Excerpts from Ivy Get Your Gun
“Ivy, come quick! Lassie’s in trouble!”
The caller hung up, but I knew it was Marge and I knew it was serious. Marge never hung up without saying goodbye.
“Gotta go,” I said to my friends and flew down the stairs and out the door.
Lassie. What could have happened? I beat down my rising panic and redialed Marge as I ran across the theater parking lot.
“You okay?” I said when she picked up. “Maybe you need to call the vet?”
“No, but I called 911. They said it wasn’t an emergency.”
Phew, things must not be too bad.
“They, they, they...” Marge started to cry.
Dang, things were bad. Not only did Marge never hang up without saying goodbye, she never cried. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” I jumped into my latest used car, a 2005 Nissan pickup, and squealed out of the lot. I’d met Marge last spring when we both did a show at Desert Magic Dinner Theater. I loved my friend and her dog. My throat swelled at the thought of either of them in pain.
It was Sunday, so I made pretty good time from downtown Phoenix to Marge’s retirement community, west of town. I turned into an entrance flanked by rock walls and two signs, one that said “Sunnydale!” and the other “America’s Favorite 55+ Community!” I zoomed past palm trees, a golf course, and a bunch of golf carts toodling down the road and pulled into Marge’s driveway.
I didn’t even ring the bell. I just shouted as I walked in the door. “Marge?”
Heels clicked on the tile floor as Marge rounded a corner into the foyer. “What happened?” I began, then stopped.
Marge was pale. Marge, who suntanned for all of her sixty-plus years and had skin the color of calf leather, looked positively white. She teetered on her heels. “Lassie...”
I put an arm around her and steered her back into the living room, where we sat together on a pastel sofa. The surroundings were familiar: I had stayed here last spring, taking care of the house and Lassie while Marge was ill. But though I knew the dent in the sofa like it was my own, I didn’t recognize this version of my friend. Marge was “Arizona’s Ethel Merman,” a bold, brassy former Broadway star. But today she crumpled onto the sofa like a used Kleenex, clutching a cellphone in her hand.
I scanned the room for Lassie, afraid he was lying on the floor somewhere. Yeah, Lassie was a boy, just like all the Lassies in the movies, but that’s where the resemblance ended. Lassie was a pug. And he wasn’t in the room.
A Slightly Silly Bit
Partway through the story, Ivy has to learn to tend bar
“What’s Campari?” I sniffed the bottle. “It smells like medicine.”
“Tastes like it too,” said Uncle Bob. “But some sophisticates like it.” He grinned at his girlfriend, who did look awfully sophisticated with her expensive haircut and nice clothes, especially next to Uncle
Bob with his two-day beard and Day-Glo orange Hawaiian shirt.
“No making fun of my cocktail choices.” Bette poured a measure of the liqueur into a glass of ice, then topped it with fizzy water. “Campari and soda is a perfectly fine drink.”
Pink took a drink from the glass Bette offered him. “I like it. And I’m not sophisticated.” He belched just to prove his point, though the ink stain on the pocket of his short-sleeved shirt was already a pretty good indicator.
“Campari is an aperitif,” I read from a library book I picked up on the way to Bob’s house. “Helps with digestion.”
Pink belched again. “See?”
“This is the guy you want to me to fix up with my girlfriend?” Bette asked Bob.
We were all gathered around Uncle Bob’s kitchen table, which was filled with an array of bottles. Bette had picked up the Campari, but most of the liquor came from Uncle Bob and Pink (Detective Pinkstaff). I contributed tequila, peppermint schnapps, and something called Mama Walker’s Bacon Maple Breakfast Liqueur (left over from a cast party). Oh, and a lime.
“What is this?” Uncle Bob picked up the aforementioned fruit. “A kiwi? What kind of drink do you make with a kiwi?”
Okay, so the lime was a little brown.
“No,” said Pink. “I think it’s some sort of dog toy.” He threw it against the floor. It actually bounced a little.
I grabbed it before it rolled behind the refrigerator. “No making fun of my lime either.”
“Or she’ll slip it into your drinks,” Bette said.
“I think throwing it at us would do more damage,” said Uncle Bob.
Pink belched again. That Campari was good stuff.