Wednesday, December 14, 2016



People don’t get it.

Even smart people don’t seem to get it.

President-elect Trump is not a normal human being. He’s at once both an adult and a spoiled baby.

Government-by-Twitter is childish, a ten-year-old’s response to The meanies who are picking on me.  But with him that’s what you get: an “Is so—Is not” rejoinder to criticism—or implied criticism--whether from the Union Boss for Carrier employees, or the senators probing Russia’s role in the election.     

He’s so unpredictable that even Big Businesss—make that two aircraft manufacturers—have lately turned wary. Of course nobody can guess what Trump will do next. Even HE doesn’t know what his next move will be. The man’s behavior on any given day depends upon who, at the moment, happens to be flattering him. Or conversely, on who might be putting him down . . . though his twitter fans learn “who” soon enough.         

Meanwhile, he’s filling government posts with two kinds of candidates: A. Men like Perry (“Energy”) and Pruitt (“EPA”), who disagree with everything their agencies stand for—or B. People who have zero expertise in the field: brain surgeon Ben Carson (“Housing”),  and billionaire Betsy DeVos (“Education”) who’s never taught or worked in a school.  Yesterday he chose Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State . . . Tillerson who leans so heavily toward Russia he’s reputed to be the godfather of Putin’s son.   

As they’ve been all along, Trump’s “core beliefs” are elusive. But not his personality.  One aspect will never be random--his drive for acclaim. The Carrier workers gathered to cheer for him.  Which means we can now expect tax-payer bribes to CEOs of other notable companies.  At which Trump will always personally appear . . . for the washing and kissing of his feet.     

Think of his recent “thank-you” rallies—and how familiar they seem, with all the campaign-style screaming and audience accolades. He’ll never forego what those mobs do for his ego. Wait and see. In this presidency, such rallies will be frequent.

Unless, with the rebellion of some 20 electoral voters, we can stop this man/child next week, our country appears doomed. America will be led by the world’s most notorious narcissist.  Soon, even those who voted for him will realize that he’s willing to pick a fight with any country or any group—China or our own CIA.  And the only personal trait we can count on is his willingness to lie.        

Friday, December 2, 2016

I'M BEAMING . . . !

I’M BEAMING . . .!  

The news was so unexpected.       

Yesterday, Writer’s Digest, 24th Annual Self-Published Book Awards sent me the review for my memoir, THE TAIL ON MY MOTHER’S KITE.   

(The notice said: “Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning ‘needs improvement’ and 5 meaning ‘outstanding.’” )

Here are the memoir's Writer’s Digest ratings: 

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

Plot and Story Appeal: 4

Voice and Writing Style: 5 

Judge’s Commentary: The best part of Maralys Wills’ book, The Tail on my Mother’s Kite, is it’s a well-structured and well-organized memoir the reader will find easy to read. Mrs. Wills begins writing about her early years and ends with her journey of how it all worked out. She writes, “When I muse about my mother, I think of the salmon that swims upstream to spawn, and after spawning, with its essence gone and its mission fulfilled, sinks to the bottom of the stream and dies. In a way that’s what happened to our mother. Having produced Allan and me, and then Hillary, and raised us haphazardly but as best she could, her goal in life was accomplished. The best of Mother’s zest was over, the rest a blank page with nothing on it except tracings of misery.” . . . 

Some of the chapters were a little slow in getting to the point of what the author wants the reader to grasp; but overall this is an excellent book. The author’s passion for writing this memoir is noteworthy. Mrs. Wills used specific and concrete words to support what she had written. Her style and tone of writing are noteworthy.” 


THE TAIL ON MY MOTHER’S KITE  would make a great Christmas Present.
Available, autographed, through my website, Maralys.com.

Or by emailing me: maralys@cox.net.  ($10.00 plus shipping)

Or you can buy it from Amazon.

Happy Holidays to all of you!    Maralys  

Sunday, November 27, 2016



We can’t get rid of him, now.  He’s everywhere. On all the newscasts, on the Internet, on every page of the newspapers.  Just like prewar Germany.    

Here, I’ve copied a letter from the Los Angeles Times: 

“We judge prewar Germans harshly for not seeing Adolf Hitler’s racism as categorically disqualifying. A large minority of German citizens voted for him because he offered the country hope, and they overlooked his racism.

A large minority of Americans have just elected a president who offered them hope, overlooking an attitude toward race and torture that ought to have been categorically disqualifying.

We should be just as concerned about the one as we were about the other. Neither had any prior experience in governing. Both showed dictatorial tendencies early. Both were persuaded that their passionate followers in effect gave them a blank check.

I can hardly believe that I will be living through the self-destruction of two aspiring empires in a single lifetime.”  Siegfried Othmer (Woodland Hills). 


I’m with Siegfried Othmer all the way.

I can’t get my head around this.  I’m trying, but I can’t accept it.

Like Othmer, perhaps like half our voters, each day I’m struck anew that as a free society we’ve failed. How could so many “others” be seduced into taking on as our leader a man like . . . well, a man like him?   

It’s not as if Trump was hiding: He never hid at all. Like the Fuhrer before him, he gave us plenty of warning. He shouted, he insulted, he condemned, he lied, he exposed his worst traits (if not on the stump, in taped comments). He tweeted anger, a vicious drive to “get even,”  a deep scorn of women.  He spewed ignorance of science  (think Global Warming), disdain for international treaties, contempt for illegals, admiration of the NRA and Putin, plus his belief that “only I” can solve certain problems--because I know more than the generals  . . .

According to columnist Michael Hiltzik in Wednesday’s Business section of the L.A. Times, our president-elect was lucky to escape his Trump University lawsuit with a $25 million settlement. The facts suggest a fraud so blatant Trump could have been impeached. 

Since then, the news has gotten scarier . . . Last Monday, Trump’s “off the record” threatening of the press.  Next, a stream of re-tread appointments of failed politicians. Now, worst of all, the possible selection of Judge William H. Pryor, Jr., for the Supreme Court. Pryor called Roe vs Wade, “the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law. . . ”  Try to explain this news to our daughters.

I can’t help asking—What can we do to make this go away?      

Friday, November 18, 2016



He was an old angel—probably mid 70’s or more.

A smallish man with white hair, he sat at the grand piano in The Segerstrom Center for the Arts and performed like no one I’ve ever heard before. At the hands of this gifted leprechaun, Grieg’s Concerto in A minor for Piano and Orchestra was magic, a seemingly endless cascade of lilting or sparkling notes you’d seldom hear this side of heaven.

Somehow, during that piece, the man and the piano disappeared, and only his lyrical notes remained. The two of us, make that the entire audience, was riveted.

Strangely, Rob and I had never heard of Joaquin Achucarro, born in Bilbao, Spain. Yet, as the program notes said, “It was his victory in England at the 1959 Liverpool International Competition . . . and the rave reviews in the London papers after his debut with the London Symphony in the Royal Festival Hall that marked the beginning of his career.” 

Think of it—that was 57 years ago. How old was he then?  We can’t be sure. But by any measure this gifted man must be nearing eighty.

How could we not have heard of him, this genius who has been winning international awards right through 2014?  Over the years, Rob and I have been treated to a multitude of gifted artists at the piano, but few that moved us like Achucarro.  At the end of his Grieg Concerto, the audience rose as one and clapped thunderously, whistled and yelled “bravo!”  Achucarro, standing quietly next to the conductor—Rune Bergmann, a Norwegian who was easily a foot and a half taller—smiled and modestly bowed.

The audience would not let him go. The leprechaun came back and played for us another richly dramatic piece—all with his right hand resting on the piano seat.

With those otherworldly notes still ringing in our heads, Rob and I decided not to stay for the second half. When you’ve floated away on a wave of music, you can’t bear to trust competing sounds that might bring you off that high. So we went home.

On the way, I considered briefly and privately how bad most of the day had been—awful Trump news (he’s bringing back as re-treads some of the worst politicians our country has ever known), plus some equally awful personal news for both me and a family member.  But I quickly dismissed those thoughts.

The day had ended better than I ever imagined. Better than I thought it could. Not for the first time I recognized a power that men have long known but often forget. Music can lift you up and take you to places that moments before existed only in your imagination. With sounds like we heard tonight, the world suddenly became a better place.  And with one of our near-magic CDs at home, we can return to that better place any time we want.


In my memoir, THE TAIL ON MY MOTHER'S KITE, I describe what it was like to do dishes with my gypsy mother, while we sang together in harmony.

The book is available on my web-site, Maralys.com, or at Amazon.    

Tuesday, November 8, 2016



Everyone I know is devastated.   

Except for when my two sons and my son-in-law died, there has never been a worse night for me,  at least none that I can remember.

A year ago, in August, I wrote in a blog that Trump’s approach to our country reminded me of Germany,  during those awful years when it was being taken over by Hitler. Years later I read in detail how the intelligentsia of that era could not believe that their fellow citizens would be so blind. But I never imagined, deep down, that it could actually happen here—not to us.  I assumed our Americans were smarter than that.

Sadly, they’re not.  I cannot absorb this, but now I know, as my friends do, that there’s a great mass of  people out there who can’t see what they see . . . who don’t recognize evil when it’s right in front of them.  Who are swayed by bombast, by bragging, by anger, by bigotry, by nasty tweets, by runaway narcissism . . . and are still willing to make that person their leader.

But then most of us couldn’t believe Jonestown, either--that such a large mob failed to grasp the dementia in their leader and willingly drank the poison that killed them.  

Never has such an individual risen to the top of this country . . . at least not that I know of. In fact, how strange it’s been these many months to view someone like him orating from a national stage—this creature without one admirable quality.  He lies, he cheats, he steals from the government, he threatens his victims with lawsuits, he womanizes—and he has a twenty-minute attention span.  If he possess a single trait that qualifies him to be a leader, I’ve never seen it.  Nor have any of my friends.

Except for China and Russia, who are celebrating, the rest of the world is speechless. Like the better half of our country, they cannot imagine where we, as a nation, are headed. They simply know it will not be good.    

Oh, how sorry these voters are going to be!  How bad they’ll feel when they realize that at his core Trump does not care a whit for any of them.  What disillusionment they’ll  suffer when they discover that their icon, at heart, has no sympathy for coal miners, for people of other races, for hungry children, for families living without hope, for cripples, for any of the disadvantaged souls he’s been appealing to.

He doesn’t care, because he’s unable to care.  His own father made sure of that.

As I’ve said in other blogs, the voters who gave this man their trust will soon know what the rest of us have already perceived: Donald Trump cares only about Donald Trump.

As a final lament, it horrifies us to envision the path a nation will take when its leader, and probably the men who will assist him, are devoid of either morals or insight.The ascent of Trump is now on track to equal, in its worldwide results, Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Saturday, November 5, 2016



It’s three days before the election . . .  and we all need relief.

Then along comes Samsung. 

It’s not enough that their cell phones are apt to catch fire—anywhere, at any time. Which of course the company takes seriously. “Store your phone in a fire-proof container,” they advise. With an add-on from the FAA: “Never, ever, carry them on planes.”

But now Samsung is once again in the news. They’ve developed top-loading washing machines with what you must admit is a distinctive feature. They explode.

“I was sitting in my living room, when there was this awful boom,” said one customer. “I thought the roof had fallen in.”

But it wasn’t the man’s roof, the problem was out on the service porch . . . with what is normally considered a docile, non-aggressive appliance. No lithium batteries. No toxic ingredients. No bad behavior in its DNA--expect for possible overflowing. (We’ve had our Maytag for 15 years, and it’s still going strong.) 

Still, a lack of lithium and carcinogens must not be enough. Thanks to Samsung’s creative engineers, suddenly you see their washing machines on television—their tops blown off, the insides exposed and destroyed, bits and pieces of everything spreading across the floor. You can’t help thinking, A washing machine with a suicide vest?    

Luckily, injuries so far have been minor, except for one woman who suffered a broken jaw.

But here’s the real hooker. Samsung has a message for its customers: you can get a coupon for a new washer. (Explosive? Or non-explosive?)  Or alternatively, you can buy a new, reinforced lid.

A new, reinforced lid?  Seriously?  To keep the eruption confined to one place? So the socks and underwear and assorted pieces of machinery won’t get scattered around the room?    

As Rob said, “Well, at least the new lid won’t fly. But the machine won’t wash, either.”

Which you’d know the second you looked inside . . .     

You’d realize, of course, you can no longer finish your laundry--what’s left of it.  But maybe you can save the lid for the next exploding machine. It might even be reusable.

Poor Samsung. You really have to feel sorry for . . . well, for starters, whoever put out those suggested remedies. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016



People want change—I get that. 

But this race is not what you think.  It’s not about change. It’s not even about a conservative viewpoint versus liberal.  It’s not now, and never has been, a contest between two philosophical positions. 

Unlike any presidential battle we’ve ever seen in this country, this has become a choice between a rational, eminently prepared person and someone who’s off the rails.

With enough reading (“The New Yorker,” “USA Today”, “The Los Angeles Times,” and many others), plus observation of the man himself, you can’t miss the fact that this candidate isn’t normal.  He has no core positions. He doesn’t care about others (his Polish workers or anyone else.)  He has no longstanding beliefs. He has a shallow, easily-triggered personality. 

For Donald Trump, there’s only one thing that matters: Donald Trump.

His biographer said it first, but we’ve seen for ourselves that he has a twenty-minute attention span.  After that he goes off message and attacks his enemies. We’ve seen for ourselves that his “message” shifts from day to day and week to week—that he really doesn’t care whether women have abortions or not, that he’s fiscally a dreamer, that after his six bankruptcies and 3500 lawsuits, he can’t be considered a businessman, that he almost never gives his own money to charity, that on any subject he habitually tells the first lie that comes to mind. 

And never mind his attitudes about women. On that subject, he’s made it clear where he stands.

It grieves me to think that nearly half the country misses what’s so clear to the other half.  I can’t get it through my fool head that somehow forty percent of us actually think they’ve been listening to a man who can bring about change, that he will somehow “shake things up” and cause the government to spin on its axis and provide a better life for millions of people. They think because he shouts and rants and lies he will also accomplish.

He won’t. Because he can’t.

The Donald doesn’t grasp this, but he’s not running for king.  Without the active help of Congress—and yes, the Supreme Court--he can’t build a wall, he can’t deport millions of Hispanics, he can’t cancel all our international treaties, he can’t magically bring back jobs, and he can’t put Hillary in jail. Only a dictator could “in the first 100 days” accomplish any of these things.  

The only thing this new president can actually do without the active support of others is give the order to send off an atomic bomb. He’s even said, “If we’ve got ‘em, why can’t we use ‘em?” If he wins, he can use ‘em--and yes, he can do it in the first 100 days. 

For that reason alone, we are possibly on the path to disaster.

We should all be terrified.

Monday, October 31, 2016



Legalization sounds like a good idea—until you dig deeper.  

No need to guess what occurs when you legalize pot. Colorado and Washington, our guinea pig states, are back with reports--and most of what happens is bad.

According to “Triple A” (as in cars), the state of Washington has now seen a 50% increase in fatal accidents involving stoned drivers. Bad enough--but added to this, it’s currently impossible to conduct roadside sobriety tests for THC (as is done for alcohol). Thus, the degree of impairment is known only after blood tests. Also, even if limits could be set for safe, drug-lowered driving, marijuana affects different people in such different ways, a baseline acceptability would be hard to determine.

Also hard to determine is the amount of THC in any given batch (seldom known to the user.) “Some pot is so strong,” said one occasional smoker, “that a few hits leaves you with your head spinning. You can’t even function.”     

Sixty Minutes (October 30), thoroughly documented the marijuana issues in Colorado. Supporters all believe legalization takes out the crooks. In Colorado, it didn’t, not even close. The bad guys flooded the state with illegal plants and sold their stuff at great profit outside the borders. The marijuana police, digging up plants, have been busier than ever.

Worse . . . the state’s emergency rooms have been busier than ever. Kids who gobble up brownies, cookies, and gummy bears with unknown quantities of THC, now end up in hospitals, their lives threatened.    

We all know marijuana damages developing brains. In Colorado, pregnant mothers who smoke give birth to babies with THC in their systems. Pediatricians deduce these infected babies will have impaired mental development. “But marijuana is legal,” the mothers protest. “I thought it was safe to smoke.” Local doctors disagree. Vehemently.  

We’ve heard all the arguments: kids will get marijuana whether it’s legal or not. True enough . . . But when parents smoke the stuff—legally—or ingest it in food, how likely can they keep it from their children?  Illegality has its advantages.

Sixty Minutes laid a last, scary indictment against the drug. While, within a given time frame, alcohol entirely disappears from the human body, marijuana does not. Instead, it lodges in the “fat” cells, and particularly the brain, and there it stays—length of residence unknown.

As Orange County Sheriff, Sandra Hutchens, protested in a letter to the Orange County Register, Why are we choosing increased tax revenue over the brains of our children?  

 P.S. Medical marijuana is in a different category, and its importance and usefulness is not at issue in this article.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016



I couldn’t help noticing—that in one month we saw the worst and the best among us. 

A recent edition of a magazine, THE WEEK (October 21), offered a hard-to-believe story: those Newtown, Connecticut, parents who lost their children to an insane gunman shooting up the school, now have to endure the taunts of “Conspiracy Theorists.” Out of the woods they came, a few crazies who decided, based on nothing, that the tragedy never took place.

Hoaxers, it seems, always concoct theories--meaning their twisted brains demand justification: A. The Newtown massacre was staged by some kind of New World Order bent on taking away guns. B. The parents can’t be grieving because their children never existed in the first place. C. The drama was enacted by “Crisis Actors.” D. Obama was behind the whole event.

While some conspiracists bombarded parents with skeptical questions, others painstakingly created You-Tube Videos (“The Sandy Hook Shooting—Fully Exposed”) or wrote books (“Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.”)  Among the worst: The conspiracist who demanded of a father, “If you want me to believe you had a son who died—exhume his body!”

Until the story appeared in THE WEEK, many of us had never heard about this ongoing saga, lying like an atomic cloud over Newtown. I, for one, would never have imagined that a catastrophe like Newtown would attract so many ghouls.  


How comforting that the month also included a number of heroes.

On a recent segment of the evening news, a young high school boy comes to his football coach with a rare admission.  “I have no one,” he says.  “I have no one who cares about me.”

Two years earlier, at age 14, unable to endure his family, the boy left home—and also school. When he finally found his way back to high school a year later, his admission to the coach stirred something in the older man. He brought the youth home—to a caring wife and their two daughters.  Soon the young man found himself surrounded by the love he’d yearned for all those years. 

“It’s like I’ve always been here,” he said. “These have become my parents—and I can’t even remember anyone else.”  By segment’s end, this amazing family noted that when their new son turned eighteen, they planned to adopt him. 

And herewith another wonderful story:  

On CBS News, (Friday nights), Steve Hartman’s “On the Road,” told of Heather Krueger, a lovely 27-year-old, who was in stage-4 liver disease with only months to live—and realistically, no time to find a donor. She said to Steve Hartman, “I could feel my body shutting down.”

In the nearby village of Frankfort, Illinois, ex-marine, Chris Dempsey, now a code-enforcement officer, happened to hear the news from others in his break room.  I’ve never run away from an assignment, he thought, wondering if he might be a fit. Hey, if I can help, I’m going to help. 

It turned out he was a fit.  The two young people met for the first time at noon, and Heather said, “He even bought my lunch.” The next scene shows the two of them in their separate hospital beds after the surgery.

In the final scene, a year and a half later, Heather is dressed in a beautiful wedding gown.  And, as Hartman reports, “They got so close that Chris was at her wedding . . . but then he added, “He had to be . . . what is a wedding without a groom?”   

We next see Heather gazing up at Chris and saying, “You are the most incredible man I’ve ever known. You believe in me, and you make me feel amazing every single day. Because of you, I laugh, smile, and dare to dream again.” The two are next seen standing together at the altar, leaning close for a kiss.   

Hartman says, “When Chris decided to give an organ to a random stranger, he had no idea he was saving his own wife.”  At the end he adds, “Such is the way of goodness. The more likely you are to live for others, the more likely you are to live happily ever after.”   

Saturday, October 15, 2016



Remember the second debate, when Trump followed Hillary as she approached the seated Town Hall people?  Many of us, including members of the press, could see him back there, looming over her, as though physically threatening her.

Yet in the last couple of days he claimed, “She invaded my space.”  Meaning something twisted in his brain.

When he finally capitulated on the “birther” issue, he said, “Hillary started it.” Another weird conclusion emanating from a damaged psyche—which he isn’t able to recognize. Instead, the candidate forgoes sleep in favor of sending out threatening tweets at 3:00 a.m. .

For our Republican nominee, this has become an ever-increasing mantra. “The elections are rigged.” “The Republicans are conspiring against me.”  “The media can’t be trusted. Get that reporter out of here!”  “I didn’t do any of those things. They’re all lies.” We see more of it each day, that he’s no longer functioning as a plausible candidate . . . that instead, his darkest suspicions are taking over.    

If this progression weren’t so dangerous to our country, the deterioration of our Republican candidate would be a fascinating psychological event, played out before millions. I am no psychiatrist, but in another individual I’ve watched the changing nature of paranoia up close.  And this is how it begins.

Overlooking the worst of his behavior—Trump’s laser-focused, wholly bizarre approach to women—he now reminds me of the person I once knew who was headed for total collapse.  First, the vague suspicions about “others” whom the victim perceives as unfriendly. Then the growing conviction that these unfriendly souls have somehow morphed into enemies, ready to inflict actual damage. Eventually, the final step—an overwhelming need to protect oneself against one’s attackers. 

In the person I knew, this eventually meant cowering on the front porch with a covering of tinfoil over knees and head, necessary to ward off evil rays. With Trump, extreme paranoia could result in other defensive behaviors; I shudder to think what those might be.          

Having just had a call from a friend, a woman who grew up in Nazi Germany, I recognized a voice tremulous with fear--a panic that mirrors all our feelings. “He reminds me of Hitler,” she said. “In the end, he was crazy, too.”  We didn’t discuss the next step—that Hitler’s generals saw him as deranged and tried to assassinate him. She added, “How do we know that Trump won’t win?”

“He won’t win,” I said. “He’s unhinged---a word the press now uses constantly. The electorate (at least most of it), doesn’t want a psychopath in charge.”    

She thanked me and hung up.  I just wish this wasn’t bothering me so much—watching with morbid curiosity as a public figure slowly descends into his own mad, mad world.   

Thursday, October 6, 2016



When you look back, con games are always so obvious . . . if not to you, at least to your adult children and all their laughing friends.

How was I to know I’d get hooked by an actor good enough for a role on Broadway? That the young man who phoned would use the same opening words as my grandson, Brandon, or that his voice would sound so vaguely familiar?  

“This is your favorite grandson,” he began, “I’m really glad I reached you.”

Instantly dubious I said, “You sound different, Brandon,” to which he quickly explained, “That’s because my nose is broken.”  

“Oh, Brandon. What happened?” 

“I was in a car accident. Last night I was in the hospital.” 

I was hooked. From then on, I never doubted I was talking to Brandon.     

This, in spite of the fact that Rob and I have routinely ducked those “free millions” from Nigeria, emails from friends in Europe who supposedly lost their wallets, dozens of messages declaring, “The IRS has a lawsuit against you,” heavily-accented voices claiming, “Your computer has a virus,” and the weirdest of all, the phone request, years ago, from a guy who said my daughter had been abducted from elementary school, and I could secure her release just by undressing and describing over the phone what I saw. (Back then, it would have been good.)

Of course I called the school immediately. She was fine. But I was still shook up.

How, then, did I find myself, two days ago, listening with such rapt attention? 

Partly because the young man made the circumstances sound logical. He said he’d been to a friend’s birthday party the night before, that he was driving them both home, that he was behind a very slow vehicle ahead, that he’d passed the car and hit another coming the other way. “I only had two drinks, but they’ve got me for a D.U.I.” He and the others had been taken to a hospital—where he’d flunked the breathalyzer test.  With that he began to cry . . . small sobs that were subtle but unmistakable.  

Oh, Lord, Brandon weeping over the phone. I’d known him from babyhood, but never heard this. Which made me overlook, momentarily, his near-perfect driving record.

I managed to say, “But Brandon, you never drink.” 

“It was just a large beer,” he said, through hiccups.  (I should have noticed the story change.)  “I’m in a holding cell. Will you speak to my public defender?”

By now my heart was pounding.  I said I would, and a public-defenderish voice came on. He introduced himself as David Wiseman. I immediately pointed out that my grandson never drinks. Smoothly the lawyer explained, “Well, his blood alcohol was only 0.09—just one point over acceptable.”  Then he added, “The people in the other car were three times over the limit—enough to be in jail a long time.”   

He let me digest this. “They were REALLY in trouble,” he added. “But it happens your grandson hit a car full of diplomats. They won’t be charged because they have diplomatic immunity.”  Another pause.  “The good news is, diplomatic immunity extends to your grandson. But he had to sign a waver that he’d never speak about this to anyone. And you have to get him out of jail, fast. Get us the bail, and I’ll have a confidential talk with the judge. Otherwise he’ll have a D.U.I. on his record.  And that will stay with him for years.  Forever.” 

By now Wiseman had woven a perfect web.  I was frantic, said I’d have to wake up my husband—a lawyer, I added.

“What kind of lawyer?”

“He doesn’t do criminal,” I said. “Just Medical Mal.” 

“Oh,” said the man. Did I catch a note of relief?  “Go wake him up.  I’ll call back in five minutes.”

The next scene was terrible. Rob said, “This is NOT how I begin my day. Don’t EVER wake me like this again, unless the house is on fire.”  He began wheezing, unable to catch his breath. “Make me some coffee.  Quick.”  When I returned with a cup, he waved away the ringing phone. “You handle this. I’m not getting on the phone. Period.”

“But Brandon was crying,” I said, holding out the dangling instrument. “He’s devastated.”

“Handle it then. I’m not paying any bail.”   (Oh, Lord, why didn’t we just call Brandon? But why would we? He wasn’t home, he was in jail. ) 

Another few seconds talking to Brandon . . . “Hurry,” he said, with another sob. “I’m in a holding cell.  I can’t talk long.”

Then back to Wiseman, who explained calmly that we’d have to get gift cards from Target, “because the court has an arrangement with them.  But don’t say it’s for bail, say it’s a wedding gift. Bail is five thousand dollars. After your grandson is out, you’ll get the money back. All of it. Within three days someone will come to your house.  Call me when you have the cards.”  With that, he gave me a phone number.    

All through this, my heart had never stopped racing. Though I had an appointment with my hairdresser for 12:15, I knew I had to accomplish the bail issue first. Rob and I had had no breakfast. Quickly I made something, said I’d have to dash to Target.

By then Rob’s mood had radically changed. “You’ve handled this wonderfully, Babe. I’ll drive you to Target.”

Nothing at Target was easy. Right off, the credit card company denied this sudden request for $5000 worth of gift cards. Many phone calls later they finally agreed. Gift cards in hand, we returned home, where I quickly phoned Wiseman, gave him the serial numbers off the backs, and raced away to my appointment.  But I can’t talk to Alice, I thought, not with the Diplomatic Immunity issue hanging over everything.

Lucky for us, I was still so shaken, so much the pent-up lady who needs to share, that I DID talk to Alice.

I’d barely started the story when she broke in. “I know how this is going to end.”

I was shocked. “You do?”  How could you possibly know?     

“This place is like the Internet. We’ve heard this story before. Many times. You’ve been scammed.” 

“Scammed?”  I almost leaped out of my chair.  “We’ve been scammed? Are you kidding?”

“We’ve had other customers with the same story.”  She paused. “In every one you’ll find people with diplomatic immunity.  Keeps the victims from talking.”     

In spite of black goo all over my head, I grabbed my cell phone.  “Rob,” I found myself shrieking, “Call Brandon. Call him fast. Then call me back.  It’s a scam.” 

Within a minute Rob was back. “Brandon’s at home. Doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I’m calling Target. Lucky you left me the gift cards. Gotta reach them fast.” 

The rest of the appointment should have been normal—except it wasn’t. My daughter stopped by to bawl me out. “Mom, how could you fall for this?” She glared down at me. “Next time, call ME FIRST.  Will you do that? Do you promise?” Suddenly I was six years old and she was forty.  I nodded.  But I’ve learned, Tracy. There won’t be a next time.

The story ended badly for some and good for others. Rob reached Target before the crooks had a chance to use the cards. Headquarters cancelled them, but it took additional hours to get the local Target on board and willing to issue credit slips.My other plans for the day--a book-signing--slowly vanished.  

But still we were touched by luck, that a hair salon is the ultimate Water Cooler. Thanks to Alice, Rob and I learned a horrific lesson—and together we saved our five thousand dollars. The actors, as good as they were, got nothing.

Only later did I realize their elaborate story was full of holes—for starters, the court’s supposed connection to Target. And second . . . besides being a non-drinker, Brandon is a terrific driver who would never cause an accident. Trouble was, I assumed I was actually talking to him.  And maybe, just this once . . .

In the end, all Rob and I lost was one entire day.  But that day comes in multiples: overnight we’ve become a great deal wiser.