Note to Readers: I have no idea where this going, or when it will end.
They were laughing as Beth came in -- the last to arrive, as usual.
"What'd I miss?" she asked, waving to the waitress as she slid into the booth next to Esther, who reached out to help her out of her jacket.
"Hi sweetie," said Emily with a smile from across the table. Emily was 12 years Beth's senior, and having helped to raise her, at least in her own mind, never quite got over a maternal orientation toward the youngest of her sisters.
The twins, Esther and Elsa, were still laughing. "Tell it again, Essie!" giggled Elsa.
Emily intervened. "No, I've got one: A bear walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender says, 'We don't serve beer to bears.' The bear says, 'Give me a beer, or I'll eat that lady at the end of the bar.' The bartender shrugs," she says, demonstrating. Her sisters smile in anticipation.
"The bear heads down to the end of the bar, gobbles the woman up and slams his paw down on the bar, 'I'll have that beer!'
"'We don't server beer to bears on drugs.'" Emily paused for effect, mugging the bear's confusion.
"'That's a bar-bitch-you-ate.'"
The waitress set Beth's coffee down amid the groans and laughter. She waited for them to settle down before tapping the table, "Anything more for you right now, ladies?" She knew the answer, but she also knew the question was part of their routine.
They smiled and shook their heads, still chuckling as the waitress departed.
"Good one, Em."
"So, did any of you see that Harold's is going out of business?" asked Elsa.
"What's Harold's?" asked Beth.
"You know, that place on the corner of Elvas and 55th?"said Emily.
"Oh, really? I've never been in there."
"Honestly, Beth. Really?" asked Elsa. "Well, it is a great place. That's where I got Lisa's party platter set and Josie's crystal punch bowl?"
Beth's face was blank. Elsa scoffed.
"Ellie, is that where we went to get the table settings for Christmas a couple of years ago?" asked Esther.
"Oh, that's a great place. Really nice looking things for good prices. Are they having a going out of business sale?"
Beth's phone beeped and she lifted it out of her purse to check the message, her eyes peering over her glasses. She frowned and quickly tapped several keys.
"Are you text messaging?" asked Emily incredulously.
Beth nodded as she continued to tap away.
Emily looked at Esther and Elsa. "I can't even figure out how to respond to email. Jacob set up an account for me, but I can't remember how to use it."
"Oh, Em, for chrissakes. Get with the times," the affection in Esther's voice was clear, but Emily bristled nonetheless.
Beth put the phone away, and her sisters turned to her. "Denise," she said.
"How long do you think she'll stay with you?"
"I don't know. Josie says she and Vince are making progress; but Denise talked to Vince the other night and he told her he was going to spend Christmas in Ohio with the boys and his parents, so..."
"Oh, Beth," Esther laid her hand on Beth's arm.
"Well, you know the worst part is that Denise just adores Vince. He's really the only father she's ever known and while I think he did think of her as his daughter, I don't see Denise ending up in shared custody with him. I mean, he's never adopted her..."
"But, what court would prevent it? And Josie surely wouldn't fight it, would she?"
Beth stared into her coffee. Emily told Elsa, "Vince told Josie that he only married her to have a family. Now he doesn't need her -- and, probably not Denise, either?" She looked to Beth for confirmation. Beth nodded.
"Of course, he hasn't said that."
"But now, with the boys..." Esther said. Beth nodded.
"Oh, that's sad. I've always liked Vince," said Elsa.
They all nodded. In silence, they sipped their coffee.
"Did Nick and his tornado of a family finally go home?" Emily turned to Esther.
Esther laughed. "YES! And it was funny. I thought they were staying until the end of the week, but on Monday, Nick told me they were going to head back early and they left not three hours later."
"That is so Nick." "He just does not change, does he, Essie?"
Esther smiled. "You know, the scary thing is that Jake is just like him."
"Oh, that is so true!" Elsa leaned over the table. "Did you guys hear what that crazy kid did to Foxy?"
"I knew it was a mistake to let Aunt Marion bring that dog!"
"I haven't heard this story," said Emily.
Elsa turned to her, "He fed her a bar of soap!"
"Yes! Julie found him in the bathroom breaking up the last of a bar of soap and feeding it to that dog."
Esther laughed, "You know, it's really not funny. That boy is just too much for himself, much less his parents. He has to be watched all the time."
"Is Foxy okay?" Beth asked.
Esther's phone rang, and she nodded at Beth as she flipped it open, "Hello?"
Elsa leaned toward Beth, "Aunt Marion was about fit-to-be-tied. Did you know that she knows her vet's phone number by heart? --"
"-- Apparently, dogs can eat worse. But Aunt Marion was so mad. When she asked Jake what he was thinking, he said the soap had smelled better than her breath -- he thought it might help!'"
Beth, Emily and Elsa laughed and shook their heads.
"Yeah, soon. Okay. Will do, love. Bye." Esther snapped her phone shut. "Lee says hello to y'all."
"Hi." "Hello to him." "Hey."
"But did I tell you about Sharon and Jake?" Esther asked and then launched into the welcoming silence. "So, Nick and Julie wanted to visit some of Nick's friends from high school, and they asked Sharon to baby-sit. Lee and I had to help his mom with some house stuff --"
"--How is she?"
"You know, not bad, considering. The doctors say she's okay to be up and about again, but she's taking it really slow --"
"-- Well, that's probably wise --"
"-- Wouldn't any ninety-nine year old need to take it slow? --"
"-- You'd think! Anyway, so Sharon wanted to take Jake to pick up some lunch and she needed his car seat. She asked him about it and he said he didn't have one. Well, obviously that's wrong."
"He lied right to her face?"
"Isn't he only four years old?"
Esther laughed and nodded. "Yes! So, she said, 'I know your parents have a car seat for you.' And he swore, 'No, no, auntie, they don't.' So Sharon said, 'You guys drove all the way from Los Angeles without a car seat? I don't think so, Jake.' But then she said he stared her straight in the eyes and said, 'But the car was too full. So I had to just lie down on the floor. So the police wouldn't see.''"
Beth's mouth dropped open.
"Essie! He didn't!" exclaimed Elsa.
"Sharon had to call Julie to ask!"
"Wow, that kid," said Emily, shaking her head.
To be continued.