We woke up ready for action, adventure, and breakfast. Fortunately, all of those lay in store for us on our last morning in Gatlinburg. After a hearty hotel meal of tiny donuts and stale cereal, we discussed what we wanted to do.
That was when the girl shocked us with a terrifying revelation. “I want to get my ears pierced,” she said. “Right now.”
Let me tell you something about the girl: she does not like pain. Even having her hair cut makes her wince. She’d been having a mental argument about whether the benefit of sparkly earrings was outweighed by the pain of having a hole punched in them.
Quite frankly, Wifey’s description of having an ear pierced didn’t help. “They take this big needle, attached to something called a gun, and they shoot it through your ear.” She made it sound like spear-hurling at a hundred paces or something.
“Does it hurt?” the girl would ask.
“Yes,” said Wifey. “And once you have one done, you can’t wimp out and not have the other one done. So if you’re gonna get ‘em done, get ready for pain in both ears.”
But the girl had decided that now was the time, and she was quite insistent. So our other plans for the morning (hitting the Pigeon Forge outlet malls to find clothing for the children) were put on hold as we seized the moment to get her ears pierced.
Down the street from the hotel was Claire’s, a store that specialized in ear piercings. And lucky us: the ear piercing was free with purchase of a “starter kit.” The girl picked out which kit she wanted, settling for her birthstone.
“Make sure to get fourteen karat gold,” said Wifey. “Because you know I have an allergy to any metal but fourteen karat gold.”
“I have an allergy to non-satin sheets and doing housework,” I said. “When are you going to help me with that?”
“Right after you finish a game of backgammon,” she said.
I got the feeling she still hadn’t forgiven me for yesterday.
Inside Claire’s the girl took the seat of honor, her jaw set in grim determination. Wifey held her hands and tried to calm her. The piercing attendant went to work preparing the apparatuses. I filled out paperwork.
During all this the boy, who was somewhat put out by having to stand in a girly store for thirty minutes while everyone worried over girly things, managed to find the single most inappropriate item in the entire shop. I swear, he’d find something inappropriate in a Cathedral bookstore.
What he found was a sheep that, when you pressed it, ejected a brown balloon from its ass like it was blowing either shit or a big solid fart out the rear end.
He held it up in front of the girl. “Three, two, one, PPBBBT!” and then he rocketed it up in front of her. She, of course, laughed, because he is a comedy genius.
“Stop it!” I said.
“I’m just showing her my poopy rocket,” he said. “I’m trying to calm her down.”
“Well, don’t do that,” I said.
“Okay.” Then he held the sheep up, poopy butt inflated, and began to fly it around. “Poopy sheep, to the rescue!”
“Don’t do that, either!” I said.
“Hey, look,” he said. “Mr. Sheep, how are you today? FART!”
This line of play continued for about ten minutes, as a crowd of five to sixteen year-old girls gathered to watch the upcoming piercing. I became nervous, because the boy and I were the only males in the group, and I wondered if we were going to be accused of violating the sanctity of this ritual because of his playing with Poopy the Sheep.
“Can I take him to a weapons shop?” I asked.
“No!” Wifey said. “What if we need you?”
“If you need me to do something during an ear piercing, you’re pretty much screwed,” I said.
“You stay,” she said. “You, play with Poopy over there!”
“I want to see them punch a hole in her ear,” he said. “I want to see the blood.”
“There will be blood?” the girl began to get out of the chair. “I don’t want this any more!”
“Never mind,” said the technician. “It’ll be over in a second. When I count three, I’m going to do this ear, okay?”
“Okay,” said the girl.
POW! She hit the ear on two. I could tell the technician had worked with children before.
“OW!” yelled the girl. This did not inspire confidence in the onlookers, but was apparently allowed because no one howled for her blood. We were still the only two males in attendance, and I swear I heard drumbeats off in the distance somewhere.
“Sorry, honey,” said the technican. “This time I’ll count all the way to three.”
“You’d better,” said the girl dangerously.
“Two, three, it’s finished.”
“That’s it?” asked the girl.
“Yeah, that’s it,” said the lady. “What do you think?”
“They’re beautiful!” said the girl. “When do you bring out the big gun?”
“We don’t have a big gun,” said the lady, holding up the small box she’d used. “Just this.”
“I thought there was going to be a big gun hanging from the ceiling.”
“No, Mr. Bond,” I said ominously. “I expect you to have pierced ears!”
“Have you been watching crap with them again?” Wifey asked me.
“I wouldn’t dream of it, Octopussy.”
“You know I hate it when you call me that,” she said.
“Can I have Poopy?” said the boy. “After all, she got pierced ears.”
So we finally finished up and left, with holes in our flesh and a sheep that shoots shit out its ass. This is not a bad metaphor for any trip to Gatlinburg.
And this starter kit? Its cost was suspiciously close to an ear piercing plus two gold earrings. I’m just saying.
Next we got underway to Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood, miles of minigolf/go-kart places, and outlet malls. Wifey wanted to do some clothes shopping here instead of back in Europe, where everything costs an arm and a leg and still doesn’t fit quite right.
The road between the two towns winds through the foothills of the Smokeys, which means you pass through dense forests and, at one point, a tunnel.
“You know,” she said to me. “If you were a dipshit, you’d honk right now.”
HOOONK the car behind me went.
HOOONK the car in front of me went.
“Can I join, too?” I asked.
“If they all drove off a bridge, would you-”
HOOOOONK! I went
Hey, I’m both a joiner and a dipshit. I make no excuses for this.
We went to the outlet malls at Tanger, who I will say make a good, clear map to allow you to find every single overpriced children’s clothing store that they offer. Children wear clothes for about a week before they grow out of them, hate them, or ruin them. Why do they cost sixty bucks again?
“I thought Outlet Malls offered bargains,” I complained.
“No, you’re thinking of second-hand stores,” she said.
I won’t bore you with the details of our visit to store after store after store searching for whatever, other than to say that by the time it was done the living among us envied the dead.
After that it was time for lunch. As we drove, Wifey proposed various places. The children sat in the back, oblivious, watching a movie.
“How about Taco Bell?”
“We had that recently,” I said.
“What about McDonald’s?”
“We can have that at home,” I said.
“What about Arby’s?”
“The Arby hat looks like a condom,” I said. “And they have that horsey sauce that looks like spooge.”
“What’s a condom?” asked the girl from the back. She’d taken off her headphones.
“Yeah, daddy, tell us.” Wifey said. “What’s a condom.”
“Um, uh,” I pondered a moment. “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
“Why don’t you just take her back to the zoo for a visual aide?”
“That’s not helping,” I noted.
“I never said it was,” she said.
Inside the restaurant (Subway, if you must know) we heard the new Sweet Home Alabama. I don’t know who made it, but they should be punched in the mouth and never allowed to make music again. They’ve ruined a perfectly good song with their off-key caterwauling.
Other than that it was a good meal.
Finally we were on the road again, and in no time we arrived at my parent’s house to begin the next leg of our odyssey: the Family Visit.
Tomorrow: Dinner for Two