Please Behave…

 

It was thought to be one of the most important social events of the decade, although I had no idea why. The entire community had been talking about it since it was announced, yet I seemed to have absolutely no interest in attending.  400 guests were invited to watch Mark & Monica promise each other a lifetime of fidelity, love, and ignorance, at was proudly announced as a white wedding. This was not the first time I had been to such an affair. They all seemed pretty much the same; a crowded room filled with loud, obnoxious, and incredibly stupid people, incredibly inedible food, a relatively untalented group of musicians playing cover versions of songs I never much liked when played by the original artists, and Mr. & Mrs. Malcolm Title, parents of the not so lovely bride. As I stood in my room getting dressed, I couldn’t help but to wish for some kind of natural disaster, like an earthquake, or a hurricane perhaps. Or better yet, an alien invasion. Anything to prevent me from attending this spiritually vacuous event.

“I hope that you’ll behave yourself.”, my wife told me as she straightened my tie.

“I always do.”, I replied.

“No.”, she corrected me. “You don’t. Every time you open your mouth, you offend someone.”

“Really?”, I asked. “I try to offend them all.”

“I’m being serious!”, she snapped.

“I know.”, I said. “I’m just not sure why anyone should be offended by the truth.”

“Because sometimes it hurts their feeling.”, she explained.

“I don’t try to hurt people’s feelings.”, I said in my defense. “I just say what I think, and I am entitled to my opinion.”

“I know.”, she answered. “But why do you feel the need to express it so absolutely?”

“Because my opinion is absolute to me.”, I offered in explanation.

“I just want you try, tonight, for me.”, she added. “Just try to be a little less certain that you are always right, or at least try not to let everyone else know. And stay away from Barry Singer”

“Why?”, I inquired.

“Because I am asking you to.” She advised me. “The last time you saw him, you called him an asshole! In front of his daughter!”

“I did not.”, I responded. “I called him an ignorant ass. There is a difference. And besides, she knows that he’s an ass. Every one knows that he’s an ass.”

“Please.”, she asked again with those dark Moroccan eyes. “For me?’

“Alright.”, I told her. “I will try. For you. It won’t change how I think and feel, but I will make an effort to keep my opinion to myself.”

“Thank you.”, she said, as she squeezed my arm. “You look very handsome.”

“Thanks.”, I said. “I have a date with an insanely hot woman.” She blushed. I love it when she blushes.Her face turned a wonderful shade of crimson, and as she looks away, she emits a soft, little giggle that squeaks its way out of the corner of her mouth.

Well, I have rarely made any promises to my wife, but have kept the ones I did. I was determined to try and keep this one as well. I would try to keep my opinions to myself, and let those whose only point is located atop their heads, espouse their stupidity freely, and without consequence.

The venue was already near filled when we arrived. The country club selected for this wondrous  joining of two empty minds was regally decorated. The grounds were beautifully landscaped, and I could see the golf course from the large window in the reception hall.  “I should have brought my clubs.”, I whispered to my wife.

“Behave.”, she reminded me. “Go and talk to someone and try to have a good time.” I knew a good time was not going to be had. There was no one present that I really ever wanted to talk to. Talk about what? None of them had read a book since they were in High School. If only there was a lounge with a television, I could watch the hockey game. I grabbed myself a beer from the bar, and began to wander around the room.

“Hello, neighbor.”, I heard a voice call out. “I thought for sure you would find a reason not to show up.” I turned to see who was there. Barry Singer. The ignorant ass himself.

“Hello, Barry.” I said. “something I can do for you?”

“No no.”, he replied. “Just thought we’d catch up for a while.”

“Sorry, Barry.”, I informed him. “I’m on a mission.”

“What mission?”, he asked.

“Something I have to do for my wife.”, I told him., and I walked away. In a few minutes we were ushered in to another room to watch the spectacle of the ceremony. My wife and I found suitable seats close to the door, and we settled in. As the ceremony began, someone behind me leaned forward and began whispering in my ear. It was Barry Singer.  I had no idea what he was saying, but I recognized the voice. When I didn’t answer, his whisper became louder.

“What are you doing?”, my wife asked.

“I’m not doing anything.”, I told her. “Its Barry Singer behind us. I told you he’s an ass.” Barry continued to lean forward and try to engage me in a conversation, while my wife was growing visibly upset. The people in the row in front of us began to turn around and whisper ‘Shhh’, which only fueled my wife’s ire. As the ceremony continued, I tried my best to ignore the shit head who was sitting behind me, tormenting me solely by his existence, but I could feel myself beginning to lose the ability to ignore him. People in front continued to utter ‘Shhh’, and an elderly woman asked me, quite politely to stop ruining the wedding. My wife was fuming, her eyes grew dark, and the vein in her forehead, shaped like the letter ‘Y’, which only appears when her Spanish-Moroccan begins to boil, was beginning to take shape.

As the ceremony ended, we stood up to leave. “Somebody should take that man outside, tie him to a tree, and drop a squirrel down his pants.”, she said.

“I’m available.”, I told her.

“Don’t bother.”, she answered. “The squirrel would probably starve to death.” Without knowing it, my wife could be incredibly funny. We entered the reception area, and sat at our assigned table. Luckily, Barry Singer was not at our table. It didn’t take long however, but there he was, Barry Singer, standing over my shoulder, inquiring as to how much of a gift we were giving. I could the ‘Y’ vein start to appear. Barely visible at first, but then, there it was, upper case, and in bold font. “This can’t be good!”, I thought. And then it happened. Like a volcanic eruption, fast and furious, and unrelenting.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”, my wife asked Barry. “Do you have some sort of condition that prevents you from acting like a human being? You are, without a doubt the most insipid, irritating man I have ever met. I want you to go away. Now. Go away and stay away from us. Do you understand?” The others at our table sat stunned, with eyes glaring, and mouths opened. I, for one, had never been prouder of my wife. I put my hand on her leg, showing my approval for her crushing defeat of Barry Singer.

“Was it too much?”, she asked me, after apologizing to our table mates for her outburst.

“Not at all.”, I told her. “You were wonderful. But you forget to mention that he’s an ignorant ass.”

“I thought I did.”, she replied.

“No.”, I said. “But its okay. And thankfully, at least one of us can behave in public.”

“Yes.”, she answered. ” I suppose that I shouldn’t have asked you to change. Its who you are, and you’re usually right.”

“Its okay.”, I told her. “You did an exceptional job in my place.”

“Its a good thing that we take turns.”, she stated. “I’m not sure that people could handle both of us at the same time. I think we should go home.”

“Let’s go.”, I said.

“Are you hungry?”, she asked, as we walked to the car.

“I suppose I am.”, I told her.

“Do you feel like Chinese? My treat.”, she asked.

“Sounds like a plan.”, I replied.

“I’m going to have to borrow some money, though.”, she said.

“I already had that figured out.”, I told her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Girls Talk

 

 

Some time ago,  my wife and I headed down to a local bar to watch my friends’ band play. It was a rather warm, summer night, and Queen St. West was buzzing with people. The bar was crowded, but we managed to locate Sean & Terry, and sat with them, and over a beer, talked about music, and their upcoming cd. A woman approached  me and asked if I was the drummer in a power pop psych band in the late 1970s, that played Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. “I’m pretty sure that you were the drummer.”, she said.

‘I was.”, I answered. “And yes, we played a few gigs at Lakehead.”

“I thought so.”, she said. “You guys were very good.”

“That was a long time ago.”, I reminded her.

“I remember.”, she continued. “you were called ‘Psych Unseen’.”

“That was us.”, I said. “I can’t believe you remember that.”

“I do.”, she stated, with some excitement. “I even have one of your band tshirts.”

“No way.”, I shouted.

“Uh huh.”, she muttered. . “Maybe we can talk later?”, the woman asked.

“I’ll be around.”, I stated.  My wife had been listening to this entire conversation without saying a word. It was a little unsettling.

“Who the hell was that?”, she asked.

“I have no idea.”, I told her.

“Then why were you flirting with her?”, she continued.

“Flirting with her?”, I questioned. “I was not flirting with her.

“Oh, you were.”, she insisted.

“Ya, you were flirting with her, man.”, Terry & Sean chimed in.

“Can we talk about this somewhere else?”, I proposed, as I stood up. My wife followed me outside, where we could at least smoke. I found a quiet, somewhat private alcove in between 2 buildings, and lit a cigarette. “What the hell is going on?”, I asked.

“That’s what I want to know.”, she said. “Why does a total stranger know so much about you?”

“She doesn’t know anything about me. Just that I was in a band that played at her school 30 some odd years ago.”

“I saw how she was looking at you.”, my wife went on. “And how you were smiling at her. And you didn’t introduce me. How well do you know her?”

“I don’t know her!”, I exclaimed. “She was some kid who saw us play and remembered us. I guess we were really good.”

“Oh, come on.”, she said. “You know you guys weren’t that good. There’s something else.” She took a long pause. And than she asked. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know when. “Did you sleep with her?”

This was not the first time that she had asked me that question. When I was in High School, I sat directly across from Haley Glass, in Home Room, and English. I spent the entire time in those classes watching her, as she twirled her long, blonde hair, and crossed and uncrossed her insanely long legs, giving me glimpses of  both her soft, white thighs, and her pink panties. Man, how I wanted her. For 2 years, I gazed at the delights I was certain lay beneath the pink cotton. Nothing ever happened. I suppose I was intimidated by her looks back then. I don’t know. about 20 years later, I ran into Haley. She was working as a dental hygenist, and as soon as she saw me, she remembered. We chatted a little, reminiscing about High School, all of the where are they now crap. My wife entered the room, and saw us engaged in conversation, laughing, and seemingly having a good time. On the ride home I was asked. “Did you sleep with her?”

And now, we were reprising our roles in this one act dramatic play, of deceit and potential murder. “I don’t know.”, I replied.

“What do you mean you don’t know?”, she quipped. “Either you slept with her or you didn’t!”

“I don’t remember.”, I answered.

“Were there so many girls that you can’t remember who you slept with?”, she asked, as agitated as I had ever seen her.

“It was almost 40 years ago.”, I reminded her. “How am I supposed to remember 40 years ago? I’m telling you the truth. I just don’t remember. What do you want me to do?” She said nothing, and went back into the bar. I followed her in, pretty sure that this wasn’t over, not by a long shot.

Back inside, the band had begun their set, we stood in silence, watching the performance. When it was over, I asked my wife if she wanted to go out for a cigarette. She said that she didn’t, so I went on my own. As soon as I had lit the cigarette, the woman who remembered me from Thunder Bay all those years ago, came out, and asked me for a light. We started talking about music, particularly music from 30 or 40 years ago, when my wife appeared. She walked over to us, stood beside me, and introduced herself to this woman whose name I still did not know. She identified herself as my wife, and stood there smoking her cigarette, leering at the stranger, until the woman from Thunder Bay, turned and went back into the bar.

“Well, that should take care of that.”, she said. “She won’t bother you anymore.” And then it hit me. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.

“You’re jealous.”, I told my wife. “You’re insanely jealous.”

“I am not.”, she replied. “What do I have to be jealous about?”

“Absolutely nothing.”, I told her. “But it does make me feel good to know that you want me all to yourself.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”, she said.

“No.”, I said. “You love me. I know its hard for you to say it, but you love me”. And its okay. There are times when I am jealous over you, too.” She looked up at me with those Moroccan eyes, and somehow she made them smile.

“I think we should go home.”, she said.

“Its still early.”, I told her. “There’s another set soon.”

“Well.”, she said. “You can stay for the next set and talk with you girlfriend from Thunder Bay, or you can come home, and find out just how much your wife loves you.”  We didn’t even say goodbye to my friends in the band. We just left.

“I love you.”, she said in the car on the way home.

“I know.”, I told her. “I love you to.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Willowdale Christmas Story

Growing up in a suburb of Willowdale, in the north end of the city in the 1960s was remarkably ever changing. As developments sprung up, and roads were being built, Passer’s Farm stood as a reminder of what used to be. My brothers and I spent a lot of time outside, scouting out the building sites, carrying home bits of lumber, so that we could build a fort in the back yard.

I particularly enjoyed the winters. Crawling around in the snow, tunneling through the moats we made that led to our snow fortress. And while we did not celebrate, my favorite time of all was Christmas, with all of the family traditions that accompanied it. Christmas Eve was filled with the joy of watching  ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’, and ‘Mr. Magoo’s A Christmas Carol’. It seemed like I had to wait forever for the annual airing of these shows. We stayed up late and watched ‘Its A Wonderful Life’ with my mother, and then retired to our beds. It was strangely quiet on Christmas Eve, so quiet that you could actually hear the snow fall, as it piled up on our lawn, glistening in the pale yellow street lights that dotted the landscape of my life.

In the morning my brothers and I raced outside and shoveled the driveway, so that we could play ball hockey, while my father took the garden hose and flooded the backyard in an attempt to make us an ice hockey rink. It was always uneven, and there were patches that didn’t freeze due to inadequate water placement, but it was wonderful fun, skating up and down the rink, body checking each other into the waist high snow drifts that lined either side. Our laughter seemed to echo across galaxies, as we pulled our heads out of the drifts,  our faces covered in the untainted snow, making us all look like Santa himself.

In the afternoon, we all piled into the Ford Country Squire Station Wagon, to begin the first leg of what had become our family Christmas tradition. ” You guys better get yourselves outside.”, the old man chanted as he stood at the front door  of our house. “I”m leaving in 2 minutes.” The old man hated to be late for the movies. If he wasn’t in his seat at the theatre before the cartoon or the coming soon features started, it was a Christmas catastrophe. We headed off to the Willow Theatre, located on Yonge Street, just south of Finch Avenue, at break neck speed.

“Slow down.”, my mother would say. “Let’s get there in one piece.”

“I been through worse than this.”, my father would answer.

“Go faster, faster.”, we shouted from the back.

When we arrived at the theatre, we ran up the stairs to the balcony, with my mother following behind us, and my father at the concession stand buying us popcorn. There was always a western showing in those days. My father adored westerns. Over the years we watched ‘The Sons Of Katie Elder’, ‘Nevada Smith, ‘The Way West’, and countless others. One Christmas Day, my mother, who was a huge fan of musicals, managed to coerce the old man into attending a revival of “Calamity Jane’.  It was the last time she was ever permitted to select the movie. We sat in the balcony, 1st row, with our parents in the row behind us, popcorn in our hand, and our eyes glued to the screen as six guns were drawn, and rifles were cocked. It seemed necessary to advise the ‘good guy’ that trouble was behind them, or waiting for them around the next corner. We shouted it out with delight, certain that he could hear us, and followed up with the disappointing “if only he had listened”. If there was a coming attraction feature, and it was a western, my father would lean forward, pat us on the shoulders and guarantee that we would be seeing that one. Particularly if the cast included Jimmie Stewart, Randolph Scott, or Audie Murphy.

With the movie over, we piled back into the wagon, and headed out for what was the highlight of  the day. We did this only once a year. We did this every year, but only on Christmas day. As we pulled into the parking lot, the huge neon sign, seemed to scream out at us, beckoning us inside. “Let’s try to behave in there, shall we?”, my mother remarked.

“Oh, they’ll behave.”, my father stated. “Won’t you?”

“Yes. We’ll behave.”, proclaimed the unanimous children’s chorus.

“Okay then.”, he said. “Let’s go.” We jumped out of the car, and ran up to the door. And there scrawled in Chinese Style writing of English letters, were those words we waited all year to see: ‘Sea-Hi Famous Chinese Food”.

If you had never been to Sea-Hi Famous Chinese Food as a kid in the 1960s or 1970s, your childhood was incomplete. Nestled in the Bathurst St, and Wilson Avenue area, it was a cultural phenomenon. Every Christmas Day, for as long as I can remember, everyone who did not celebrate Christmas, for whatever reason, living in the North end of this city, wound up at Sea-Hi for dinner. It became a tradition for hundreds of families, perhaps thousands. It was, without a doubt, the crowning achievement of a Christmas well spent.

As we poured over menus, we would laugh at the names given to the dishes. Things like moo goo guy pan, and egg foo yung brought us great joy just to read them aloud. And, in those childish, politically incorrect times, we found great amusement in ordering in what we considered, Chinese. “I want flied lice.”, someone would inevitably request.

“Stop that.”, my mother scolded.

“Can I have clispy chicken?”, someone would shout from the table.

“We’re just going to go home.”, my mother offered her final warning. Regardless of what we wanted, my father always ordered the same thing, year after year after year. Vegetable fried rice, egg rolls, chop suey, mushroom egg foo yung, and hot and sour soup. We ate, and laughed, and attempted to use our chopsticks, and when that failed, we inserted them in our mouths and became walruses. There was one occasion when one of my brothers inserted them up his nose. This caused quite a commotion, as one became stuck, and had to be forcibly removed by my father’s tugging, which caused his nose to bleed right there at the table, all over the starched, white tablecloth, and my mother to begin the almost daily ritual of dying of embarrassment. The highlight of the meal, for me anyway, was the fortune cookie, which always seemed to carry some profoundly meaningful Eastern words of wisdom, written on the small, white paper hidden inside of the crunchy, tasteless morsel.  I was certain that those ancient words would somehow transform my future.

The car ride home was eerily quiet. We were tired, and we were full, satiated with enough rice and noodles to carry us over until next year. This tradition carried on throughout my childhood, and one by one, each of my siblings and myself dropped out of the ritual when we entered adolescence. It seems we were more interested in hanging with our friends, than we were in tradition. When I began to have kids of my own, I jump started the whole family Christmas, Willowdale style. It was never quite the same. We would watch Rudolph, but my daughters were frightened of the abominable snowman, and they found Its A Wonderful Life boring, as it was in black & white. Sadly, Mr. Magoo was no longer aired on Christmas Eve, but it did become available years later you tube. We moved north of the city, and Sea-Hi Famous Chinese Food was too far of a drive, so we settled on East Moon. The tradition continues to this day, however we now watch a movie on Netflix, and order in from South China Chinese Food. Sadly, it is difficult to maintain a family tradition in the face of ever changing technology, and free delivery. But those days, all those years of a Willowdale Christmas in my parents’ house, well, I miss them, and I carry those memories around with me like a badge of honor.

 

 

 

Living In The Real World…

 

In an attempt to save even more money that we could put away in the event of some natural or man made disaster, my wife has subtly began her mission to  get rid of Netflix, and install TV antennas in order to watch television.

“What is this?”, I asked. “1963?”

“No”, she said. “I’m just trying to save some money so we can retire.”

“That dream is long gone.”, I told her.

“Well”, she said. “We need to do something. They’re talking about an economic disaster worse than the great depression. People won’t be able to keep their homes, or even have food to eat. We need to start stock piling can goods.”

“Okay.”, I told her. “Go out and buy all of the canned goods you can find.”

“I’ve already made a list.”, she informed me. “I think we should go on the weekend.”

And so, as my wife seems to excel in dealing with these sort of crises, we continue to prepare for them, one after the other. There has been much talk of ‘living off the grid’, and as I have no idea what the grid is, I have been reluctant to give it up. My wife informs me that we would live somewhere, isolated from society, and fend for ourselves. We would create/generate our own heat, and apparently electricity, and obtain our own food through planting and harvesting crops, and hunting & fishing. She has been watching television shows about jut this sort of wilderness living. Surviving as pioneers, with none of the amenities of modern life. “I have no idea how to do any of the things we need to do to survive.”, I told her. “Do they have something like The Home Service Club for off the grid livers?”

“No!”, she said, not amused by my sarcasm. “We would just have to learn how to do things ourselves.” Now prior to this latest carnival of survival, we had dealt with Tiny House living, trailer living, and the ever popular squatting. All I really want is for the damn internet to work properly. I do not want to live in the middle of nowhere in a tent, or a hut, or a cave, surviving on my instincts. My instincts are somewhat limited, not generally useful, and usually only serve to send me to the fridge to grab a beer. I am not certain, but I don’t see that as a big help in wilderness living.

So, the pantry, kitchen cupboards, bedroom closets, and dining room floor are filled with assorted canned goods. We have chick peas, fava beans, peas, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, assorted fruits, tuna, salmon, and I have even seen canned corned beef. I have never eaten canned meat in my life, and I have expressed to me wife, my reluctance to ever do so. “If it is the last thing to eat, I’m sure you’ll give it a try.” perhaps she is right, but I am still uncertain. I have expressed my concern that the shelf life of this so called meat in a can is over 1 year, when meat in my fridge is only good for 3 days. It is concerning and confusing. Nonetheless, I am the proud owner of corned beef in a can.I did insist that we purchase several cans of pie filling. I was adamant the I have my rhubarb-strawberry pie filling. In the event that I cannot eat canned meat, I will at least have a viable substitute. The shelf life for this product is almost 2 years, so when my wife’s corned beef has long since expired, I will still be eating strawberry-rhubarb pie filing.

“I think we’re all set.”, she said as she conducted a thorough inventory of our food stuff. “Nobody eats any of this now.”, she added. “Leave the pie filling alone!”, she told me.

“So we wait for it to expire, and then have to do this all over again?”, one of my daughters asked.

“No.”, my wife explained, “if it is close to expiring, then we will eat it.”

“And what if the food shortage never comes?”, another one of my daughters asked.

“Oh, it will.”, my wife said. “Sooner or later, it will happen.”

“You need to stop watching the news.”, my daughter advised.

And so it was, and continues. A wait and see game with fate. A cat and mouse game between global economic doom, and expiration dates on cans of meat. If I were a betting man, I would wager heavily on my wife, and learn to develop a taste for canned meat. I just may have to. We have so much of it stored in the pantry.

 

Aliens

My wife has always had an interest in the paranormal. She is quite interested in ghosts, specters, and spirits from the other side. She believes that they come to visit out of kindness and good will, and not to scare the hell out of us. She sees them often. I however, am not certain of their intent or their good nature, but I have always given in to my wife’s insistence that all is well in the spirit realm.

There was a time not too long ago, when I saw a different side of my wife. A fear of the unknown. A fear, not of ghostly daring dos, but of possible Alien intrusion. Yes, that’s right. We had a harrowing experience, one that she could not explain other than Alien involvement.

It was early evening, that time in between light and dark, when shadows dance across time and space, making the world appear black and white. There was a fine rain falling, a mist that seemed to enhance the shadows, making them seem closer than they actually were. We were returning home from the Casino. We were regaling each other with tales of our losses, as we approached a short covered section of the road, a covered bridge that was basically an underpass to allow cars to pass above us. We had driven through this underpass hundreds of times. At best, it took 15 seconds to clear, and arrive on the other side.

We entered the short tunnel, There was no talking as we went through. When we reached the other side. We looked at each other with some concern.

“That seemed to take a hell of a long time.”, I said.

“I know.”, my wife agreed. “How long were we in there for?”

I don’t know.”, I answered. I wasn’t looking at the clock.”

“What time did we leave the casino at?”, she asked.

“I don’t remember.”, I said.

“Well, that’s just weird.”, she muttered. “What do you think happened?”

“I have no idea.”, I told her.

“Don’t you think it strange that we both felt it took forever to get through the underpass?”, she asked. And neither of us can remember what time we left the casino?”

“I suppose.”, I stated. “But there’s probably some reasonable explanation.”

“Well”, she said, as straight faced as I had ever seen her, “I think either we were scanned by aliens, or we entered some sort of time warp.” I looked at her closely. She was dead serious.

“Really?”, I asked. “You think that time was frozen while some aliens fiddled with us? I would have liked them to take us out for dinner first.”

“I never said that time was frozen.”, she explained. “We simply don’t remember the time when they scanned us. Something pretty extra ordinary, something extra terrestrial just happened to us.” She paused only long enough to light a cigarette. “What if we have all kinds of weird side effects?”

“Like what?”, I asked.

“I don’t know.”, she replied. “Like horrible nightmares, or we get some virus or something.”

“Or maybe we start sculpting things out of mashed potatoes.”, I offered. “Hey, wait a minute. Did you check to make sure they didn’t take your money when you were being scanned?”

“You really need to stop being such a sarcastic ass.”

” I just don’t know why you’re so freaked out by it.”, I answered.

“Because its weird.”, she said. “Something happened to us, and I can’t explain it. You can’t explain it. Its kind of scary that we can’t account for the time, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know.”, I said. “I guess I just don’t think that everything I can’t explain is the result of a ghost or alien encounter.”

“Well”, she continued, “this was something quite out of the ordinary. Something else was at work here. Don’t you think its even possible?””

“Almost everything is possible.”, I said. “I’m just not sure I want to accept the notion that I had been violated by aliens.”

“Is it really so far fetched?”, she persisted.

“Not really.”, I answered. “I just don’t know how I could respect myself in the morning if its true.”

“You’re an ass.”, she told me.

“I know.”, I reminded her. “You’ve already mentioned that.”

My wife has told this story countless times, to countless numbers of people, and each time, they look to me for some sort of explanation from this world. I can’t give them one. I just don’t know. Perhaps my wife is right. Maybe we were scanned by beings from another world, or another dimension. She just may be right. It wouldn’t be the first time. Or perhaps she is one of them. That would explain so much.

 

 

 

Sex, And Drugs, And Rock ‘N’ Roll

 

“Did you do a lot of drugs when you were younger, daddy?”, one of my daughters asked me.

“Why would you ask me that?”, I responded.

“Well, mommy said that back in your old hippie days, you were on drugs most of the time.”, she informed me.

“Really?”, I inquired. “And why would you need to know about that?”

“We have to do a project in school.”, she answered. “I have to gather information about what my parents were like when they were younger, and present it to the class.”

“I don’t think they’re looking for that kind of information.”, I advised. “I think they want to know where we lived, how many brothers and sisters we have, where we went to school. That sort of stuff.”

“No, Mrs. Kennedy said to gather as much information about your parents as you can.”, she told me. I was pretty sure my wife was not aware of the purpose of my daughter’s thirst for knowledge about my past, but now I had to figure out how to stop the flow of that particular information.

“Why did you tell Melinda about shit I did when we were kids?” I asked. “What were you thinking?”

“Relax.”, she said. “Its no big deal. She doesn’t even know what I was talking about.”

“Oh, she does.”, I quipped. “And interestingly enough, its for a class project. She is going to present her findings to the class.”

“You’re kidding.”, my wife barked.

“No.”, I continued. “That’s what she told me.”

“Well.”, she said, as she chuckled. “Its not that bad, is it?”

“Well, I hope you can keep laughing about it. It gets worse.”, I responded. “I told her that you were a stripper.”

“You’re kidding?”, she snapped.

“In my defense, it was before I knew it was for a school project.”, I replied. “And, if its any consolation, I told her you were very, very good.”

“What the hell are we supposed to do about this, now?”, she asked.

“Well, I could get high, we could put some music on, and you could start taking your clothes off.”, I suggested.

“Really?”, she asked. “That’s your solution? Sex and drugs can’t fix everything!”

“And rock and roll.”, I corrected her. “Sex and drugs and rock and roll. And yes, I’m pretty sure it can make everything better.”

“Not this.”, she said.

“Well”, I stated, “I don’t think it could make it worse.”

“Be serious.”, she pleased. “We need to figure out how to stop her from announcing those things at school.”

“Its really not that bad.”, I said trying to ease her anxiety.

“Maybe not for you.”, she responded. “You were only a druggie. Big deal. Everyone was doing all kinds of shit back then. But I’m going to have to face our neighbors and the parents of every kid in her class, with everyone thinking I was a cheap stripper.”

“First of all,”, I explained. “They’re now referred to as exotic dancers, which sounds pretty sweet, and secondly, I never said you were cheap.”

“I’m glad you find this funny.”, she said, as her Spanish-Moroccan eyes started burning holes in my cranium.

“I’ll take care of it.”, I told her.  I found my daughter sitting at the kitchen table working on her school project.

“Listen”, I said. “I made that stuff up about mommy. I was just angry that she told you about me using drugs. She never was a stripper. You would be lying if you put that in your project.”

“I wouldn’t put that in my project.”, she told me. “It would hurt mommy’s feelings.”

“I see.”, I said. “But your okay telling everyone that I used all kinds of drugs when I was younger?”

“Ya.”, she said. “You don’t get upset like mommy. Her feelings get hurt very easy.”

“Really?”, I replied.

“Don’t you know that?”, she asked me in response.

“I guess that I never really thought about it.”, I said.

“Well, you should.”, she advised me. I thanked her for listening, and headed off to the family room.

“I think I’ve just been scolded by your daughter.”, I informed my wife.

“Well, you deserved it.”, she said.

“No doubt.”, I replied. “When did she get so smart?”

” You know, she’s my daughter too.”, she told me.

“I hear you.”, I stated. “I’m going to go to bed.”

“I’ll join you.”, she said as she turned off the television. “Maybe, if you’re lucky, we’ll see just how good of a stripper I really am.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Hobbits Come To Visit.

 

Years ago we bought a couch. A sofa. It was a rather large 2 piece, L shaped sectional. It was soft, and warm, and probably the most comfortable thing I had ever put my backside on. It was my favorite place to sit. And sleep. I fell asleep on it regularly, spread out in my spot, nestled in the groove my body had created in the wonderfully supple material. I sacrificed my recliner for my spot on this cloud like seat, that seemed to envelope me each time I lay down on it, by donating it to one of my sons. I never dreamed that we would be separated.

“I think we need to get a new couch.”, my wife suggested.

“Perhaps you need a new couch.”, I replied. “We are perfectly fine with the one we have.”

“Its old.”, she stated. “The fabric is worn,  and there are stains all over the material. It just looks awful.”

“I am not giving this couch up.”, I said adamantly. “It is perfectly fine.”

“We can get a new one “, she told me.

“It won’t be the same.”, I answered. “And I don’t have the time or energy to break another one in.”

“How much time and energy does it really take to lay down and not move for hours?”, she asked.

“Hours upon hours upon hours. If you try to move this couch, I’ll be going with it!”, I said.

“Don’t tempt me.”, she said. “The old thing has to go. Its time to say goodbye.”

Several days later, a new couch arrived. My wife ordered it online, as that seems to be the way we purchase things now. “How can you buy a couch without sitting on it first?”, I asked.

“It will be fine.”, she stated. The new couch arrived, and the delivery guys took the old one away. I watched it being carried out, and loaded on their truck.  “You just have to screw the legs onto this one.”, my wife continued talking.

“Wonderful.”, I said. “A build your own couch.” I proceeded to take the couch out of the box, and 2 thousand yards of tape it came wrapped in. “There’s something wrong.”, I called out to her.

“What did you do?”, she asked, accusingly.

“Nothing, yet.”, I said. Did you happen to see this couch before you ordered it?” When my wife entered the room, we stood side by side and gazed down at what appeared to be a child’s couch. It was barely a foot off of the ground. I tried to sit on it, but my legs would have to be stretched out or my knees would hit my chin. “Well”, I said. “Its clearly not the same. What the hell are we supposed to do with this?”

“It’s not so bad.”, she said, sitting on it as if to prove it was practical.”

“It’s great if Hobbits ever come to visit.”, I replied. “Its totally useless.”

I’ll send it back.”, she said. She never did. The miniature couch still sits in the living room, up against a wall, serving only as a place to toss one’s jacket, or briefcase, or school bag, or whatever else is in your hand when you come home. No one has ever sat on it. Not even the dogs. Interestingly enough, I discovered that it converts into a bed of sorts. The back folds down and it can sleep 1 smurf comfortably. It is about the size of an army cot when opened, but still remains about 6″ above ground. We purchased another couch old school-at a furniture store. After much testing, followed by even more testing, we settled on a L shaped sectional, as soft as any I had felt. I fall asleep on it regularly, nestled in the groove my body has created in the soft and supple material. Despite its used appearance, I still love that thing, almost as much as I love my wife.

 

Remembering Uncle Needle Nose

The death of Uncle Needle Nose came as quite a shock. He was my wife’s uncle, well, her Great Uncle, her Grandfather’s brother, and not surprisingly, his name was not really Needle Nose. It was Alistair. The story goes that when he was a child, he had inadvertently inserted one of his mother’s knitting needles up his nose, and required some sort of surgical procedure to remove it. There was speculation that the needle had pierced his prefrontal cortex, leaving him with a somewhat diminished capacity for keeping his manhood in his pants. Nevertheless Uncle Needle Nose had passed away, peacefully in his sleep, at the age of 87.

The news of his passing hit my wife hard, even though they were not really that close. During the years I had known my wife while Needle Nose was alive, we had seen him on 3 occasions; 2 weddings & a funeral. “I’m so sorry.”, I told her as I held her in my arms.

“I just wish I had been able to speak with him one more time before he died.”, she said. “He was a nice, old man.” In reality, Old Needle Nose was an ass. Although not by choice. He spent most of his time devising elaborate schemes to expose himself to unsuspecting women. He had received numerous charges for all kinds of inappropriate sexual behaviors, but all of them were dropped due to diminished mental capacity. Most recently, when he was 78, he was caught in the bushes across from the public library with his ‘willie’ in his hand, showing off to the female passersby.

“I’m sure he was nice.”, I said. “But man was he ever messed up.”

“Ya.”, my wife agreed. “It was really too bad.”

My kids, who had never even met Needle Nose were excused from the memorial, and it was my duty to attend, and provide consolation and support to my wife and my mother-in-law. I was prepared, and up for the task at hand. On the way over to the Funeral Home, we exchanged stories about him in the car. I reminded my wife about the time he called me. “Paul”, he said. “Is that you. It’s Alistair.”

“Alistair.”, I answered, even though my name is not Paul, nor had it ever been. “What can I do for you?”

“Paul.”, he continued, “I am updating my telephone directory, and need to have your phone number to put in the book.”

“Alistair.”, I pointed out. “You just called me. You have my phone number.”

“Yes.”, he said. “I need to put it in my telephone directory. Can you give me your number?”

“Alright”, I told him. “Do you have a pen and your phone book?”

“I had a pen. Where did that pen go?”, he responded. “Hold on just a minute while I go to get another.”

“Who’s on the phone?”, my wife asked. I informed her about the conversation with Uncle Needle Nose so far. She laughed. “Really?”, she continued. “He called you to ask you for your phone number?”

“Thank God I’m not the only one who thinks this is weird. And then he can’t find his pen. The sad thing is”, I told her, “I’m sure, but I think he might have put the missing pen up his nose.”

“Well, just don’t tell him to look there.”, she said.

I waited on the line for over 10 minutes. Needle Nose lived in a very small room in a nursing home, and required no more than 30 seconds to retrieve a pen. I hung up. About an hour later, the phone rings. I answer it. “Hello, Paul. This is Alistair. I am updating my telephone directory, and need your phone number to enter into the book.”

“Sure thing, Alistair.”, I replied. “Do you have your pen ready?”

“Oh, yes.”, he answered. “I have just returned from the store with a new one. Can’t seem to find the one I had before. This one has 4 different colors of ink. Would you like to be black, red, blue, or green?”

“Let’s go with green.”, I told him. “Now let me give you the number, Alistair, as I am about to go out.” I gave him the number, quite slowly, but it took 3 attempts for him to get it right, and then put it in the book.

“Well.”, my mother in law said, “he was quite old and you know he had some problems in his brain.”

“Yes I know.”, I answered. “That’s why they called him Needle Nose.”

“I hope you don’t call him that at the service.”, my wife stated.

“I’ll do my best.”, I replied.

There were not a lot of people in attendance at the chapel. There were a few relatives, and it appeared some people from the nursing home had attended as well.  I sat beside my wife, and held her hand, trying to comfort her, and just to let her know that I was there for her. My mother-in-law, who had been speaking with the funeral director, returned to where we were sitting.”

“Could you please do me a favor?”, she asked.

“What do you need?”, I answered with a question of my own.

“There is no one to deliver a eulogy.”, she said, “Would you say a few words about Alistair.” My heart sank. I wanted to say no, but there was my wife, squeezing my hand tight, and looking at me with hope.

“Not a problem.”, I said. When it was time for me to speak, I walked past the casket, and notice Uncle Alistair resting peacefully, with a 4 color ink pen in his jacket’s breast pocket. As I approached the lectern, all I could think about was the time he called me, asking for my phone number. I started to smile, and fought hard to keep from laughing out loud. There was not much I knew about Uncle Needle Nose, and I had no idea what I would say. As I stood there, looking out at the faces seeking some consolation for their grief, the following came out.

“I did not know Alistair very well. In fact, I had only met him on a few occasions. But today, as I walked past him, I noticed that he had a pen in his jacket pocket.” I then proceeded to tell the story of the phone call for my number, and being left on hold while he went shopping for a new pen. When I had finished speaking, I used the pen and a piece of paper that were on the lectern and wrote down my phone number, with the name Paul beside it. I returned the pen, and as I walked past Needle Nose’s casket, I placed the paper in the breast pocket of his jacket. I returned to my seat beside my wife. She took my hand, and leaned over to me.

“What did you write?”, she asked me.

“I gave him our phone number. He had a pen, but I didn’t see his phone directory.” I explained. “Just in case he needed to call. Although I would  appreciate it if you told your family members not to call collect.”

“Consider it done.”, she replied.

“And by the way”, I said. “His fly is unzipped.”

“No way.”, she replied.

“Yep.”, I informed her. “Even in death, he’s going to dazzle the ladies.”

“You didn’t, did you?”, she asked.

“Didn’t what?”, I responded.

“Unzip his pants.”, she said, as she squeezed my hand.

“I think we should go now.”, I said.

“I think you’re right.”, she agreed. ” By the way, I love you.”

“I know.”, I replied. “I know.”

 

Neighborhood Watch

 

Something was going on with one of our neighbors. He was a relatively nondescript man who one could usually find on his front porch with a beer in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. My wife was certain something sinister had occured, so we spoke about it in whispers, in the dark, sordid shadows of our living room.

“He hasn’t moved in days.”, my wife informed me, as she peered through the living room window, across the street at Mr. Leadbetter.

“Its worse than that.”, I added, “He hasn’t changed his clothes in days, either.”

“Something’s not right.”, she said. “Something strange is going on over there.”

“Or maybe”, I said, “maybe he’s just on vacation.”

“No, its not a vacation.”, she replied.

“How do you know?”, I asked.

“Just a feeling.”, she replied. “Something’s not right. You should go over and talk to him.”.

“I don’t think so.”, I told her. “We should just mind our own business, and leave the man alone”

She sighed that sigh that I had come to know so well. The one that means we’re doing it my way regardless. She paused, deep in thought as she eyed the property across the street. “I wonder where his wife and kids are. I haven’t seen them in a while.”

“Don’t go there.”, I said. “Just leave it alone.”

“Go where?”, she asked.

“All Alfred Hitchcock like.”, I said. “You do this all of the time. You’re going to turn this into something from a Hitchcock movie. I know you. Just leave it alone.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”, she replied. “All I did was to mention that I haven’t seen his family for a while.”

“Uh huh.”, I stated. “Just like the time you believed a little boy was being kidnapped from Chuck E Cheese. Remember? You were sure someone was snatching him. Turns out his father had come to pick him up from a birthday party.”

“He was screaming.”, she said.

“He just didn’t want to leave.”, I reminded her. “And there was the time you were convinced that the birds  congregating on the telephone wire were preparing to attack. You wouldn’t let the kids go outside.”

“There were all kinds of birds out there.”, she remarked.”

“There were a half dozen sparrows on the wire.”, I reminded her. “Hardly a terrifying event.”

“Well, that was different, anyway.”, she said.

“Not really.”, I answered. “You always get like this. Whenever something strange happens, your mind goes right to Hitchcock. Unless it involves spirits. That you never think that’s weird.”

“Well.”, she said in her own defense, “you can’t deny that something strange is going on over there.”

“I can. You don’t know that anything is going on. Just leave it alone.”, I pleaded.

“I wish I could.”, she said. “Well, if you won’t go over and talk to him, I guess that I will have to go.”

“Well”, I said, “you’re on your own with this one.”

“Are you really going to let me go over there by myself?”, she asked.

“If you’d like. I’m not going.”, I told her.

“So we’re just supposed to sit here and do nothing?”, she asked.

“No.”, I replied. “We’re just going to sit here and mind our own business. Everything is okay. Tim didn’t chop his family into pieces and bury them in the garden. This is not a suspense thriller.”

“What if he did do something terrible, and he sneaks off in the dead of night?”, she asked, trying to sound completely rational.

“Alright.”, I said. “I’m going over there.”

“So you think I’m right?”, she asked. “You think something weird is going on?”

“Not at all.”, I answered. “I just want to get my power drill back from him before he leaves the country.”

“You’re such an ass.”, she informed me.

“Now, if I see anything that looks peculiar, like graves, or crop circles,”, I said, “I’ll let you know. And if I’m not back by dark, call the police.”

“Don’t count on it.”, she said merely to show her anger with me.

“Okay, then.”, I said. “I’m off.”

“Be careful.”, she said. “And pretend that you think everything is normal.”

I returned about ten minutes later, visibly upset. “What’s wrong?”, my wife asked. “What did you see over there?”

“Its unbelievable.”, I responded. “I  just can’t believe the bastard could do something like that.”

“He killed them, didn’t he?”, she asked.

“Killed who?”, I asked.

“His family.”, she answered. “He killed his wife and kids.”

“Hell, no.”, I said. “There all inside, sick with the Black Plague or some other virus of death. The bastard broke my damn drill.”

“What?”, she asked.

“He broke my drill.”, I repeated.

“So nothing’s wrong?”, she asked.

“Did you hear me/”, I stated rather sternly. “Yes something happened. He broke my drill. Isn’t that enough?”

“Well.”, she said, as she laughed that coy way she does when she feels just a bit foolish. “At least no one was killed.”

“Not yet, anyway>”, I told her. “But if he doesn’t replace the drill, that may change.”

“You’re so dramatic.”, she said, as she put her arms around me. “You really need to sit down and relax. I don’t know why you always have to blow everything way out of proportion”