PLEASE RETURN OUR LONGABERGER BASKET!!!1!! ITS BEEN 3 WEEKS AND WE MUST HAVE IT. DANNY IS IN TULLAHOMA FOR WORK BUT I WILL BE HOME IN THE EVENINGS. IF I AM NOT THERE USE THE SPARE KEY. ROCKY SHOULD REMEMBER YOU BUT IF HE DOESNT JUST YELL “ATTACK!!”! THATS DANNYS TRICK TO GET HIM TO SIT! LOL!! IF WE DONT SEE IT THIS WEEK U WILL PAY! REMEMBER, THIS IS OUR BASKET.
Nina lives down the street, and she’s right about one thing: we have had their Longaberger basket for three weeks.
She wrote us this note, literally typed it out and taped it to a saran-wrapped plate of muffins, blueberry, from what I can tell. There are two muffins, one for each of us. I haven’t opened them. She also took a picture of the note (before affixing it to the muffins) and sent it in a group text to Laura and me.
The note, and the muffins, are now sitting on the butler’s pantry, beside the basket in question.
Three weeks ago, Nina and her husband Danny had us over for dinner. We had a nice time. We met them at this festival down at the park. Laura and I were on our way out, and we saw this dog—just this AWESOME German shepherd, strolling toward us like royalty. I couldn’t help myself, and I mentioned to the guy (Danny, as it turns out) what an awesome dog he had. He said thanks and not much else, but his wife was on us like raw steak, conversationally speaking.
She went right for it, said something about my Braves shirt to which I responded favorably, and so then her and Laura chatted and LOL’d over words like “MARTA” and “Tech” and “traffic!”
We were all smiling and chuckling. It was a nice moment, but I kind of finished my laugh like, “Well, it was good to meet you guys,” but then Nina astutely pointed out that we hadn’t met each other, so names were proffered, and of course they got all hung up on mine and I had to do the “I can’t take credit for it” line.
I didn’t necessarily want to be talking to these people, but then again they were listening, and laughing, which is honestly a great way to get me to talk to you. Now Laura was the one with her hand on my wrist, ending the banter, leading us away. She could probably sense the dinner invitation coming, probably in some way the future tension, the psychotic bitch-venom that Nina would in a fortnight spew.
They asked us to dinner.
Well, they asked us where we lived. I of course offered up precise directions, which turned out to be a few doors down from their place on Gale! That settled dinner right then and there. As we walked away Laura seemed actually excited, while I, aware that my uncontrollable wit and verbiage would have us sitting down for dinner in a stranger’s house, forced to make conversation about, you know, things, flagellated myself. “Ehhh, sorry about that,” I told her. “About what?” she asked. “C’mon, it’ll be fun.”
It was sort of fun.
When we left, Nina insisted we take home some banana pudding, insisted the way people do. She gave us what was left, which was over half the pan. To make things less cumbersome, Nina placed the pudding leftovers into a basket, procured from atop the refrigerator. “I’ll put it in this Longaberger basket for you! That’ll make it easier.”
Then she handed it to us. No special instructions. No “PLEASE ENJOY BY” or “PLEASE RETURN BY” date. I mean, we didn’t think she was just giving us the basket. We understood the gesture. And she definitely enunciated that “Longaberger” part.
So that’s how we ended up with it. I carried it in from the car, put the pudding in the fridge, and left the basket on the counter. It’s literally still right there. Nina played it cool for like a day. Dinner was on Saturday, and on Monday afternoon Laura had a text from her: Can you please return my Longaberger basket? Laura said of course she would but then she got home late and forgot. Since then: frantic texts, countless phone calls, and harried voicemails; two really sweet and well-written emails; a handful of unannounced drop-ins (we used to leave our doors unlocked, but last Friday Nina just let herself in—she didn’t go for the basket, though, which would’ve mercifully ended things; she just stood there on the welcome mat, calling our names, while we hid in the laundry room); a bizarre, cryptic Facebook post (Nina’s status: “Real friends help you fly; fake ones help you die. The proof is in the pudding. #realtalk”. The proof is in the pudding???); and now, this note, and these muffins.
We are terrified, and slightly bemused.
At dinner, Nina told a story about the film The Notebook. She is a self-proclaimed “huge Nicholas Sparks girl,” and happened to be living in South Carolina when the movie was being filmed. One day she just wandered over to the shoot, figuring she might get to sneak a peek at one of the scenes or something. Worst that could happen is that they’d make her leave. Well, she hopped a fence, told some guy who hadn’t asked that she was Meggie from costume and one thing led to another and she was in the freaking movie. They put her into one of the carnival scenes towards the start. She’s holding an ice cream cone and laughing and leaning on a man.
I’d been thinking about this Notebook thing, because our life was a barrage of Nina bombs and basket-related threats. When I told the guys at work about it, I always fixated on the Notebook thing—she was just so damn proud of it, still extremely jazzed, what, like, a decade later? In this insane three-week period of basket captivity, I thought that this extra-in-The-Notebook bit was easily the most bizarre. I’d watched the movie many times, mostly because my high school girlfriend loved it, and, thinking I loved her, I loved watching it with her, because of her vague resemblance to Rachel McAdams and my youthful, teenaged conviction that I loved her the way Ryan Gosling did. This might be the banana pudding talking, but did I remember Nina from the carnival scene?
I was sitting at home, kind of hanging out on the porch, reading a book, when Laura got home. We chatted for a second. I showed her the note, the muffins. “Should we eat ‘em?” I asked. “Hell no we shouldn’t eat them!” Laura said, concerned. I was just joking, but she looked, like, actually upset. “You okay, babe?” I hugged her to my chest, and she started to cry. “Sorry, sorry,” she kind of choked out a laugh. “Jesus,” she said, wiping her eyes, “Jesus, this is just so fucking weird.” In this moment, without speaking, we agreed to it. We had opted not to return the Longaberger basket. “She really is an actual crazy person,” I said, letting Laura go from my hug.
We made dinner together and flipped channels. It was getting dark, and, because I like suggesting things heavy in irony, I suggested a movie. “Anything in mind?” she asked. I had something in mind, but wanted it to seem natural, like I had just thought of it right then and there, like it was the most normal and casual movie recommendation of all time. “I don’t know, we could—haven’t seen this in a while…we could…watch The Notebook?” Laura kind of looked at me and paused, then rolled her eyes knowingly and flicked the remote to the MOVIES screen.
I don’t know why we never returned the basket.
Laura forgot, that first night, which was totally understandable. First I heard about it was Tuesday morning, the morning after Laura forgot, when we woke up to a text that said, Hey girl. You got my basket? Laura’s stomach dropped the way it does when you wake up to a text like that, and I felt her pain—I’ve always feared a text like that, to this day, a text from my mom or my bank, my boss or my student loan people. I consoled her, got a little defensive, told Laura not to feel bad, that Nina sure was “putting all her eggs in one basket!” But she forgot it again that day, and that evening, when my phone started blowing up, I took it over but couldn’t find a place to put it. I don’t know, Nina was just freaking out about the freaking basket, plus it sounded expensive—so I didn’t want to just leave it outside.
After those initial miscommunications things just got weird. Couple days later is when Nina just showed up. That honestly scared the crap out of us. Thought it was a freaking robber or something. But then Nina laid low for a few days, sent us a really nice email, talking about how much fun she had, even inviting us to the Belcourt for a film that night. She seemed to have forgotten the basket, or at least chilled out about it, and so did we. Then these distressed voicemails started coming in, and we started locking our doors, and a kind of unspoken, internal decision was made between us and it was decided that we would pretend that Nina and Danny and Rocky and the Longaberger basket did not exist.
Rachel McAdams had locked eyes with Ryan Gosling, and Laura and I were almost through a bottle of wine. She leaned over to me, rubbed her nose with mine, Eskimo kisses. We were only half-watching, the film doing its job by enkindling a spark of romance between us. Laura was leaned into me, and begun to kiss me deeply. I sort of had my eyes halfway open, because I like to kiss that way whatever, and Ryan Gosling says something to one of his buddies and his buddy slings his arm around his girl, and my eyes got as big as those poisoned-ass muffins. It was Nina, licking an ice cream cone with such pure youthful joy. Laura’s tongue was really going for it now, and she had lost all interest in the goings-on onscreen. Didn’t take much wine to get her going. There was a scratching at the door, but there was so much going on—Nina on screen, Laura in my mouth—I hardly noticed. She was biting my lip, and someone was trying the door. I paused the screen and tried to get Laura to stop, but she wouldn’t. A booming bark unleashed itself, and I knew then that it was Rocky, that Nina had come for her Longaberger basket once and for all. Laura bolted up, terrified, and the banging continued and the barking never ceased but we never got up, could not look away, couldn’t be bothered, for we had decided, unspoken, a truce. Plus, there was Nina, on screen, smiling like a school girl, ice cream cone in one hand, Longaberger basket in the other.