We're having a comparatively mild day in Chicago. As I write this, it's 21 degrees Farenheit. Quite a relief, as for the past two weeks our thermometers have been registering temperatures well below zero.
Dolores reacted to the onset of the Deep Freeze by going into near-hibernation. I'd leave the house in the morning to sounds of snores coming from her cushion near the Victrola. Returning ten hours later I'd find her a few feet north, on the sofa, covered in sedimentary layers of blankets, books, magazines, empty Sun Chips bags, and dirty dishes encrusted with the remains of frozen dinners from Whole Foods.
The sock yarn colony dissolved into anarchy. Deprived of discipline and daily jaunts to the park, they started getting into drawers and cupboards I prefer to keep undisturbed. When Harry rolled over to me after work, held up an assemblage of black leather and chrome, and said, "Can you settle a bet? Me and the guys are trying to guess how you're supposed to wear this," I decided it was time to wake Rip Van Hoofen from her slumber.
"Dolores," I said, "We need to have a talk." I picked up the remote and clicked off the television.
She stirred, dislodging an avalanche of Ho-Ho wrappers and back issues of The Journal of Hellenic Studies. "Put that back on," she yawned. "It's almost time to throw cocktail nuts at Emeril."
I pushed aside a pile of Janet Evanovich novels and sat down.
"Now," I said brightly, "Let's have a cozy chat about the running of the household, and your place in it, shall we?"
"I can't help but notice that the sock yarn hasn't been taken for an airing in quite some time," I said. "Would you care to explain why this is?"
"Too friggin' cold out there."
"Yes," I said. "I have experienced the inclement weather first hand. However, one might point out that the sock yarn is made of wool, and that you yourself are covered in wool, a well-known source of protection from the elements. Why, I even heard of a Herdwick sheep in the English Lake District that survived in a blizzard on a hillside for several days by chewing its own wool."
"Chew on this," said Dolores, gesturing weakly, but evocatively, in my direction.
"Hey, boys," I shouted, "Anybody who helps me get your den mother off the sofa gets to go to Windy City Sweets for sundaes."
Dolores's vitality surged when she was set upon by sixty balls of sock yarn excited by the prospect of extra whipped cream. She swatted at them like Tippi Hedren fending off a flock of seagulls; but she was outnumbered and outmuscled, and in short order was dumped into the bathtub for a much-needed soak and shampoo.
The hot water revived her sufficiently to allow further conversation about her responsiblities. While she was setting her hair, she agreed that she had been remiss, and offered to make up for it by taking the sock yarn skating in Millennium Park the next day.
"I can show them a couple of tricks while we're down there," she said, adjusting a curler. "I was quite famous for my figure eights, you know."
"You figure skate?"
"Please," she said. "I was a headliner with the Ice Capades in the late 70s, until I gave it all up."
"That little bitch Dorothy Hamill," said Dolores. "With the pixie cut, you know?"
"I seem to recall the name."
"The producers were putting together a new show and as the stars, we were given a certain amount of creative input. I got to the production meeting first, and had everybody all excited over The Oresteia on Ice–with myself as Electra, of course. Then she bounced in from filming a shampoo commercial and shook her pachongas and smiled, and suddenly we're doing The Wonderful World Mother Goose and she's Bo Peep and I'm her freakin' sheep. So I took the role very seriously and got lost."
"What a pity."
"I wanted to raise ice dancing to the level of high drama, and those bastards turned it into a circus sideshow. Oh well. Tant pis. Ancient history. I've forgotten all about it."
Dolores wrapped a kerchief around her curlers and went to bed. I passed by in the night on my way to the kitchen, and she was moving about in her sleep, undulating delicately like one cutting a figure eight on a pristine rink. She murmurred softly to herself. I paused to try to make out the words.
"You can skate but you can't hide...just wait...I'll get you...Dorothy...I'll get you...and your little...dog...tooooooo..."