We sit down to a family dinner on the final night of my annual visit with my best friend, Kate. All manner of luscious aromas, colors and flavors adorn the bountiful board: dishes of buttery vegetables and fresh salad, a stand of ribs with gravy, and Kate’s fresh baked bread. But nobody sits still. Her son Zack is up pouring drinks from a profuse selection of New York beer and wine. His wife Jade, ranges back and forth from the kitchen keeping the table and our plates full. One big retriever and the two small children aged two and four, bob from one adult to another absorbing bits of food and attention, like sugar ants touching-tasting, touching-tasting. And I’m a part of this big laughing, talking, eating family. I love it. It makes up for the one I can’t be with.
After a lush dessert of double chocolate cake, Kate arises from the table, twirls around smiling with her upraised glass of wine and faints dead away. Kate’s husband, Gino, breaks the spell and reaches her side. Chaos breaks out: kids crying, dog barking. Zack lifts and cradles her. “Did she hit her head?”
Gino supports her head and neck, “I don’t know.”
I’m scared; kneel down with them. “Oh no! She was dipping her bread into that batch of marijuana-laced oil we were making. Wonder how much she ate?”
Earlier in the day we’d been happily milling about in the their comfortable kitchen, having a few beers and baking bread for dinner. At the same time I was teaching Kate how to make pot cookies. She’d been asking for the last couple of years and we finally had enough residue saved in Zack’s upstairs drying attic of the Minelli’s 200-year-old farmhouse to make the oil. Giving credit where credit is due, my sweetheart Adrian, the expert in all things marijuana, gave me the recipe. Since neither Kate nor Gino smoked, cookies became the high of choice. Gino wasn’t thrilled that Zack was growing pot to survive financially in these hard economic times, but after seeing Kate lifted out of her gloom without using pharmaceuticals, he thought he might give it a try, too.
One just-baked loaf of bread was cooling next to her by the stove. While stirring the marijuana concoction, she broke off a chunk and dipped it into the herb oil, “Italian dipping oil. So yummy.” She couldn’t stop.
Now I realize she hadn’t, but it sure stopped her. Out cold on the floor.
Zack cries, “Mom, Mom!” Her eyes flutter open, still unfocused, her face drained of color.
Gino places his hand on her forehead. “Kate, Kate, can you hear me, see me? Does anything hurt?” He’s taking charge.
With the children clinging to her skirts in fear, Jade’s already on the phone dialing 911. Oh shit! Is she just stoned? Is she having a heart attack? I grab her hand. It’s all clammy, “Kate. Are you OK?”
She finally comes to and looks around. “Uuh. What happened? I just fainted.”
Jade runs over, “The ambulance is on the way.”
“Why? This is ridiculous,” Kate begins to laugh. “What are we going to tell them? That I’m stoned? Oh shit.”
Gino’s voice of reason, pushes its way in, “Of course you have to tell them. What if you are having a heart attack?”
Zack frowns, “I doubt it. Her heart’s not racing. It’s probably really slowed down.”
“I’m not telling. This’ll be all over the hollow by morning.” Kate sighs.
The sirens interrupt, alarming the children more. They run to flashing red windows, see the ambulance and wail back into their mother’s skirts.
The siren stops. EMT’s fill the door with their uniformed bulk. The captain asks Gino what happened, then kneels down to Kate who’s still on the floor, but alert. He calls over an EMT wearing a stethoscope. “Hey Carl.” Gino recognizes him as one of their neighbors and a volunteer fireman.
“Hey Gino. Hate to see you like this, Kate. I’m gonna check your heart rate.” He fumbles around trying to situate the stethoscope over her heart, fiddling with the headset. “Sorry, I’m just subbing tonight. Haven’t had to use one of these things in a long time.”
Kate doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, to be honest or lie. She’s a
teacher and could lose her job if this gets out. Her health hasn’t been so good lately. Now in her 60’s, she has high blood pressure, is overweight, loves Italian food as much as her Italian husband does, has fits of depression and doesn’t exercise regularly, though she has good intentions.
But she just can’t lie. She blurts out, “I ate some marijuana oil along with a few glasses of wine and lots of delicious food.” She begins to giggle. “Guess I fainted.”
“I can’t get a decent heart rate,” Carl’s still fumbling. “It’s really slow.”
The Captain interjects, “That’s what happens when you’re high on marijuana. Slows everything down. That’s why you fainted.”
“I’m really sorry, but I don’t think I can stand up.”
“Don’t move. We still don’t know if you hit your head or spinal column.” He clasps a rigid brace around her neck. “We’re not taking any chances. You’re going to the hospital.”
“Oh My Glory!” Kate tries to panic, but giggles instead. She has a history of light-headedness. She started getting high late in life and took to it immediately. No problems with paranoia, just leashing in her glee. As she says, ‘It’s way better than antidepressants. And all natural.’ LOL should be her nickname.
The children freak out as their Nana is laid on a stretcher and carried out. Jade holds them close and reassures them. Gino gets in the front seat of the ambulance with the captain and Carl. Kay’s alone in the back with the biggest toughest EMT, a black version of Mr. Clean, smile, ear-piercing and all. Zack and I drive behind the emergency vehicle in his car.
With lights blazing inside and out, but no siren, we watch the scene inside. They’re talking. “Ohmygod, they’re both laughing.” Zack looks at me, his worried face softening, “Wonder what story she’s telling him now?”
The knot loosens in my stomach. “Probably what good pot you grow.”
“Or what killer cookies you make.”
On the long drive to the emergency room I reminisce on where this all started. Kate and I had met each other in mid 50’s Florida in elementary school. I was the new fifth grade student just arrived from France, acting foreign and wearing weird clothes. “You had on a pleated skirt and a strange shiny patchwork shirt,” Kate remembered.
Introduced to the class, I was asked to tell about my travels and speak French, an exotic language to a class of redneck kids in a tiny southern town before the advent of tourism. Everyone laughed.
Kate, just down from Indiana, was a bit of a misfit too. Indigo Irish eyes surrounded by a mane of black hair gave volume to her tall willowy form. Neither of us was freckled, sun-bleached, sleeveless nor sandaled, like the rest of the class. We stuck together, both being newbies, terribly shy and having trouble understanding Southern. We took to each other immediately and have continued as fast friends through the last sixty years staying in touch through college, marriage, divorce and the births of our children and theirs.
When we arrive at the hospital, Zack stays in the lobby. “I don’t want to go in there. I’ve been in enough emergency rooms in my life.” He chuckles.
A nurse escorts Gino and me into the room with Kate as she’s prepped and tested. A Peewee Herman look-alike nurse starts attaching wires and knobs all over her body in both private and public places and she starts giggling again. It’s catching. The wave of hilarity passes through me into Gino. We’re not even high and have to struggle to regain our composure, like little kids in church.
An endless wait for the doctor takes its toll. Kate begins plotting her escape. “I can’t wait here any longer. I’m fine. Help me get these wires off and get dressed. Let’s lose this place.” She’s still high as a kite.
Gino hesitates, I hope you’re kidding.”
I read the monitor. “How much oil-soaked bread did you eat? At least you don’t have to worry about a heart attack.
“Yea, Zack said that’s one of the side effects.”
“By the way, we were wondering what you and that big EMT were laughing about in the back of the ambulance?”
“He wanted to know what I’d been smoking to make me so happy. When I told him it was marijuana-dipping oil and I was eating it not smoking it, he asked for the recipe.”
The ER doctor finally arrives. Good, a woman. Maybe she’ll relate better and sympathize with this sweet old school teacher. After answering all the same questions again, Kate gets serious, “Is this going to get out? I could lose my job.” She pats her belly, “I love to eat, just look at me, and the pot-laced olive oil on fresh baked bread was too delicious to put down.”
The doctor is not smiling. “Your records are sealed as are our lips. It’s against the law to reveal personal information unless a crime is involved.” She reassures her. “But this is no laughing matter. Try to be more careful. Although the marijuana brought your high blood pressure right down, it brought you down too. Next time you could break your neck or have a stroke.”
“I’ve learned my lesson. Kate is penitent.
We meet Zack out in the lobby going crazy with waiting. “Jeez, that took forever. I’m usually the emergency, not the rescuer. Let’s get the hell outta here.” He calls Jade to let her know his mom is fine and we’re on out way.
We drive home in silence, drained, each lost in our own thoughts. Surely Kate would be thanking her God, I, my lucky stars, for getting us safely through another of our crazy adventures.
Zack’s cell phone jangles disrupting my reverie. Jade has been getting calls from neighbors and friends all night wanting to know if Kate is okay and what happened.
I’m shocked. “Already? How’d they find out?”
“CB radios.” All action from the firehouse is reported as it happens in a small community like the Hollow, and news travels fast.
“Not much other excitement around here. This is more than news.” Gino grabs Kate’s hand. “People are worried about you.”
Zack drops us off and heads home. The phone machine is already flashing as we enter the house. Kate’s fatigue is replaced by distress when she listens to an anxious message from a colleague, ‘Heard through the grapevine you went to the emergency room. What happened? Are you alright?’
“I’m too honest to come up with a good story. What am I going to do?”
“You’re going to stay home and recuperate, just like the doctor said,” Gino admonishes. “Tomorrow’s a new day.”
“You’re right. I’m exhausted. It’ll all work out.” As her eyes begin to close she mumbles, “Bless you and love you both.”
“Love you too, and thanks for another rousing visit.” I trip upstairs to bed and lay awake waiting for the adrenalin rush to recede. My thoughts drift back to those two shy little fifth grade friends. Who’d have ever thought we’d still be giggling together as grannies: taking risks, having fun, being stupid, laughing in joy, grieving in pain and still hanging out together after all these years.
Herb Oil – Herb Cookies
For the alleviation of pain, nausea and worry.
¼ – ½ oz.good herb / 16oz. good olive oil or coconut oil Depending on strength
¾ – 1 oz.mediocre herb / 32oz. oil
Break up herb for maximum coverage. Heat oil in pan and stir in. Let simmer for 1 hour on low heat. Be careful not to burn.
Let cool. Pour oil through a fine sieve or cloth and press. Squeeze residue through a garlic press and discard in garden. Reserve oil. No need to refrigerate.
Use your favorite recipe or Betty Crocker cookie mix. Voila!