James Leroy Macklebee, now well into his seventies and feeling it, lived alone in a small downstairs apartment at the end of Yuletide Drive in a suburban city called Artemision, about a dozen miles northeast of Los Angeles. He was a widower, his dear wife Mildred having expired some years before, and although they’d had children — four of them, in fact — all lived far away, one in northern California, two out of state, and the fourth somewhere in Central or South America, perhaps in Costa Rica or Bolivia, he was no longer sure which, or if she was in fact in either of them, since this one, a daughter, rarely if ever communicated with either him or her siblings. She was the family vagabond. The remaining three confined their contact with him to periodic phone calls on his birthday and holidays. It wasn’t that they didn’t love him; just that life had tied them down in its own unique way.
After the untimely death of his beloved Milly — ironically the consequence of a turkey wishbone lodged in her throat several Thanksgiving Day celebrations before — Macklebee shown little inclination to remarry.
“Good lord, what for?” he would retort with a dismissive smirk when queried. “All the poor woman would get in return is a wizened old fart she sooner or later would have to nurse, hapless soul, or, more justifiably, rid herself of in the dead of night by means of a large pillow. Ha-hah!”
He would then pause, before extrapolating further, “Then it would occur to one or more of my kids, none of whom I’ve seen in years, to suspect foul play, and my ill-starred widow would conceivably be accused, arrested, tried, and convicted of premeditated murder and spend the rest of her miserable days in the slammer. And all because the poor woman took pity on me. No! I won’t put anybody through that.”
Macklebee, notwithstanding, did miss sharing a bed. He relished not only his wife, but also the warmth of her at his side. And since her death he often found it difficult to fall asleep at night. Reading ’til unconscious or a cup of warm milk just didn’t cut it.
And then one particularly chilly late autumn evening, crawling in between cold sheets with the dim hope that his own body heat would suffice, but didn’t, Macklebee, shivering, teeth chattering, decided it was probably high time to purchase an electric blanket. He simply didn’t have enough body fat anymore to keep him warm.
Until stores opened in the morning, however, he decided to employ instead as an emergency measure a couple of microwavable beanbags to warm his bed. These had belonged to his wife who had suffered periodically from sinus headaches and neck pain, and which she swore alleviated her. Macklebee climbed out of bed and rooted about in his wife’s dresser until he found both. One was what she had made herself from a seven-inch square coffee beanbag from Costa Rica — a present, no doubt, from the vagabond daughter — which she had emptied, then refilled with lentils and sewn back together. Macklebee remembered with a smile how she held it, heated, to her forehead, sighing with relief. The other was a store-bought 20-inch-long cloth tubular microwave heat pack with a rope handle on each end. No telling what its contents were, but they felt like plastic pellets. He wrapped the heat pack around the coffee bean bag and set them on high in the microwave oven for about three minutes. Then he trotted back to bed, stuffed them under the covers and crawled in behind them, switched off his bedside lamp, and cuddled them in positions that most warmed and comfitted his superannuated body from the cold.
“Yowww! Too hot!” he skreighed three seconds later.
Macklebee scooted out of his bed making “yah-yah-ya-ya-ya-yah!” noises on the way and waited, shivering in the dark, allowing his makeshift heaters to cool down until they ceased to scorch him alive. Back in bed at last, he snuggled down anew.
“Ahhhh!” he sighed.
And fell in love.
Not immediately, of course. He had certain hurdles to overcome first, namely:
- human to human love: (with the death of his wife and no successor or surrogate on the horizon, this was at present a moot point)
- human to pet love: (only if not funky, freaky, frisky or ferocious)
- human to fuzzy companion love: (only if platonic and non-allergenic)
- human to doll love: (only if not kinky or kachina, i.e., sharp points)
- human to bed love: (prayerfully if bed comfortable)
- human to bed warmer love: (if the temperature cuddly)
Once these considered, accepted and surpassed, Macklebee succumbed to the Delilah enchantments of the coarse-textured beanbag and the sinewy, yet seductive microwave heat pack, and welcomed — nay, yearned — for nightfall as he’d never done before.
His passion for the warm inclusion of the beanbag at his left side, his right side, on his stomach, under his feet, against his cheeks, and then the gentle caresses of the cannular heat pack over his chest like the loving espousal embrace of his late wife, all these knew no bounds, leaving the old man in grateful rapture.
The police, together with the fire department and a nomadic ambulance, broke down his front door some days later and found James Leroy Macklebee dead in bed, a merciless Costa Rican coffee beanbag resting securely upon his face, and a cold-blooded tubular microwave heat pack wrapped around his neck.
No foul play was suspected. Yet it still made a good human interest story on the evening news and a brief but welcome respite from the mid-term elections.