The Streak, Part I

skating rink

 

Summer, 1974.

Or thereabouts. It was either that summer or the next, making me either 9 or 10 years old. The exact time frame is a little hazy, but I remember a certain song playing on the radio all summer. A quick check of the Billboard charts shows that “The Streak” came out in ‘74, so I’m fairly certain it was that summer, but maybe not. You see, this was Tulsa, Oklahoma. We were always a little behind the times. There are some folks in that state TODAY who still don’t realize that the Civil War is over.

Anyway, it’s summer. Lately, Mom had been running around with her best friend at the time, Sharon. Both of them were recently divorced, both of them were a little bitter about men, and both were trying to get back into the singles scene. (This last bit really didn’t make sense to my elementary-school mind. If the last men in their lives had proven so unsatisfactory, why were they racing out to find replacements?)

Sharon was much more aggressive about the manhunt, convincing Mom to run around and participate in all these social activities that promised to offer a bumper crop of males who were both available and non-psychotic. Sometimes us kids got to go with, other times the two of them would dash off to mysterious adults-only rituals while we stayed with babysitters or slightly-reluctant relatives.

Speaking of “us kids”, there were two matched sets. Myself and my younger sister (Dawn), and Sharon’s kids, also an older boy and a younger girl. We were all roughly in the same three-year age span. That being the case, Mom and Sharon assumed that we would be the best of friends and get along just fine, so they didn’t think twice about leaving us all together while they went on a stud safari.

On the contrary, I did not find this to be an ideal arrangement.

I didn’t like Sharon’s kids. I don’t know what had happened in their lives, but it was obviously something that didn’t happen in mine. They were little hellions, always doing their urchin best to find trouble wherever they could. And they usually found it within twenty-three seconds of being left unsupervised. And because I was the oldest, everything was at least partially my fault, if not entirely.

And the mouths on those kids? Good God. Now, my daddy was no saint, so it wasn’t like I hadn’t heard special grown-up words before. In fact, every third word from his direction would have been bleeped in primetime, even today. But it was different when HE did it, because that’s what adults did, they cussed, and you really didn’t pay any attention. You just wanted to ride your Big Wheel until you got tired of the sidewalk cracks making your butt jiggle.

Cute little tykes sporting Garanimals should not be requesting that the Lord pass unfavorable judgment on pronouns, or offering travel directions that involve fiery destinations. This just shouldn’t be happening. And that was just the cussing. These kids also were fully schooled on every known sexual position on the planet, and would happily offer up any further intimate detail you may require. There were many times when my jaw would be hanging open in shock, until I remembered the 47 things they said you could do with such an exposed orifice, and my mouth would slam shut.

Those kids scared me.

Sharon, on the other hand, was a peach. I really liked her. She was very nice, and was always encouraging her kids to be creative and explore anything that they found interesting. (Obviously, this free-format educational concept must have included sex clinics or brothels at some point, but I digress.) She was very outgoing and not afraid to rush headlong into new situations, which balanced Mom’s tendency to remain quiet and just go along for the ride.

And the best thing about Sharon? In her bedroom, on the back of the door, was an almost life-size poster of a naked man. The first time my eyes spied THAT, I nearly wet myself. I may have been too young to really understand what things were all about, but I knew getting a gander of that naked man certainly put a smile on my face. At that point, I thought Sharon was the most thoughtful and gracious person I had ever met, arranging for this display and all.

After this discovery, I couldn’t wait for the opportunities to visit Sharon’s apartment. I would practically run to the front door. (I’m sure Mom thought it was sweet of me to be so friendly and polite during these social calls.) Once inside the apartment, I would use every plausible reason to wander down the short hallway to Sharon’s bedroom, peek around the door for a quick eyeful, then dash back to the front room.)

It was very innocent, really. After all, I just wanted to look. I certainly didn’t want to do anything like the hellions described. That business just seemed so messy and rude. It would be many years before their knowledge had even the most remote application in my life. By that time, I’m sure one or both of those kids were already serving a prison sentence.

Anyway, Sharon and Mom was lookin for some menfolk. And one of their favorite places to participate in an outreach program was at, amazingly enough, a skating rink. This particular skating rink was in far north Broken Arrow/far east Tulsa. Somewhere over there. I’m sure the place has been gone for years. I only remember the location because we would pass this still-standing nunnery just before we got there.

Yes, a nunnery. Practically adjacent to the Skating Rink of Sin and Un-betrothed Sexual Conquest. I’m sure that if the Sisters had known what was going on within rock-throwing distance, they wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night. Or maybe they DID know and would gaze longingly out their cloistered windows. You never can tell.

This skating rink must have been there for some time before it blossomed into a place of lust on wheels. It had a great wooden floor that was worn-in just right, nice and smooth so that you no longer felt the tiny cracks between the strips of wood. There was a long concession area down one side, where you could get all kinds of fried and greasy things to eat, because it was the 70’s and nobody knew a damn thing about fat and cholesterol.

The concession area was raised several feet above the rest of the building (who knows why, it just was). The main entrance to this section had a short flight of stairs. But the OTHER end of the concession area had a thrilling feature that was wildly popular. Instead of stairs, the whole floor ramped down and around to the main skating area. Which meant that all you had to do was barely roll over the precipice, and suddenly you would be hurtling downward with a velocity that would fling your ass out into the throng of circling skaters with an amazing amount of power.

People lived for this. Cable TV hadn’t been invented yet, so you had to make your fun where you could.

Now, not everyone dared to use this ramp. I didn’t go near it, in the beginning. I barely knew how to skate at the time, so my preferred method of rink entry was to gingerly ease myself through the normal gate, and then cautiously work my way forward in that awkward-looking clunk-clunk manner that newbies have, clinging to the railing on the periphery like there were no more lifeboats on the Titanic.

Sharon’s hellions, of course, were master skaters, zipping and twirling and practically doing back flips. They’d learned how to do this long ago, just like they’d somehow learned everything else fifteen years before a normal person should. They’d win competitions, while Dawn and I clunk-clunked on the sidelines, often tripping over a strand of hair and slamming our head into the ground.

The hellions considered us failures and babies. And it was not cool to be seen with babies. The only time you should associate with babies is if you are tormenting them in some way, preferably while other cool people watched. That being the case, Hellion Number One (Kerry) hatched a devious plan. Dumb-ass Number One (me) fell right into his trap.

Kerry was suddenly being very helpful. Over the course of several visits, he gave me pointers and showed me how to do things and gave realistic pep talks. And it worked. I got to the point where I didn’t have to hang on to the baby rail, and I could actually make it around the rink without incurring a flesh wound. There was a slight possibility that I might someday be cool.

Then the hellion on wheels moved on to Phase Two. He started talking up the massive ramp on the other side of the snack area. It was just so NEAT to roll down that thing. You didn’t go THAT fast, and if you started to fall you could always grab the handrail. Don’t you wanna try it?

I didn’t know about that.

Just then, probably acting on some evil, predetermined signal from Kerry, Hellion Number Two (Kristy) came zipping up in perfect form “I’ll show you how to do it, Brian,” she said chirpily. “Watch!”

And off she went, zipping effortlessly through the crowd at the concession counter. Two seconds later she shot over the crest of the ramp and whizzed downward, in a perfect arc, pigtails standing straight out behind her. She zoomed out into the rink with amazing grace, did this little figure-eight thing, then she screeched to a halt, finishing off with a twirl and a pretty hand movement. Several people stopped eating nachos long enough to raise scorecards.

Oh boy. I had to follow that?

“Come on,” urged Kerry. “Don’t be a baby!”

And what was wrong with being a baby if it meant that you lived to see another day?

Then Kerry clicked the last of his satanic plan into place. “Hey, why don’t I go to the bottom of the ramp and wait for you? I can help you if you start to fall. Okay?”

I looked at him for a second, not really sure about that, then sighed. “Okay,” I whispered.

He grinned broadly. “Cool! Okay, I’ll go wait at the bottom.” Then he was off, hurtling down the ramp and then stopping perfectly just before the ramp spilled onto the main rink. He looked up at me and nodded his head.

I shuffled to the top of the ramp, my heart-pounding. From this perspective, the angle of descent looked incredibly severe and seemed to guarantee certain death. I looked at Kerry again. He nodded his head again.

I gulped and rolled over the edge.

Suddenly, I was moving faster than one would think humanly possible. I’m pretty sure I started screaming immediately, but the wind was whipping by my ears with such force that I couldn’t hear anything else. About a third of the way down, my legs started to roll apart, a sure sign of incompetence and a certain indicator of social doom. Somehow I managed to get my legs back together before I ripped myself in two.

Halfway down, I hit the sharpest angle of the curve, but I managed to stay upright. Wow. That was the hardest part! I just might make it after all. I stopped the soundless screaming, and I think I might have even started to smile as I approached the final stretch.

Kerry was smiling, too, but not out of any shared jubilation over my non-death. He was grinning because it was time for the big show that he had carefully plotted over several weeks.

He stuck his foot directly in my path.

In my surprise and panic, I lost all bodily control and my skates slammed into each other, the wheels locking up and sealing my doom. My feet slammed to a halt, but the rest of my body shot forward. Houston, we have lift-off.

I sailed through the air, my mind vaguely registering the fact that Kerry had pulled his foot out of my trajectory at the last possible second. Clever little bastard. He could truthfully claim that he hadn’t actually tripped me. This is how politicians are born.

Then all of my focus was on the impending return from orbit. The wooden floor rushed up at me in a blur, then I crunched to the ground and slid a good ten feet across the aged, seamless wood. People scattered in all directions, struggling to get out of the landing zone. I finally came to a halt, ending with one of my skates somehow flopping upward and jabbing into my butt. I had just kicked myself in the ass, literally and figuratively. Damn hellion Kerry.

“Brian! Brian, are you okay?”

I rolled over onto my back and shook my head. A face came into view. Sharon! Nice Sharon. I liked her. How did she manage to raise these Dual Damiens?

She leaned down closer and brushed my hair out of my face. “Are you alright? Can I get you something?”

In my delirium, I blurted the first thing that came to mind.

“Did you bring the naked man with you?”

 

To be continued…

 

(Originally posted in “Memory Remix” on 01/29/10. Slightly revised and edited with extra flair for this post.)

 


Idiot Fondue: Case Study #18

Dr Freud

 

  Note: The following is an excerpt from my “Idiot Fondue” blog. All you really need to know is that the main character, Dr. Brian, is a somewhat pompous psychotherapist. Enjoy.

 

Herewith, the chain reaction of coincidences that led to my incarceration.

The day started pleasantly enough, as it typically does when one is in Paris, supposedly attending a week-long conference on the current most popular things that make people have psychotic breaks. I say supposedly, because we all know how these things go. There are meetings and lectures in abundance to attend, but no one goes to them, especially if you’re in Paris. You only attend those sessions where you might win an award or there is a prize of some kind.

That particular morning, I had taken up position at a comfortable table in a charming bistro, sitting out on the sidewalk and sipping a delicious concoction loaded with caffeine, and gazing at a quaint little plaza with a statue in the middle, presumably of someone who had done something worthwhile in their lives and hence bronze was re-fashioned in their likeness.

Just beneath the statue, there was a small family perched on an iron bench. Mother and Father were lavishing attention on a cute little tyke, perhaps about five, as he giggled and squirmed and danced, doing silly things that are pleasant enough when you are five, but incredibly annoying in anyone older.

As my waiter brought a second cup of nirvana, the happy trio across the way gathered their things, marched this direction, and stepped up to the bistro counter to order something tasty. While preparations took place to satisfy their needs, the youngster ambled a few steps away, careful to stay in the line of sight of his mother (good boy, well-trained), and came to a halt right in front of me, looking up at my face.

He smiled.

I beamed back.

“You stink,” he said.

What? I was taken aback. “Pardon me?”

“You STINK,” he repeated, widening his eyes as he emphasized the second word.

“I most certainly do NOT. I’m freshly bathed.” Really, what was wrong with this child?

He decided on a different approach. “You’re ugly. You’re very, very ugly.” And then he raised a skinny little arm and pointed out something on me at approximately chest-level. “UGLY!” he almost shrieked.

I was seriously at a loss on how to deal with this rude little urchin. What was he talking about? My tie? Did he not approve of patterned silk? The natural instinct to counsel kicked in. “Help me understand what has you so distraught?”

His eyes narrowed. “I saw you. I saw you touch the sheep. You touch the sheep all the time!”

Good GOD, what was going on here?

He stepped forward, reached up, and jabbed his grimy finger into my chest. “I’m telling. I’m telling EVERYBODY!”

This was just too much. I lost my professional demeanor. “Don’t poke me, you little heathen. I’ll poke you back!” He paused and stood quietly for a second, calculating his next move.

“Andre! What are you doing to that man? Get over here.”

The urchin and I turned to look at his mother. For just a moment, her composure was gone, and I could see that Andre had proven to be a very difficult child to raise. Then she regained control and smiled sweetly. “Come along, Andre. We have your lunch, and it’s time for you to go to the Center.”

Andre turned back to me, sneered hatefully, then raced to his mother’s arms, an angel once again. She kissed him and smoothed his hair. Daddy, meanwhile, looked at me with an ashen face, fully prepared for a lawsuit of some kind. That poor family, dealing with a demon child on a daily basis, never knowing when they might be arrested. I’ve seen this a thousand times in my work.

I made a hand gesture at Daddy that signified everything was fine, just take him away before I reconsider. They promptly did so. I then made another hand gesture at the waiter, signifying he had best bring me another cup of nirvana or somebody would be dead.

My phone rang.

It was Henri, a chum from the University of Toronado, where we had both gotten our doctorate. We were attending the same neurological convention, although he had not had to travel nearly as far as me, living as he did in Paris. “Hello?”

“Brian, mon ami. How are things?”

“Well, I was just accosted by a midget and-”

“That’s lovely. Say, can you help me out? In a pinch of sorts.”

“I suppose I could. Are there children involved?”

“No, no. Pas des enfants. I am in Chambord, and there is an issue.”

“Chambord?”

“South of Paris. It is not important, really. What has happened is that we were getting the cheese we love, and crazy Americans in a white van drove us off the road and we broke an axle.”

He paused, as if this brief synopsis had explained everything. It did not. “What does this mean?

“I have a client session this afternoon. It cannot be missed. She must meet every Wednesday or there is much of the trouble. Can you see her?”

“But Henri, I am not certified in France. I know nothing of your diagnosis and treatment for her and-”

“It is fine, mon ami. She is an easy one. Very simple. She just wants to talk, she does not care who, but it must be on Wednesday afternoons.”

Really? I would relish patients such as that. I could force them on my assistant Lanae and go out for sushi. “But Henri, I don’t know where your office is. Would I even have access?”

Henri made one of those odd sounds the French make that either means I am being stupid or the escargots are fighting their way out of his stomach. “Brian, it is simple, we meet at my flat on the Rue de Couchon. You know of this. Many times we went there after the drinking.”

Indeed we did, many times after the drinking back in the day. I had a lengthy relationship with the toilet in his bathroom, the porcelain curves etched into my brain as I laid there and dry-heaved many a night. “I suppose I could do this. Anything I should know?”

“The vegetables talk to her.”

“The what do what?”

“The vegetables. She will bring you one, and she will tell you what it said. You pretend to make notes, and you do the nodding. It is very simple.”

Simple. He keeps repeating that, and every time he does I get a little more anxious. But I did owe him for those long ago years, when I was intimate with his toilet and the oddly-shaped, smelly couch that was strangely soothing after a night on the town. “Okay. Yes, I will do this, Henri. But we have the awards ceremony at five. Will you be back in time for that?”

“I believe so. Take your things with you to mon flat, so you can cleanse yourself after Madame de Vegetable, you will be wanting to do so, and I should arrive in time for our departure for the stunning awards where we pretend surprise.”

“And the key is still in the same place?”

“Oui, third rock from the sundial. She will be there at the sharp of three o’clock, as always. Merci, mon ami. Now I must go. The crazy Americans in the white van are still nearby, I am told. Death is possible. Au revoir.”

And then he was gone. I snapped my phone closed. Then sighed.

Well, I had a few hours before this apprehensive rendezvous with the Vegetable Lady, so I decided to visit the Salvador Dali museum in Montmartre. I had always been fascinated with Dali, mainly because I could never decide if he was truly inspired or was just completely insane. I tromped my way to the Rue Poulbot, and after reviewing a number of his works in, I still didn’t know what to think. I did now that I didn’t want a sofa that celebrated Mae West’s lips. They could keep that.

Off to the flat on Rue de Couchon.

I let myself in, and I was instantly awash with memories from our graduate years. So many things change, and yet so many things remain the same. It didn’t take me long to discover something that had truly changed in a manner that I never expected.

I whipped out my phone and speed-dialed Henri.

“Allo?”

“Henri, why is there a goat in your kitchen?”

“Ah, the goat. Do not mind it. I have a client, he pays with livestock, it is nothing.”

I paused and stared at the goat looking at me quizzically. “Do I need to do something with the goat, or is he okay?”

“The goat is happy. He will not trouble you. But do not let him out the back door. There are children in the courtyard and he will eat them.”

“Could you repeat that?”

“I am sorry. Not eat, bite. He will bite them. This is something we do not want, children and animals biting. Do NOT open the back door.”

I took a deep breath. Was I awake? Was this really happening? “Okay, Henri. Duly noted. No backdoor for the goat. Are you on your way yet?”

“Yes, we arrive in time for the pompous ceremony. A bientot.” And he was gone.

I clicked the phone closed, just as the doorbell rang. Vegetable Lady was here.

Much to my surprise, she turned out to be a very nice woman. We had a very pleasant conversation. The only disconcerting element of our session was that she had placed an enormous cucumber on the table between us in the front room. Everything that she had to say, she claimed, was the result of her previous chats with said cucumber.

She finally rambled to a stop, and then prepared to depart, making no effort to collect the cucumber from its resting place on the coffee table. Perhaps she had overlooked this. “Madame,” I said soothingly, “the cucumber?”

She smiled briefly. “The cucumber is for you. Make the salad as you always do, Henri.” And then she was gone.

Henri had not mentioned the making of a salad. And since she had already departed, I assumed that this action would not be necessary. I placed the cucumber on the counter next to the kitchen sink. As I did so, I noticed that the window above the sink had been shoved completely open, and that there was a can of Crisco sitting on the window sill.

I didn’t even know where to begin thinking about what this might mean. So I ignored this little set piece, and went to take a shower in Henri’s bathroom, waving a quick hello to the toilet I had hugged all those years ago.

Once I was cleansed of the day’s traumas, I hopped out of the tub and wrapped a towel around my waist. I sauntered back into the kitchen, looking for my travel bag that contained the luxurious body cream that was so soothing for my dry skin.

The can of Crisco was missing from the window sill.

The cucumber was missing from the counter.

Could this day get any more disconcerting? Was this the karmic price I had to pay for leaving a slightly-scathing remark on the comment card at the Dali museum? (I didn’t like the sofa. Must there be retribution?)

I peeked out the window and spied the Crisco can lying on the ground in the courtyard. Well, I’d best retrieve that renegade can, happened on my watch and all. I proceeded to the back door, and this is the only development during that mystifying day where I accept blame. I forgot about Henri’s warnings concerning the goat. And after I glanced around the courtyard and did not see anyone about, I thought it would be okay if I slipped outside wearing nothing but a towel. After all, this was France. Scantily clad people meant nothing to them.

I was so wrong in those twenty seconds of my life.

I opened the back door and took three steps to the Crisco can. Picking it up, I turned back to the door, and this is when the Fates of Hell determined that I should suffer. The door burst open, and out galloped the goat, with the chatty cucumber firmly gripped in his teeth.

The goat raced past me in a frenzy of freedom. I instinctively chased after him, remembering Henri’s words that the goat should not be allowed to bite neighborhood children. I could not let this happen. The goat thundered through the courtyard, heading toward an open door across the way.

I ran as fast as I could, and I actually caught up to the goat just in front of the open door. I reached down to grab him, but only came away with the cucumber that he apparently released to lighten the load in his attempt at escape. I followed him inside whatever structure we had entered, only vaguely noticing that my towel snagged on something in the doorway. I wanted to get that goat!

Once inside this unknown building, the goat skittered to a halt, surprised by the scene before us.

It was a room full of youngsters, roughly around the age of five. A quick glance around the room, with its happy posters and smiling cartoon characters, made it very clear that this was a daycare facility of some kind. For very young children.

And there I was, standing behind a goat, completely naked, and holding a can of Crisco in one hand and a cucumber in the other.

Right in the midst of the startled young children, clutching a bag of goodies from the bistro I had visited that very morning, was that evil tyke Andre, the crazed little boy that thought I smelled bad. He opened his vicious mouth and screamed: “That’s the man that wanted to poke me!”

In my astonishment, I dropped the can of Crisco, and it rolled with an alarming clacking noise to the feet of the one adult in the room, a pinched-faced woman with her hair in a bun, signifying that she was uptight beyond words. She whipped out her cell phone and called the police.

They were there within two minutes.

I was in jail twenty minutes after that.

And all of this because somebody had talked to a cucumber and needed to share their thoughts on the matter.

I hate France.

Sincerely,

Dr. Brian


30 Startling Things to Say to Annoying Strangers at Wal-Mart

Walmart

 

 

1. “You do understand that you should be wearing panties with that outfit, right?”

 

2. “I will write you a check right now if you swear to never wear Spandex again.”

 

3. “I take it your family missed a few centuries of development.”

 

4. “Would you like to borrow my mirror? Because it’s clear that you don’t have one.”

 

5. “Please explain to your child that he is not a dog and he should get off my leg.”

 

6. “How cute. And what type of animal did you have to kill to get that hairdo?”

 

7. “Your name is not Sting. Go pick out some deodorant. I have a brochure if you don‘t know what that is. Oh, just take the brochure, who am I kidding?”

 

8. “I guess you save a lot of money on toothpaste.”

 

9. “Have you heard about this new thing called contraceptives? No? Okay, the first step goes like this: If somebody with a penis looks your way, you don‘t have to immediately flop on the ground and hoist your legs in the air. Wait, was that too many words? Did I throw you with penis?”

 

10. “And the pork rinds still taste good going into that filthy mouth of yours?”

 

11. “Let’s make something clear. Just because we both have beer in our carts does NOT make us instant friends.”

 

12. “Excuse me, but I’m not catching ALL of the details of what should be a private conversation between you and your gynecologist. Could you put that on speakerphone?”

 

13. “Was your child raised near a tornado siren?”

 

14. “For the love of GOD, stop reaching for products on the bottom shelf. I’m seeing pendulous things and personal crevices that a therapist can never erase.”

 

15. “Have you ever eaten a vegetable in your entire life?”

 

16. “Sweetie, this is the wrong aisle for you. There‘s nothing here that can be deep-fried or made into a tube top.”

 

17. “What’s up with the tongue action? Are you expecting to find a coupon in the throat of your girlfriend?”

 

18. “The door-greeter should be fired for letting you get by.”

 

19. “I’m sorry to hear that you’ve gone deaf. Based on the way that your child is destroying the planet while you look the other way, I’m assuming it happened during labor?”

 

20. “I’m not offended by the body piercings. I’m offended by the other accessories. Like your attitude.”

 

21. “We all fully understand that you have breasts. Now cover them up before every man in this store starts buying Barbra Streisand albums.”

 

22. “There are not enough words in the English language to describe the things that are wrong with you.”

 

23. “Girl, I don’t see a crown on your head. Wait your turn like everybody else.”

 

24. “By all means, knock me out of the way so you can get the exact roll of paper towels that I was reaching for. I’m sure it would be too much to ask for you to snag one of the 500 other rolls on this shelf.”

 

25. “Wait, is that a Tea Party tattoo on your arm? It all makes sense now. I guess you’re here for the sale on white sheets in the linen department.”

 

26. “What happened to you in your childhood that would make you drive a shopping cart like that? You need to talk to someone about all that anger.”

 

27. “Did you see how the milk spoiled right as you walked by? Even the dairy section knows that you’ve got issues.”

 

28. “You do understand that Jerry Springer doesn’t have a talk show anymore, right? You and your weave can stop trying to get on it.”

 

29. “Wow. You have just single-handedly refuted the Theory of Evolution.”

 

30. “Let me explain something. This lovely woman at the register had absolutely nothing to do with your inability to read price tags, your non-grasp of basic mathematics, your apparent childhood in a barn, your refusal to understand that you reap what you sow, and your complete ignorance concerning social decency. She is not responsible for the epic failure of your parents, and neither is anybody else in this store. Quit whining, give her some money, round up your inbred clan, get the hell out of this building, and go back to the cave from whence you stumbled. And stop procreating.”

 

Love,

Brian


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