Column Classic: Junk in The Trunk

By Lisa Scottoline

If Freud wanted to know what women want, he could have asked.

If he’d asked me, I would have answered:

Another kitchen cabinet.

And I just got one!

Here’s how it happened.

It was about ten years ago that I remodeled my kitchen, adding white cabinets and a trash compactor. To tell the truth, I don’t remember wanting a trash compactor and think it was Thing Two who wanted a trash compactor, but I’ve blamed enough on him, so let’s just say I wanted a trash compactor.

At the time, my kitchen contractor said, “I’ll install this trash compactor for you, but I bet you’ll never use it.”

“I’m sure I’ll use it,” said I. And I probably added, “Plus it will give me something to blame on somebody, down the line.”

In any event, the trash compactor got installed, and it came with two free bags, which I promptly lost.

Ten years and one divorce later, it turns out that the contractor was right.

I should have married the contractor.

But to stay on point, I never used the trash compactor. Not once. I even forgot it was there until three months ago, when it began to emit a mysterious and foul odor. I searched the thing and could find no reason for it to be smelly, but I washed it inside and out anyway. Still the smell got worse and worse, until it was so bad I could barely eat in the kitchen. Then one day, the electrician came over to fix a light and he said,  “Smells like something died in here.”


The electrician showed me that you could slide out the compactor, which I hadn’t realized, and when we did, we found behind it an aromatic gray mound that used to be a mouse.


The electrician threw the dead mouse away, and I cleaned the trash compactor all over again, but it still stunk worse than my second marriage, which I didn’t even think was possible, so I threw the trash compactor away, too.

Which left an oddly empty space on my kitchen island, a blank square among the white cabinets, like a missing tooth.

I called the kitchen contractor, whose phone number I still had from ten years ago. As soon as he heard my voice, he said, “Told you,” and came right over.

Last week he installed a new cabinet, including a drawer, then asked, “What are you going to use it for?”

”I’m not sure yet,” I told him, excited by the possibilities. It was almost too much to hope for – a nice empty cabinet and a whole extra drawer. After he had gone, I pulled up a stool and contemplated my course of action.

The decision required me to consider the problem areas of my kitchen cabinets, which are many. My pot-and-pan cabinet is a mess because I hate to stack pots and pans in their proper concentric circles. I just pile them up any way, playing Jenga, only with Farberware. Also I can never figure out how to store pot lids, so I stick them in upside down, setting them wobbling on handles like the worst tops ever. Every time I open the cabinet door, they come sliding out like a stainless steel avalanche.

I also have a cabinet containing Rubbermaid and Tupperware, but it’s all mixed up, so that Rubbermaid lids are with Tupperware containers and Rubbermaid containers are with Tupperware lids, making the whole thing feel vaguely illicit, like an orgy of plastic products.

Then I have a cabinet of kitchen appliances I have never used once in my life, but feel compelled to keep close at hand, namely a juicer, a waffle iron, and a salad shooter. You never know when you’ll have to shoot a salad.

My kitchen drawers are equally problematic. I have one drawer for silverware, and four others for junk, junk, junk, and junk. All the junk drawers contain the same junk, just more of it, namely, pens that don’t work, pencils that have no point, extra buttons that go to clothes I’ve never seen, rubber bands I got free but can’t part with, menus for restaurants I don’t order from, and pennies.

In other words, it’s all essential.

I think I know what to put in the empty cabinet.

Trash compactor bags.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: King Tut

By Lisa Scottoline

This column classic this week is in memory of Mother Mary who passed on Palm Sunday several years ago. Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all! Enjoy your families! XOXO

Okay, so my brother has escaped back to Miami, and my mother is still visiting me and my daughter. One afternoon we were all in front of the TV, comatose before the Everybody Loves Raymond marathon, having finished the Law & Order marathon. For the past two weeks, my mother wouldn’t go anywhere else but the kitchen. Driven to distraction, I offhandedly suggested we go see the King Tut exhibit.

“King Tut?” my mother asked, suddenly perking up. Her eyes widened behind her round glasses like an octogenarian Harry Potter. “Let’s go!”

I blinked, astounded.  “But, Ma, it’s In Town.”

“So what?  I love King Tut!”

I didn’t say what I was thinking, which was, More than Telly Savalas?

“Only thing is, he’s not there,” my mother said.

“That’s because he’s dead,” I told her, then ordered the tickets online before she remembered she didn’t like having fun.

The next day, we were at the King Tut exhibit – me, my mother, and my daughter – three generations of Scottoline women, freshly showered and dressed up, giddy to be out of the house. My mother wore her best perfume, smelling great because she stopped smoking a few years ago, when she got throat cancer. She’s in complete remission now, which doesn’t surprise me. It’ll take more than a deadly disease to kill my mother. I’m betting on a meteor.

I picked up our tickets, bought the audio tour, and slipped the headphones over my mother’s hearing aid, then turned on her audiotape, which was narrated by Omar Sharif. She broke into a sly smile and said, “Omar Sharif can park his slippers next to mine anytime.”

“Who’s Omar Sharif?” asked my daughter.

“Doctor Zhivago,” my mother answered.

“Nicky Arnstein,” I added.

Who?” my daughter asked again, and we let it go. I cannot explain Omar Sharif to a generation who has not swooned over him. For Omar Sharif, I would have learned bridge.

But back to the story.

We waited in a line that zigzagged for an hour, which was a lot of standing for my mother, especially after she’d come three blocks from the parking garage. She’d walked only slowly, but she hadn’t complained at all. Her vision is poor from glaucoma and macular degeneration, but she was gamely squinting at the museum map. We entered the exhibit, which began with a short movie about King Tut. In the dark, my mother said to me, “Watch your purse.”

In the first room of the exhibit, we were a field trip of underachievers. We couldn’t pronounce Tutankhamen or figure out his genealogy, and we didn’t know what canopic meant. I kept pressing the wrong numbers on my mother’s gadget for the audio tour, so the tape would play the spiel about liver embalming when she was looking at the mask of Nefertiti.

But we found our stride as the exhibit continued. The lights were low and dramatic; the rooms modeled after the King’s own tomb. I held onto my mother’s elbow as she wobbled along, and my daughter read aloud for her the plaques she couldn’t read herself. We saw lovely calcite jars, so luminous that they glowed. Delicate statues called shabti, glazed a vibrant blue. A gilded chest covered with carved hieroglyphs. The artifacts, all over three thousand years old, had been placed in King Tut’s tomb to keep him company in the afterlife. In the Egyptian culture’s reverence for the dead, I could see its reverence for the living. Looking at the amazing artifacts, holding onto my mother and my daughter, I realized that this moment might never come again. Cancer kills mothers every day, and death comes for all, boy kings and perfumed women.

Then I tried to understand why it took a glimpse of the afterlife to make me appreciate this life. It was an afterlife lesson.

We passed into the last room of the exhibit, which was darker than all the others. I had expected to see the grand finale, King Tut’s famous golden sarcophagus. But where it should have been, instead was a stand the approximate size and shape of a sarcophagus. On it was projected a ghostly photo of King Tut, which morphed from a picture of his mummified remains to a picture of his sarcophagus.

“What’s this?” I asked, mystified. “Where’s King Tut?”

My mother said, “Told you. He’s not here. I read it in the paper.”

That’s what you meant?”


I felt terrible, for my mother. “Sorry about that.”

But she waved me off. “Makes no difference.”

My daughter looked over at me. “Bummed, Mom?”

“No,” I answered, without hesitation.

“Me, neither,” my daughter said with a smile. And we both took my mother by the arm.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: To Catch A Predator

By Lisa Scottoline

I have a crush.

On a fox.


What can I say?

He’s foxy.

Let me explain.

A few months ago, I noticed that there was a baby fox running around my backyard, hanging out in some brush to the left, far from the house. He was red, fluffy, and adorable, with delicate black paws and ears, and I began to spend time watching him.

That makes me sound lonelier than I am. 

Also creepier, especially when I use my binoculars.

If I get a GPS on him, call the authorities.

In time, the fox grew up, going from cute to handsome and then some. Imagine Justin Bieber turning into Hugh Jackman, like Wolverine only nice.

A stone fox.

His body got fuller, his coat glossier, and he sprouted a thick patch of white fur on his chest. 

I like chest hair, even if it’s white.

I’m at that age.

In my own defense, I also like nature, especially when it can be even remotely classified as a Woodland Creature. 

Chipmunks, call me.

Also I loved that animated movie The Fantastic Mr. Fox, so it was all I could do not to catch the fox and dress him in a pinstriped suit. In case you were wondering, my thing for the fox has nothing to do with the fact that George Clooney voiced the fox in The Fantastic Mr. Fox. As we know, I’m over my crush on George and have moved on to Bradley Cooper, because crushes are highly transferrable, especially when they’re completely imaginary.

And also this is one smart fox. 

I didn’t know that foxes really were smart, but believe the hype. 

He darts away if I go out the back door, then sticks his head up from the brush when I go inside, as if he watches my comings and goings. He comes out only at certain times of the evening, when we sit and stare at each other from across the lawn. I begin to notice that I’m looking forward to our end-of-the-day staring sessions.

In other words, dates.

Words aren’t always necessary, between us.

Frankly, I’ve had entire marriages that were far less interesting.

By the way, foxes mate for life.

Unlike me.

My fox is so cool and elusive, the ultimate mystery man. Either he has intimacy issues, or I do.

Daughter Francesca came home to visit, and I showed her the fox, but she frowned. “Mom,” she said, “he’s cute, but stay away.”

“I know, he could have herpes.”

“You mean rabies.”

“Right.” I meant rabies. “I was wondering if I should put some food out for him.”

Francesca’s eyes widened. “Are you serious? He’s a predator.”

“So what? They have to eat, too.” 

“You want him around?”

“Of course. Isn’t he great? I mean, he’s like another dog and cat, combined.” I didn’t tell her he’s my crush. I didn’t want her to think I like bad boys. 

So I didn’t feed him, because my daughter is smarter than I am. 

But neither of us is as smart as my fox.

I say this because the other day he ran by with a bird in its mouth, and I realized that it might have come from my bird feeder by the back door, which I keep full because I like to watch birds, too.

Though with them I manage to check my romantic urges. 

No chest hair.

Although yesterday I did see a superhot blue jay.

Anyway I felt terrible about the bird who was about to be dinner, and worse about the fox. And now I’m thinking that all this time, on our nightly dates, the fox wasn’t watching me, but the bird feeder.

He wasn’t the man I thought he was.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Column Classic: Fun for Free

By Lisa Scottoline

Here’s something I do that might be crazy:

I rearrange the furniture.


Blind people don’t stand a chance in my house. And most of the time, neither do I.

Rearranging the furniture is one of my favorite bad habits. My most favorite bad habit is eating chocolate cake, and my least favorite bad habit is marrying badly.

It all began with an ottoman, which somehow expanded into the Ottoman Empire.

Let me explain.

I was sitting on my couch in the family room, working on my laptop with the TV on. I went to put my feet up on the coffee table, and my foot knocked over a mug of coffee. This had happened to me more times than I can count. Every book on my coffee table has been soaked with coffee, and so has the table itself, but I don’t think that’s why they call it a coffee table or a coffee-table book.

Right then and there, I decided to do something about it. I remembered that I had an ottoman in my office upstairs, which was paired with a chair that’s there for show.

Please tell me I’m not the only person who has furniture for show.

The chair-and-ottoman sits next to my desk in case somebody wandered in, put their feet up, and watched me work, but that’s never going to happen and I wouldn’t want that, anyway. Once I met a writer who told me that he read the pages he’d written that day to his wife, and I thought:

That poor woman.

In any event, I got the ottoman, carried it downstairs, plunked it down in the family room, and put my feet up on it.


In the end, I ended up changing the fabric on the couch to coordinate with the ottoman and even changed the paint color on the walls, which is how the ottoman became the Ottoman Empire and a bad habit was born.

Since then, I look around my house with a critical eye, wondering if the current furniture arrangement is the best and invariably deciding that it isn’t. This thought usually strikes around bedtime, when all the smart people in the world would probably go to sleep.

But not me.

I shove couches around, and then chairs. I even rearrange pictures on the wall and start hammering nails. Pick up any one of the framed things on my wall, and behind it you’ll find at least twelve holes, like automatic weapon fire, but really tiny.

Frankly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this bad habit.

On the contrary, I’m a fan. That’s a great part of growing older, you start to think that even the bad things about you are good.

And why not?

Whose life is it anyway?

Rearranging the furniture is a way of having fun, for free. It keeps you on your toes to think about what other ways the room can be reconfigured, even if it means that you’ll stub your toe on a chair that didn’t used to be there.

In a funny way, I think it’s a small-scale way to improve your own life.

Case in point is my alarm clock.

I know this sounds trivial, but why stop now. Somebody has to write about the simple things in life, and if you like that sort of thing, you’ve come to the right place.

I have this really large, ugly, glowing clock next to my bed, which I’ve suffered with for years. The numbers need to be big because I can’t read them otherwise, and I need to know the time if I wake up at night, so I can worry about how much sleep I’m not getting.

I put things over the clock so it’s dark enough to sleep, but it’s not the best solution, to cover a clock with a pair of cotton undies, like the world’s ugliest nightlight.

Then it struck me that I could put the clock in the bathroom. Granted, I can’t see it from the bed, but on account of my advanced years, I’m in the bathroom at least once a night.

And now I know exactly when.

Plus I sleep like a baby, and my cotton undies are back on my tushie.

Happy ending.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Chick Wit Classic: Focused

By Lisa Scottoline

I’m trying to understand why I have six different pairs of eyeglasses. I’m only one woman, with two nearsighted eyes.

I realized this odd state of affairs when I decided that I would finally replace my glasses, which were crooked because I had put them on the bedside table one night and didn’t reach far enough, so they fell to the floor. I was too tired to pick them up and figured I’d get them in the morning, which I did.

With my foot.

I specialize in ruining glasses. I sit on them, drop them face down, set thick books on them, and put them in the case wrong, snapping off a stem. Freud would say I don’t like wearing glasses.

Guy’s a genius.

Anyway I wore my broken glasses for a week, but I got tired of looking drunk, so I bought a new pair. We won’t talk about how much they cost, because now you need a second mortgage to buy glasses, which is why I never throw any away, but that’s not my point.

My point is that now I own a new pair of normal glasses, a pair of ancient prescription sunglasses I use for the beach and yard work, a pair of semi-ancient prescription sunglasses I use for driving and everything else, a pair of non-prescription sunglasses, and a pair of wacky zany kooky reading glasses, which is either the mark of a true eccentric or a middle-aged woman.

Or both.

My wacky zany kooky readers look like spin art on the boardwalk, in fuchsia and turquoise with weird swirls of gold. I’ve found that even the most conservative woman will wear wacky zany kooky readers. In fact, the more conservative the woman, the wackier the readers. Secretly, I think we’re all sending the same message, which is:

I’m not dead yet.

I’m letting my freak flag fly.

Also you’re not the boss of me.

Yay, us!

Anyway, to stay on point, how can I have so many glasses? Every time I go anywhere, my purse is full of glasses cases. And the craziest part?

I also have contacts.

I got contacts in the sixth grade, after somebody told me, “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.”


Back then, contact lenses were made of actual glass, so you had to get used to them by wearing them for a month, blinking and tearing, in continuous eye pain. I never really got used to them, so you could tell I was wearing contacts by the tentative backward tilt to my head as I walked, like someone crossing a rickety rope bridge in the Amazon.

Plus the glass contacts were always popping out of my eyes, and everybody in the vicinity would end up on all fours, picking through the rug. The only good part was that I learned to shoot them out of my eyes for fun, by pressing down on the side of the lens, playing corneal tiddlywinks.

Sorry, only people old enough to remember glass contacts will get the tiddlywinks reference. All others, please humor me.

Anyway, it was a lot of trouble to go through for men to make passes, and then Thing One and Thing Two happened, so what does that tell you?

But now it turns out that contacts and glasses aren’t good enough, because there’s a new goop that women can put on their eyelids if they have “inadequate lashes.”


The ads say, “It’s your own eyelashes – only better.”

Thank God my eyelashes can be better. I had no idea they were underachieving. I have slacker eyelashes.

The ad also says you can “grow your own lashes!”

This is a novel idea. I grow my own tomatoes. I grow my own basil. I never thought of growing my own body parts, for limbs and appendages that weren’t up to snuff.

Given my druthers, I’d bypass the lashes and grow more boobs.

I bet men would make passes at me, then. Even if I wore glasses.

I smell Thing Three.

But if you ask me, this eye business has gotten out of hand.

First glasses weren’t good enough, so I got contacts. Now my eyes aren’t good enough.

So will I buy this eyelash goop?

No. I’m older and wiser, and I draw the line.

And I don’t mean eyeliner.

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice?

Okay, that happens.

But three times?


I have plenty of glasses, contacts, and eyelashes, thank you.

I can see clearly now.

My vision is, finally, perfect.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Chick Wit Classic: Love

By Lisa Scottoline

Whenever Valentine’s Day comes up, the newspaper, TV, and stores are full of heart-shaped candy boxes, roses, and jewelry for “that special someone.” The holiday has become a celebration of romantic love, and that’s great if you’re in a romance or you’re married, which is like having an automatic valentine.

But not everyone is so lucky.

There are plenty of people who aren’t seeing someone right now, which is code for haven’t had a date in 55 years. Like me. And that’s okay, every day except Valentine’s Day. 

Single people feel like losers on Valentine’s Day. They’re left out of the hearts and candy. They become wallflowers at the party of life. 

This is sad, and wrong. I think it’s time to revisit the way we think about Valentine’s Day. So welcome to another trademark Scottoline time-to-change-things story, wherein my bossy and controlling nature works to my advantage, for once.

To begin, I did some research, and I learned that St. Valentine’s Day was intended to celebrate a loving man, a priest so sweet, giving, and devout that he became a saint. Historically, his day had nothing to do with romance. In fact, it wasn’t until the Middle Ages, when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem entitled a Parliament of Foules, that St. Valentine’s Day became associated with romantic love. 

Aha! So the link between Valentine’s Day and romance is pure fiction. Chaucer made it up, and trust me, he did it to move some poems. Sex sells. Romance novels are best-sellers for a reason, and even my books have sex scenes, which I write from memory.

And now I forget.

Given that the history of the holiday is so sketchy, I feel free to write on a clean slate. In other words, I can make it up, too. 

And if you ask me, Valentine’s Day is really about love. Not only romantic love, but also just plain love. And if you’re not married or seeing someone, you can still have love in your life.


In my case, I have tons of love in my life. I love my kid, my family, and my friends. I love the people I work with. I love my readers. I love my dogs, cats, and pony. I love spaghetti. I love opera. I love books. I love Brad Pitt in Legends of The Fall

In short, I love.

If I were going to improve on that maxim of Descartes, “I think, therefore I am,” I’d say, “I love, therefore I am.” Or instead of Pope’s saying, “To err is human,” I’d go with, “To love is human.” Plus I agree completely with that great philosopher James Taylor, who tells us to “shower the people you love with love.”

So I propose that, on Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love. Shower the people you love with love. Don’t take each other for granted. Recognize that we grow more valuable to each other as time passes, not less. Raise a glass to someone you love, in celebration of an emotion that powers our best intentions, leads to our greatest happiness, and gives us the stories of the world’s greatest operas, movies, and novels.

Now, there may be some of you reading this who have no one. Maybe you’ve lost someone, or they’re far away, and you’re left hiding in your house or apartment, waiting for Valentine’s Day to pass. 

Here’s my advice to you:

Find the love in your life, because it’s all around you. And if you can’t find it, make it yourself.

Make love.

And by that, I don’t mean 

I mean, adopt a dog and love it. Buy it a pretty collar and walk it around the block. A cat works, too. Cats like pretty collars, even though they’re too proud to say so. Or get a fish. There’s no shame in love you can buy, even if it has scales. I don’t think goldfish get enough credit. Not everybody can look good in orange. 

Or read a book that everyone says is great. You’ll find a story you love, and maybe an author. Or if you don’t like to read, watch Legends of the Fall. You’ll love Brad Pitt, whether you’re a man or a woman.

And if none of that appeals to you, volunteer at a shelter or a hospital. Cook a meal for the parents at Ronald McDonald House, like a friend of mine did. 

Because the thing about love is that we can’t control whether we get it, but we can control whether we give it.

And each feels as good as the other.

Your heart doesn’t know whether it’s loving a man, a TV show, or a guppy. If your heart were that smart, it would be your brain.

All your heart knows is that it’s full and happy, and you will feel alive and human. 

And next time, you will have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

And, better yet, a wonderful life.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

Chick Wit Classic: Cover Me

By Lisa Scottoline

I don’t know who invented duvet covers, but judging from the spelling, it was the French, and I’m guessing they did it in retaliation for Pepe Le Pew. 

Oo-la-la, mon cheri.

I don’t know when I got sucked into the duvet-cover scam, but I think it was in the eighties, a time before I had dogs, which is relevant here.  Because back then, the duvet cover never needed washing, and everything was fine.  But now I have to wash it all the time, as a result of sleeping with various and sundry critters, which means that I have to put it back on the bed again.

And it’s just impossible to put a duvet cover back on a duvet, or if we stop being pretentious, a comforter.

I don’t know how to do it in less than an hour.  And last time, I got so disgusted that I gave up and just placed the duvet cover on top of the comforter, making my bed like a cheese sandwich. 

I mean, what’s the difference?  The cover was covering the duvet, after all, and who’s coming after me?  The gendarmerie?

I simply can’t do it.

Here’s my procedure: I stuff the corner of the comforter in one corner of the duvet cover, then jump up on the bed and shake the comforter down the sides and into the other corners, which is when I realize I have the comforter twisted like a double helix inside the cover.  So then I have to dump the comforter out and start all over again while profanity commences, and I forget about bothering with whether the comforter is lengthwise or not, because I pretend it’s a square.  Bottom line, I struggle and struggle until the comforter is shoved back inside the cover, like a baby stuffed back into its amniotic sac, in a process that’s only slightly less painful than giving birth in reverse.

If you follow.

I’m over it.  I’m done with duvet covers and the other impossible things around my house, like halogen bulbs.  I have them under my kitchen cabinets, and the contractor swore to me they would be beautiful, and they are.  But he never told me that it would be impossible to change the itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, twenty-watt, double-pronged bulb.

And by the way, you’re not allowed to touch it with your fingers.

I’m not kidding. 

He told me that the oil from my fingertips will somehow rub off on the glass of the halogen bulb and cause it to spontaneously combust or perhaps cause World War III, and that I’m supposed to take a paper towel or piece of toilet paper, wrap it around the halogen bulb, then hold the wrapped bulb between my thumb and index finger and stick that assembly in the pinpoint holes in the fixture.

Try this at home. 

The bulb will pop like a cork from the paper towel, sail through the air, land on the counter, and shatter into lethal shards.  It will take four bulbs to get one inside. 

You’ll see.

Or, if you manage to keep your grip on the paper-and-bulb combo, try sticking the bulb’s two prongs, which are the gauge of sewing needles and just as pointy, into the tiny holes in the fixture, which are the size of a needle’s eye.

Good luck with that.  You could attach a spaceship to a docking station with greater ease.

And the kicker is that since my fixture is under the cabinet, I have to bend backwards in order to change the bulb, so that the back of my head is resting on the counter.  Then I try to stick the bulb in the fixture, like a mechanic under a car, only doing the limbo.  The last time I changed a bulb, I felt like I ripped my stomach muscles.  It gave new meaning to shredded abs.

So I tried a new way, climbing onto my counter and lying down under the cabinets like I was going to sleep.  I went through two bulbs and gave up, and now I’m cursing the halogen bulb and the duvet cover.

And Pepe Le Pew.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline