I remember when we were kids, we used to get gifts of fruitcake from well-meaning older ladies in our church. I think that’s where I first learned how to lie. If my little brother and I didn’t praise the weaponized loaf of glazed, syrupy candied fruit studded with rotten walnuts, we caught hell from Mom. Lying gets a bad name, I know. But if you don’t learn this essential social skill early in life, you end up with a sore backside from the paddle in the corner of the family room. Ironically, the paddle was a repurposed paddle ball toy we got for Christmas—which was always the time the old ladies from church would gift us with fruitcakes from outer space, obviously via wormhole vortex.
Speaking of friends, we occasionally had dinner with an older couple, RellaMae and Ray, who owned a gargantuan mongrel dog, part bull mastiff and part mastodon. His name was Moose. When he was tied to a post out in the back yard, he spent a lot of his time barking and snarling at anything living that passed by, especially the paperboy. On the other hand, he played like a puppy with me and my brother. At the dinner table, he would lay his head on my knee, mournfully staring at every forkful and leaving a pond of drool on my pants.
RellaMae was tickled to death with her old Chrysler which had a push-button transmission. I bet you thought that was a modern invention. I know next to nothing about cars, but Chrysler made some of these in the 1950s and 1960s. We went for a drive in it and I half-expected it to fly. It was pink, if I recall correctly. Ray was a cab driver with bad heart disease who chewed on but did not smoke cigars the size and consistency of Black Angus bull turds. The cab dispatcher where he worked had a singular talent. The phone was always busy but because she was the only dispatcher, she had to make her bathroom breaks very speedy. The legend was that she could be in and out in less than a minute.
The push-button Chrysler reminds me of a car my wife and I owned for a while sometime in the 1980s to 1990s which talked to you. I believe it was a New Yorker. It said things like “A door is ajar” which everyone made jokes about (When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar). Har! That chatty car got me across Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio when I was interviewing for residency. I got stranded along with a lot of other motorists at a rest stop on the way back from Ohio because of a snowstorm. That was brief, uneventful, and we were on our way after the plows went through in a couple of hours.
But that does remind me of another time I got stranded in Wyoming on my way back home from college in Texas. I traveled by bus back in those days and me and my fellow passengers were stuck in a hole in the wall sandwich and gift shop at the bus depot. A couple of us sat at one of the tables and were entertained by what sounded like tall tales from a couple of local guys bragging about their criminal exploits. One of them finally pushed up his sleeve, exposing his arm which was covered with about a half dozen or so wristwatches—which he hinted were stolen and he was trying to sell.
You can tell when somebody is in his anecdotage. Anybody out there with a story?