LORDESS OF THE RINGS

There is usually not a time when I can’t take a phone call barring bath time, mealtime, or just plain social anxiety. My oldest daughter left a message yesterday to call her back. Concerned if it was something important, I called back right away. I left a long message relaying crucial information that my age spots are now multiplying and my belly has gone beyond its alluring limit. I know how exciting my precious phone call must have meant to her because when I called again she didn’t answer. Once I did get a hold of her she pleaded, “Gotta call you back. I might be able to make a baby, the postman is here.” This sort of zany exchange is true confirmation of our kinship. Something must have come up because I waited a full fifty-three seconds and she still hadn’t called back.

This same daughter abides by the aphorism “Live long and pester.” It brings back memories of my childhood days with our retro rotary wall phone and its unlimited amount of annoyers. I mean users. More often than not, my nine siblings and I all scurried at the same time with the boisterous longing to hear who was on the other end. What can I say other than we had poor impulse control. I was often terrorized by the maze of traffic that whizzed by me aimed at answering the thing. I was knocked to the ground on several occasions, and wanted to die peacefully like my mother did in later years. Not be fatally crushed by the many children she bore. I did have to commend my adoring siblings on the prompt and timely manner in which they trampled people. If only they had been that quick when asked to do the dishes.

I implicated two brothers in the run-by-shootings procured by water pistols when I was spending too much time on the phone myself. They pointed weapons of tree branches, poking me throughout my whole conversations. I was taught that using scream tactics should at all times be avoided. I needed to wait till I got off the phone before yelling back at them or deafening the person on the other end. I thought to myself, what would Jesus want me to do? I was 95% sure He wouldn’t want me strangling my siblings with the phone cord. Whoever said Give me a home where the buffalo roam had never lived on our range. For someone who comingled with a stampede of wild boars and would someday need to be reprogrammed into polite society, it’s no wonder I still snort when I laugh.

The telephone at times was crucially needed, and at other times was a trap for useless information. I never wanted to be greeted with the pressure of mortality at ten years old when a funeral home called asking if we had already purchased our plots. Fifteen was an even tougher year when I ran for the Bell system with every reverberation, hoping the school football team had my number. We racked up a lot of miles wearing down kitchen linoleum. As if it was a caller fictitiously awarding our family with an all expense paid trip to Fiji. We were fortunate if we got to the end of our street.

Mom ended up cutting me off cold-phone-turkey after I accepted a collect call from Monaco. I thought it was her friend Monica. And our neighbor called continuously wanting to borrow things. We had already loaned him half a bag of fertilizer, the grill, and fifty bucks. Little did I know that nothing had been returned and he wanted to borrow our new lawn mower. Obligingly, I took it right over. Another day the gynecologist’s office called and I relayed the message to mom that her Pabst beer was inconsistent. Maybe I heard things wrong, but I thought mom was a regular wine drinker. Yet it was another sibling prankster who should have gotten in far more trouble for answering the phone imparting, “Roses are red, boogers are green, I’ll only respond, if you say something obscene.”

One time during my teenage phone hogging, one brother quipped, “Your call is extremely important to me. Please enjoy this endless drum solo while I wait”…as he beat away at the walls around me. I tried to redirect his attention by telling him that Bigfoot was in the back yard but he didn’t believe me. I realized that pleasing him was impossible, but making his blood boil was easy. Although not all counsel is created equal. Mom said to hang up and ponder the virtues of silence. Dad said to stop monopolizing the receiver and stretching the coiled cord into my room or he’d rip the ringer from the wall. This might have been a strong indication that I was a stinker. Not so, when someone else pulled the phone into the pantry while trying to spread peanut butter on Saltines thus entwining peanutty stickiness into the coiling line. The exfoliation however certainly increased the cord skins capacity to be more flexible and reduce any wrinkles.

As one Lordess of rings to another, I wanted to help my mother with what I thought was the perfect solution to phone grabbing. I told her to spike my sibling’s milk with barbiturates. Mom couldn’t bring herself to do it, but she could have diverted the phone seizers by keeping bottles of bubbles nearby as deterrents, specifically for those restless beings whose phone waiting impatience was so bothersome. She should have also had several coin operated telephone booths installed in different areas of the house. The financial intake could have assured her trips to Fiji.

Times have changed. Nowadays I don’t like talking on the phone. Utilizing the efficiency of transmittance won’t help me much anyway if I die in my house and I’m too dead to call anyone.

SUNDAY DRIVER

Silly me for thinking bad things can’t happen on Sundays. God is expected to be on my side on the Sabbath but somehow takes a break and Satan steps in. Not to disregard our heavenly maker’s miraculous powers of persuasion, but if I had been in church where I was supposed to be, I doubt any of this would have happened. Let me start from the beginning.

Most people don’t remember what they did at four years old. I do. How could I not when my mother repeated this story over and over, making me look like the worst wrongdoer in rug rat history. We were reversing out of the driveway one Sunday and heading towards our parish when she stopped to move all things toy related. I was just trying to help with the commute by hopping into the driver’s seat. That’s when I learned that gear shifting can wipe out a wagon, take out trash cans, and destroy relations with the neighbors if you back onto their property.

Some rather harsh words came from a woman of such saintly stature. It didn’t help that it was a simmering summer morning and I had left a whole box of 120 color Crayola’s melting on the blacktop. Not to mention accelerating backwards with her standing so close to the car. When she regained control of the vehicle, I asked in some sort of pre-schooler babble that she not get so worked up about rainbow colored tires and crushed trash cans plus three feet of churned up soil that stuck to the Robertson’s busted picket fence. She’s lucky I didn’t shift to “D” and take out the garage. The incident resulted in my being late for a religious education where they would have been teaching me what’s wrong and what’s right.

Flash forward to my teen years. Dad had just purchased a brand new beautiful Buick. I asked if I could use it to pick up my girlfriend and go to a church service. God should have struck me down for fibbing. Instead of sitting in a pew, we found it funnier to do drive by baptisms that rainy day, flying through puddles when people were standing on curbs. If at first you don’t succeed, try three more times so your thrills are sufficiently achieved. Mom called me poor pitiful pearl, which probably meant that I was one bead shy of a full necklace. The only jewelry she wanted to see me wearing was a rosary.

Before I left the house, dad had such strictness in his voice when he warned me, “Drive slow and see the countryside, but drive fast and you’ll see the bars of a jail.” Having once been in the seminary studying for priesthood, I’m surprised he didn’t preach, “Thou shalt not speed or plow down pedestrians.” He did tell me never to pick up hitchhikers. But some of them just took it upon themselves to hop aboard without asking. It happens when you’re trying to drive and you have to remove birdies flattened pancaked parts from the windshield.

Saying signs of the cross was common when I wasn’t in church. Especially when yelling, “Holy crap, there’s a cop!” What dad forgot to tell me was how to apply make-up while eating a Big Mac going eighty miles per hour. Driving can become erratic simply by trying to learn the entire instrument panel. I should have figured out where the windshield wiper button was BEFORE I got into the vehicle. Driving home, a drunkard plowed into the passenger side while I was making a turn. Any further forward and my friend would have been killed and I would have been left telling everyone the deceased friend story. I should have sprayed our automobile with jerk repellant.

At that point, I was pretty positive that I would have been better off in a sanctuary as a sermon recipient. I just prayed that I wouldn’t go to hell because Hitler would be there. I returned home with a muddy and messed up auto that looked like it had been to a demolition derby. How do you know when it’s a good time to give up driving? When your dad has a killer look on his face. I’m sure he was sorry he had me instead of continuing on in the seminary. But he did lovingly inquire, “Are you hurt?” He thinks I was trouble. I, on the other hand, believe that package tape dispensers are the far more troublesome vagabonds and root of all evil.

Flash forward again to a week ago. I had just exited Target strolling to my car when I watched a shopping cart ram into my tail light, breaking it. And they call it daylight saving time. I thought maybe God was getting revenge since I spent time in a retail establishment instead of a house of the Lord. But honestly, I think Target is equally shrine-like and a completely consecrated place of worship. A mother had let her young son take their buggy back to the cart corral where he missed, letting it slip from of his grip and roll right into my car. Not another of the quadrillion standing vehicles, just mine. I believed the kid did it on purpose. They say blondes have more fun. Not if you’re five with angelic brown locks but a devilish attitude. When he said his name was Lucifer, I thought I had died and gone to driver’s hell.

To top things off, a lady that looked to be about a hundred and fifty decided to park by squeezing her car into the space beside mine, scraping my side panel and leaving enough room to open the door for only a snake to slither into. I suppose I had my own shortcomings as a human being. But it did call for a hearty shot of wine. I contemplated whether to go to a Catholic Mass and have one, or go to a cocktail lounge and have three.

BROTHERLY LOVE

I’m surprised that I am with a man today considering the former odious advances made by certain males, and the fact that I lived with six brothers. Testosterone ruled. They didn’t have to do dishes, or wash clothes, or make beds. The only reason they even came home at night was because they had clean sheets and liked helping themselves to all the refrigerator contents while everyone else was sleeping. I blamed everything on my brothers. Besides, it felt good redirecting the focus of my critics.

My sisters and I were saints. Just ask them. Behind every delinquent brother was a substantial amount of pugnaciousness and soviet style operations. The world needed new leaders who were cunning and resourceful. But I was seriously concerned about their futures heading more towards maximum security. Especially the time they decided there needed to be two kegs and about five thousand kids from high school at our house while Mom and Dad were away. It resulted in my first hangover. Needless to say, their secret was safe with me. That night, between trying to sleep and my unofficially diagnosed A.D.D., I started counting sheep, my head spins, 101 Dalmatians, McDonald’s farm full of animals, and twelve hundred partridges in both pear and apple trees.

So many times I wondered… oh brother, where art thou brains? If they weren’t egging the neighbor’s screens, they were placing dead insects inside my slippers. And don’t get me started on farts. Like cars, brothers should be smog tested every year. I acquired a wealth of education from the pneumatic stinky instructors. I was in tenth grade when my oldest brother taught me to skip school by hanging out at his friend’s house with his buddies. I played eenie meenie miney moe, wondering which of them would be worthy enough to be my future boyfriend. That was the day I realized aliens really do reside on earth and can remove beer bottle caps with their teeth. I showed up to the day party with cocktail wieners while some guy showed up with rolled doobies. I knew something was strange when the teen started making S’Mores with vanilla wafers, lunchmeat, and Lucky Charms. Fortunately I wasn’t introduced to white powdery stuff razored into rows. The adventure had already broadened interactions with the principal and the police. I overheard my brother talking about having sex. Naked girly posters were a far-fetched way of achieving that goal. Although, I would have gotten a lot of satisfaction out of deflating a doll and handing her over to our parents.

I preferred that my brothers went outside and tortured mice with sling shots instead of me. Certain things may have conspired to rob them of their ability to be civil. Like starting the day with excessive amounts of pure sugared Kool-Aid. Or the physical abuse of having vegetables forced down their throats. Who knows. And no matter how much they cajoled their way into stirring up sympathy, nothing they said was going to stop me from turning states evidence and having them placed permanently in some penitentiary. It would have been the perfect “Go to your room” with no release date. It was my idea to lay land mines around their beds. But for some reason, my parents weren’t too keen on that proposition.

When I was about seventeen, a younger brother told me his co-worker wanted to take me out to dinner. I thought he’d hook me up with the cute one. It never occurred to me that the guy might be a cad and predominantly lustful. What he thought was an ironclad opportunity for intimate relations, I felt was more of a Samantha moment from Bewitched. I would have twitched my nose and had a guillotine dropped on his swelling phallus. It was bad enough the disgusting drive through taco dinner landed in his lap making his groin area even more of a beefy mess. He tried kissing me and I fled like a bat outta hell. The date lasted all of fourteen minutes. It was just a tiny foretaste of what was to come with dating. Despite my rancorous resentment, I liked my brother. Love was too strong a sentiment.

Mom took us to the neighbor’s pool one afternoon for a swim. I was among the sun baked brood of amateur swimmers lacking in life guard training. Mumsy got a little distracted, as we all do, enjoying a cocktail. Understandably so, having thirteen children between them who were mostly boys. I was surprised she didn’t say, Moms on martini break, swim at your own risk. Meanwhile, the rascal kinsmen of impractical jokes pulled funnies by diving in and bobbing up and down gasping for air, making my mother a wreck. I detected another problem. I spotted a small bare-chested body submerged for a spell, wondering which brother it was. The one who used my favorite shoes for smashing caterpillars? Or the one who once brought me mayo in a cup mixed with horseradish and told me it was vanilla pudding? So I wasn’t too quick in rescuing the mystery boy by jumping into a cold marinating pee pond just to pull out any irritator who made my life miserable. If I had been drowning, I could easily envision my male relations stealing the pretzels off my paper plate instead of saving me. Besides, my boobs weren’t exactly Dolly Parton proportional that would aid as a proper flotation system. Even though it wasn’t my job to make sure my brothers surfaced, it was probably best that mom didn’t go home with one less child.

Accredited with life guarding, my oldest brother acted quickly and saved the day. Twenty five years passed and I was partying at my parent’s pool with my own toddler, when another brother dove in to save her after her unexpected immersion. With my heart sinking as well, it didn’t take long to realize my brothers aren’t always boneheads. They will lay down their lives for me, and I them. But if I get pushed into a pool and drown, motives will likely be questioned.

ISLAND SLUMMIN’

Come listen to a story ‘bout island slummin’, and how we shared the burden of beachside bummin’. We said paradise is the place we need to be, so we loaded up our suitcases bound for Hawaii. Kaua’i that is. Tidepools.TV stars.

I reckon I do like travelin’ with my feller. Before we made it to the verdant oasis, I had to endure a six hour plane ride with an eight year old caterwallin’ and kicking the back of my seat. It was a bolt to my nearly balanced Chakra. I could easily imagine him as future president. Of a terrorist group. Far be it for me to turn into a troll officer. And yet I morphed into one of those sexagenarian tarts who became balsy enough to confront the lil varmint. I proposed that if he didn’t kick my seat for the rest of the flight there would be a buck in it for him. He wasn’t very entrepreneurial. He lost the bet within the first five minutes. Maybe the amount I offered was not his idea of wealth. I was ninety-nine percent positive the rascal was Eddie Haskell’s grandson. Luckily all the other younguns’ we encountered this trip were far more delightful.

Checking into the hotel, we were generously upgraded to a spacious suite. This is where my centeredness became more sufficiently stabilized. Unbeknownst to us, we walked into elaborate accommodations and experienced myocardial infarctions, that necrosis of the pulmonary muscle secondary to seeing a heart stopping hotel room. Eyebrows arched, jaws dropped, and we were as happy as two gophers in soft dirt. I especially loved the expansive foyer with Tuscan column aesthetics that mirrored Roman times. My boyfriend said, “I feel like a Clampett!” I didn’t feel at all l like Granny Clampett since she has more wrinkles, and rheumatism. We were impressionable vacationers who received our cultural education from camping and dining at In-N-Out. The whirlpool bathtub ranged from tender sprays to slamming you sideways with jet propulsion that was likely created by NASA. The only things missing were a rooftop heli-pad and wine cellar stocked with thousand dollar bottles of Chateau Margaux.

Not one to namedrop, I wondered if this was how Rob Lowe felt his last visit here. And if he loved the heated toilet seats and bidets as much as I did. I was waiting for some harbinger of front desk doom to show up at our door the last day complaining, “I’d like a few words with you about the massive use of water.” It was a good thing we didn’t bring any long showering teens.

Before long it was hillbilly happy hour and us podunkers asserted our squatters rights. Although we didn’t have our moonshine served in mason jars. They were delivered in fine glassware worthy of a five star hotel. I asked the waitress, “Can you recommend something that will cure my dependency on laziness?” She suggested vodka with Red Bull. Now normally, drinking alcohol causes pregnancy. In my case, it caused me to tell the company around us all about my fetish for certain furniture polishes and the wonderful frozen waffles I make.

Every day was the same. Eatin’, drinkin’, sunnin’, sittin’ beside a salt water pool, gittin’ into inclining positions and speed racing down the water slide as if we were bobsledding for Olympic Gold. Therapy was available for anyone too traumatized in hearing my screams and seeing people over sixty plunge off the edge. Kids must have thought they were vacationing in haunted Sag Harbor.

We hit the beach and found ourselves re-creating sultry forms that fashioned From Here to Eternity, entwining our bodies on the sand until those tiny morsels of quartz and marine sediments made their way inside our bathing suits, killing the passion. We mosied yonder to a picturesque cliff where waves bashed against rocks. My guy proceeded to take a snapshot of me when a gal standing nearby said, “You’d better get that picture before the waves take her away.” Since my smooth operator can’t pass up the opportunity to humor everyone, he said, “If that happens, wanna go to dinner tonight?” She responded, “I’ll ask my husband!”

Dining was the most delight, even though sinful gluttony compromised my religious beliefs. Frank Sinatra serenaded us in the hall leading to terrace breakfasts. How lucky can a hundred miner birds be, when our peacefulness was broken by beaked flyers dive bombing our plates for free buffets. But the pineapples and papayas were spectacular. My suitor should never see me without my morning fruit and java. It isn’t pretty.

Vittles were superb, until one night when we ate with such disappointment. Donkey ears would have been more satisfying. My mate was served overcooked Ono with lemon sauce so potent he wondered where the twist of tequila was. I had lobster pasta and detected the distinct piquancy of Cheez Whiz, which completely ruined my crustacean. Our dismay caught the curiosity of the restaurant manager who ended up supplying us with enough wine if we stayed to sample their other dishes, insisting that our cooperation as taste testers would help them establish a much finer cuisine. It turned our lousy meal into loads of fun. Although we couldn’t be responsible for anything we said while we were hungry, we agreed that they should stick to sumptuous tempuras of cod nesting on beds of pommes frites, otherwise known as fish and chips. We epitomized what some people call food snobs. And our drinks resembled the wine that was doled out at The Last Supper. It’s when I start pouring it over corn flakes that’ll get me in a heap-o-trouble.

Desperate elevator wait times called for desperate measures of rearranging furniture. My funny decorating sweetheart decided to take that time to shift every wastebasket perpendicular to the walls. I didn’t know he had such Feng Shui finesse. He should start a magazine called Better Homes & Hotels. I told him he was my kind of man. The place really needed to be re-designed by an unlicensed fashionistic apartment owner. Maybe he can do something with landfills. I stuck to fluffin’ room pillows, and ended up re-hanging the hotel drapes I was ready to steal.

Upon leaving, I was pretty sure the hotelier pitched, “Y’all come back now, hear?”