Posted in Monday Blog, Short Story, Uncategorized

How do you like this short story?

gift-548299_640I hope you like this story about a girl who finds that the best gifts are worth waiting for and that believing in yourself is the first step toward achieving your dreams.

A PERFECT SOLUTION

by Debbie De Louise

© Debbie De Louise 2015

Loser. If you looked up the definition in Mary Jane Hopkins’ personal dictionary, her name would be listed. If the dictionary was illustrated, her photo might appear there, too. For the twenty-nine years and 364 days that she had been on this Earth, Mary Jane had accomplished nearly nothing. She did manage to graduate high school only because Mrs. Palmer, her English teacher in her senior year, felt pity for her and gave her a C- as her final grade. Mary Jane wasn’t stupid, but she had such low self-esteem that she failed everything she tried. An only child, her parents gave her everything she wanted, but they could never give her self-confidence.

The list of Mary Jane’s failures could take up a book. Since childhood, she’d taken lessons in a variety of wind, string, percussion, and electronic instruments – piano, violin, guitar, drums, flute, electric keyboard, even xylophone. After her parents invested thousands of dollars in lessons, she could barely play a note. Her mother, Gladys, suggested to her father that maybe music wasn’t Mary Jane’s thing. Then followed years of art lessons at a prestigious art school. A four-year old could better master her stick drawings and splattered paintings. Her dad then considered that his dear daughter might be more athletic than artistic. She took horseback lessons and nearly broke the horse’s back. She tried tennis, soccer, softball, basketball, golf, and even ping-pong but constantly lost the balls in each game. She nearly drowned during her Red Cross swimming lesson. Both parents agreed it might be best not to enroll her in skydiving or mountain climbing classes.

After all Mary Jane’s attempts at enrichment classes failed, her parents tried a different tact. When Mary Jane turned 13, her mother told her father that she read some books on teenagers that said they should be allowed to “sink or swim.” Her dad said that, judging by MJ’s previous swimming lessons, the sink was more likely. Gladys explained that the saying was not literal. It simply meant their daughter needed to try things on her own and suffer the consequences if they didn’t work out for her. Therefore, Mary Jane joined some clubs at school – cheerleading, chess, chorus, and even camera club. She forgot the one-word cheers, had no clue about the chess, got laryngitis her first day at chorus, and dropped and broke the camera club’s $500 digital camera.

It only got worse as Mary Jane grew older. She was never asked to her senior prom. Although she wasn’t ugly, she was as plain as her middle name portended. For her 16th birthday, her mother treated her to a makeover at a local beauty parlor. She was allergic to the cosmetics and broke out in hives. Her dad gave her money for a new wardrobe, but the materials of the new outfits made her itch.

As the years passed, Mary Jane applied to many jobs that did not require a college degree. She was hired as a waitress but spilled soup in a customer’s lap. She was a receptionist at a doctor’s office but put the wrong patient’s chart in the files. She even, without her parents’ knowledge, danced at an adult club, but she slipped on the floor and broke her ankle.

Now, approaching her 30th birthday, all Mary Jane wanted was to excel at something. That’s why, when she saw the advertisement in her email, hope grew in her heart. She knew it had to be authentic because her spam filter had not blocked it.

Do you wish you could change your life? For only $99.95, we can send you the details of our proven plan, A Perfect Solution. Whether you want a high-paying job, a loving spouse, or to win the lottery, if you dream it, you can have it. A Perfect Solution has helped thousands of shy, depressed, self-conscious men and women overcome their own feelings of worthlessness.

The final line really grabbed her:

You can even gift A Perfect Solution to a friend or relative or even yourself for your next birthday. A Perfect Solution will arrive in a discreet brown paper package within a week of order with complete instructions and a 60-day money back guarantee. Click here to order.

Mary Jane quickly clicked the order link. She had $100 left in her bank account from her parent’s last birthday gift, so she could afford to charge it. She filled out the order form and added her credit card information. She kept her fingers crossed that she would receive A Perfect Solution by her birthday the following week.

During the week, Mary Jane could not contain her excitement. Each day, she ran to the door when the mail carrier arrived. It was easy when her parents were at work but, on weekends, she knew she would have to keep a closer eye out for the mail truck or one of her parents might see her package. Even though the ad claimed A Perfect Solution would be mailed in a discreet box or envelope, she couldn’t take any chances. She had once sent for a magical beauty formula she’d seen described in a woman’s magazine at the supermarket checkout counter, and her mother never let her live down the mud mask that she received that was closer to the wet dirt in their backyard than it was to a cosmetic product.

The day after she’d ordered A Perfect Solution, she didn’t expect the package to be there, but Old Carter told her, as he handed her bills and advertisements that he was going on vacation and that another mail carrier would be taking his route that week. Mary Jane was a bit upset by this news because she feared the mail might be misdelivered, so she made an even greater point of watching for the daily mail.

On the day that Carter’s vacation started, Mary Jane had just finished lunch when she spotted a blue uniformed man making his way up her walk. He was younger and taller than Carter with dark hair under his mail hat and light blue eyes that met hers when she opened her door.

“Hi, there Ma’am,” he said handing her a few letters. “I’m taking Carter’s route this week. My name is Doug.”

Mary Jane smiled and hoped the glint off her adult braces wouldn’t blind the new mailman. “Nice to meet you, Doug. I’m Mary Jane. You don’t happen to have a package for this address, do you?”

Doug shook his head. “I’m afraid not, Mary Jane. That’s a very nice name by the way”

“Thank you,” Mary Jane said. She was disappointed but told herself it was only the second day after her order.

The following day, Doug brought the mail in the morning. Again, all he handed her were a few envelopes for her parents. He noticed her expression and said, “Sorry your package isn’t here yet, Mary Jane. I’ll keep an eye out for it.”

“I would appreciate that,” Mary Jane said.

The next day, Mary Jane felt like putting on some nice clothes to greet Doug instead of going to the door in her old pajamas and robe. She dug around in her closet and found a dress she had never worn. She remembered worrying that the material would be scratchy on her skin, but when she put the cream-colored silk on, it glided across her body. She added some stockings and even a dab of lip gloss. It would be nice to receive A Perfect Solution looking her best, she thought.

Doug rang the bell this time. When she answered, he produced a bouquet of carnations and lilies from behind his back. “For you,” he smiled, displaying a dimple. “There’s no mail for you today, so I thought you might need some cheering up.”

“How thoughtful,” Mary Jane said taking the flowers tentatively. The one previous time she’d received flowers from her grandmother on her high school graduation, she’d had a sneezing fit. However, that was nearly twelve years ago, and Doug’s flowers didn’t even water her eyes.

“I must say you look as lovely as those flowers,” Doug added. “I hope your package comes tomorrow.”

The rest of the week, Mary Jane tried on new clothes when she took in the mail. Each time, Doug had a small gift for her – a box of chocolates on Wednesday, a pretty paper fan on Thursday, and a lovely gold letter opener on Friday – but A Perfect Solution was not in his mail sack.

“Tomorrow is my last day before Carter comes back,” Doug told her. “I will say a special prayer tonight that your package arrives.”

Mary Jane was touched by this thought. “That is so sweet, Doug. Tomorrow is my birthday.”

The mailman smiled, showing his cute dimple again. “Then it has to come. But, if it doesn’t, I will be sure to bring you a special present to celebrate.”

“You’ve brought me so many presents already.” Mary Jane was sad she hadn’t received A Perfect Solution, but she was sadder that tomorrow would be the last day she would see Doug.

When Mary Jane woke up on her birthday, her parents were home because it was Saturday. Her mother made her a special breakfast of her favorite chocolate chip pancakes and her father handed her an envelope across the table. It contained another $100 that she could deposit into her bank account to cover the amount she’d spent on A Perfect Solution. She hoped she hadn’t been a victim of another scam like the mud makeup.

“What’s the matter, dear?” Gladys asked. “You’re not eating much of your birthday pancakes, and you seem worried about something.”

“It’s nothing, mom,” she denied. “It’s just that I can’t believe I’m 30 already.”

“You’re still very young, MJ,” George said. “And, by the way, I’ve noticed you’ve been wearing some new clothes lately and you’ve done something nice to your hair.”

“Thanks, dad. I think it’s time for a change.”

Just then, the doorbell rang.

Her parents both stood up, but Mary Jane insisted on answering.

Doug was at the door with two packages. Her heart leaped at the sight of him and the two brown envelopes.

“Happy Birthday, Mary Jane,” Doug said his blue eyes twinkling. “Which package would you like to open first, and would you mind if you open them in front of me?”

Even though Mary Jane could hardly stand the suspense, she remembered her manners. “Of course I’ll open them in front of you, Doug, but why don’t you come in first and meet my parents?”

Gladys and George were happy to meet the young mailman. Gladys served him one of the chocolate chip pancakes that was left over, and he complimented her on her cooking. Afterwards, George showed Doug his stamp collection, and Doug told him he was also a philatelist.

Mary Jane was happy to see Doug and her parents enjoying each other’s company, but she was eager to open A Perfect Solution and the other envelope, which was just labeled with her name.

When Doug finally said he had to finish his route, Mary Jane followed him outside with the envelopes.

“Please open the one with just your name on it first,” Doug said. “It’s a gift from me.”

“I told you that you didn’t need to give me anymore gifts,” she said as she slit open the envelope with the gold letter opener Doug had given her the day before. Inside was a folded piece of paper. It said, “Will you come to dinner with me tonight?”

Mary Jane felt herself blush. She noticed Doug’s cheeks were reddening, too.

“Don’t answer yet,” Doug said. “Just open the second envelope. I know you’ve been waiting long time for it.”

Mary Jane’s fingers were trembling. She was surprised A Perfect Solution would come in such a package. She’d expected a large box, but her mother always used to tell her that big things often came in small packages. She slit open the envelope. Inside was another note, but this one was computer generated. She suspected the hoax. Her stomach dropped as she read the message:

“Thank you for purchasing A Perfect Solution. Here are your instructions. As promised, this is a foolproof plan for getting everything you want.” Several spaces below that message was the one line of instructions: “Keep on Trying.”

She looked up at Doug who was watching her expectedly.

“So, did you get what you wanted?” he asked.

Mary Jane smiled, her adult braces shining like diamonds. “I believe I have and, yes, I will go to dinner with you tonight, Doug.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Monday Blog

Lost and Sometimes Found

lobaughawardI’d like to share an experience I had recently of locating a very special item that I thought was lost, my 1984 Laurence C. Lobaugh Memorial Award for Journalism from Long Island University/C.W. Post Campus. For those, like me, who are constantly losing or misplacing belongings, I’m also providing some tips for keeping them safe or finding them when they are missing.

Most people realize that, like a detective, you have to follow your last steps of where you last had an item in order to try to trace it. In my opinion, there are three types of things that go missing. The first we can refer to as Only Misplaced  (OM). This is something you put away either for safekeeping and then forget where you put it or something you left in a place it didn’t belong because you were either in a hurry putting it away or didn’t have a good place for it. This was the case with my journalism award. I could’ve sworn I’d put it in my jewelry box in a special section, but it turned up in a small box in my closet that was not even the box it originally came in. This forgetfulness loss is the easiest to remedy, as items are usually eventually found ironically often when looking for something else.

EarringThe second type of missing item is more difficult to find. We can refer to it as the Unknown Missing  (UM). It’s when you realize something is missing like an earring or other type of jewelry, but you did not put it anywhere. It may have fallen off and, because you usually don’t know exactly when you lost it, it’s hard to trace your steps leading up to its loss. This happened to me with one of my favorite earrings and an anniversary ring. This loss is usually permanent, as the objects which are usually small, either get vacuumed up, thrown in the garbage, or blown away by the wind if lost outside. Occasionally they are found, but the person finding them has no way of matching them up with you.

The last type of missing item is something that is just misplaced temporarily such as keys, water bottles, cell phones. In most cases, the person just forgets where they left these items. Sometimes this happens on a regular basis. I’m a big water bottle misplacer. I usually leave them in doctor offices and in various places around the library where I work. We refer to this type of missing item as the Commonly Misplaced (CM).

Here are some tips to dealing with all 3 types of lost items:

jewelryboxFor OM’s, the best course of action is to not lose these items in the first place. If they are valuable to you either financially or emotionally, set aside a place for them. Put them in a firesafe box or a jewelry box you can lock (but make sure not to lose the key). If you’ve already lost the item and are sure it’s in your house, don’t panic. It will turn up eventually when you are looking for something else. If you’re in a rush to find it for some reason, you can try cleaning the room where you have similar objects. For instance, if it’s jewelry, you might look through all your jewelry boxes or in the room where you normally keep your jewelry. If it’s an item of clothing, you might look through your drawers and closet or even where you store your out-of-season clothes.

For UM’s, all you can do is try to retrace your steps. If you’re not even sure where and when you lost it, you will have to look everywhere. The sooner you do that after you discover it missing, the better your chance of finding it. To prevent losing this type of item, you should make sure your jewelry fits well. For earrings, you should check that the backs are secure. For those that dangle, like the one I lost, be sure that you use the tiny plastic back to secure it. Also, if you are wearing a coat, check that it might have fallen inside or to the floor when you’ve put it on or taken it off and especially check the place you put the jewelry on in the first place. If it’s a ring, make sure it’s not too loose, as mine was. Items like these can fall off without you feeling them drop.

bottleFor CM’s, you just have to be more aware of where you place things. However, there are now apps and devices you can buy to track your objects. My husband got the whole family a  Tile tracking devices for Christmas that can attach to your keys and other items so that you can track them with a cell phone app (and you can track that too as long as you keep it signed into the program). I actually find this more of a nuisance, although I have to admit it helped me find my keys once.

When all else fails, you can say a prayer to St. Anthony, the saint of lost items.