Bill, the Spitter

16 September 2014

As I’m telling stories about my family and friends, I simply couldn’t omit the story of Bill, the spitter.  Bill was a relative, sorry to say, as were (are?) the other principals.  This story is true.  You will think it preposterous, and yes it is.  But it is true nevertheless.  Oh, and it’s naughty.  Very naughty.  When thinking about it, even I blush. 


Trouble had been brewing in paradise for quite some time. Shirley and Glenn had gotten off to a good start in their marriage, but it being the late 1940s, effective birth control did not yet exist. The only things available were rubbers, diaphragms, Vatican roulette, and coitus interruptus (a.k.a pulling out before you cum). Shirley didn’t want some doctor digging around in her snatch to fit a diaphragm and Glenn couldn’t abide rubbers and, too often, blew his load before he could remember to withdraw. Consequences? Children. Lots of them. Five, all tolled. And all born inside ten years.

Now foetuses, in case you don’t realize it, are parasites. Whatever nutriments a foetus needs, it sucks from the substance of its host, leaving dear old mom much worse for wear. And so they did to Shirley: With each pregnancy, just as the old bromide states, Shirley lost a tooth. Sometimes more than one. Her bones, depleted of calcium by the things growing in her belly, softened and bent; where once she had the gams of a hoofer, she soon had the bowed limbs of a cowboy. Her ankles fattened too. Of course her once-pert breasts sagged like paper sacks full of soup while her 6-pack tummy now looked to be in a state of perpetual mid-term pregnancy. When the fifth child was conceived, her hair started to thin, falling out in dismaying clumps.

Glenn, of course, suffered no such ill effects from parenthood. On the contrary, with a few years under his belt of worrying about the mortgage and his fickle employer, he got some gray at the temples and small laugh lines graced the corners of his clear, blue eyes. Glenn couldn’t help but notice the disparity between him and his wife and he chaffed at the thought of being forever chained to a hag. Glenn soon decided to sample a little stray stuff and see if a new life might not be desirable.

As Glenn was blessed with a knee-knocker, he decided to use it as an attractantant, so he switched from briefs to boxers the better to show it off. The ploy worked splendidly: A few days later he had to see the boss and, as he came down the long hallway, his member was flopping around freely inside his trousers. The boss’ secretary, the matronly Wanda Swoose, couldn’t help but notice the turmoil in Glenn’s pant leg as, with his every step, Glenn’s monstrous unit slapped and bounced off his thigh.

Wanda invited him home to her place for an after-work drink. She beat him to her place by a good twenty minutes; long enough to get out of her unflattering business clothes and sweaty, smelly drawers, wash up, and done some filmy silk panties and bra. She also dressed in a clingy angora sweater and tight jeans that sat low on her hips. The final touch was a pair of stiletto heels with no hose.  The jeans were high enough to reveal her bare ankles.  If all this didn’t get the message across, nothing would.

Though she was pushing fifty, Wanda could be quite the dish when she wanted to be. She turned and admired her Jane Russell figure in the dresser mirror. Wanda thought she’d have to come up with a nickname for her new lover – something fitting that thing in his pants. A smile came to her face as she knew what it would be: Old Snake in the Pants. She was ready.

Glenn discovered that Wanda was a biter. When he was on top, she bit him. When they did doggie style, she bit the pillow – bit it so hard, in fact, that she tore a hole in it and all the feathers came out. She drained Glenn’s lizard but good.  Refreshed, Glenn left Wanda’s place before the ten o`clock news came on and headed for home.

Realizing that, yes, he could get all the ass he wanted, Glenn joined a gym and buffed up. He soon began casting glances at other women and even bedded some. Before his youngest daughter was six months old, Glenn took a mistress. She was everything Shirley used to be: Fresh, young, and as tight as a drum. And she screamed when she came; a nice bonus. One afternoon, after getting fucked and sucked by this vision of Heaven, Glenn left her tidy condo and drove home to behold his life: A smelly house, two dogs who shat in the garage, a yard full of weeds and broken toys, a brood of squalling kids and (gad!) a wife who looked like she had the life sucked out of her — which she had.

Resolving to not spend his life with a unbecoming woman whose involvement with sex was now limited to spreading her legs and falling asleep, Glenn took himself to the law offices of Phartsmell, Brownlick & Ickyfinger where he retained the services of Mustafa ish-Kabibble, and filed for divorce.

When she got the summons, Shirley was both furious and cut to the quick. She vowed to stick it to Glenn but good: “He’s not going to throw me on the dung heap and get away with it”, she raged to her cousin, Lenore. “I’ll take the miserable bastard for everything he’s got. He’ll pay my mortgage, my gas, my car payments . . . Everything! He can go live in his stinking car”.

In Family Court, Shirley seemed to be getting her wish; the judge was about to slap Glenn with child support and alimony so steep that Glenn would be reduced to virtual bondage. Feeling he had nothing to lose, Glenn rose to confront the judge, despite ish-Kabibble’s frantic tugging on Glenn’s sleeve. Glenn told hizhoner that the money he’d have left would force him to live under a bridge in a refrigerator crate. “Look, Judge”, Glenn bleated, “after I pay the mortgage, the utilities and all the bills, all that’s left for me is nineteen dollars and seventy-five cents a week. How can I find a place to live, put food on my table and gas in my car on that?”

The judge was irritated at Glenn’s outburst, but after examining the spreadsheet Glenn handed the bailiff, the judge agreed that Glenn at least needed an apartment with hot and cold running water and food. With that, the judge reduced Glenn’s obligations, forcing Shirley and the kids to sell the house and move.

Helped by her father, Shirley took herself and the children to a grimy garden apartment on the edge of a cemetery near downtown. It had but one bedroom which they all shared. When Shirley was ready to bring men friends home for the night, she hung a bed sheet between her creaking old queen size and the children’s section.

It was a grim and hard-scrabble life. One night, after the kids were abed, Shirley unscrewed a bottle of Mad Dog and got plastered. Looking at the fresh hole in her last good pair of hose, she began to sob. Finally spent, she went out into the cold night air, took a deep breath and swore a silent vow. “I need a man and by Christ, I’m gonna get one! I’m gonna snag the first one I can find that earns more than minimum wage, and marry his ass.” It was a rash vow, for it foreswore discernment. Based on the sole criterion of money, the Law of Unintended Consequences could bite Shirley in the ass. And it did.

Not long after she dedicated herself to the quest for a new husband, the apartment’s toilet stopped up: “Mom!” screeched one of the girls, “There’s poo on the floor.” The landlord, an accommodating old soul, promised a plumber that afternoon.

Shirley had a job at a coffin factory where she sewed faux silk liners into the boxes. Being a low-skill job, it didn’t pay squat so missing work to wait around for the plumber would really put a squeeze on her finances. But what choice did she have? Her boss was understanding and gave her the time off.

Shirley was dozing in her rocker, watching the soaps, when a knock came to the door. The plumber, no doubt. Arising and shuffling to the door, Shirley threw the dead-bolt and opened the door.

“Sweet Bleeding Jesus!” thought Shirley as she drew in a sharp breath, for standing before her was one of the homeliest human beings she’d ever seen. There, clothed in blue bib overalls and heavy work boots with a dirty baseball cap on his head, stood Bill the Spitter.

“Hi, my name’s Bill and I’m here to unclog your toilet,” said the huge fat man as he extended his hand and gave a thin smile. “May I come in?” The man’s face was clay-gray and looked as if it had been stepped on with a golf shoe. Sprouting from its center, like an eye from a potato, was a large, lumpy and formless nose.

A couple of quick blinks to clear the shock and Shirley stammered “Um … oh, yeah … sure,” and swung the door aside.

When Bill displayed a grin, Shirley noticed that three of his teeth were broken and black while another had a green rind along the gum line. His thin dark hair was combed back and held in place by grease.

Showing her visitor to the bathroom, Shirley gestured silently to the toilet. Plunger in hand, the fat man glided past her, careful to avoid the few small turds laying about. Raising the lid, Bill saw the toilet was overflowing with brown water, floating hunks, and several wads of T.P. Bill began walking around the toilet and looking at it the way a chicken looks at an ear of corn, deciding where to peck. Suddenly, Bill stopped and jammed in his plunger. Giving three mighty pumps, his fat tossing and swimming with every thrust, Bill endeavored to push the blockage out into the sewer line. Turgid water went spraying everywhere.

But it was no use; the bowl didn’t empty. Shaking his head, Bill said, “Well, looks like I gotta get the snake.” He tipped his hat and went out to his truck.

Shirley pulled at her nose as she watched Bill walk into the parking lot. “I didn’t see a ring,” she mused as the big man horsed the motorized snake from back of the truck. When he returned, Shirley put on her best smile and said, “I’ll bet your wife has to do an awful lot of laundry.”

Smiling as he fed the snake’s business end down the toilet bowl, Bill said, “Oh, no my dear lady, I’m not married. Never had time, taking care of my bedridden mother.” Then, wiping dirty water from his brow, Bill added, “But she passed away three months ago, so . . .” He shrugged his shoulders.

“He doesn’t smell,” Shirley considered. “In fact, I think he uses Old Spice. That’s good.”

Before Bill left, he and Shirley had established a bond and within two weeks, the two had begun courting.

When the older girls saw Bill for the first time, all they could say was “Ewww!”

Stabbing a forefinger into her daughters’ chests, Shirley barked, “Look, you two, I’m not winning any more beauty prizes, OK? And since your loving father kicked me to the curb, I’ve only gotten worse. But I’m a hell of a lot better than what Bill’s been used to. He thinks I’m some hot shit and neither you or me’s going to do anything to bust that bubble. Understand?” The kids saw her point and made no further remarks.

It soon became obvious that Bill wanted to get laid and Shirley was all at sea. How could she not make invidious comparisons between Glenn and Bill? The former so handsome; the latter so bulbous? And then there’s the matter of Glenn’s schlong: Shirley knew that, with Glenn, she’d had a man unique among men. Could lightning strike twice? Could Bill be well hung too? “Well, I guess we’ll find out tonight,” she mused as she pinched her cheeks to make them blush, for Bill was coming by; he was taking Shirley out to Shaky’s for pizza and beer. Anticipating she’d be bedding her swain that night, Shirley had rearranged the bedroom, pushing her bed back into the far corner and securing the aforementioned sheet to the ceiling with several more thumb tacks.

As Bill’s truck turned into the parking lot, Shirley gave the kids a stern admonition: “I don’t care what time it is, but when you hear that truck pulling up, you get your little selves into bed and be quiet – and you stay there until morning. Clear?” All five heads nodded in assent.

On the way home, his head light from the beer, Bill let loose his passions. Pulling Shirley close to him, he draped his right arm over her shoulder and began to gently fondle her breast. Shirley had to admit, it sure felt good. Before long, she found herself getting wet in the drawers. She put her tongue in Bill’s ear and the big man began to breath heavily.

Once back at Shirley’s apartment, the couple let themselves in, walked quietly to the bedroom and went behind the sheet. The night was spent in carnal embraces satisfying to both. In fact, Shirley discovered that while Bill’s member may have been diminutive, it was ferocious. By instinct, the big man knew what he was doing with it and thanks to his splendid technique, Shirley discovered something she never knew: She was multi-orgasmic.

In the morning light, the happy couple got dressed, pulled the sheet aside and greeted the five kids. (Nothing like being above board and out in the open, is there?)

Feeling that he now had Shirley where he wanted her, i.e., besotted and blinded by love and lust and, therefore, willing to overlook his grosser side, Bill did something he’d put off too long: He spit. While he, Shirley and the five kids were breakfasting on Eggos and Mrs. Butterwoth’s, Bill paused. Making a deep snore-like sound, he sucked all the snot out of his sinuses and back into his throat. Then, making a sound deep in the glottal area – “Kahwwwheerh” – Bill brought up the morning’s load of phlegm. Mingling phlegm and snot, he held the wad of gook at the back of his tongue, and resumed speaking. He sounded like he had a mouth full of ball bearings.

While talking, he leaned to the left, reached back to his right rear pocket and withdrew a handkerchief. It was filthy gray and stiff with dried expectera and boogers. Bill took the handkerchief and, threading it through his hands, looked for a fresh spot. Unable to find one, Bill cracked it open and searched the interior. Ah ha! There’s one. Sticking out his tongue, which he’d rolled into a chute, Bill drew in a deep breath, aimed the tongue at the selected spot, and *ptooo*, spat. Bingo! Right on target. Bill looked at the gobbet and was satisfied. Closing the filthy hankie, he returned it to his pocket and resumed his conversation.

The oldest girl, D’Arcy, bolted from the table. Jill, the second oldest, sat transfixed. The two boys look at each other with wide eyes. The youngest girl, just three-and-a-half, hadn’t really noticed.

As for Shirley, she said nothing. “Well,” she thought, “I’ve seen my dad do that . . .” Her mental calculus completed, Shirley had decided that the spitting, while disturbing to watch, was not a deal-killer and that, given time, she could become used to it. What a wonderful thing is rationalization.

In late Spring, Shirley brought Bill out to her folks’ mansion at the lake. It was the Memorial Day weekend and a picnic was planned. The introductions went well, though Shirley’s folks generously described Bill as “a bit rough around the edges.” Everyone was enjoying themselves until it came time for Bill to spit. Witnessing this Brava performance, the table fell silent; the only things to be heard were the yellow jackets buzzing around the punch bowl and the rustling of Bill’s snot rag as he refolded it and put it back in his pocket. Gazes were averted. Napkins were held close to mouths. People excused themselves and went for walks.

On the 4th of July, the family was treated to more spitting, plus a new revolting display. Shirley’s folks had suffered a downed tree in a June thunderstorm and, after offering to help clean up the mess, Bill took off his shirt. For an undershirt, Bill wore a tank-top that was the same nasty gray as his kerchiefs, but with enormous sweat stains gracing the arm-holes. Black, bristle-like hairs spangled with salt crystals protruded from Bill’s armpits. The undergarment wasn’t large enough to tuck deeply into the fat man’s pants, so after he’d worked the bucksaw for a few strokes, it pulled loose revealing a roll of sallow flesh covered with livid stretch marks like the tread on a tire.

Though Shirley’s father had gently wondered if this crude fat man was really Mister Right, Shirley replied that Bill was an OK guy and that everyone had his or her faults. “Besides,” she said, “he’s a lot nicer to me then Glenn ever was.” Well, how can a father argue with that?

And so Bill and Shirley moved ahead in their relationship, finally tying the knot eighteen months later.

Bill, Shirley and the five kids seemed to settle into a comfortable though downscale life. Bill tried his hand at a number of things, including selling hearing aids, all with little or no success. Poverty loomed. Then, as luck would have it, Bill landed a government grant to study computer programming. It turned out he was quite good at it and after graduating, Bill got a swell job at a startup on the north end.

However, Bill’s spitting soon became an issue at work. After hearing numerous complaints, especially from the women, Bill’s new boss made him put a cuspidor next to his desk. Observing that programmers, the good ones, anyway, are a quirky bunch and should be given a lot of latitude, he told the VP of Sales, “They never meet the public, so I don’t give a crap if they sit in their cubicles with their dicks sticking out of their pants. As far as Bill goes, as long as he cuts clean code and meets deadline, he can spit his head off.” Soon, Bill was making enough money to where Shirley got off ADC. Not long after, they bought a home in Coon Rapids and really began to enjoy life.

Then one day, it all turned to shit.

In the years Bill and Shirley were hooked up, the five kids had grown. D`Arcy, the oldest one, had ripened into an especially tasty morsel. She had a lush, Sophia Loren kind of body and a round, cherub-like face topped by a head full of long, blond hair. This fetching child/woman combination, melded with her husky, bedroom voice, was too much for Bill to ignore.

One Thursday morning, Bill had the day off after pulling an all-nighter, trying to de-bug some guy’s code. Arising, Bill found a note on the fridge: Shirley had taken the car and gone to Target to check on some of the specials advertised in that morning’s fish wrapper. After rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Bill wandered about the house, scratching his arm pits. His peregrinations took him by the bedroom door of the sleeping girls, D`Arcy and her younger sister, Jill. The door was slightly ajar.

Giving in to his prurient curiosity, Bill pushed the door open a bit further and peeked in. Jill, the eleven-year-old, slept with the sheet pulled up over her head. However, it being summer, D`Arcy slept uncovered and was wearing naught but the most gossamer of nighties, which, Bill couldn’t help but notice, was hitched up to her waist and her position on the bed gave Bill a clear and unobstructed view of D`Arcy’s delightful nether places. Bill stood transfixed: “I didn’t need to see that,” the fat man said to himself as he continued staring.

Men confronted with such visions often go through the most contorted rationalizations to convince themselves that . . . Well, Bill convinced himself that the teenaged girl slumbering before him was actually showing her bootty because she wanted to fuck, and to fuck him, especially: “She’s been hot for me for years.” A hard-on was showing in Bill’s jammies. He pushed the door open farther and tip-toed in, dropping his pajamas on the way.

D`Arcy always slept on her tummy with her left hand covering her face and her right arm stretched along her frame, palm up. Coming up from sleep, D`Arcy felt a weight settle onto the bed behind her, then felt something like a warm frankfurter laid in her open hand. She was awake instantly. As she pulled her hand away, a soft voice whispered in her ear, “It’s OK, sweetheart, it won’t hurt you.” The breath was rank.

D`Arcy screamed and leapt from the bed. Jill, hearing this, awoke, looked over toward her sister and beheld Bill, laying buck-naked on D`Arcy’s bed and Jill began screaming too.

His trance of self-deception broken, Bill’s unit went flaccid. He suddenly perceived things as they actually were: He was an ugly old fat man laying nude on his step-daughter’s bed after trying to force his attentions on her. “Oh, Christ!” he thought, “what the fuck did I just do.” With that, Bill jumped from the bed, stammered an apology, swept his pj`s from the floor, and left.

The girls were still screaming.

Bill dressed hurriedly and fled the house. He was in deep shit and knew it. Oh, he could deny it and maybe even get away with it but what he’d done was like putting a drop of piss in a gallon of milk; there was no way of ever getting it back out.

Walking around the neighborhood, Bill decided he’d lay the blame on D`Arcy – if she blew the whistle, he’d say she was an evil little succubus, out for revenge. Bill would say that he grounded her for sassing him and she promised to get even, and now she was. Settled on his Plan-A, Bill headed back home to see if he could rectify the situation – maybe give the little bitch some extra coin to keep her yap shut.

It was not to be: While Bill was out walking the neighborhood, D`Arcy had called her father, Glenn. In the years since the divorce, Glenn had been less than attentive to his children and this had been bothering him of late. In fact, Glenn had been harboring suspicions of Bill’s intentions ever since he caught him leering at D`Arcy when he came by for a scheduled visit a year or so back. On hearing D`Arcy’s sordid revelation, Glenn blew his stack. “You kids lock the doors,” he said heatedly. “And stay inside. I’ll be right over to get you.”

Going to his closet, Glenn took down a long canvas zipper bag, opened it, and withdrew a double-barreled 10-gauge goose gun. Fumbling in a drawer, he found the ammo, a box of magnum load 00-buckshot. With shaking hand, he broke open the breech, loaded both barrels, and snapped it closed. Stuffing a few more rounds into his pocket for good measure, Glenn grabbed his keys and sprinted to his car. Shotgun beside him, Glenn drove with purpose to Bill and Shirley’s house like Sterling Moss on crack.

Meanwhile, the fat man had returned. On finding the doors locked, he began calling out to the kids with apologies, threats, promises and more threats. While he was in the middle of pleading his good intentions, Glenn’s red GTO flew into the driveway; Glenn locked up the brakes, threw it into “Park,” and before the car could stop, had opened the door and was out. Bill turned at the commotion to see Glenn leaping from the car.

In his haste, Glenn had forgotten to zip his fly and now his enormous pecker lolled out and was wagging to-and-fro. Bill was so stunned at the eye-popping sight of Glenn’s thingus that he was frozen in awe for two, maybe three critical seconds when he could have otherwise run away.

Glenn retrieved the shotgun from the passenger’s seat and raised it to his shoulder and screamed, “You goddamned fat piece of shit, try to fuck my daughter, will you?” And squeezed off the first round, the round from the barrel with the open choke. The spray of buckshot went square into Bill’s belly and cloud of blood, skin, flab and guts went flying everywhere leaving only the spine and some associated muscle.  Bill, for the first time in his life, had a wasp-wasted appearance.

Not yet satisfied with the destruction, Glenn let the second round loose. Coming from the barrel with the full choke, the shot stayed together in a tight pattern and tore out Bill’s spine. With its support gone, the top half of the fat man’s body fell off to the side at a cockeyed angle and hit the ground. The bottom half – the ass and legs – then crumpled and that was that. The Medical Examiner figured Bill was dead before he hit the ground.

Bill the Spitter would spit no more.

Glenn went on trial for 1st degree manslaughter, among other things. However, the prosecutor made the mistake of painting Bill as an upstanding member of the community. With the door now open to impeach Bill’s credibility, the defense showed the jury a photo of Bill taken out at the lake the day Bill helped clean up after the storm; it showed a repulsive fat man with bad teeth, dirty hair and covered in sweat. Having seen that bit of evidence, the jury only convicted Glenn of discharging a firearm in the city limits, acquitting him on all other counts. Glenn paid a fifty-dollar fine, collected his kids, and went home.

On a snowy day that December, one of Bill’s co-workers brought Bill’s spittoon out to the cemetery where Shirley had laid Bill to rest, and left it on Bill’s grave as a memorial.

-Merlin-

 

 


On A Cold Winter’s Afternoon

15 June 2014

In Richfield, winters are in their own way, as bad as summer.  The sky is as gray as ashes and the dying land is littered with brown leaves as dry as dust.  The plants and trees are brittle skeletons that dance in the bitter winds.  As the days grown ever darker, a dankness sets in.  First comes the cold rain, then the sleet.   The gloom is palpable.

Sales of alcoholic beverages go through the roof.

The previous year, Ma have become a volunteer; she was helping pimp the upcoming Tyrone Guthrie Theater.  A worthy undertaking that got her out of the house and away from me a good part of the week.  She’d hop the bus up on Portland Avenue and head to an office somewhere on Hennepin Avenue where she worked a phone bank, calling all the local swells and hitting them up for money.  Because money was involved, Ma took to the work like a glutton takes to food.  On this cold winter’s afternoon, she was down at the office, ten miles and a two hour bus ride away from me.  I had the house to myself.

What to do, what to do?

I went to the desk in my bedroom at took a stab at the chemistry book and its page of homework.  Deadly dull.  Like a shot of Novocain in the brain.  I soon cast it aside.  Back in the living room, I turned on the TV; only thing on was Howdy Doody.  Crap.

I sat on the couch trying to think of some way to kill the hours until Ma returned and we could engage in another battle over my sloth and indolence.  “Listen, Buster,” she’d growl, “All you do is flunk your courses and sit around like an old woman.  You’ll never amount to anything.  Your poor father works like a dog to provide for you and all the thanks he gets are your failures.  You’ll be a drag on society.  Honestly.”  Other times she browbeat me about the salutary effects of Tang, the ghastly drink of the Astronauts:  “If you drank more Tang, you might become like them and not the wastrel you are.  Honestly.”

I sat alone in the silence looking out the front window at the dreary world.  I had all this free time and couldn’t think of a thing to do.

Ah, but wait!  An idea began to form.

Against the living room’s far wall sat the Hi-Fi.  Dad picked it up the previous summer and Ma, with her pretensions to art, had a acquired a whole stack of albums; mostly  long-plays, but some 78′s as well.  One of the 78′s was Ravel’s ‘Bolero”.  It was Ma’s favorite.  Well now.

What if I taped a darning needle to the front of the phonograph’s tone arm?  What if I taped a half-dollar on top of the tone arm?  What if I put “Bolero” on the turntable, powered up the Hi-Fi and when the turntable reached 79 RPM, I carefully set the darning needle-cum-tone arm down into the lead groove?  YESSSSS!

As the turntable spun, the darning needle plowed out great curls of the record’s material.  The record was ruined for good and all.  I blew off all the chunks and curls, removed the darning needle and half-dollar, returned the tone arm to its resting place and carefully placed the disk back in its jacket and returned the album to its place in the stack.  Bingo!

It took about a week before Ma decided to listen to the sweet, burgeoning strains of “Bolero” but when she did, out came naught but squawks, squeals, hoots and crunches  “What happened to my record?” she bellowed.  “It’s ruined,” she all but wept.  Her face turning red with fury, Ma turned to me: “It was you, wasn’t it?” she hissed.  “I knew it,” she spat, “I knew it.  I can never have anything I want but that you ruin it!”  Ma was jerking and lurching around the living room so I decided it was time to get out of the house.  Bundled up against the elements, I headed for Dave’s place where we played Monopoly until dinner was called and his mom shooed me home.

As I came in the door, I heard Ma giving Dad a screed of particulars about her delinquent son, ungrateful lout that I was.

“Jesus Christ, Peach*” said Dad, “Don’t blow a gasket.  I’ll pick up another copy tomorrow.”

We ate dinner in awkward silence.  Another blow had been struck for freedom and right-thinking.

-Merlin-

*PS: Peach was Ma’s life-long appellation.  She explained to my friend, Paul, that Grandma Hazel gave it to her because, as Ma put it, “I have skin like a peach.”  I couldn’t resist; “Yeah, Paul, that’s because it’s yellow, fuzzy and full of pits.”  

 


Beans, Beans and More Beans

15 June 2014

IMG_3751[1]

 

Got a new car.  New to me anyway.  Fun.  Nice car.  The only thing it doesn’t have is the “Uconnect” cellphone device, and rear seat heaters (though it does send hot/cold air into the rear seat via conduits built into the console).  The Uconnect thing is an option, but the fellow who first bought the car didn’t —  what — want the potential intrusiveness of a cellphone?  No, I don’t think he knew it wasn’t a standard part of the SatNav,-CD, jukebox-disk library-AM/FM/Serius residing in the center of the dashboard.

As to why the Uconnect phone feature wasn’t simply included as standard equipment had to do with, I believe, a curmudgeonly bean-counter in Product Management.  He was probably old and felt this kind of feature was too Philistine.  So he drew a line through the feature as standard so the poor buyer had to specifically request it.  And if the buyer, Philistine that he was, forgot to ask for the phone feature, he didn’t get it.  But this is a small thing, for one can purchase a bluetooth thing that hangs on the sun visor like a radar detector and which accomplishes the same end.

Anyway, I’m having fun.

-Merlin-


An Observation

17 April 2014

While hanging out with some older folks from Minnesota, one of them ruefully expressed a sentiment held by many from that state.  It goes as follows:

“I set out to please everybody but  myself and ended up pleasing nobody, including myself.”

-Merlin-


Young Love

2 April 2014

Old men, and I am one, often sit and reminisce — lugubriously — over those days during the spring of our lives when love first made itself known.  We sit, looking at our pot bellies, our white hair (if any) and sagging flesh and recall better days.  Days when the world was an open-ended adventure and all things were possible.

These were also the days when the appearance of a captivating woman was both sudden and unexpected. The first time your head was turned away from childish pursuits when a woman took you to her bed, your head and your heart, as well as your loins, boiled over with . . .  gad, I don’t know what. Emotion?  Certainly, and wonderful emotions at that.  Lust?  Of course, but not the base, lecherous kind; I’m talking about the kind of lust one might feel on seeing an angel.  And why not? You thought you’d just died and went to heaven.  No more chess club for you, stud!

Of course, being a male of the species, the instinct to mate had raised its magnificent head and stayed above water thereafter.  I could, and often did, fall in love every other day. A woman’s intellect, humor, generosity and perspicacity meant nothing — at least not those first few days until I began to really appreciate the lovely creature on my arm.  Soon, she became more than a comely squeeze.  “Cathecting” is the name of this process, and rare it is.

I went out with many women and had torrid, steamy assignations with several well-chosen morsels.   Of course these were shallow relationships that began with fierce intensity but soon petered-out from ennui and waning interest.  They ran from 1-night stands to three months deals, a few even longer.

But unhappily, my wits failed me and I married (*ptoo* I spit) a horrid fishwife.  And that’s a goddamned shame too, since to marry the fishwife I threw over three splendid women, any of whom would have made me tearfully happy.

In throwing over these good women, I hurt them.  Some pretty badly.  And I regret that. But what’s the alternative to dating and loving several women — often in series, sometimes concurrently — understanding that all but one will fail?  Marry the first woman you date.  Well, that’s a bad idea.

Anyway, the one woman I most regret kicking to the curb was Carol.  We found each other in an orientation session at he university one fall.  Our eyes met, then met again and finally I got up and went over.  Carol was a fetching thing.  Jet black hair worn Jackie Kennedy style, the athletic build of one who lifts weights on a sometime basis and blue/green eyes.  She was wearing a frilly summer blouse and loose-fitting shorts that, when she crossed her legs just right, left little to the imagination.  Also, knee-high socks like a cheerleader.

I soon found out Carol had attended a Catholic girls school where the conflation of sex with sin was duly inculcated and Carol harped on this constantly.  Normally, on hearing this kind of  anti-sex nonsense, I took my bow and made my exit.  But not with Carol.  I liked her.  A lot.

Carol and I went out through the winter and one night in early spring, she ditched her bra. Oh, such magnificence.  Then on a warm and moonless night that summer, we were in my old convertible, which had more room inside than was proper.  Wrapped in our usual embraces with Carol working her way beneath me, Carol grabbed me by the ears, turned my face to her’s, looked at me with a a disconcerting  intensity I’d never seen and said (and I shit you not): “Make love to me, Merlin”.

Good Christ in his heaven!  Never before, and never since, has a woman ever said those words to me.

Normally, I’d have jumped right on it (no pun intended) but being the naif that she was, I felt Carol was making more of our relationship than I was.  I had no plans to marry but I’d no doubt Carol did.  If you keep in mind my earlier sentiment that Carol would have made a fine catch, there really wasn’t a problem with the idea, given a bit of time.  In any case, I felt that a woman like Carol, and especially Carol, would take it badly were she debauched only have her swain break off the relationship.  So I turned her down.  Both of us were disappointed.

A few weeks later, I was on the cusp.  If I kept on with Carol, we’d end up married for sure.  If I moved on I’d be free.  One day our car pool guy parked in the back lot and as Carol, me and two others walked to the stairway, I told Carol we were done.  Bang, just like that.

It took a few second for that to sink in, and when it did, Carol broke into a tearful rage of pain and disbelief.  I felt horrible about what I’d just done but I felt it had been  necessary.  There was a lot of Strum und Drang before the dust settled and after it did, I saw Carol just once more.  It was in a trendy tavern named CC Tap and she was with friends.  Lord, had Carol changed.  All in bad ways.  This Carol made me think of a cup of cream that’d had a spoonful of vinegar dumped in it. The blow I’d inflicted had really hurt, and the hurt seemed to have changed her.

Carol saw me and gave me that awkward insouciance of people whose harts are smarting.  In return, I gave Carol a quick nod and short wave, turned and was out the door.

Fifty-odd years later, I deplore my actions.  That awful day in the parking lot, I could have said nothing and simply seen where the heart leads.  And if it led nowhere, Carol and I would have simply drifted apart and one day agreed we no longer cared for each other in that special way: “Have a nice day and see you in the funny papers.”  On the other hand, if the heart took things to ultimate conclusions, I’d have waited until her folks were on one of their frequent trips, knocked on the door, popped the question, stuck a ring on her finger, took her to her bedroom and banged her brains out.

But I didn’t do that, did I?  No.

When I look back on it now, I see the way I ended the affaire de Carol was monstrously cruel and callous and I’m stunned that I could have done it.  Now these fifty years later, I wonder about Carol.  Did the hurt heal and she go on with her life?  I truly hope so.  If I’d done lasting  damage to Carol, truly, I’d be the guy who poured the spoonful of vinegar into that cup of cream.

They say that time heals all wounds and wounds all heels.

-Merlin-


The Coffin Banger

23 March 2014

During my grunt job era, I interviewed with a coffin factory and hired on as a metal finisher.  In case you don’t know, most coffins these days are made of .20 gauge cold-rolled sheet steel, not wood.  Oh, you can get wood coffins, but they cost like sin.  Anyway, because of metal unit’s prevalence, finishers were in great demand — especially because turnover was ferocious.

What a place this was.  It was on the north side of the city in a dingy industrial area served by a pot-holed gravel road.  The building was an old brick thing from the late 1880′s and looked every day of its age.  The shop where I worked had no air conditioning for the sweltering summer months and for the gelled winter days, there was a single gas-fired area heater located atop the south wall.  Fortunately, the toilets worked.

I understood the owner of this coffin factory got caught doing a no-no and was told to get out of managing the business.  Not one to see his baby fall into strange hands he couldn’t control, the Big Kahuna installed a shirttail relative in the corner office.  This shirttail relative , who worked in the factory, was an old witless creature who had no idea of how to run the business.  We came to know this fellow as The Big Green Thing, for he was fat and wore the same green workman’s ensemble day in and day out.  The Big Kahuna told The Big Green Thing to keep on with his regular job but told him that every once-in-a-while, he’d be summoned to the front office to affix his signature to some various documents. As to his job, The Big Green Thing would stride into the shop every other day, go to the welding bench for about two hours, fart around with metal parts, then stride out.  Never said a word to anyone.  It was like he didn’t even know we were there.  We thought The Big Green Thing had a make-work job so he could legitimately appear on the payroll. 

Anyway, as to my job.  Metal coffins consisted of several pre-stamped panels.  They were shipped in by rail and stored in a musty warehouse adjacent to the metal shop, where I hung my hat.  These panels were: One floorboard, four side panels, and two halves of the top (or, if the unit was to be a “sealer”, the top was one piece).  After normal working hours, some fellow we never saw cane in and roughed-out the next day’s supply of boxes.  For each floorboard, he cut two 2×6 slats six feet long, laid them in the bench, set a bottom panel atop the slats and *bang*, nailed them in place with an air powered nail gun.  The wooden slats let the coffin slide easily and noiselessly in in and out of the hearse — it wouldn’t do to have the box (as we in the trade called coffins) screech as metal slid over metal.  Next, he’d lay the bottom panel on the bench, position the four side panels just so, and spot weld them into place.  After that, he’d take an arc welder and weld the sides together at their midpoints.  Now you must understand that these welds were real hash jobs: When the arc was struck, the cold-rolled steel would buckle and twist from the heat and huge puckers and gaps opened.  Not only that, but his welds left behind great gobs of unsightly weld material.  But no matter, these unsightly welds would be covered by the end plates of the coffin’s handles (these parts are called “bright work”).  No one would ever see the awful workmanship.

When the day shift started, Donny would braze the visible portion of the corners together, i.e., the portions not covered by the bright work.  These were the parts visible to the viewers, and that’s where I came in.  It was my job to take a large electric grinder and sand the edges so everything was smooth as a baby’s bum and the seams lined up perfectly.  I did this for eight hours a day and became so good that I got an extra dime an hour.  

After I was done with a box, it went to Biff and Wink to have its lid affixed, be painted and have its bright work attached.  After Biff and Wink were through, it went to Nelson, who “upholstered” the box.  This upholstery looked like silk, right enough, but it was the flimsiest, cheesiest and cheapest material money could buy.  And why not, it would only be used once.  You might think a coffin is richly padded (it sure looks like it), but you’d be wrong.  A sheet of the upholstery material was simply laid on the bottom while the sides were puffed up with cotton wool covered by a sheet of the upholstery.  It was only for looks.  In truth, the body lay on the cold steel bottom panel but of course the occupant isn’t feeling anything anyway, so . . .

For those families who want to preserve the remains at all costs, the company produced a line of what we called “sealers”.  For these, the sides were welded properly — after all, this box was to be air-tight.  Then after I did my thing, Biff and Wink would spray a thick layer of automobile undercoating over all the seams so as to retain the gasses and liquids produced by a decomposing body.  Next, they glued a thick rubber gasket around the lip of the box and attached latches that would compress the gasket when closed.  Finally, they drilled a small hole in the back in which they mounted the valve from a car tire and pressure-tested the box.  If the box held its air pressure at some prescribed level for some prescribed period of time, the box passed muster and was placed in inventory, or shipped to the undertaker who ordered it.

Of course, being cheap cold-rolled steel of inferior quality, all metal boxes will eventually rust through and their contents return to the earth.  Of course you could buy a wooden box for your dearly departed, but they’re made of untreated pine and will rot through in even less time.  Now here’s an odd story: The crew in the wood shop (where they made coffins out of wood) told us they had a special order for a box made of cherry wood and outfitted with a telephone in case the occupant woke up.  I just can’t picture a man who’s had his blood replaced with embalming fluid coming to and calling home.

It wasn’t long before I began to do a lot of coughing and hacking and when I blew my nose, saw the issue was filled with black, gritty matter.  Looking around the shop one day, I realized the air was filled with metal dust and smoke from all the grinding and welding.  Not a good.  Finally, large pustules began to appear on my skin wherever clothing was tight.  The last straw came one evening when I came home to clean up.  The shower head broke the previous evening so I had to take a bath.  In showering, I couldn’t see all the crud and corruption being washed off but on this night, soaking in the tub, I a saw a gray, shiny slick form on the water and a black ring the texture of cottage cheese gather at the water line. Well, that was enough for me.  The next morning I walked in the office, asked the gal if she had my address.  When she said “yes” I told her to send my check there as I was done.  I turned, walked back into the clean fresh air, hopped in my car and went looking for my next grunt job.

-Merlin-


The Blasted Heath

12 March 2014

In 1953, in the summer of my eleventh year, we moved from Minneapolis to Richfield.  Richfield!  Gad, what a misnomer.  Where we’d lived on the second floor of a stucco triplex, we now occupied a box-like rambler.  Where Minneapolis gave us winding streets on low hills with huge elms and oaks for shade and gentile breezes, Richfield gave us a blasted heath.  There were no trees to be seen, not a one.  The place was semi-arid with a blistering wind blasting dirt and sand into our eyes.  The streets were laid out in a monotonous and featureless grid.  Ugh.

And the sun!  Oh Christ, the sun.  Each day it blazed down on our house heating the place almost to incandescence.  Heat waves shimmered off the softened asphalt streets.  Lawn?  Ha.  It was just a brown, dry patch of hateful weeds, chiefly sandburs.

Ever seen a sandbur?  No?  Well it’s a type of grass suited to a desiccated wasteland, such as our “lawn”.  The weed’s fruiting bodies appear on the ends of low-lying runners that creep across the lawn. These fruiting bodies consist of six-odd little burrs covered in unbelievably sharp spikes that at the slightest touch, go deep in the flesh and break off.  At the very least, these burrs stick onto your pants, your socks, your sneakers . . . anything, and must be picked off with leather gloves.

I felt like I’d been exiled to Mars.

Anyway, Dad agreed the so-called “lawn” was a travesty.  “We needed to lay down sod,” he said.  He made the call and soon some yard tenders came in, uprooted all the damned sandburs, poisoned everything else and the week after, came by with a truckload of sod.  Three weeks and a lake’s worth of water later, we had a lawn.  Back in Minneapolis, the triplex had a lawn but it was tiny and could be quickly cut back with the push mower.  The mowing duty was shared by Dad, Jim Schlafer downstairs and Harland Nasvik upstairs.  Not so in Richfield; thanks to my being a strapping young lad, the job was mine.  One evening Dad came home with a gas-powered rotary mower.  He set it up then tried it out.  It roared and stank.  “What the hell’s that?” I asked, pointing.  “Your new job,” Dad replied.  I was on Devil’s Island for sure.

In any case, Ma decided we needed a shrub to dress up the front lawn.  One Saturday afternoon she and Dad came home with a thing called a Mugo Pine.  It was supposed to become a decent sized shrub at some point but what Dad hauled out of the trunk was a runt.  It was just a ball of roots topped with a little green thatch.  “Give it time,” Ma said.  Out came the shovel and a half-pint of sweat later, the Mugo Pine was planted, it’s ugly little top barely peeking above the grass.

Now you need to know Ma and I got along like two cats in a gunny sack.  Our relationship died years before and, by 1953, we spent much of our time tormenting each other.  One deadly July day the  following year, I was sitting in the oven-like house with a fan blowing on my face when Ma came in.  “Listen, buster,” she snarled.  “The lawn needs mowing.  Now get cracking.”

“Ma.  You gotta be shitting me,” I exclaimed.  “It’s a hundred degrees out there.  The sun’s at its zenith and there’s not a cloud in the sky.  Not a breath of air moving.  I’ll die!”

It was no good.  In mere moments I found myself standing outside with cotton stuffed in my ears, a hankie wrapped over my nose and goggles to keep the debris out of eyes.  I pulled the starter cord, the engine chugged to life and I was off.  With each pass I cursed Ma and the goddamned lawn.  I mowed the back yard first, working my way around the sides, saving the front yard to last.  Well, as I was making my umpteenth pass across the front yard, I saw Ma’s Mugo Pine out of the corner of my eye.  “Humm,” I said to myself, “There may be an opportunity here.”  The mower was running low on gas so I headed back to the garage for more, mulling over the possibilities for mischief and smacking my lips in anticipation.

Back out on the front yard, I restarted the mower and took up where I left off.  The Mugo Pine was but two passes away.  Then there it was, dead ahead, squat and ugly.  (In truth, the pine really was hard to see, especially through sweat-streaked goggles.)  I advanced the throttle to full power and headed straight into the little shrub.  Bang.  Thunk,  Buzz, Whir. Thunk.  A cloud of dirt, bark, wood chips and pine needles went spraying everywhere leaving naught but a tattered stump.  The deed was done.

Back in the house and rehydrated from my ordeal, I flopped on the couch in front of the fan, picked up a copy of Collier’s magazine and thumbed through.  Ma didn’t see the assassination of her Mugo Pine until the following afternoon.  But when she did, she came rolling in the front door at full boil.  “You little son-of-a-bitch,” she yelled, stamping her foot as she often did in situations like this, “What did you do to my Mugo Pine?”

“What?” I asked, feigning innocence.

Ma went on to detail the death of her beloved pine.

“Your Mugo Pine?  Is that what I hit?  Aw, Jezus, Ma!  I remember hitting something but my goggles were filthy and I couldn’t see well — I just assumed I’d hit  another dried-out dog shit.”

Ma proceeded to call me everything in the book.  Then, gritting her dentures said, “I’m going to take a nap,” and down the hall she went.  Slam went the bedroom door.

Payback’s bitch, ain’t it?

-Merlin-


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