Stories I Love to Tell
We all have stories, things that have happened to us or near us, that we love to tell and retell. We crack ourselves up with our stories. And laughter is good. So, to remember these good times myself and maybe share a laugh with you, this tab will be for the stories I love to tell, past, present, and future.
The Justification Retrieval
It was the middle of the night. Someone was coughing up a hairball. I know that rhythmic sound. So, I got out of bed and stumbled down the hall, following the tell-tale “rRr rRr rRr kekh, rRr rRr rRr kekh” to spare my housemates finding said hairball with their bare feet in the morning. Down the hall, into the TV room, the sound wasn’t exactly like an unfortunate cat after all. It was more … mechanical. I turned on the light and there, in the middle of the floor, was a laptop coughing up a hairball. I don’t know much about computer health and behavior, but “rRr rRr rRr kekh” is surely a bad sound. I closed the lid and otherwise left it alone. In the morning, I told its master, whom I shall call ’T,’ about the incident. I was right; it was bad. It had been a death rattle in the middle of the night. But it is the natural course of things. We have back-ups of data because Hard Drive Death strikes without warning. Unfortunately, while the data was safe somewhere, the ancient and favorite program was not.
Or was it?! The ground floor of our San Francisco Victorian housed a garage and what we fondly refer to as the Dungeon. The dark and webby space is shared by the 4 owners of the building (I will discuss the bizarre concept of Tenancy In Common at another time), so there are mysterious and decrepit items lurking about. It is the dusty lair of Christmas ornaments, all manner of costumes, furniture that just can’t be let go, kitchen appliances we will “want someday,” and piles of e-waste~ printers for which toner is no longer available, telephones with cords trailing, obsolete computers. My housemate hoards; my man minimizes, and wants others to do the same. There have been numerous and lively discussions on the subject during my time in this homey commune.
When T had assessed the situation after his laptop’s stroke, dismay gave forth to hope as he leapt up with a self-satisfied “Ha!” and headed for the Dungeon. He returned with a positively antique computer under his arm (a 486 maybe?). After dusting it off and making obeisances to the relevant powers that be, he coaxed that hoary old thing back to life. The program was there! He was able to load the program onto another laptop, restore the data from back-up, and Bob’s your uncle. The gloating was thick and exuberant. This victory justified every thing he had ever saved “just in case,” validated his organizational scheme ~which, to the uninitiated, looks like nothing so much as Lots of Stacks Until They Fall Over~ and shelved the conversation of “Why are you keeping that?” forever.
I have a variety of headaches; migraine, tension, and this awful thing that starts in my throat ~the outside, where hands strangle, not the inside where food is swallowed~ and crawls like electrical lava up around the back of my head until it hurts too much to even think about standing up to get the aspirin which will make it go away.
My doctor suggested this could be initiated by reflux, esophageal muscles spasm and move up in a wave. He asked if I’ve ever treated the reflux. I don’t have reflux. He said, “Humor me. Pick up some Maalox and the next time one of these is threatening, take some. See if it helps.” Eww, yuck, it even sounds gross. Fine. I went across to the commissary. Berry flavor. But I’d rather have lemon. Wait. Huh? How do I know they even make lemon and why do I have a preference?
Then the images slowly surfaced, came into focus; college, room mate, refrigerator, doing shots straight from the bottle. We were both trying to swallow some poor decisions, but chalked it all up to standard collegiate stress, self-medicating the self-diagnosed ulcers away.
And when those decisions no longer mattered so much, I completely forgot. Crazy. But I did apologize to the good doctor. And no, it hasn’t helped the headaches.
Double Consonants Matter
The day after we arrived in this country for good (or ill) with our 4 suitcases, 3 words of Italian, and 2 cats, my little old man cat Wordsworth aka Fireproof-Chutney-Bullet Train (later to add Signor Bisogno & International Incident to his resumé) needed medical attention. His backside was raw, bleeding even. With the priceless little English-Italian dictionary from my sister, which would become my constant companion for the next year, I approached the desk clerk at the hotel. Praise be, he spoke enough English to interpret my dismay. That kind man went through the phone book, searching for a veterinarian whom I could reach with my complete lack of personal resources at the time. There was one in Lerici; I could walk there. So I did, immediately, but left Wordsworth in the room as I had no faith that I would actually find this place.
You will be surprised to learn that the Random House Webster’s Pocket Italian Dictionary (Italian-English / English-Italian) does not have as any of its 30,000 Entries the word “anus.” The very word I needed to explain to the nice man what was wrong with my gatto. But being resourceful and desperate, I put together the words for tail and hole, that would be il buco coda, and along with a bit of pantomime got the point across. Yes, yes, the cat would be fine until tomorrow. Bring him ’round in the afternoon. Which he was, and I did, and all was well; I also learned a new word. So, for several weeks after, I kept a close watch on that tail hole to be certain it remained well and happy, not sad and angry as it had been. To make light of the situation and my worry, amongst the family, I was the Happy Tail Hole Inspector.
Fast-forward to the International Women’s Club Christmas Luncheon. As ladies began departing and holiday well-wishing was all around, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, that sort of thing, we most recent expats were gently corrected to be certain to pronounce both N’s in year, Buon Anno ~Americans are shockingly bad at discerning double consonants, who knew?~ otherwise we’d be wishing our friends… hmm, oh how could she put it? It’s not a curse word, but it would be most inappropriate…. er…. it’s a part of the body. Really? But who wouldn’t want to be wished a . . . Happy Tail Hole!
When my mother died, it was as sudden as can be imagined. There were no answers as to why or even how. Her work on this earth must have been complete, but her callings were humble and quiet, always back-stage, so we may never know what, at 75, was that last thing she needed to have done. Her greatest fear was some illness sneaking up on her, taking her independence and leaving her to be a burden to anyone. So, I fully believe God honored that fear and when He was ready to call her home, He did just that. But it left a roaring vacuum in those small spaces she had inhabited, so many questions. But this is simply a bit of background to the Story I Love to Tell:
As we, the family, were going through her things, my father found a little notebook. It was filled, in her hand, with names, dates, places, and events. He was puzzled and concerned. Could she have had a secret life? Was Little Peg Flint working for someone? Had she been … a spy? He brought the notebook to me, wondering if I knew anything about it. I smiled and sighed at the memory. Yes, I’d seen that little notebook before. She kept it near certain novels, Clancy and Ludlum mostly. And she took notes. She loved the intrigue and espionage, but tended to lose track of the characters. This little notebook was full of secrets; just not hers.
An Australian friend here went to the doctor for a minor but bothersome issue with her toes. Il dottore examined her and, in an effort to make her more comfortable, gave his diagnosis in English:
“Madam, you have the mushrooms.” Wait for it. . .
Mushrooms ~ funghi ~ fungus ~ fungal infection! Simple athletes’ foot.
It’s always good for a laugh and fond memories of the repatriated friend.
A Very Short Story with a Joke Inside
My friend, Renata, posted a joke on FaceBook. It goes like this: An indeterminate number of theoretical mathematicians walk into a bar. The first one says, “I’d like a beer.” The second one says, “Half a beer, please.” The third one says, “I’ll have a quarter of a beer.” At this point, the bartender says, “Screw you all,” and pours two beers.
Nerd humor, right? After she posted it, Renata’s nephew made the Comment, “Only an asymptote would tell that joke.” Now that’s funny!
Early on in our stay here, I was picking up Italian only catch as catch can and leaning heavily on my old Spanish. I kept hearing around town what sounded to me like “Limpia gatti.” Odd, knowing gatti are cats and remembering limpiar is to clean in Spanish, it seemed as though there may be some sort of civic cat washing scheme going on. I would warn Mango and Wordsworth not to let any strangers into the flat or they might be very, very sorry kitties.
Time passed and no one showed up to clean my cats. So I asked my friend who leads our Italian Conversation group and possesses excellent English what I should expect from this Limpia Gatti program I was hearing bandied about. She scowled. “No no no. Limpiar means nothing to us. What you are hearing is “Gli impiegati,” the employees.” Ah! I see. The cats would be so relieved.
You may think I was being ridiculous, but then it seemed not at all strange when the Door-to-Door Blessing Salesman came around at Easter. As long as that Holy Water isn’t for washing my cats, I don’t care where you sprinkle it.
Serial Killer at Ocean Cove?
In the lifetime when I lived in San Francisco, my best friend came out to visit and I took her to the North Coast. Room mate was out of town and had left me the keys to his convertible. It’s a gorgeous drive. My Man had been making All Terrain Molly Sue upgrades and I was keen to show off new skills. We camped, slept in a tent, out of doors. That sleeping, however, did not come easily. We’d pitched and gone into the tent well after dark, said “Good night.” But before I could drift off, I heard footsteps: Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. I told myself it was just someone on the path on the other side of the bushes. Then someone went by on the path on the other side of the bushes… much farther away than Crunch. Crunch. Crunch, which resumed momentarily. Right next to us, with nothing more than a paper-thin nylon sheet in the way, I imagined a sharp, jagged, gruesome knife. Sure, it would make the news, but I never intended to bring a friend with me when that time came. I hoped she was asleep, not wide-eyed in terror as I was. But that time didn’t come that night. Eventually I slept… and woke… and debated asking if she had heard anything. Yes, she had heard the footsteps but hadn’t wanted to make a sound. It was definitely within our secluded campsite. Creepy, but we were fine. The car had not been bothered either. In broad daylight, our fear dissipated and we got on about our holiday. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the drive south, back to the City.
Making good time, we stopped in Tiburon to see my friend V on his houseboat. Having a lovely visit, catching up with each other, I was feeling confident enough to relay our frightening episode to him.
He had had a similar experience just the week before! Our little cohort frequently camps in this place for diving and so forth, so he knew the site I had chosen. He had happened to be in the one which backs up to it, beyond a hedge. After having his dinner, camping alone, he was sitting quietly in the dark, enjoying a bit of a night cap, when he heard Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Just as deliberate a step as we had heard. But being more bold than I and in a better position, he turned a flashlight in the direction of the footsteps. Yes, someone was indeed walking toward him, someone very short. Up on two legs, bold as you please, strode a raccoon straight for his pick-nick table. He gave V what was clearly the little thief’s equivalent of the Finger for shining the light in his eyes and surveyed the table at nose-height for anything tasty left over. Finding nothing, he turned and stomped away just as he had arrived.
The Day I Learned to Laugh at Myself
One Saturday morning, after hockey practice in West Palm Beach, we were eating breakfast at Grandma Sarah’s, as usual. I looked up and saw my Jeep… sitting in the middle of the intersection. I had not parked my Jeep in the middle of the intersection. I had parked it in the lot on the other side of the building. I squeaked. I squealed. I babbled and pointed. My companions were baffled. But obviously my car was being stolen! When everyone at the table was craning their heads around to see what I was freaking out about, somebody saw it: in the corner of the room, where the huge plate glass windows met, there was a pillar, a mirrored pillar. So, yes, my car was right where I had left it, approximately 180° from the intersection.
My friends mocked me, and deservedly so, but I was embarrassed and rattled. One friend said, “Come on, you gotta be able to laugh at yourself.” I felt that I was, “Heh heh heh.” But even in my head I sounded like someone I know when she’s not really laughing. And it struck me ~ to be able to really laugh at yourself, it has to be as gut-busting as if whatever it was had happened to someone else. And when it is, the laughter barrels over the embarrassment and the whole episode will just become another story to tell. And when everybody else tells the story, you won’t come out looking like a pinched up old noodge.
When a Friend has Chiggers…
My friend, MMM (name changed to protect … my own hide for telling the story) is a rugged, crusty even, outdoorsman, and very tough. He hunts with a bow, tracks whatever he hits until it is over, and eats everything he brings down. MMM caught chiggers. Well, my roommate was from North Carolina. They know from chiggers. And in case you don’t, they’re creepy little parasites that get under the skin and itch like mad. So what you have to do is suffocate the little beasts. But MMM didn’t happen to have any nail polish (not that his toenails have never been painted, but that’s a story for another day). However, wax should accomplish the same thing! Sure, just light up a candle. But it’s difficult to drip wax precisely onto the backs on one’s own legs. And being so helpful as I am, I was happy to oblige. Of course hot wax, especially white candle wax, is mighty uncomfortable, but not so much as chiggers, so MMM bore up stoically. I only snickered… a little… to myself. And when the process was finished, the itching was less… or perhaps the burning was just more. Anyway, I was glad to help.
When I got home and told the roommate what I remembered he’d said about chiggers and their treatment … well, as it turns out they don’t get under the skin and stay there. They bite and move on. Ooops. And Oh My! And That’s Really Funny! But as I was laughing myself silly, roommate felt morally compelled to call MMM and tell him not to do that any more; it’s no cure; it’s not even a proper folk remedy.
I had to lay low for a while.