By Katie B. Goode
(Ed. Note: This is the first of an ongoing series about the adventures of “Mildred and Suzette.” The author is an award-winning Hollywood screenwriter and a newcomer to our pages. Welcome, Katie!)
Out of respect for their adopted country, and in order to support the local economy, Mildred and Suzette, friends since the Beatles stormed the U.S., were just finishing their second margarita and commiserating over their inevitable physical decline.
Mildred looked down at the wilted roses on her brightly-colored Mexican blouse. “Gravity is a curse,” she said.
“Huh?” Suzette asked, wondering if the sky were falling.
“Kind of reminds me of birds migrating south,” Mildred said, gazing at an egret on the shimmering lake.
Suzette, instantly understanding that Mildred was not talking about the seasonal habits of either the egret or the pied-billed grebe, licked a bit of salt from the rim of her glass. “I used to like my birds.”
Mildred nodded, depressed. She motioned to the waiter and tapped her glass for another — for the sake of the economy. “They were a matched set,” she said, almost in tears.
“They still are,” Suzette said. “They’ve just got a new parking place.”
“They were practical, too,” Mildred said as the waiter removed their empty glasses. “Blouses and dresses and bathing suits wouldn’t have been the same without them.”
“Yeah,” Suzette said. “They made spouses smile, babies burp, and summers fun.”
“They were a good thing,” Mildred said, re-adjusting her blouse.
“Yeah, but you know what they say,” Suzette said. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
“And fall,” Mildred added, feeling more depressed by the minute.
“And fall,” Suzette finished.
“Then… boom,” Mildred said, pointing downward.
“It’s a law of physics,” said Suzette, who was a science major in college and knew these things. “My Grandma Daniels — she had 10 kids — used to think they were a nuisance. When she got tired of wearing what she called her ‘flopper stopper,’ she’d let those birdies fly free.”
“What a visual,” Mildred said, reminded by a sharp brain pain not to gulp icy drinks.
Suzette continued, lost in her favorite memory of her grandmother. “‘Dang things,’ Grandma would say, tossing them—literally tossing them—over her shoulder like a pair of skinny water balloons.”
The waiter, a handsome middle-aged charmer named Eduardo, brought fresh drinks and a big smile for the two gringas, who seemed to be feeling much more relaxed than just an hour before and would surely leave a larger tip than the soda sippers at the next table.
“I was mesmerized, thinking I’d do that trick when I became a granny,” Suzette continued, undaunted. “Unfortunately, however, since my inheritance was from the less benevolent side of the family, I’m unable to replicate grandma’s finest trick.”
“What a shame,” Mildred said, promising to limit her friend to one drink next time.
Suzette smiled, the cloud formation over the distant mountains reminding her of an army of Amazon women. “Nonetheless,” she said, “I make bets with myself when they’ll make it to my belly button.”
Mildred sighed. Her friend had a point. “I know what you mean. Once in awhile I glimpse myself in the mirror. It’s like omigod, didn’t I see me in one of those old National Geographics!?”
Suzette leaned in and whispered. “I have a theory why this happens, you know.”
Mildred cocked her head, intrigued.
Suzette paused, her eyes narrowing into slits. “Mammograms.”
“Mammograms?” Mildred asked, putting her glass down too hard on the table and absentmindedly mopping her spill with the tip of Suzette’s shawl.
Suzette nodded with authority. “Mammograms are important. Mammograms save lives. But…”
Mildred winced, getting it. “But… think of a lump of clay squeeeeeezed the thickness of a pancake in a steel vise,” she said pantomiming the painful process.
“Exactly!” Suzette said, looking around to make sure no one was listening. “I’ve found the solution though.”
“It’s a secret.”
Suzette leaned close to Mildred. “Men-o-grams!”
“Mammograms for men — but different!”
“Suzette looked proud of herself, the sage instructing her grasshopper student. “It’s simple. Step one. Pick the body part that needs regular screening.”
Mildred looked confused.
“Use your imagination,” Suzette said, rolling her eyes toward Eduardo.
Mildred’s jaw dropped. “You mean…”
Suzette continued, a little too gleefully. “Step two. Place the body part in the vise. Step three. Activate.”
“Isn’t there an easier way?” Mildred said, always the compassionate one.
Suzette was turning into someone Mildred didn’t know. “Step four. Ignore his screams,” Suzette said, almost manically. “After all, it’s for his own good’ — as if you haven’t heard that a million times.”
Mildred inhaled sharply.
Suzette’s smile was diabolical. “Step five. Fix yourself a margarita and wait. Mark my words… within months, a prestigious lab of male researchers will announce a miraculous medical breakthrough! And voila! Women will get a painless and unvise-like way to detect mammary malfunctions.”
Mildred ran her finger around the rim of her glass as she considered the possibility.
Suzette went in for the kill. “And we’ll stay perky a whole lot longer, too.”
Mildred shot upwards like a Mexican firecracker, raising her glass to the sky. “To menograms!”
“To menograms,” Suzette said, clinking her glass with Mildred’s and feeling very scientific indeed.