The original Pugsley Ernsberger, the inspiration for character Pugsley.
Something was horribly wrong.
I knew it before I opened my eyes, before I saw the faint pinkish-orange
light seeping in between the “Faux-teak” blinds that shutter my bedroom
windows. It was barely dawn, yet I could hear someone rattling around my
condo, moving from the hall into the kitchen.
I instantly slammed into Def Con 1. I sat straight up in bed, pulse racing,
nerve endings tingling, skin prickling at the back of my neck. An icy finger
traced a lazy trail down my spine and I crept out of bed, yanking my arms
into my favorite terry bathrobe.
I was gripped by a fear so intense, I could hardly breathe.
A home invasion? Call 911! I reached for my cell phone, then realized with a
stab of despair that I’d left it in the kitchen. How annoying. Not only was
I going to die, I was going to die because of my own stupidity, just like
the heroine in a Kevin Williamson flick. Never an ideal way to go.
I could only hope there would be enough of my body left for the police to
make a positive ID. Maybe the pale blue bathrobe, decorated with goofy
yellow ducks, would give them a clue. My roommate, Lark Merriweather, always
says that no one over twelve years old would be caught dead in it.
Or alive, for that matter.
I tiptoed to the bedroom door, my heart lodged in my throat. I felt the
beginning of flop sweat sprouting under my arms as I cautiously turned the
door knob. At least, Lark, would be spared. She was away for the weekend,
visiting friends in Key West. But where was my dog, Pugsley? He’d been
sleeping at the foot of my bed when I’d drifted off to sleep watching
Letterman. Had he been abducted? The victim of foul play? I couldn’t face
life without Pugsley. Rising hysteria!
And then I heard a familiar voice.
A breathy, smoke-filled voice, early Kathleen Turner. My shoulders slumped
with relief and I shuffled out of the bedroom, my pulse stuttering back to
In the kitchen, I found both good news and bad news awaiting me.
The good news was that there was no sign of a crazed serial killer, no ax
The bad news was that my mother, Lola Walsh, was back in town.
In my condo, to be precise. She must have let herself in with her key
sometime during the night and now she was padding around my living room,
talking on her cell.
“That would be just fabulous, darling, fabulous! How can I ever thank you?”
A pause and then, “Oh, you naughty boy. I’ll have to think of something,
won’t I? But will your wife approve? You know what they say, ‘what the mind
doesn’t know, the heart doesn’t feel.’” Her tone was lascivious, bordering
on high-camp, and I had to stifle a grin. She turned around and flashed me a
Lola was on full-throttle, charming someone with her Marilyn Monroe
“happy-birthday-mister-president” voice. Lola ‘s an actress, although she’s
having trouble finding parts these days, because she’s “of a certain age,”
as she likes to say.
According to Lola, the Hollywood establishment has been highjacked by the
Lindsay Lohans, the Hannah Montanas and the Lauren Conrads, long-legged
ingenues who edge out classically trained actresses like herself. Although
god knows, she tries her best to stay in the game.
Sometimes she tries too hard.
Today, for example, she was wearing a spaghetti-strapped tank top with a
pair of red and white Hawaiian-print skin-tight capris. Her considerable
assets were spilling out of the tank top, making her look like a geriatric
version of a Hooter’s girl.
Age is “just a number” to Lola. A flexible number. I’m 32, and ten years
ago, Lola listed her age on her resume as 38. As far as I know, she’s still
38. Don’t try to do the math, it will make your teeth hurt. And her head
shot is a sort of reverse Dorian Gray, since it makes her look younger than
I do. She often introduces me as her sister, which would probably have me in
analysis for years, if I didn’t happen to be a shrink by profession.
“You’re awake!” she said, flipping the phone shut and enveloping me in a
hug. Her voice was warm and breezy as a summer’s day. “Maggie, you’ll never
guess who that was,” she added playfully.
“Oh, don’t be silly. He’s married to that super-model, Carla Bruni.” She
glanced at the clock. “Besides, it’s 2:00 am in Paris. C’mon, try again.”
I gently untangled myself from her embrace and made tracks for the coffee
pot. I always set everything up the night before, so all it takes is a quick
push of the ON button. That’s all my sleep-fogged brain can handle first
thing in the morning. A nice mug of steaming dolce de leche to start the
day. I was still feeling shaky with adrenaline and took a couple of deep,
“Mom, you know I hate to guess.” She made a little moue of disappointment
and I sighed. I knew I had to play the game, or I’d never be able to drink
my coffee in peace. “Okay, Daniel Craig called. He wants you to fly to
London and have drinks with him at Claridge’s tonight.”
“Nope.” She giggled and clapped her hands together. “Although that certainly
sounds like fun. I love his movies and he’s a major hunk.”
I smelled the coffee brewing, my own extra-caffeinated version, and greeted
Pugsley, who heard my voice and came racing in from the balcony. Pugsley is
the furry love of my life, a three-year old rescue dog who understands my
most intimate thoughts and feelings. He’s the next best thing to a soul mate
and gives me what every woman craves.
Unconditional love and a ton of sloppy kisses.