Thursday, February 28, 2008

“Hep Me. Hep. Me.”

You know how, every night when you’re asleep, there’s the possibility that a mouse will crawl down your throat and suck the very breaf out of your body?

Now imagine a critter that’s 23 times as big as a mouse, one that doesn’t restrict itself to the obvious throatal orifice.

Picture Big Evil with Fangs and a Plan and a Collar, roaming loose in your house, eyeing every one of your inviting orifii and salivating.

For me, there’s no imagination required. I lived with it for five months when I was 24.

No, Chachi. It was not Anne Rice.

It was a ferret. And it was skank on wee paws; it was malignant fur that slunk through the shadows like Jack the Ripper playing Ghost in the Graveyard.

When I agreed to live with two gals in a cabin outside of Boulder, Colorado, part of the deal was that the ferret would have a cage. In my mind, that cage would be a welded thing, soldered of krypton and tooth enamel and diamonds. It would be built without an exit. It would be indestructible, and my personal safety and happiness would remain intact, unmolested.

Naturally, though, the ferret’s owner proved to be unreliable, lacking follow-through. Or, as some of her closest friends described her with a loving chuckle, she was a raving bitch-whore of a psychotic git.

Plus, sometimes, even in icy conditions, she exceeded the speed limit.

So there was no cage. The other roomie and I tried to build one when I first moved in; with great vigor, we stacked some boards, found hammers, and stretched out chicken wire. But then the ferret sat down near the nails, giving us no choice but to go out for enchiladas.

As a result, my months in that house were spent in constant mid-alert terror. I took to new heights the cliché about women going to the bathroom together, as I clung to the side of Nice Roomie, mirroring her every move. Damn, but we were jiggy when she did her step aerobics videotape. Bathtime wasn’t bad, either.

Nice Roomie served as the physical barrier between me and the Slinking Evil. If It crept near, she’d pick It up and hurl It towards the loft or lock It in the bathroom (where, surely, it sucked on our toothbrushes). As well, she’d warn me when I was about to step, unwittingly, into one of its pretzel-shaped fecal deposits—calling cards left randomly ‘round the house.

But then one day.

I came home from one of my jobs (nanny of two; taker of phone orders for personalized mail labels; administrative assistant at the National Center for Atmospheric Research), and no one else was home.

I didn’t realize this at first, but then the theme from Jaws spontaneously started playing on the stereo. Treading cautiously, afraid of trodding on an ire-filled shark in the living room, I looked around for Roy Scheider.

When neither he nor the ferret appeared, I relaxed and greeted Lakota, the wolf that also shared the cabin with us (species factoids: while wolves are terrific at killing household mice and leaving their body parts strewn around the kitchen, they are even more adept at biting in half 12 hummingbirds in one hour, should your avian-loving self hang up bird feeders on the side of the house; even better, if you let a semi-domesticated wolf out to roam the mountainside for a few hours, he just might come back from his hunt with a greasy skillet clamped in his jaws).

Ferret free and feeling modern and English, I climbed the stairs to my bedroom, humming the chorus from “I’ll Stop the World and Melt with You.” Of course, I knew the ferret was out there somewhere, and although denial can create a force field around one’s mind, it can’t actually create one around a bedroom.

Don’t I know it.

In addition to the mental force field, I also created a physical defense that night, since my bedroom had no door, by stacking a heap of furniture in the doorway. There, hunkered down in my bunker, I was secure in the knowledge that no members of the polecat family, such as a fer—


I made that half-strangled noise that women make when all air exits the bosom, kind of like Pamela Anderson did when she got her implants removed. Before she had them put back in.

A beat later, full-monty-shrieks erupted, as I scanned the room for an exit. Ferret had Door. I had, ummmmm, I had…

No. Option. There I was, trapped on my bed, in full banshee mode. I threw a hairbrush at It. I hucked a pillow at It. Desperate, I whaled the clock radio at It.

What a suck of a time to throw like a girl.

Foul Fur just stood on top of the furniture, unruffled, staring at me. Slowly, though—


It focused on my rapidly-beating heart…and It began the descent, moving on tiny claws towards me, traversing the 9 feet between us…

Frantically, looking around for one last missile to lob, I tried unscrewing my head from my body. Although it remained attached, I gave myself one hell of a free spinal adjustment (bonus!).

Ever closer, the demon edged closer…

Until it stopped, squatted, and made a perfectly-symmetrical pretzel on the carpet, right next to my copy of Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses.

I may be phobic, but I’m not entirely without wits. Two seconds of pretzel-making were long enough for me to hurdle the Evacuating Beast, dash down the stairs, and jettison out of the cabin, where I secreted my well-aligned body in the backseat of my Honda Accord and locked the doors against further assault. (As part of the ruse they perpetuate on humanity, ferrets like to pretend they can’t handle keys with their little feet)

In the car, crumpled and wan, I slept until 3 a.m., at which time I was jarred to wakefulness by the bewildered faces of my drunken roommates staring at me through the hatchback.

Woefully, that’s my last memory of those two ladies. After assuring me the coast was clear, they went in the house, cranked some aspirin and Vitamin B, tussled into some jammies, and hit their beds.

Whereupon the ferret crawled down their throats and stole the very breaf from their bodies.

Me? I went and got an oil change at the all-night Lift ‘N Lube.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"Thursday Night Live"

Had it not been for the two drinks in July
rum/ginger ale/lime concoctions (aka the "Dark 'N Stormy")

Downed before my pal Jim
over for dinner that night--crispy pork bits on rice

Said, "So some of us were talking"
a gaggle of clackers at the college

"And we think you'd be a good co-chair for the division"
Liberal Arts & Sciences

I would not have had to use the bathroom
a damned place, for the toilet could hardly be bothered to flush

Where I had a few quiet moments to think
holding the handle down and down some more on the toilet, despairing of ever saying adieu to that paper

"I can't believe it, but I think I've reached a pivotal moment in my career"
after seventeen years of teaching writing to people who don't read

"Because I'm actually considering crap meetings as an alternative to working with quite so many students"
'tho some appreciative "A"-earners bring me truffles

"So this would seem to be a moment of tipping the balance"
for I would consider being admin's bitch preferable to grading my 11,307th comparison/contrast essay

The paper finally swirled away, and I'd made a choice
the least of which was to get a new toilet

Sure. I'd swap out 4 credits of teaching load each semester to feign interest in the running of the college
a choice that put me down to a mere 165 students in the Fall

And due to those rum drinks and the paper that wouldn't flush
we got a new toilet by the way, and I have named it Serge and gifted it with a sceptor

I was in a meeting last Thursday with my dean and co-chair
she of the natural sciences, the yang to my humanities-ish yin

It was a meeting that went on for an hour and a half
thanks to a gossipy aside about a vice president

Which meant that I didn't get back up to my office until after 4
still hadn't logged in to my online classes to read 142 messages about Tim O'Brien's TOMCAT IN LOVE and to grade 12 new Brief Summary Reports

Which meant that I didn't get out of my office until after 5
with a caffeine headache cracking my head open

In turn, I was then not on the treadmill at the Y
what? it was -12 outside

Until 5:30, and by the time I'd run and lifted weights and worked the abs
fat lot of good it does me

I really needed a shower
as a service to my public (yea, that's right "public," with an "l")

And once I'd showered
alongside a doctor who used to be in my yoga class and who used to be an anorectic but has tamed it to compulsive exercising

And dried my hair
what? it was -12 outside

It was nearly 7:30
Webkinz time at home for the kiddles; Groom logging in DinkoJunior, as Niblet gets hung up after typing the J-U

Sadly, I'd forgotten that the Holiday Inn parking ramp outside the Y locks the convenient door by that time of night
it's a questionable ramp at any hour

Which made me huff and stomp and head for the far-away entrance
which doesn't have stairs, so I had to take the elevator up one floor

But at least I got to review the Inn's lunch menu for the week, conveniently posted inside the elevator
potato soup on Wednesdays

And when I stepped outside the elevator, pushed through the door, and stepped into the poorly-lit concrete ramp
what was that, squishing under my feet?

I looked up in time to see a college-aged lad heading my way
not one of my students, Praise Plato, but he looked glassy-eyed and on his way to the next happy hour

Leading a man in a navy blazer
Dad buys the next round?

With a good haircut

Distinctive frames
seen them before

"Hiiiii," my voice greeted him, familiarly, as I gave him a warm grin
I do that best with strangers

"Hello," he responded, seeming to think about relaxing his shivering posture and removing his hands from his pockets
what? it was -12 outside

As though he wanted to shake my hand, as though he was alert for further engagement
I do that best with strangers

But I kept walking
burning off 2 more calories

Until a beat later I realized my missed chance
if it's not a poo in the woods, it's a handshake in a parking ramp

To claim a minute with the man in the navy blazer
it was Al Franken

Full of shucks, all I could do was go home and mix up a Dark 'N Stormy
fitting tribute to the man who delivered "A Lime-O for the Lame-O"

And think about the impending pleasure of casting my airy American vote for Stuart Smalley
i'm good enough, i'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Shameless Plug"

No, not like the ones on Elton John's head. This is a different kind of plug.

There's a new online humor magazine that just launched its first issue this week. It's called the Clay Pigeon, and its puppetmaster is Diesel over at the Mattress Police, head puppet designer is Joel Bezaire from Crummy Church Signs, designer of puppet costumes (most noteworthy was his Heidi outfit for a particularly skanky-looking old sock puppet; as it turns out, a dirndl is the ultimate anti-skanker) is Frogster from The Frog Bog blog...

and polisher of the puppets' shoes is me. Mmmm. Shoes.

We've got a couple other puppeteers hitting the work room in future weeks, too. Get your clapping hands ready.

This magazine is an amalgamation of new material and already-published posts from a variety of contributors. If you ever encounter a particularly funny post in the blogosphere, by the way, please let me know! The Clay Pigeon is all about promoting good satire, Potsy.

Unlike most of my sprawling hoo-haws here at O Mighty Crisis, this post is brief. Use the twelve extra minutes you'd allotted--for reading about the toe-nail polish choices of my adolescence--to head over to Clay Pigeon and give it a looksie, woncha?

Hopefully, you'll find the site worth bookmarking or blogrolling or tattooing onto your left bicep. With so much good stuff all pulled into one weekly edition, it'll save you enough blog trolling time that you'll soon be able to, um,

wade through that Kierkegaard on the nightstand.

Or read more blogs.

The Clay Pigeon

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Mama's Best Advice: 'Do It Naked'"

My mom gifted me with lots of things in my youth: flute lessons, bassoon lessons, piano lessons, ballet lessons, the old Nissan Stanza, her recipe for beef stroganoff, a deep loathing of my body, a fondness for the ocean. Human nature being what it is, however, I've also decided that my parenting should compensate for certain things my childhood lacked--I should, in this round of fetching 'em up, make recompense for the Things Mom Never Told Me.

Thus, while still dropping my kid off at ballet lessons (he does love a pink leotard), I will take the parenting a step further and be sure to pass on to my progeny the advice that I wish Me Dear Old Ma had imparted. Specifically, I will be sure to tell them:

1) The ultimate in outdoor entertainment is not acting out the Donnie and Marie show on ice skates. It's also possible to be a little bit outdoorsy, a little bit country, and quite a bit rock 'n roll while doing things like grilling pork or rolling old tires through the garden.

2) When you see the letters "MVSEVM" chiseled into an old building, it's not actually pronounced "MUV-ZEE-VUM." Instead, them is old-fashioned letterings for "MEW-ZEE-UM," which is where The Smartie Richies keep the dinosaur bones and gold. Now git in there and fill up this bag. Mama's collection needs an Allosaurus furcula!

3) In sixth grade, when the father of one of your classmates comes to the school claiming to be a "scientist" and gives the assembled eleven-year-olds a presentation about the mystical powers of pyramids--having you hold your arm up and out to the side while he pushes on it...and then having you hold it up and out to the side while holding a little pyramid in your hand only to discover he has a distinctly-more-difficult time pushing on it--feel free to mess with him and start hollering, "My arm! My arm! That big man hurt me when he pushed so hard! The tip of the pyramid pierced my ligament, and now I think I need to skip the Presidential Physical Fitness Test today, except maybe the Standing Broad Jump, which doesn't so much involve arm ligaments!" If you need to bump up the drama from there by taking your little show to the nurse's office and having her call me, I promise I'll come pick you up in my two-toned station wagon. Meet me out front by the big grey boulder. I'll slow it down to 10 mph; you and your pierced ligament can hop through the open window.

4) If, in your mid-twenties, Your Long-Time Man announces, "You always say you love me, but I'm not sure I love you," the correct response is not, "Yea, that sounds about right." The correct response is, "Well, then, buy me more stuff. I am easily distracted by baubles and Picassos."

5) When an ad tells you a new deodorant is "revolutionary," that doesn't mean it comes packaged with a musket.

6) Chlamydia is not a rare orchid.

Despite wishing I'd been armed with these nuggets of knowledge earlier in life , I do have to give my mom a hugenormous shout-out for handing me one of the best pieces of advice ever: Always bleach naked.

The other night, as always, I forgot to heed her wisdom, and I unscrewed the cap of the Tide Bleach Pen fully clothed.


My intent was to turn the Girl's pink and white winter coat back to, er, something like pink and white. A winter full of slamming that coat against a dirty jungle gym (dirty jungle gym antics are also a moonlighting gig of mine, incidentally) has rendered the thing dingy, crusted, and leathery. What better, Rapt Readers, than a careful whisk with a Tide Bleach Pen, a thorough soaking in Oxyclean, a deep rinse in Borax Mule-Team Brightener, plus another soaking in Oxyclean to transform it into--crap on a cracker--a garment that is only minimally less dingy, crusted, and leathery?

At any rate, I was optimistic, but not nekkid. Poorly played on my part.

Instead, during the multi-step achromatizing operation, I sported a sassy chocolate brown zip-up-the-front hooded cardigan, one that now sits, riddled with white bleach spots, in a plastic bag labeled "Goodwill Donations."

More frankly, it sits in a plastic bag. Wouldn't it be something if I were the type to make a label?

Should Goodwill refuse my donation, screeching "We actually need things in wearable condition" as it hurls the unlabeled bag back towards my speeding car (30 mph in the parking lot; windows up), I daresay I'll have to find other uses for my now-ruined brown cardigan:

1) Draping it over my poo mounds in the woods, thereby making my natural heaps look twenty-seven times larger and infinitely more intimidating (or enticing) to passing snowmobilers and bike commuters.

2) Using it to strain vermicelli as the noodles hover on the precipice of al dente. Of late, our colander has been taking up too much room in the cabinet, elbowing the pots and pans quite aggressively. But a speckled hoodie is passive--infinitely adaptable to space. I could crumple the thing and store it inside the food processor, alongside my stash of Robitussin.

3) Stuffing it down the throat of the kid who called my Niblet "fat" and "ugly" last summer. Brown is the new gag.

4) Gently wrapping my new boxed set of My So-Called Life in it and burying the whole thing in the backyard, under a full moon, sacrificing a squirrel and incanting the 14-year-old Claire Danes to star in at least eight more episodes before growing up and dating that wanker Billy Crudup who, for Claire, abandoned the knocked-up Mary Louise Parker (little-known fact: the sound of her water breaking masked the little snapping sound a heart makes as it breaks). That's all my cardigan and I want: just eight more episodes with teen-phenom Danes and a chance for Brian Krakow to go to prom with Angela Chase.

5) Cloaking Barack Obama in it to make him more appealing to African-American voters. Between Ofrey's endorsement and my sweater's browning abilities, he might just convince them he's black. Plus, his wearing a woman's sweater would clearly signal that Obama is unafraid to bring change to the White House.

Should none of these alternate uses take hold, I can, of course, always take my mother's other piece of clothing-related advice: when in doubt, give it to your daughter and make her wear it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

"Golden Plates: Tarnished"

Yesterday, I watched voyeuristically as my country acted the john to another media-Hallmark-florist-driven whore of a holiday. Having steered clear of the entire transaction myself, I had plenty of time to muse on the fact that it was a mutual-antipathy of VD that first watered the love blooming between Groom and me.

Oh, plus he owned a silver Honda hatchback, and I sported some fierce Dee Snyder spiral-perm curls. Those were also part of the initial shizzbang.

And we both liked toast.

Now, nine years later, the Honda has hit the road; the curls have curled up and died; the toast is toast; but, proudly, the antipathy pathies on.

Indeed, the grumpy question around our house is why do we need a day about celebrating love, when love is all around, no need to waste it? Mos' def, we've always had a feeling we just might make it after all.

And yet. A recent interaction between Groomeo and me indicated that it might be time to starch my crinolines and rub a burnt match along my eyebrows, lest he stray West:

It was night, dark, but not stormy. For the second time in two years, we were watching public television's documentary about the Mormons. This documentary is so hot, so smart, so sizzlin' that it completely puts PBS's special on home funerals in the corner. This documentary has some seriously smart talking heads in it, to the point that David Byrne should just crawl over into the corner, too, and commiserate with the home funeral program about what it feels like to be such losers. By the time the Mormon talking heads are done with you, you'll be swearing the state of Utah needs to get some testicles, revert to open polygamy, and go back to living The Principle.

As the show lead into a not-a-commercial commercial, it snagged viewers with a teaser of what was to come in the next segment, which would explore the role Mormon women play in the church and in family life. The voiceover tantalized:

"The Mormon woman has long conveyed an image of perfection: she makes cookies, she always looks beautiful and impeccably groomed, she greets the world with an enormous beaming smile--"

Ever quippy, I interrupted, "Ohmigod, I'm totally a Mormon woman."

Quite agreeably, Groom patted my arm with his Mitt and noted, "Yea, you do make cookies."

Slap that on a card and lick it shut, Hallmark.

And if Groom ever leaves me for a lovely Mormon homemaker named Bev, I'm going to leave him right back for my Fine Gay Boyfriend, Bob Mould:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Uno, Deux, Trois, Cinq, Sept"

Over the course of my adolescence, our family hosted seven French students for "a delightful summer abroad." They would get on a plane in Paris and fly to Montana where they would disembark, their necks wrapped in scarves, their mouths smoking Gaulloises. Then, with a slow exhale, they would stare, in shock, at the hicks milling around the Billings airport (who were, after all, wearing scarves--bandanas--around their necks and smoking--Marlboro Reds). C'était un nouveau monde entier for the poor Froggies. Standing there on top of the Rimrocks, they were clearly, assuredly, crushingly, not within a beret's toss of a good baguette.

The first French student we hosted was Frederico, who, strangely, was Mexican. There must have been a mix-up in the paperwork. Or maybe he was undocumented entirely. All I know is he had cute curls, wore a striped shirt sometimes and--oh, yes he did--brought us a sombrero. Had he tucked a bottle of Kaluha into that sombrero, I would have dubbed him perfecto.

The second summer's hosting brought us sixteen-year-old Jean-Pierre, he of the pencil-thin mustache and after-dinner cigarettes out by the roses. Standing there, puffing, he undoubtedly stared at the big sky and mused, "Zose potato streeps zey served pour le diner are faux. Zey are not one beet French. But I weel have more tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, for the grease is très comme une drogue, and I find I must have it." The highlight of his stay was perhaps the night my brother broke J-P's nose during a tutorial in The Hottest Moves of World Wide Wrestling. Later, after a trip to the emergency room, J-P and his love of ska introduced us Ozzy lovers to the madness of "One Step Beyond" and a new way of waggling our legs on the dance floor (by the tv in our den). Little known fact: such cultural exchange also played a major role in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase.

Shortly after shaking hands, James Monroe and Barbe Marbois were hoisted into the air by Toots & the Maytals, whereupon the entire crowd broke into a tri-corned remix of "Pressure Drop"

Our third Frenchie was Marjorie, who sported a Flock of Seagulls haircut and labeled me très sympathique. I will always remember how my dad and I took her on a road trip to Chicago (long story: we were actually picking up my sister and brother at the airport there, after they came home from living in France with host families...and, of course, the closest airport to central Montana is O'Hare); the road trip coincided with Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding, which meant Marjorie and I, sharing a bed at a Budget Host Motel in Des Plaines, clutched sweaty palms at 6 a.m. as we watched the exchange of vows. And how could we not weep a bit in the presence of such genuine and lasting love? Also memorably, Marjorie's father was a chef in Reims, and she brought aprons and some nice scarves as gifts. Had she rolled a bottle of red Coteaux Champenois into one of those scarves, I would have labeled her parfait.

Our fourth student was, um, Piquequinque, thusly named because I have no recollection of a fourth student, and I'm starting to think we didn't actually host seven students but maybe more like five, but I've always told people "My family hosted seven French students when I was growing up," and if the fact that one of those seven was Mexican has never slowed me down, then I don't know why I would let the fact that there were maybe only five stop me either. So I maintain Piquequinque came, and s/he was terribly homesick and droopy until my sister taught him/her how to play Clue. Once there was candlestick in the conservatory and a wrench in the billiard room, the summer days shone un nouveau genre de soleil dans le coeur de poor Piquequinque.

Fifth came Hervé, a techno-musicophile who gifted us with Jean Michel Jarre albums, albums that tested our good will mightily, forcing us to paste a smile on our collective face and gasp phrases like, "Well, I'll be. Is there anything a synthesizer can't do?" Hervé's precision cut, incidentally, was this


A summer later, we flung open our doors to fourteen-year-old Sophie, who was, memorably, from a region of France. And she had braids.

The only possible encore to a wild show like Sophie was, um, Pippi. Much like her cousine Piquequinque, Pippi didn't really exist; however, to prop up my memory of seven students, not a mere five, she is here today. Boy, I'll never forget her red Converse high-tops. Even better, side-stepping quarantine laws, she brought a monkey with her (one Mr. Nilsson) and did this amazing party trick where she had a horse stand on a wooden door and then would lift it above her head. Once, she asked to borrow my bike. Hoping that she would, in return, let me accompany her to the South Seas to find her long-lost father, I let her.

With all of these students, from Frederico to Pippi, our family did its best to show them the major sights and sites of the Wild West. They toured Boot Hill cemetery, the old pioneer cabin by the airport (what a convenient first stop, once they had alighted from the plane and put out their cigarettes!), and the Little Bighorn Battlefield, at that time named after the pudding-head of a general who had been routed there in 1876, a flan-follicled man called Custard.

But in between? Lots of down time. Lots of "What the hell do we bored kids do with the Frenchie while Mom and Dad are at work? Sure, there's always 'Beverly Hillbillies' re-runs, but the constant translation of phrases like 'Yee-haw' and 'cement pond' gets old."

What to do? What to do?

Fortunately, local radio stations often teamed up with car lots for mutual promotion. The radio jocks from KBear, 97.1 on the FM dial, would back the station's van up to an open spot on the car lot and do a live broadcast from the van, alternately playing "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer" by Kim Carnes and Kenny Rogers and shouting out plugs to "Come on over to Rimrock Pontiac-Cadillac before 3 p.m. today and grab a free hot dog and Pepsi!"

So we did. One hot July afternoon, with no other way to amuse Jean-Hervé-erico, my brother, sister, and I extended the ultimate in American hospitality. We got him the hot dog. We showed him the cars. He had a Pepsi. We bobbed our heads to Kim and Kenny.

Now, twenty-five years later, all I have to say is,

Suck on that, Sarkozy, you pretentious pâté mucher. Stuff that in your goose and smoke it.

We took your people. We made them sleep in a waterbed. Moreover, in perhaps the most inequitable cultural exchange since the Americas exported the potato to Ireland and Ireland countered with Michael Flatley, our French students gave us Hermès scarves, and we fed them Oscar Mayer.

C'est la vie, muchacho.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

"My Funny Valentine"

Dear Bicycle Commuter Rocketing Off the Trail by Crosley Street at Dusk:

You will never know how close you came to a kismetical meeting with the Love of Your Life tonight.

That unmet L.o.Y.L.? Me.

So focused were you on getting home after a long day at the--what?--H & R Block that you didn't even see me coming, didn't even notice The Future in a Pair of Running Tights barreling towards you, didn't even register that my strides were occasionally punctuated by a sexy gut clutch. No, you were all about the blinking red light on the back of your bike; the rubber bands saving your pants from their fate as derailleur fodder; the bungee cord strapping your briefcase onto the rack in the back.

Yoo-hoo! Honey? I have a rack in the front. And you missed out on it entirely. So absorbed were you, I can only imagine you must have been mentally pre-heating your microwave for the Hot Pocket earmarked as "Wednesday's Dinner." But Lance? Sweet Lance? If you'd only slowed down, you could have become my personal Hot Pocket and I your buffet for life.

When you zipped out of the wooded trail like that--dreaming of a stuffed sandwich cooked in a "crisping sleeve"--you cut off our potential intersection, our chance to fulfill a destiny. I was heading straight for that trail and those woods, Lance, as I clutched my intestines.

If you'd come along ten seconds later, our future "Love at First Sight" story, one that would have been recounted ad infinitum during Scrabble tournaments with the neighbors, would have involved me, in the woods, crouching beneath a tree, pants down, charmingly making an orificial offering. The envoy to the telling of Our Story, of course, would have been: Some things can't be stopped--can they, darling?--and when it's time, it's time.

Unfortunately, tonight was not our time. Woefully, if you'd simply stopped for a quick drink of water on the way home, or checked your Civil War Re-Enacters' list-serve emails one more time at the office...if you'd just delayed your journey by a mere ten seconds, Lance, you would have, Hosannah on the Highest, encountered my pasty white buttocks reflecting off the moonlit crust of snow--and this, in turn, would have sent you toppling madly over the romantic precipice d'Amour as, with crashing insight, you apprehended what a rare broad you'd lit upon.

So much could have been gleaned about your future wife from that brief encounter, if only you'd lifted your head from the handlebars, Lance. Specifically:

1) She eats her recommended daily servings of fruit.

2) She runs. And sometimes she has them. But not tonight, praise granola, not tonight. Tonight was more of a well-controlled, artfully-constructed valentine in the snow. Had she known your name, Lance, she would have added it in as a final touch--in cursive. She can do that. How flat your future will be for having missed this Hot Pocket-Free Mess.

3) She is a creative problem solver. From your perch on the bike seat, you easily would have born witness as she troubleshot the "what to use as Nature's toilet paper when all leaves are covered by a foot of snow?" dilemma. How you would have smiled, chortled, clapped even, to see her pack icy snowball after icy snowball and vigorously apply them to her nethers. That's the kind of thinking that keeps a relationship spicy, decade after decade.

4) She is environmentally conscious. In fact, when she's not blazing every light in the house and driving the mini-van to Target to buy Little Debbies, she is--clearly--a devoted composter. Moreover, come Spring, a single brave tendril shall unfurl from a certain spot just off the trail in the woods by Crosley Street. Your near-wife renews the earth. That could have been our spot, our tendril.

5) She is a developer. Look at how she laid track there over top the bare trail. Now that's progress.

6) She's already married. Even a bulky helmet couldn't block the glint of her wedding ring as she scratched away at the birch tree next to her, considering the bark's advantages over the snowball's as a posterior cleanser. Yes, Lance, as the ring on her finger indicates, this woman knows how to commit, and she's not afraid to open her heart to the emotional potential of Hot Pockets a Deux. She'd have ridden tandem with you, Lance, off into what remained of the sunset. Her first husband would have understood; he would have filled the marital void by going to see Juno and chow on a bag of popcorn, size large (free refills).

However, as with so many great love stories, and so many drunken wedding nights, you were about ten seconds too early, Lance. The universe threw us towards each other tonight, but we fumbled the opportunity--and the universe, disgusted with our abuse of its plan, retreated, pouted, and moped on a futon for three hours. Then it logged on to E-bay and bid on a vintage Fisher Price airport.

The universe, in its infinite wisdom, knows shopping is always the best therapy.

Thus, tonight: the universe made a bid; you made "Deal or No Deal"; I made a poo.

Had we connected there in the woods (next to the steaming chocolate heart) and fallen in love (over a set of symmetrical white buttocks) and dated briefly (three pints at The Brewhouse, tops) before marrying barefoot at Machu Picchu with my current husband officiating (he has a license from the back of Rolling Stone), just know this, Lance:

I would always, always have referred to you, with a small quiver of love in my voice,


Husband Number Two.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Three a.m.: The Onamotapeiac Hour"

A thump.

A creak.

A scratch.

A splat.

Then the whisk of our duvet being flung open as Groom garbled, "Whaat und whooo huh? Fonzi hug me? Is someone there? Someone? Did someone just vomit in the hall?"

By the end of that string of kerflabble, I had been yanked from blissful black to adrenalized alertness. If it's mid-winter, and a splat has been heard on floorboards in the middle of the night, then vomit is (literally) afoot. Groom was already heading towards the source as I shook my brain into a semblance of sense and leapt out into the 54 degrees of House at Night. Three seconds later, I was up to speed and ready to wrangle.

I may have trouble feeding the children with regularity, but I am ever Barf's handmaiden.

As Team Groggy Parent careened into the hallway, we encountered a shivering Girl, riveted there in the hall, staring in awe at the offering pooled around her feet. Respectfully, we all took a quiet moment to admire her artistry--a vivid palette of red and maroon and burnt sienna, all heaved so effortlessly onto the oak. Had we the fortitude, we would have let the pile dry onto the boards for a few days, carefully excised them from the surrounding floor, hung a hook on the back, and driven the whole thing down to a gallery in the tourist center of the city; properly lit, this piece could have garnered us a cool three hundred. Out-of-towners, up The Shore for the weekend, eager to purchase an example of local talent, would surely have appreciated the cachet of displaying Girl's Pukescape in the foyer. They would have paid. Oh, yes, they would have paid.


However, Groom and I always get reactive around heaps of hurl; the art world will survive the loss. Groom threw on a shirt (hazmat suit) and began the mop-up. Even as I shouldered the strenuous shift of Girl Cuddling and Temp Taking, I managed to point out, helpfully, "You know, we have five nice things in this house. Three of them are the washcloths you're using."

His voice irrationally pinched for someone doing nothing more than squatting on the floor at 3 a.m., wiping up someone else's spew, Groom replied, "They're doing the job, and we can wash them when I'm done."

True 'nuf, Galahad. I suppose we could, even though those three washcloths, along with the Kitchenaid mixer and the vintage Schwinn in the garage, constituted our children's inheritance. But wouldn't it have been easier if we had had urp-rags at the handy upstairs, so that we never again would have to misuse the very goods that might help finance the kids' college tuition?

Hold your answer. It may come in handy in about six paragraphs. As you strive to keep your thoughts in check, picture us wiping, rinsing, medicating, patting, tossing, and then, back in bed at last, turning for another hour and half before we could get the stench out of our nostrils long enough to cop a dozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzze once again.

Later the next day, and I'm going to call it Thursday, Groom came home from the gym. Normally, Groomeo is not a gym fan (he'd have to be big and industrial, if he were, with a head that didn't tire of rotating gently throughout the humid summer months), as he believes bodies in motion should traverse natural spaces and actually cover Point A, the inbetween, and eventually Point B--not so much the same six-foot treadmill belt ninety kwathajillion times. However, he's had to concede that the pool at the gym works better for swimming than the running trails around the city do, especially after he almost lost a hand in '03 doing the breast-stroke up a particularly rocky and steep path. Since then, all his swims are carried out in open water, which, when it's 40 degrees below zero and all the world is ice, means the gym.

Plopping down his bag on the kitchen floor, he announced, "So, I went ahead and signed up for that 'Couch Potato Triathlon' they're doing this month at the Y."

Clearly, there was only one possible reaction: "Evil Pod Martian, I am going to tell you this once and only once: I'm going to need my real husband returned to me before dinnertime tonight--because he cooks the dinner, and I'm already feeling a might peckish. So give him back NOW, or I will squash you like a walnut between the nutcrackers that are my thighs. And don't try to pass off yet another of your clearly-flawed clones of him. Return the one who told me the other day, when I asked if he'd ever spend an evening with fellow voters, 'I'd go for a two hour run, but I'd never spend two hours caucusing, stuck there in a place with strangers, having to pretend I could stand them.' That's the man I want back, not this defective 'I'm-a-joiner' copy you're trying to pawn off on me now."

"No, really, Joce, it's really the real me, and I did sign up. I decided it would give me some motivation to swim more, and I've been wanting to bike more, and all I'll have to do as part of the 'triathlon' is log my miles each time I go in."

I perked up. "Plus, I'll bet there's a fine reward at the end, inn't there? Not a trophy, not a medal, not a plaque. You're going to get saddled with your 223rd race t-shirt, aren't you, for doing this Sofa Tater doohickie? And really, hasn't your closet been needing yet another too-long cotton shirt with a poorly-designed graphic on the front? Weren't you just saying the other day you've been needing a man blouse that prominently features a spud reclining in a La-Z-Boy?"

"Well," he responded, "it's not like I have to wear the dumb t-shirt. I mean, we always need rags..."

...and with those words, a blinding flash of illumination knocked us both to the linoleum, where we lay stunned, flattened, wondering why we don't sweep more often.

Yes, we always need rags.

Especially in the mid-winter months.

When dinners involving kidney beans and tomatoes go splat in the night.

At the moment of this illumination, things suddenly got all sciencey. See, the universe is a place of exquisite elegance: in an ecological system, a need is sensed, and, providentially, something arises to meet that need. In the biological world, this mutually-benefical reciprocity is called "co-evolution." (And, yes, that is the one thing I know about the biological sciences since the sole time I ever took biology was in the 7th grade; sure, we pinned down some worms and dissected the fetal pig and all that year, but mostly I remember the teacher, Mr. Leland, ran into some trouble for liking to cozy up to the nubile lads in the class. Me, he never gave a second glance. That's why I hadn't even heard the term co-evolution until last week, when Groom told me about it. That one? He glances twice, even thrice, at me, so I remain his diligent student.)

In case you need something more technical than what I gleaned from Mr. Leland and his substitute teacher, Naturalist Groom, The Wikipiddle blathers this: "In biology, co-evolution is the mutual evolutionary influence between two species. Each party in a co-evolutionary relationship exerts selective pressures on the other, thereby affecting each others' evolution. Examples of co-evolution include pollination of Angraecoid orchids by African moths. These species co-evolve because the moths are dependent on the flowers for nectar and the flowers are dependent on the moths to spread their pollen so they can reproduce. The evolutionary process has led to deep flowers and moths with long probosci."

Mmmmm. Long probosci. Rock it, Mr. Leland.

Oh, but, er, to refocus. Furniturial Triathlete Groom and I had been licking the tiles in the kitchen, illuminated. Even after we closed the refrigerator door, bidding adieu to the 40-watts of helpful light, the idea remained. We found ourselves crawling across an historical moment of adaptive co-evolution.

This is why we have hired a contractor to build a small glass case into the wall upstairs, just outside the kids' room. In that case, behind the glass pane (to be broken only in the case of emergency), there will be a hook. And on the hook will dangle the Couch Potato Triathlon t-shirt, waiting to fulfill its destiny, poised to leap into the next