At the end of the very first week after she had moved in to Camrose, Donna got a call from her best friend from Scotland who she had known since she was a year old. Her name’s Irene and she traveling with a friend, Fiona, who was also from the small town of Glenrothes in the Kingdom of Fife. They were on a world tour that originated in Edinburgh and ended in Australia. She was Irene told Donna she was going to be in Los Angeles for a day or two and would be arriving at the Greyhound bus terminal on Tuesday, December 20, 1988 at ten p.m.
When Albert Hammond wrote that song, It Never Rains in California, he must have been out of town that night. It was coming down in ten gallon buckets. My right foot was still in a cast after having the screws in my injured ankle removed from the accident I had at the Hollywood Sign Park a year earlier, so I handed Donna the keys to my Austin Healey. We had the hardtop secured on with bolts and latches but there were no windows in that car, only rickety, scratched and weather worn side curtains as she drove the impenetrable streets to Cahuenga and Hollywood Boulevards to pick up her two road-weary travelers. The car had no defrost system, or at least it wasn’t working, so we had to keep wiping the windshield with scraps of paper and rags to be able to see the road in front of us. I wished we would have had time to call my mom and borrow the Mercedes and wondered how in the hell we were going to get four people, two of which had luggage, in a small British roadster. The car did have two back seats but they were only meant for children or very small adults. I had no idea how big these girls were and Donna wasn’t sure since she hadn’t seen Irene or Fiona in a couple of months. They did pay a visit to her when she lived in Joliet, Illinois the previous spring but she assured me they were not porkers then, but a lot could happen in nine months. I hoped they weren’t pregnant.
We scrambled out of the car, huddled together under my jean jacket while Donna helped guide my crutch assisted body into the bus terminal. We were soaked to the bone in a matter of minutes. Donna spotted her friends and the hugs and tears of joy ensued. They were skinny enough and only had a couple of rucksacks.
“You’re joking.” Irene said in her thick Fife accent. “There’s no way on earth we are going to fit inside this wee car.” It was going to be a tight fit but I convinced her it was doable. Fiona was silent but I could see she was a bit skeptical. After a few minutes of arranging and rearranging the passenger and their bags we were on the road back to Camrose. Donna was a real trouper and handled the Healey like a champ. When we dried off in the living room and introductions were made to Bridget and Ginger, Donna made a pot of tea and instant coffee for me.
“Oh my God,” Irene said as she gawked at Bridget. “Is that a dog or a bloody horse? Donna I don’t know how you manage to put up with this man who lives in a kennel. He seems a bit daft but harmless.”
“He is a wee bit cheeky,” Donna said, “but I suppose I’ll keep ’im.”
“He is a handsome devil, mindin’ me of ole Tom Jones. James, can ya strum a bit a Delilah on that guitar of yours?” Irene said while pointing to the J-200 that was leaning against the bookcase.
“I think I could manage.” I said as I picked up the guitar and wailed my best attempt at mimicking the Welsh singer.
“That not too bad,” Fiona said after she sipped her tea. They were settling in now while Donna made up the couch for Irene. They had drawn straws and Fiona was relegated to the sleeping bag on the floor. At least we had a foam mat to cushion the burden of her sleeping directly on the hardwood floors.
The next morning Donna and I went to Ralph’s supermarket and did a little shopping while the two visitors slept soundly. She thought a nice Christmas dinner would be in order, so we bought a small turkey, Brussels sprouts, tatties and yams. We even purchased a couple bottles of Chardonnay and a six pack of beer. When we came back the coffee was brewing and Irene said she and Fiona had taken the two doggies out for a wee walk. I was a little concerned about Big Al Fohrman and wondered if he had laid into them with his usual gruffness. She said the dogs were well behaved and she hadn’t seen the big blowhard, but did have a conversation with a few of the neighbors. They had also done some vacuuming and had polished the furniture with Pledge. I told them they didn’t have to bother but they said it was the least they could do. Donna fired up the oven and by noon the turkey was thawed enough to cook.
There weren’t enough chairs in the kitchen for us to have a sit down dinner so I removed the legs from the round table and rolled it into the living room. We sat on the floor that evening drinking wine and eating our delicious feast. When Bridget wandered over to have a sniff, I snapped my fingers and she hopped on the couch, Ginger cuddled up to Fiona who sneaked her a few pieces of turkey skin. I later rewarded Bridget and Ginger with a few scraps I had put into a plastic bowl and they ate them with the manners of well trained animals that they were. They girls were impressed. After dinner Irene trundled over to her rucksack and brought out these funny looking paper hats in the shape of a king’s crown. She insisted we all put them on our heads and Donna told me it was a Scottish tradition. I felt stupid but played along with the ceremonial festivities. Then she brought out these things called Christmas crackers which were long paper tubes that had string on each end. Two people would pull on each end and the cracker would crack open with a pop. The one who ended up with the long end would be the winner and claim the reward inside which was usually a wee trinket or an amusing Scottish joke. I lost every contest but didn’t care. It was one of the most fascinating Christmas dinners I had ever had the pleasure of attending.
After the Pumpkin pie was devoured and the third cup of coffee was being served, I turned on the television. On the screen there was a special bulletin. The newscaster said that Pan Am flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit via London was destroyed by a terrorist bomb of Lockerbie, Scotland. We sat there stunned in disbelief watching the burning wreckage on the Sharp 26 inch TV screen. There I was with three Scottish girls watching a terrorist attack in their home country. I was at a loss for words, as we all were. Nothing like that had ever happened in the long history of the small country that had been through wars, famine, pestilence, floods, fire and subservience to England, Scandinavia and many other would be aggressors. Scotland always stood proud and tall and managed to keep a stiff upper lip. It was a night I will never forget as long as I live. Scotland forever!