As any sociologist will tell you, women like men who are the strong, silent, self-sufficient type, not afraid to break rules and ignore society’s strictures on their behavior, like John Wayne or Cookie Monster.
So when Wifey asked me, on the second morning of my working vacation, what I would do for lunch, I gave her an answer that Wayne himself would have been proud of:
“I dunno. I’m sure I’ll con somebody into taking me out to lunch.”
She loves me, so she insisted on trying to help. “Are you sure? I’ll have the car, and it’s not like there are any restaurants near where you’ll be. I’ll be happy to come out and go to lunch with you.”
“I have meetings all morning with people. One of them will take me to lunch.”
“Honey,” she said gently, “They all hate you. That’s why you were exiled to Europe.”
“Pshaw.” I said. “Stop trying to meddle in my business, woman.”
At least, I would have said the last part were I not fundamentally a pussy. As it was, I assured her that it wasn’t necessary for her to try to help me eat lunch.
About 12:30, I was regretting that decision. It was like everyone had to go to the bathroom at the same time, and never came back. The whole freaking site was a ghost town. As the lunch hour dragged on, I became more and more hungry, eventually considering self-cannibalism just to get something to eat. Worse, the only dollar I had was ripped from crown to crotch and therefore unusable in the vending machine.
I ended up trying to trap rats, which I also suck at, since one of them ate my briefcase while another one bit me in the ass. If it hadn’t been for my 1:00 meeting, I’m quite sure I’d have ended up an industrial statistic.
The afternoon passed in a haze of hunger and growing dementia, until finally Wifey showed up at 5 to pick me up.
“Did you have a good day?” she asked me.
“FOOD!” I seized upon the boy and began chewing his arm. He’s smallest, so therefore easiest for me to consume in my zombified state.
“Stop it!” Wifey slapped me away. She’s always been more protective of them, I guess because she passed them through her hoo-hah and doesn’t want to fabricate a replacement via the same route. For me making a replacement is all fun and games.
Wait, I had a vasectomy. Somebody else gets to have all the fun. What was I thinking?
At any rate, I explained that I needed sustenance.
“Didn’t you find somebody to go to lunch with?”
“They ditched me!” I cried. “The bastards!”
“Why didn’t you call me?”
“I didn’t want to seem needy. Did you bring any food?”
“Isn’t there a vending machine?”
I turned out my empty pockets. “I don’t have any money.”
Sighing, she produced a roll of quarters. “Here, go buy yourself something.”
“Can I have cookies?” The boy asked me.
“No!” I said. “All the food is mine!”
“My arm hurts!” he whined. “It has bite marks!”
“Okay, I’ll buy you cookies, too.”
“No fair!” the girl wailed, trying to bite herself. “If you loved me you’d bite me too!”
For dinner we chose Applebee’s. We didn’t choose it because we like it(we don’t) or for the menu (it’s not great) or for the atmosphere (which sucks). We chose it because it was close.
Soon we were eating, and I felt much better. In the middle of dinner, though, we were attacked by fugitives from Mad Max. A dude with an eighteen-inch green Mohawk came in and started chatting with the teenager working as greeter. Him and his slack-jawed buddy tried to look tough, decked out in their chains and in their scary haircuts.
When the old man came out and asked them, basically, what the hell they were doing there, though, they couldn’t flee fast enough.
Apparently all Mel Gibson needed was false teeth and a receding hairline in Road Warrior. All that fast car/big gun BS was just for show.
Damn Hollywood, lying to us again. I’ll bet there never even was a blacklist.
Once I’d eaten and seen an elderly man chase off some hoodlums, we were ready to go pick up the laundry. See, the one fringe benefit of the Podunk town where we were staying was that it had a drop-off Laundromat. Personally, this is well worth whatever money you have to pay to have it done. It’s like having a wife without the nagging.
So we went by to pick up the laundry and found the sole employee, a three-toothed snagglepuss in a sequined tank top that said “I’m Sexy”, smoking a ciggie in front of the place. When we pulled up, she dashed inside and immediately made a personal phone call. Finally, after five minutes of hollering about what to feed junior, she hung up and looked at us.
“I’m here to pick up my laundry,” Wifey said. “I dropped them off this morning.”
“Uh, see, uh, it’s not done yet,” she gestured at our clothes, which were scattered everywhere. “When I come on this afternoon, they’d been forgot about, and I been working like hell to get them done.”
“I could see that while you were on the phone,” Wifey said. “When will they be done?”
“Can you give me fifteen minutes?”
“I can give you a fabric softener enema,” she suggested. “Would that help?”
“It shore would!” said Snaggly.
Dragging Wifey away before violence ensued, I suggested we go get ice cream to pass the time until the laundry was finished. I took us across town to our once-favorite ice cream parlor, where we found three nose-ringed waifs lounging inside the small roadside stand.
The most chipper of the three, who we’ll call Bubbly, immediately asked “Can I help you?”
A Goth chick sprawled in a chair against the wall, who we’ll call Surly, mumbled something. The third, expecting violence from myself, Wifey, and our two excited children, screeched something and dove through the back door never to be seen again.
“What flavor do you want?” Bubbly asked.
I looked over the choices. “What is Lime Rickey?”
“It’s kind of, um, what’s that flavor?” Bubbly looked at Surly, who just glowered at her. “You know, like those sour gummi worms? That flavor?”
“Sour?” I asked.
“Yeah, sour,” she said. “It’s sour.”
“No it isn’t,” corrected Surly. “They’re tart.”
“Oh, okay,” Bubble said, slightly frowning. “They’re tart, then. Would you like a taste?”
“Yes, I would.” I said. As she fished the taste out, I turned to Surly. “What’s the functional difference between tart and sour?”
Surly stared at me. Her mouth worked, but no sound came out.
“You don’t know, do you?” I asked.
“I do!” said Surly. “I’m just trying to think of it.”
“There is no difference,” suggested Bubbly.
I tasted the Lime Rickey. It was quite good. “There must be a difference,” I said to Bubbly. “Because she went through all the trouble to correct you and tell you that it was tart, not sour.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” said Bubbly. “What is the difference?”
Now, with five sets of eyes on her (six, if you counted the frightened girl cowering in the back room staring through the keyhole expecting to see my five-year-old pop a cap in somebody’s ass), Surly became somewhat self-conscious. “I’m not sure any more,” she admitted.
“Did you know that tart is an old expression used to describe a loose woman?” I said. “There’s one difference in the words. Maybe something that’s tart also has loose morals.”
“Then I guess it’s sour,” Surly said.
“This is very good, by the way. I think I want a scoop of this. What do you want, boy?”
“I want loose woman, too,” he said.
“Don’t we all,” I sighed wistfully. “Don’t we all?”
I don’t remember much after that, because a gust of wind blew the door open and it smacked me in the head. Which was strange, because it opened to the outside. At any rate, when I came to we’d picked up the laundry.
Although I did see on the news that police were investigating arson at the Laundromat.
Tomorrow: Teaching your children about dino-sized disappointment.