The Very Last Summer Vacation Ever: Chapter Seven

If I was ever called to testify in a court of law which of us it was first hit upon the concept of road skiing, I would have to say I did not recall, so organically did the idea grow out of the conversation we were having inside Matilda to keep from thinking about the loss of Our Alex. The sport of road skiing, which I am pretty sure was invented for the first time that day by us Gallagher’s, is not all that different from water skiing except in that the surface upon which one skis is a road instead of water and in place of a motor boat you have a car. So there’s Great Aunt Ginny racketing along behind us, clutching the tow rope for dear life and hellfire, sparks flying out from under her skis, hollering like a Texan on a wild bull, me half out one window cheering her on, Mallory out the other window doing likewise except for a deal more cussing, Our Father gripping Matilda’s wheel fit to crush it, stomping the accelerator halfway through the floor, shouting something at the top of his lungs about Iphigenia in Taurus, Our Mother finally getting in the spirit of this vacation, really letting her hair down for once, just screaming with laughter, kicking her naked feet so the fuzzy dice spun up round the rear view mirror like a tetherball and by God, here come the cops.

So the Old Man gets as far out his window as he can go while still holding on to the wheel, cranes his head half backwards on his neck like an owl at the pursuant Fuzz, his eyes in no way any longer attuned to the road and traffic ahead of us which we are now approaching even faster than we had been due to the spastic extension of his entire bodyweight pressing down upon the gas pedal. He commences to lecture the Staties on the subject of Armageddon and it’s salubrious effects upon the rigidity of laws and strictures governing such thing as vehicular speed. And I’m yelling at him that no matter how charming and persuasive his argument might be, it is physically impossible for the Coppers to hear him under the current circumstances, but he himself can’t hear me over the wind and the sirens and his own shouting, though I’m a hell of a lot closer to him than the enraged bacon now climbing up Great Aunt Ginny’s ass, and his situational deafness would illustrate my whole point pretty nicely if he could only hear me which of course he can’t! The passenger cop squeezes halfway out his window fixing to shoot our tires out, which at this speed on an Interstate desperately in need of infrastructural attention is near on impossible, not to mention the obstacle presented by the skeletal octogenarian slaloming wildly back and forth between him and his target. Trailing medical tubing and old lady undergarments, the cobwebby remnants of her frantic, wiry white hair peeling straight back from her speckled scalp, dentures banging around the maw of a toothless old mouth stretched wide open by at least three gees combined with complete unleashed geriatric glee, a sight entirely magnificent and then we went off road. Careening down the median, jouncing up and down, Frodo howling canine curses, huge divots of turf and dust spraying every which way, Matilda finally protesting, throwing her hood up in outrage, shooting steam out her radiator like a cartoon bull, banging down once and twice and in the end at last stopping, the cops going sideways, tearing the hell out of some Sunday Schools municipal roadside beautification project, and all of us tumbling out of our cars, Gallagher’s and police alike, laughing our heads off at the crazy ass impossible fun of it all.

We picnicked with the Heat there on the median while Matilda cooled off. Officers Halloran and Steiner regaled us with tales of restraining orders torn asunder by shirtless malcontents who tempered their innate stupidity with methamphetamines and cleaning solvent fumes, cretinous brutes who sober might not be able to tie their own shoes attempting complicated larcenies under the influence of house brand cough remedies and elective head trauma, and other suchlike hoohah. Our Mother did what she always did at Picnics, which was to lounge like the lady in ‘Luncheon in the grass’ except with clothes on, a painting she had described for me in terrible detail many picnics ago when I was much too young to want to hear about it. She would go on doing it until someone said ‘say, you look like that lady in that painting would if she had clothes on’, or until the pose made her bones hurt enough to get cranky, whichever came first. The Old Man produced from a bottomless cooler tin foil wrapped portions of whole roast turkey, sandwich bags of goldfish crackers, grapes, hydrox cookies mostly smashed to dust, cheeses of unknown origin, slim jims and Red Vines, Trout Almandine, box wine in three colors and a wide array of paper goods and plastic cutlery. It was a feast! Even Mallory allowed a smile as she spoon fed Great Aunt Ginny something awful from a jar and Frodo frolicked in the wildflowers. I only wished Alex would have been there to give me shit about that long ago Gallagher picnic where I stepped in the Boursin (a spreadable cheese with garlic and herb he favored) and ruined his day, a story he whipped out at every picnic ever after.

“Do you know,” Officer Steiner let out “I hold two records in our local police history. I have made the single greatest number of arrests resulting in the single smallest number of convictions!”

“He does like to arrest” Officer Halloran explained

“What would you arrest me for?” Mallory asked, attempting flirtation. A cloud crossed Our Mothers brow, heavy enough with impending rain to throw her off her pose. “Red Ants!” she snarled, slapping her daughter’s thigh, hard. “The bastard scourge of every picnic.”

“Red Ants? Really?” the Old Man lilted, stropping grainy mustard on a slab of sourdough. ”Because I’d have thought we were still too far north for them. We must have been speeding faster than I imagined, officers, to get South enough for Red Ants” Halloran puzzled that one and then Steiner let out a guffaw which broke the ice enough for Mom to rise. “Mallory,” She said, “Why don’t we see if we can find these gentlemen some pie? I believe I stowed one underneath the foul weather gear.”

Back in Matilda I asked the Old Man why he thought the cops had let us off.

“They sensed like mindedness!” he cried. “Never under estimate it. Of all the arrows in my quiver it’s the mightiest, with the possible exception of the Boxing Glove arrow”.

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My Thanksgiving Prayer

Lord, we thank Thee.

For family and friends, for safety, for the beauty of the land as it yields to winter. For home and hearth, though not literally, as we have natural gas forced hot water heating but thanking your for natural gas forced hot water heating doesn’t really swing, poetry-wise.

Thanks unto you for the bounty we are about to receive, and I personally intend to receive a lot of bounty, particularly in the liquor department, a bounty for which I am especially grateful at this time of year. Thanks not just on this day of gorging but on all days of the year when I eat in a single meal what many you favor less would eat in a week. Thank you particularly for the days I tell the wife I am ‘sticking’ to my ‘diet’ when in fact I go to the food court at the mall on my lunch break and they fix me up a triple helping of barbecued pork at the Chinese without my even asking, because they know of my deep, abiding affection for hot, crimson pork. Thank you for stretchy pants.

Thank you for Tryptophan or Booze or Denial or whatever the hell it is that allows me to slip into a near coma shortly after unbuttoning my stretchy pants, thus allowing me the bounty of staying out of whatever old scabs my extended family feels it’s traditional to pick whenever we gather.

Thank you for my children and the Halloween candy I have stolen from them a few pieces a day since Halloween. Thank you also for their piggybanks without which I would not be able to afford the Nip Bottles I hide in desk drawer now the wife has me on an allowance and thanks also to their generous grandparents without whom the children’s piggybanks would not be so regularly stuffed. Thanks for Nip Bottles themselves, so much easier to hide than full sized bottles, and thanks also for the fantasy life they invite, that I am on a plane, going somewhere nice.

And thanks for my colleagues, horrible human cubicle rats though they may be, for without their craven scuttling before the bosses, their fear and trembling before the timeclock, not to mention the copy machine and for that matter the stapler, I would never have those moments between bouts of utter despair where I realize how gloriously superior I am, how perfect and glowing and dominant, so that they are as insects before me, insects whom I might crush without regret or perhaps enslave and force to dance for me, dance in wanton abandon.

Thanks for the internet and it’s bounty of readily available, free, cat gifs and highly specific niche pornography and thanks particularly for access to the internet at work so that the precious soul you gave me might not be utterly crushed by the pointless, inane, drudgery demanded of me by The System in return for enough money to survive and ‘flex time’ and access to barely adequate health care. Thanks for making sure I do not understand ‘flex time’ even a little bit, as the knowledge would surely drive me mad.

Thanks for letting me be born in modern America so that I can feel rage over petty annoyances unnoticed by most people not just on earth but throughout human history, Stinking vermin who never once knew the joy of screaming at the driver in front of them who has not noticed the light turned green well over a second ago, thanks for violent, overpaid athletes and actors and smug, sanctimonious, possibly insane politicians utterly corrupted by what an reasonably overpaid athlete or actor could tell you were relatively small amounts of money; Thanks to all the many, many, many of your children who devoutly believe your message is to kill anyone who doesn’t know your message is what they say it is, up to and including every aspect of my thoughts, my words, and what I do with my wiener which is so obviously not really my wiener, but merely an aspect your Divine wiener on loan to me for the sole purpose of not using it.

Oh, and thanks in particular for not making me a turkey which at this special time of year would particularly suck. Unless you’re about to have an advanced Alien Race visit earth and seem all nice and give us world peace and the cure to several nasty diseases when what they’re really doing is fattening us up to eat at the inter species thanksgiving dinner we’re the ‘guests of honor’ at, and as we howl with indignity, in the distance a Native American, all of whom the Aliens ironically spare, sheds a single tear of irony, a cryptic homage to Iron Eyes Cody who tried to warn us by weeping over pollution but we didn’t give a little tin crap then and we still don’t now so INTO THE ALIEN BELLY WE GO!!

‘Cause if that’s what you’re up to, Lord, you can stuff the ‘Thanks’.

I worked like a dog for this damn holiday.

Pass the peas.

Amen.

Things to Say to a Neighbor You’ve Never Met Before While Raking Leaves

Early November weekends unless it’s raining, you rake leaves. And at some point you get tired and little sweaty if it’s not too cold, and you lean on your rake and catch your breath. And you look across the way, and there’s your neighbor, leaning on his rake, catching his breath. And you know him, but you don’t know him, not really, because this is New England and we like to keep a polite distance between the stick up our ass and sticks up everyone else’s. You have nothing to say, but you’ve got to say something because purely by accident you’ve made eye contact and it only gets more uncomfortable if you stay silent.
I’ve found it’s best to be prepared for moments like these. Here’s my list.

– Guess that’s why they call it fall, right?

– Beautiful day for it.

– Man, smell that air. Crisp, right?

– The colors were good this year. They said they weren’t going to be so good, but I think they were pretty good.

– Man, I envy the leaf peepers. ‘Cause peeping ain’t raking, know what I mean?

– This is killing my back. Not that I’m complaining. Somebody has to do it, and it sure as hell won’t be one of my kids. They got a lot of, you know, texting to do. Apps and shit, right?

– That’s a nice shirt you got there. What’s it, like, flannel?

– ‘Fall’. It’s called ‘Fall’, ‘cause the leaves fall and then us poor S.O.B.’s gotta rake ‘em, right?

– Last year it rained every weekend, remember? There was like, one weekend where I could rake and by the time I got it all into piles it was dark, I didn’t even get one friggin’ yard waste bag filled, and then it snowed and come spring I had these giant pancakes of, like, petrified rhino shit in my yard. Had to shovel it. It was heavy as hell, and wet, and when I tried to lift up the bags, they just fell apart like friggin’ paper mache. I gave serious thought to putting a bullet in my head, no joke. Right in my damn brain.

– Nice day for raking though. If you gotta do it. And I surely do gotta do it.

– You know, the way the wind is blowing, a lot of these leaves are like, technically, your leaves. I mean, you know, no bigee, just the way it worked out, the wind could just as easily be blowing my leaves into your yard. It isn’t, though.

– You ever jump in the leaf piles when you were a kid? Man, it made my old man bullshit.

– Look at this, if you grip your rake right at the base of the handle you can totally pretend it’s a light saber.

– One thing, don’t jump in my leaf pile. Seriously, you jump in my leaf pile, I will beat the living crap out of you. No offense. I’m not saying you would. You just got a kind of shifty look there for a second.

– Hey, I bet if they poured pumpkin spice all over these friggin’ leaves, my wife would come out and rake ‘em, right? Right? Your wife too I bet. ‘Cause the ladies are fuckin’ crazy over Pumkin Spice this time of year, know what I’m saying? They would RAKE… THIS… SHIT!

– Just kidding. LOL, right?

– Are you crying?

– “The circle is now complete. When last we met, I was but a learner. Now, I am the master.”

– “Now, I am the master.”

– Now you go “Only a master of evil, Darth.” Jesus. What the hell is wrong with you? Do you even know how to rake?

– Tell you what, why don’t you come over here and pick out the leaves that came from your trees? I mean, fair’s fair, right? It’s okay, I know which ones they are.

– That one’s not mine. That one, right there. That’s one of yours. I don’t have any leaves like that. I have good leaves.

– I got nothing against Pumpkin Spice. It’s fine. It’s just, it’s a flavor, right? I mean it’s not like crack, you don’t have to have it. People should calm the fuck down about it is all I’m saying.

– PHEWSH! I am BEAT! Not as beat as you. ‘Cause I take care of myself. But this is tiring.

– Know what else this is? Thankless. Literally. Not one damn person is going to thank me for doing this.

– Why don’t you thank me? It might make me feel better. And some of these are your leaves.

– Thank me. I am totally not kidding.

– Did you grow up around here? When I was a kid we used to burn the leaves. They don’t let you do that anymore. It’s like, a risk or something. Like everything isn’t a risk. I used to love that smell. That was the smell of fall, man. Burning leaves. That was a smell that could beat the shit out of pumpkin spice. Pumpkin spice wouldn’t even see that smell coming and then BAM! BAM! BAM! I’M THE KING OF FALL, PUMPKIN SPICE! How you like that, BITCH? Who’s going in a friggin’ latte now? SMELL OF BURNING LEAVES, THAT’S GOD DAMN WHO!

– Wanna swap rakes?

– Why the hell does anyone call it ‘Autumn’? You don’t rake your leaves ‘cause they ‘Autumn’, right?