A Squirrel!

20150424_131442One of the painful truths of living with Really Smart People is the constant struggle between shiny objects. When I married Spousal Unit, I didn’t know about Attention Deficit Disorder. Did anyone? When I look back at my school years, I can diagnose a few, but at that time, they were just unruly and distractible pains in the arse who spent a lot of time in the vice principal’s office.

Within a short time of meeting Spousal Unit, I knew something wasn’t like it was with other boyfriends. Of course most of the other boyfriends had more brawn than brains and I thank the Good Lord daily that I didn’t marry any of them. They’re probably sitting on their sofa, scratching their crotches, drinking beer, farting and watching Justified.

Instead, I married a nerd who sits on the sofa, scratching his crotch and farting as he watches Justified. The difference is that Spousal Unit drinks bourbon and analyzes plot twists and character development with me. That Boyd Crowder is a complicated man.

Still, it’s been a challenge living with the absent-minded professor without benefit of his inventing Flubber. Because his DNA runs through my children’s veins, they also have the distractibility gene. Girl Child is usually only distracted when it involves cleaning her room or helping with chores and she usually has an artistic or poetic take. “I was cleaning my bathroom when I noticed a spot on the mirror that looked like a penguin trying to free itself from the jaws of an alligator and over the penguin fleeing from the alligator were unicorns farting rainbows. Ospreys are oppressed.”

Boy Child? It’s a wonder he can get out the door each day. So. Many. Distractions. Yesterday, I asked him to put away some leftover Easter candy, hoping he wouldn’t noticed how little was left as I wiped chocolate from the corners of my mouth. “Sure!” he said good-naturedly and went to retrieve a container for it. Ten minutes later he returned. “What can I do to help?” Uhhhhh…candy? He nodded his head and grabbed a piece of chocolate. Of course, if one is putting candy in a safe place, one must inspect each piece to determine length, depth, breadth and volume. Then one must check his phone for Reddit posts or texts from Girl Frand. Obviously, one must again search for a container for said candy. Twenty minutes later, I had consumed two Reese’s cups, a mini Snickers and a foil-wrapped chocolate egg before he wandered back in with some Tupperware. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that particular container was now too large, so I just stood there and burped peanut butter.

I reminded him that the reason I was cleaning this particular room was because he wanted to bring his latest build downstairs for his dad to see when he returned from a business trip. Boy Child looked surprised and offered to help clean the room. I sucked chocolate out of a molar and gently suggested that it would help tremendously if he could find a place to put the candy.

It is this same delightful entity on which I am depending for Operation Restore Camper. Since Daisy’s little hot flash, requiring fire extinguishers, it seems as if other, shinier objects have taken his attention. “Let’s work on Daisy,” he suggests and I vigorously nod my head in reply, offering a reminder that creating an electrical plan and diagram is next on the list. He agrees, pulls off the bow tie he wore to work and disappears to his room or the garage until he’s hungry again.

In the few months he’s been home, taking a break from school, he’s built two quad copters (drones), another motorized bike (because one is apparently insufficient) and a 3-D printer. He built the printer in three days. The directions were 240 pages. This is the kid who would break my parents’ hearts by building an entire Lego diesel train engine kit on Christmas day before Santa had even gassed up the reindeer to get back home. “We thought it would take him weeks to do that,” they would pine.

And I thought it would take only weeks to simply paint a camper and sew fancy curtains. We all have our struggles, Nanna and Pawpaw. Mine are real.

So, now we have a 3-D printer sitting in our house, next to the Justified-worthy bourbon and the coffeemaker. Boy Child started taking orders. I requested a model of Daisy, and Girl Child asked for the international sign of hospitality in the form of a certain hand gesture. She ain’t part of your system.

It’s doable, he claims. It’s all doable. We will all get what we want in plastic. The future is plastics. He is the snake oil salesman of the 21st century. We are thrilled. Pieces that are missing from Daisy will be created. Fingers will be raised. We will be more equipped than astronauts in the space station, 3-D printing a desperately needed wrench.

I am waiting for my Daisy model just as Daisy awaits new wiring. The last time I looked, there was a stringy outline of an airplane stuck to the printing plate. Apparently, the 3-D printer is also easily distracted, and while its attention wandered, it spewed too much plastic and I am reminded of one of my favorite t-shirts.

“People tell me I have A.D.D. I don’t know what that means. Oh look! A squirrel!”


Where There’s Smoke

IMAG0707One of the many ironies of a writer’s life is that when there is nothing to write about, one has the time to write. One sits in front of the keyboard, pondering one’s navel, pulling out the belly button lint between the fat rolls and trying desperately to imagine pithy, witty words on one’s screen.

Then all hell breaks loose and there are stories, so many stories. Stories that will become family lore and witness for the prosecution statements. Stories that will be told over campfires and deathbeds. Stories that one-up the competition or comfort a friend who’s embarrassed from making an ass of herself. “You think THAT is embarrassing. Let me tell you about the time….”

In the past two weeks, I have watched a camper catch on fire, accidentally posted a swimsuit selfie “before” shot on facebook, ensured Spousal Unit got six stitches in his hand, driven to and from West Virginia, thrown a surprise birthday party for my sister, put a horse on the market, taken a horse off the market, wished a tornado would send the horse to Oz, attended two mindfulness classes, tried to find zen in the art of torching a camper, and well, y’know. Life.

Of all of those stories, Daisy’s near demise from an angle grinder is probably my favorite. Anytime catastrophe looms near and is avoided is a good time.

In our quest for The End of Rotten Wood, we have removed a good portion of Daisy’s rear right side, including the aluminum skin. Daisy is a Jeep Wrangler version of a camper right now. Open to the elements. After peeling off her side, Boy Child discovered that a lot of the floor where wood meets aluminum has rotted and was removing it. All that remained was a stubborn bolt that held nothing to nothing, but would not budge.

Boy Child produced his favorite toy, his angle grinder. That thing scares me only slightly less than his second favorite toy, a motorized bike that he built. (Come to think of it, the mini drone he built scares the bejesus out of me also. I stay afraid. Very afraid.) He put on proper safety equipment, which included hearing protection and set to work grinding the bolt in half.

Like a politically charged dinner conversation, sparks flew. I was about eight feet away ripping apart bunk cushions when I noticed sparks had turned to tongues of flame. “Burning!” I yelped. “Flames! Burning! On fire!”

Boy Child was oblivious, focused on the task of cutting that danged bolt. “She’s on fire!” I hollered, but not too loudly because, neighbors. “Burning! Fire!” It’s my writer’s vocabulary that gives me the upper hand in these situations.

He noticed, threw down the angle grinder and ripped off his earmuffs. “Where’s the kitchen fire extinguisher?” he yelled.

“Behind the washer and dryer!”

He ran toward the house and I began waddling to my car. I keep a fire extinguisher in it. He ran back out. “Where is the kitchen fire extinguisher?”

“Behind the washer and dryer!” I repeated. Isn’t it?

I continued my slow motion penguin run to my car, opened the gate and the dog ran past me. Seriously? You choose NOW for a breakout? I yelled at him, but couldn’t follow. Fire extinguisher. So. Close. I looked over at Daisy where smoke roiled from her and flames shot from her side like a NOS-fueled Camaro. I stopped for a moment, mesmerized, and ever so slightly tempted. Sell the horse. Let the camper burn. Write a novel. I shook myself back to reality and grabbed the fire extinguisher. By the time I got back to Ground Zero, Boy Child had found the fire extinguisher in his own room and was aiming at the flames like Bill Murray’s Ghostbuster shooting his proton beam weapon. Who ya gonna call.

The dog decided that whatever we were doing was FAR more exciting than any stupid squirrel and returned to stand beside me, panting, as if to say, “Well, THAT happened.” Fire extinguisher dust and ashes floated past us.

I’m a pretty tough broad, but I decided this was one time I wanted my honey. I texted him. “Are you busy? Daisy just caught on fire.”

Spousal Unit replied, “Yes. Just ordered my second martini.” I forgot that it was my Patron Saint’s holiday, April Fool’s Day. Bless his heart. He was gonna need a couple of martinis when he realized this was no joke. I laughed so hard I put out the embers with my middle-aged bladder.

Boy Child and I performed an autopsy and discovered that the gray papery stuff layered between the metal chassis and the wood floor, was NOT asbestos, but a half-inch layer of wasp nest that was so old it should have had an historical overlay. That stuff will flat out BURN.

We cleaned up the mess and assessed the situation. We could move ahead. Minimal damage was done to Daisy and I did not need a defibrillator. That is, I didn’t need one until later that day when I discovered I had inadvertently posted a “before” swimsuit pic on facebook without benefit of there being an “after.” So many stories.

Everyday’s a Fool’s Day

IMAG0702I grew up in a family who treated practical jokes as an art form that verged on religion. Zealots that we are, we deemed April 1 the holiest of high holy days and raised the bar each year. As with any family, we all had our roles. My sister and I were the stool pigeons, Daddy the court jester and my mother would just roll her eyes and go back to her ironing.

It started small. These things always do. “Your shoe’s untied.” Sure enough, I would look down at my feet only to realize that I had on flip flops. Stakes raised and the following year somebody’s bed would be short sheeted. Alarm clocks rang at 3 a.m. or the time was changed to read two hours later than it was. Each year, the jokes would get bigger, stronger, faster and the Six Million Dollar joke was always on me.

I could not best my dad. He would fool me year after year, cackling with glee, even over the telephone after I’d move to Nashville and he remained in West Virginia. Until the year of The GMC Truck Recall.

It was the early nineties. Shoulder pads were getting smaller and houses were getting bigger. GMC was making the news because their dual gas-tank pickup trucks were exploding on side impact. It gave Ford lawyers a chance to catch their breath between the grenade known as the Pinto and the rollover-if-you-sneeze-on-it Explorer.

My he-man dad who never worries about anything he’s involved with, (only what his loved ones are up to – yes, Daddy, I know it’s gonna rain in Nashville tomorrow and the roads might be slick because of the oil buildup. I’ll be careful Daddy. I promise) was a little worried. I don’t think he liked the possibility of a t-bone collision cooking him like a t-bone steak.

Being the kind, mature, thoughtful and generous daughter, I am, I saw opportunity and capitalized on the man’s one niggly concern in his whole life, using it against him. I worked at an ad agency at the time. Not only did I have access to skilled artists, but also to demonic sociopaths. I wrote a professionally-worded letter signed by one top GM official named Fie Ree Krash. Artists created a logo. And my poor, unsuspecting dad received a VERY official looking missive detailing how he could get his IED of a truck replaced with a shiny new SAFE one by simply taking it to the dealership.

He did. He, who had never fallen for a “your shoe is untied” in his entire life took the letter to the nearest GMC dealer. He handed it to a guy. Who handed it to a guy. Who cussed and fussed and called HQ. “Why don’t they ever tell us ANYTHING?” Daddy stood to the side, probably sizing up the truck line-up on the lot, picking out a color. The guy cussed and fussed on the phone. Daddy could tell he was going up the food chain. Then, he had an inkling and quit picking out the color he liked best.

Cussin’ fussin’ guy hung up the phone, handed the letter back to my dad and advised him to look at the date on the letter. April 1. Daddy’s inkling was right. They’d been had.

Victory was mine, but it was hollow. Don’t get me wrong. I still throw it in his face, laugh until I’m purple and duck what he throws at me, but it didn’t feel as good as I thought it would. For one thing, that’s it. I will NEVER top that. I am like a high school jock who peaked at 18, never again to relive those glory days. For another, I schooled the teacher. I threw the universe out of alignment. It’s not as much fun as it seems.

This week, our progress on Daisy has been significant. Rotten wood continues to be uncovered and continues to be removed. My menfolk bang, cuss, exclaim, “what the…” and bang some more. I hear Boy Child mutter “The good thing about shitty construction is that it’s easy to take apart.” I tell him to watch his mouth. I don’t care that he said shitty, but Daisy can hear him. She can’t help that she’s a Shasta knockoff and she wasn’t well constructed. We’re here to fix that, not to hurt her feelings.

He keeps on with the smart mouth. “I pulled off the metal siding and Daisy just relieved herself of all this rotten wood. It was like a drunk, just letting go right there in public.”

Boy Child continues, forgetting that I am twice his size and five times meaner. I could sit on his skinny ass and he’d be a greasy spot in the driveway. “Y’know when we first got Daisy, we talked about having Bessie pull her. Bessie is a PACKARD Mom. A PACKARD! Bessie is looking over at Daisy and she’s saying, ‘Oh. I think you need a two-door Chevy for that job.’”

I look over at poor Daisy with her entire side missing and turn back to glare at this human to whom I have given birth and raised. This is obviously his father’s side coming through. And then I smile. And cackle. Maniacally. Perhaps it’s time for his mother’s side to rise from the mists of family lore and continue that which has not been forgotten, but merely waiting for the right opportunity. The universe will realign. I am not sure, yet, what I will do, but it will be glorious. April Fool’s, dear child. April Fool’s.