to have been sitting for, let’s say, at least three years in the ‘no-no’ drawer. The store tags have to be intact.
“We’ll exchange among ourselves and re-gift it to our wives or significant others. She’ll never know. It’s going straight to the drawer anyway.”
Gavin: “My wife has a twenty-year inventory. Never been worn. JB, I hate to admit it. The idea is brilliant.”
Michael: “My wife also has such a drawer. However, a contest to save a hundred dollars sounds like a risk far outweighing the rewards. Would lose face if caught.”
Decker: “Michael, you sound like a Confucius banker. It’s not about saving the hundred bucks. It’s the thrill of the game. Unfortunately, I’m not dating anyone right now, so I’m out.”
Buyout: “I am dating someone, but I don’t have anything to exchange.”
JB: “I got you covered, Buyout. I have plenty extra.”
Justin: “I can say with some legal authority that this event is a tax-free lingerie exchange. As long as you’re swapping for like-kind panties.”
Walter, laughing: “And they said accountants don’t have a sense of humor. I’m definitely in. Sally may have an old baby doll nightie from the sixties sitting around.”
JB: “No way, Walter. It has to be reasonably current.”
Allie: “This is unfair. I want in.”
Ben: “Not only am I in, hold the panty exchange here at Ben’s on the thirteenth. It’s a Monday. I’ll buy coffee and bagels. You gotta show the goods to eat for free, though.”
Decker: “Free breakfast? Okay, I’ll exchange for the hell of it.”
Allie: “It’s gonna be a riot to see what you guys bought your wives.”
JB: “I’m not kidding, Allie. No girls allowed.”
Michael: “Okay, if everyone else is in, I’m in too. I hope this doesn’t backfire.”
Suzanne rose and said, “Thanks for the entertainment. You guys are lot of fun, but construction on the transfer station starts today. I have to shovel the first dirt. The mayor refuses to attend the groundbreaking.
“Two weeks until the lingerie show. I can’t wait.”
Ben had set a feast of bagels, bialys, melon and carafes of coffee. The table was full of men including a few who weren’t regulars. The idea had spread.
Allie, Panama Blonde and Suzanne sat at the adjacent table. JB chaired the lingerie exchange. “Okay, everyone has to present their scanties. If the majority of the table agrees, it goes in the grab bag.”
It was a fashion show without live models. Michael Li went first and unfurled a blue and white Chinese floral chemise. Allie remarked, “That isn’t unwearable. It’s cute.”
“It isn’t the item that makes the ritual. She must reject it to keep her sense of honor,” said Michael solemnly. “If she had purchased the item, she would wear it every night. But I purchased it, and she must reject it.”
JB interrupted, “Michael, it’s too recognizable. One of the other women might figure it out. Do you have anything else?”
Michael knew the item wouldn’t fly. He sprung his real contribution, a nasty looking dark red bustier and panty item. “How’s this?”
Allie said from exile, “Now that I wouldn’t wear!”
The twelve took turns showing red and black thongs, string bikinis, a rather tame camisole, teddies, mesh stockings, a push-up bra, and bunny ears with furry panties and matching high heels. The collection was an embarrassing indictment of male fantasies.
JB held up a pair of huge white nylon granny panties. “Here’s my contribution!”
Walter: “Wait! My wife loves those. They’re like magic underwear!”
Decker, scowling: “How embarrassing! If I saw you shopping for those, I would’ve asked the police to tail you home.”
JB: “Buyout was my secret shopper. They’re just a gag gift. Here’s my real delicate.”
JB held a tiny string bikini, garter belt and stocking set all in shocking pink. The string looked extremely uncomfortable.
Gavin: “No wonder women don’t wear this stuff.”
Decker stood and held high three small triangles of blue cloth held together by a long complex of elastic strings. He said triumphantly, “Beat that!”
Walter grabbed the web of cloth from Decker and fiddled with the contraption trying to determine exactly how one would climb into or out of such an item.
Gavin: “That’s not the top, Walter. That’s the bottom!”
Decker: “There’s no top or bottom. It’s not designed to be worn for long. It’s meant to be torn off.”
The girls were rolling their eyes at the chauvinist display. Ben leaned over to their table and handed Allie a box wrapped in silver foil with red hearts. “Here, Allie, a gift from your BFFs on Valentine’s Day.”
Allie opened the package and gushed as she held up a Joe Namath New York Jets football jersey. “I can’t believe you guys did this. You’re so sweet.”
JB: “They’re on sale. No one wants to be seen in a Jets jersey.”
Gavin: “I played golf with Namath once at Bear Lakes in West Palm. Great guy. Super competitive.”
Allie: “I love the Jets. They’re so human the way they keep tripping over themselves. Thank you, guys. I love all of you.”
JB: “Enough of the Jets. Alright, you’ve seen the items. Everyone pick a number and grab your gift. Good luck. Whatever you do, don’t tell your wife where you got it. You’ll blow everyone’s cover. Happy Valentine’s Day!”
Useless entropy is the unaccountable loss of energy in Einstein’s theory of relativity. Valentine’s Day is the unaccountable loss of time and energy every February 14.
V-Day landed on a Tuesday this year, which doomed millions of American men into heroic attempts at romantic behavior. If it had occurred later in the week, say on a Thursday, a husband could beg off the restaurant experience. “Let’s do it Saturday when it’s less crowded.” Not to mention lower prices. But Tuesday was too far from the weekend.
There’s nothing romantic about an overcrowded restaurant with unhappy patrons, besieged waiters and angry, overworked cook staff. Restaurants squeezed in far too many extra tables. Menu choices were limited. Diners were pressured to finish quickly and cede their table to the next couple waiting in line. It was just too many people cramming a well-intentioned rite into too little space and time. Are you getting this, Mr. Einstein?
JB scrolled through his iPhone while Allie sat proudly in her Namath football jersey munching on a bagel with cream cheese.
Walter joined the table with a worried look. “I’m in big trouble. I picked the Spencer Gifts scanty teddy at the Valentine’s Day exchange. My wife tried it on and it’s five sizes too big. We had a huge fight. How was I supposed to know size 14 is large? She wants to return it. I’m screwed!”
“Of course you got caught,” Allie snickered. “Women are way too smart for you guys.”
Justin said, “Well E=mc squared. Your loss is my gain. Dorothy thinks the size six thong is the greatest gift ever. She wore it all day. And she IS a size 14.”
“These are minor inconveniences,” said JB. “I think the panty exchange was an overall success, except for Walter, who has to learn women’s sizes. Walter, look in the leftover bag and pick a new item. The trick is to always buy a size eight or less. They’ll exchange it later. It’s a well-known statistical fact that a hundred fifty percent of all clothing gifts are returned by women for a different size.”
“If your stats are true, that would mean women are returning more than once,” Decker observed.
JB made a wry face. “Correct, Decker. It lets women shop more. Anyway, this event was so successful that we might want to do this again at Christmas. We’re going to put Victoria’s Secret out of business.”
Gavin nudged JB and pointed to a table of four young guns eating breakfast. “I think those are the commodity guys. It’s going to be an interesting year.”
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