And Other Slices of My Life

Black Beans and Broccoli

by Dee Newman

Back then on Sunday mornings I often would go to The Slice of Life to have breakfast or brunch. Being a vegan there were not many restaurants in Nashville that had soysage and scrambled tofu on the menu. However, on this particular Sunday I arrived at the restaurant rather late. It was nearly noon. So, I decided to order from the lunch menu and have one of my favorite meals, Black beans and broccoli with cornbread.

As I recall, the place was unusually void of customers . . . there was a young couple in the corner by the window who were obviously still feeling the effects and afterglow of their morning’s love-making, two young women who looked like Vanderbilt students, and a table with three young men, possibly brothers, and an older couple who were, more than likely, their parents.

As I was finishing up my meal, I turned to the movie section of the Sunday Tennessean and noticed that Alien was playing at Cinema South out off Nolensville Pike. I had not seen it when it was first released back in 1979. Looking at the clock on the wall I realized I had only fifteen minutes to get there before the feature began.

Although the drive out to Cinema South was uneventful, it took me a good twenty minutes. Fortunately, when I arrived there was no line. I paid the attendant and quickly went to the theater on the right. It was packed. I stood at the back for awhile to let my eyes get adjusted and then walked down the left isle looking first to my to my right and then to my left trying to find an empty seat. I was unsuccessful.

After returning to the back of the theater and moving to my right, I continued to search the theater in vain for an empty seat. By now the previews were over and the feature had begun. Feeling a bit foolish and frustrated, I slowly began to walk down the isle on the right side of the theater. Completing what I thought was a thorough investigation, I concluded that there was no empty seat to be found.

And then, suddenly, I saw it . . . on the eighth row, near the middle.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” I whispered as I tried in vain to unobtrusively make my way to the only empty seat in the theater, causing a disturbance that was viewed by the audience, I’m sure, as an unnecessary nuisance. When I finally arrived at my seat, I realized I was in the exact center of the theater.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the award winning sci-fi horror film, I should, perhaps, before I continue with my tale, acquaint you with the plot of the movie.

While on a return trip from Thedus to Earth, the commercial spaceship, Nostromo, hauling twenty million tons of ore and a refinery, receives a mysterious transmission from a nearby planetoid. The ship's computer awakens the seven-member crew.

After consulting with their corporate employers, the crew lands on the planetoid, damaging their ship. Captain Dallas, Executive Officer Kane, and Navigator Lambert set out to investigate the source of the signal. Warrant Officer Ripley who is played by Sigourney Weaver, Science Officer Ash, and the two Engineers Brett and Parker stay behind to make repairs on Nostromo.

Dallas, Kane, and Lambert soon discover that an abandoned spaceship is transmitting the unknown signal. Inside the ship they discover the remains of a large alien creature. Meanwhile, Warrant Officer Ripley determines that the transmission is apparently some type of warning.

In his exploration of the alien ship Executive Officer Kane discovers a huge chamber containing a vast number of eggs. A creature is releases from one of the eggs and attaches itself to Kane’s face. Dallas and Lambert carry the unconscious Executive Officer back to Nostromo. Despite the warning from Warrant Officer Ripley to follow the ship's quarantine procedures, Science Officer Ash allows all three of the men to come aboard.

While unsuccessfully attempting to remove the creature from Kane's face, they discover that its blood is in fact an extremely corrosive acid. Eventually, the creature detaches itself from Kane’s face on its own and is later found dead.

After Nostromo is repaired, the crew resumes their trip back to Earth. Soon, Kane awakens, apparently unharmed. All seems well.

Now, back to my tale.

While the minutes ticked by and the suspense and tension within the theater intensified, I began to gradually experience a bloating feeling in my gut from the black beans and broccoli I had eaten earlier. As many of you may know black beans and broccoli belong to a group of cruciferous vegetables that are notorious for both increasing the amount of gas produced in the intestines and its potent pungency.

Consequently, (though I became increasingly uncomfortable as my gut continued to fill with gas) I was determined to not release any of the noxious fumes from my bowels and further alienate (no pun intended) my fellow audience members who were already annoyed with me for my late arrival.

Unfortunately, fate had a significantly different plan. As Executive Officer Kane began to eat, and then, convulsively choke on his first meal after his harrowing experience, suddenly, an alien creature bursts from his chest, killing him and shocking the entire audience. As you may well imagine, at that very moment, the gas that had been building up in my gut simultaneously burst from my butt. The sound of the thunderous release was so loud that it was heard by the attendants in the lobby. There was nothing I could have done to prevent it.

Every person sitting in the rows in front of me immediately turned around to determine who had produced the thunderous explosion. I would have turn myself and pretended the blast had come from someone behind me, but I knew that the folks to my left and right and behind me were fully aware of who the culprit was. So, instead I tried to diminish my stature by slouching as far down in my seat as possible. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the folks in front of me turned around and went back to watching the movie.

However, to my detriment, the ordeal had not found its end. My flatulent outburst was not only deafening, its odor was overwhelmingly offensive and began to invade and assault the nostrils of the audience in an ever widening sphere until folks, once more, were turning around to look at me in disgust. But now, there were daggers coming out of their eyes.

The woman who was sitting directly in front of me turn to her husband and said loud enough for everyone in the theater to hear, “That has to be the worst smelling fart I have ever experienced!” Sadly, not only was her assessment correct, the fart’s pungent intensity seemed to take forever to diminish.

At this point in my tale, I usually jump ahead several months to a scene at the old Spaghetti Factory. I’m seated at a table with one of my closest and dearest friends, Irwin Goldzweig. For nearly a decade, we had been meeting there twice a year to celebrate each other’s birthdays.

After discussing a number of issues and concerns, Irwin began focusing on the depressing prospect that Bill Boner was going to be Nashville’s next mayor, declaring that he, himself, would run against Boner if it were not for the fact that he had been such a vociferous activist and protester of the Vietnam War.

Suddenly, I began to laugh, uncontrollably. Irwin became quite irritated with me. He was serious and thought I was laughing at him and his concerns for Nashville’s future under Boner’s leadership or lack there of.

As soon as I was able to regain my composure, I explained to Irwin that I too was unable to run for the office of Mayor because there were several hundred people throughout the city who would immediately recognize me as the man who discharged the loudest and worst smelling fart that they had ever experienced and ruined their viewing of one of the all time best sci-fi horror films ever made.

As I was completing my explanation, a woman seated at the table next to us turned and said, “I thought you looked familiar.”

Heather’s Indiscretion

By Dee Newman

I realize it may be difficult for those of you who know me to believe that I was once in the military and that I volunteered to serve. But, it’s true. In October of 1964 I joined the United States Navy. After boot camp in San Diego, California, and nine-months in Millington, Tennessee, just north of Memphis, training to become an aviation electronics technician, I spent the remainder of my four years, except for the last three-months, in Sanford, Florida, at the Naval Air Station there in Attack Squadron THREE. The mission of the training squadron was to prepare pilots to fly the Mach-2 RA-5C Vigilante reconnaissance aircraft that was effectively used by the 7th fleet during carrier air wing operations in the South China Sea throughout the Vietnam War. The supersonic aircraft could operate at altitudes from sea level to above 50,000 feet.

In early spring of 1968 we were inform through the chain of command that the entire base would be moved to Albany, Georgia. Sometime in late May my wife, Jo, and I were given a long weekend to travel to Albany to find a place to live. It was during that weekend that Heather’s indiscretion occurred.

The plan was to use Friday and Sunday as travel days and Saturday to locate and rent an apartment. After arriving in Albany and securing lodging for the night, we bought a newspaper and went out to eat. Later, after circling a number of apartments that were listed in the paper for rent, we drove around to acquaint ourselves with the city.

We awoke early the next morning, had breakfast, and began our search. Within the first hour we past a charming old apartment complex that had a “for rent” sign out front which looked inviting, but we were set on finding an apartment in an old home much like the one in which we had been living in Sanford.

Though we began our search confident that we would soon find what we were looking for, by noon our confidence had waned considerably. By late afternoon we had looked at nearly twenty-five different apartments. Unfortunately, they were all either out of our price range or lacked the character and qualities sufficient to meet out aesthetic standards.

Feeling a bit depressed we reluctantly drove back to that old apartment complex that we had seen earlier in the day that look inviting. After sitting in the car awhile critically examining the overall appearance of the quaint old two-story complex, we decided to locate the manager. Following the signs that lead us to an apartment on the second floor, we knock on the door and waited. There was no response.

We knocked again, this time a little louder. From inside the apartment we heard a woman’s voice saying, “Heather, could you please answer the door?” A few moments later a very lovely dark haired young woman in her late teens with incredibly beautiful blue eyes open the door. We told her we were interested in the apartment for rent. She asked us to come in and have a seat, politely telling us that her mother would be right with us.

The living room of their apartment was small but comfortable. Jo and I sat down on a large sofa. There was a television to the left of the sofa near where Jo was seated that was on with the volume turned down and a large chair that matched the sofa just to the right of me. Behind the chair was an open space that lead to a dining room and the rest of their apartment. It was through that space in which the young women, Heather, left to inform her mother that we were waiting to see her.

Within a few minutes, another very attractive young women who looked more like Heather’s older sister than her mother entered the room and introduced herself, apologizing for our wait. After exchanging pleasantries and informing her who we were and why we needed an apartment, we began asking her the standard questions regarding the apartment’s appearance, layout, size, and the deposit and monthly rental fee required.

Though the apartment manager’s face and figure appeared nearly as youthful and stunningly beautiful as her daughters (very pleasing to the eye), it soon became clear that she was also a very astute businesswoman with an engaging and pleasant personality.

As she began to provide us with the description and details of the apartment, the phone rang. Expressing her regrets, she excused herself and left the room as she had entered. It was a good ten minutes before she returned. Apologizing profusely, she indicated that the phone call was extremely important, the continuation of an ongoing transacting and negotiation with which she had been involved for most of the day.

Once again, she began telling us about the apartment, describing it in detail, apparently trying to leave nothing to our imaginations, informing us of both its shortcomings and virtues. Just as we were about to ask if we could see the apartment, the phone rang again. Excusing herself, she left the room, once again, as she had entered through the open space behind the chair.

While she was gone Jo and I decided that we would rent the apartment if it turned out that her description of it was accurate. As the minutes ticked by, an event on the television caught our attention and we turned to watch it.

At this point in the story, it is, perhaps, important to make clear that nearly 40 minutes had elapsed since Heather, the managers daughter, first invited us into their apartment. Her mother was still talking on the phone in the other room. So, it should not be too difficult for you to believe that what I am about to tell you is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Without warning, while Jo and I sat there watching the nightly news, out of the corner of our eyes we perceived the figure of someone entering the room. We turned, expecting to see the manager. Instead, it was her daughter, Heather, completely naked carrying her clothes. Her long dark hair was still wet from, perhaps, a bath or shower. She came in rather nonchalantly and sat down in the matching sofa chair to my right.

And then, as her bare left knee touched mine, she suddenly realized that she was not alone. There was a long silent moment that I will never forget when Heather’s large beautiful blue eyes focused on mine, and then, began to actually increase in size until her slim, firm, adolescently mature body, suddenly, found the necessary impetus to react.

But, instead of clutching her clothes to her exquisite bare-naked breasts and body, she jumped up and screamed, threw them into the air and ran out of the room. I can still see her clothes – her cotton summer dress, her panties and bra – flying into the air and then falling in slow motion all about the living room as her beautiful bare bottom disappeared from view.

More aesthetic than erotic, the memory of that moment still takes my breath away.

From somewhere in the back of there apartment we could hear her mother saying, “If I’ve told once, I’ve told you a thousand time to get dressed in your own room!”

Moments later, Heather’s mother returned, once again, profusely apologizing, but this time for her daughter’s indiscretion.

Later, after the three of us had regained out composure, she asked if we would like to see the apartment? Without hesitating, I replied, saying, “Nah, that’s alright . . . we’ll take it.”

For the first month after we moved into the apartment every time I would see Heather she would divert her eyes and disappear as quickly as possible from view. And then, one afternoon as I was parking my car I noticed that she was hanging clothes on the line just outside our apartment. I walked over and asked her about her plans for the fall, telling her that I had heard from her mom that she had been accepted at Auburn.

"Congratulations," I said. "You must be really excited."

Her responds was both enthusiastic and apprehensive. She was obviously thrilled about her new adventure, yet was sincerely reluctant to leave her home and community.  As she began to speak, her discomfort and embarrassment appeared to melt away. From that day on she never again diverted her eyes or seemed uncomfortable in my presence. Indeed, over the next two months Jo and I actually became friends with Heather and her mom, Charlotte.

In late August 1968 my tour of duty in the United States Navy finally ended. On the day we vacated our apartment to move to student housing at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Charlotte came down to say goodbye. For some idiotic reason, in jest, I foolishly asked her a question that my mind had discreetly entertained from the moment we first rented the apartment.

“Now tell me, Charlotte,” I asked rather blithely, “was Heather’s indiscretion really as innocent as it seemed, or was it, in fact, a planned, calculated enticement on your part in order to rent the apartment?”

At first, Charlotte just smiled, and then, repositioning herself to stand beside my wife, said rather pointedly, “Dee, I realize that you may have been beguiled by my daughter’s lack of discretion, but I’m quite sure Jo was not.”

The names have been changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.