44 Cherry Street
Lorraine is en route in her rental car back to Black Mountain from her sister Bulimia’s house in Texas. Her long drive gives us a chance to catch our breath and recap what’s going on. In this time of craziness, it’s easy to lose track. So much is happening these days.
So first, Lorraine. Way back at Thanksgiving, Lorraine got really peeved with her husband Frederick because he wanted to invite his ex-wife to their Thanksgiving Dinner. Lorraine considered this woman a threat to her peaceful home. Even though Frederick and his former wife had been divorced for fifteen years, Lorraine was terrified that she would want to get Frederick back. Lorraine became so stressed out from the whole upcoming holiday season that she ran away in the middle of the night to visit one of her sisters in Mexico. She told no one where she was going.
As she fumbled in her Louis Vuitton bag in the airport in Mexico City, the men sent by El Chapo mistook her for a big-time drug dealer they had been sent to kill. Lorraine was taken with a bag over her head to the jungle hideout of the drug czar. El Chapo was enchanted by Lorraine, though, and he and Lorraine began a months long steamy affair. While she was with him in the jungle, El Chapo showered Lorraine with jewels he had taken from the bodies of the people he had slaughtered. She thought the dried blood was North Carolina red clay.
Lorraine used the bulk of the jewels to pay for her passage back across the border. She was on a mission to rescue dogs in North Carolina from Covid. She had to get back! She hadn’t given any thought to how she would explain her absence to Frederick, but she had grown in self-confidence and was pretty sure he would welcome her with open arms.
Meanwhile, back at 44 Cherry Street, Frederick had not heard a single word from Lorraine in all these months, and guessed that she was gone forever. He was sad, sure, but had been looked after well by his across-the-hall neighbor Ellie, and had developed warm feelings for her, even though they were politically on opposite ends of the spectrum. Their bond was over food. Lorraine was a gourmet chef and sometime vegetarian, and the meals she prepared were sumptuous and healthy. Frederick had grown up on bologna sandwiches on Wonder Bread and he hated vegetables. Ellie liked to make dishes that were based on Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup and canned onion rings. These reminded Frederick of his mama, and brought him comfort.
Ellie was not in the picture any more, though. She had believed that the Covid virus was a hoax and refused to wear a mask. She also organized a White Lives are More Important than Anyone Else’s Rally in the town square. Most of the people who showed up were fully armed with semi-automatic weapons, but they did not wear masks. Two weeks after the rally, Ellie and many of the protesters were sick with Covid. Ellie had been taken to Mission in an ambulance and was hanging on by a thread on a respirator.
Downstairs, Neetu was burning so much Champa incense that the whole building was permeated with the smell. She didn’t leave her apartment except to get groceries. She had purchased a television set back in March, and was glued to the tube streaming whole seasons of tv shows she had not heard of before the health crisis. She had a little crush on Joe Exotic.
Elrod was burning bright in his cluttered apartment across the hall. He had been in touch with several different women on match.Com, and had believed himself in love with each of them. Somehow each of these love affairs had ended badly. He had sent each one the plane fare to fly to North Carolina, had cleaned out the trash from his apartment, and had gone to the airport to meet their flights, only to be disappointed. Every last one of them had missed her flight! It wasn’t until the last one had sent a photo of herself looking so much like Angelina Jolie that Elrod realized that it was the very same picture of Jolie that the previous woman had claimed to be herself. He understood finally that he had been scammed, and he swore off women..