Here’s this week’s episode of The Port City Chronicle, the continuing serial novel of Gretchen, a 46-year-old criminal defense lawyer, and her family and friends, seeking love and happiness in Portland the hard way:

“If I’m going to talk, there’s got to be a runway,” Tim said. “Otherwise how will my verbal aircraft be able to land?”

He was standing at the foot of the porch steps waiting for Milagros to acknowledge him, but she didn’t look up from her computer. His aircraft were already a little hobbled by novocaine.

“How’d it go at the dentist?” I asked.

“Great,” he said. “When I was there last year it took them an hour and a half to get all the dirt off my teeth. Now this year, after I learned my lesson from four root canals, it took no time. The hygienist said my teeth were so clean you could practically eat off of them.”

Milagros still didn’t look up but he went on, his aircraft crashing on the floor of the porch.

“Speaking of which, I’m starved. Want to get some fries?”

“No,” she said, typing, “but thank you for asking.”

Tim looked hopefully at the rest of us. “Want to eat?”

“There’s pizza in the kitchen,” Angela said, motioning inside, where a pizza sat untouched on the counter. That should have been a sign things hadn’t been going well on the home front, but Tim was too preoccupied to notice.

“I can’t because of my cholesterol,” he said, still trying to get Milagros’ attention. When he’s lucky, she tells him not to eat pizza, but at the moment she wasn’t interested.

Ethan had the same attitude. “Who cares? Live for yesterday.”

Of course, Angela had a slightly different approach.

“You should eat one of those organic apples we bought last week that cost so much,” she said. “We paid $2 apiece for them, so you better at least eat them.”

Supposedly she was talking to Tim, but she obviously meant it for Ethan. Not that Tim noticed.

“I already ate at least $7.56. I couldn’t eat another nickel of Honey Crisp.”

“There’s also leftover spinach in the fridge,” Angela said.

“I don’t want something limp.”

Meanwhile, Ethan was turning green just hearing about food.

“What’s the matter with you anyway?” Angela asked. “Are you still hung over?”

Ethan didn’t answer.

“When anyone asks you something, first make a show of denial,” Tim said. “That way you don’t bargain against yourself. Then when you make a partial admission it seems like you’re compromising.”

But Ethan didn’t have it in him to say anything. He just doubled over.

“Yesterday I went to get him from Amigo’s at 10,” Angela said. “He wouldn’t leave, supposedly because of the game. Finally, they said he could stay but he had to be able to stand.”

She scowled at him. “Why are you so much worse than this morning?”

Ethan just grimaced.

Angela shook her head in disgust and went inside so she wouldn’t have to look at him anymore. Instead she started vacuuming loudly next to the porch window as a substitute for yelling at him directly.

But only the cats had any reaction. The new cat rushed out and hunched under Milagros’ chair while Chicken sauntered around him knowingly. “She does that every now and then. It makes a loud noise but it doesn’t hurt.”

Ethan finally sat up again, still looking greenish.

“Look buddy,” Tim said. “I’m not saying drink less, I’m saying eat more.”

“You want some chicken?” I asked him, since Milagros wasn’t interested.

He shook his head.

“Duck?” I asked, pointing to a piece of smoked duck we’d bought from the farmer’s market that morning. Not that I wanted to waste it on him.

Fortunately he turned it down. “Your selection is so medieval.”

He wanted a burger and fries and more importantly, he wanted it with Milagros.

Finally he got really desperate for her attention.

“Wife, should I get rid of my pineapple shirt?”

That always at least gets her annoyed.

“What pineapple shirt?” she asked predictably.

“You know, the multi-colored one.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, “but I don’t care if you have it or not.”

It was a little harsh but only the new cat seemed to take offense, running out from under Milagros’ chair and cowering on the edge of the porch.

Meanwhile, Chicken seized the opportunity to tear the new porch chair covers. “You keep them occupied while I break some stuff.”

The new cat looked back at her. “Can I puke?”

It wasn’t that surprising except that Ethan puked right after him.

Everybody looked away except Chicken, who doesn’t have any manners.

“I’m so sick of your criticism,” Ethan said, trying to act like nothing had happened.

But Angela had seen it from inside the house.

“I figured out what’s wrong with you,” she said, holding up a pipe she’d fished out of his jacket. “Is this your one-hitter?”

Ethan was still greenish. “No that’s my real pipe. It’s for birthdays and weddings.”

But that wasn’t really the point. “What’s in here?” Angela asked. “It’s not exactly pot. Is it K2?”

Ethan shook his head. Better to make a show of denial so you don’t bargain against yourself.

“That explains the smell earlier,” Angela said. “There was nobody out there except you.”

Tim tried to defend him. “There was a squirrel sitting on a branch, taking a hit, and saying, ‘This sure is a powerful acorn.’”

Angela was furious, but on the positive side Milagros was finally paying attention.

“Did you do it, too?” she asked Tim.

You could tell she was a little impressed but at the same time frightened.

For once Tim didn’t answer even though his aircraft finally had someplace to land.

Angela answered instead. “You guys better watch out. You’re heading down a one-way street.”

But Milagros disagreed.

“You aren’t on a one-way street,” she said to Tim, shaking her head. “There’s a car coming in the other direction.”

Hard to say if that was a good thing.


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