Sunday, August 3, 2008

Losing My Marbles

You will notice that until now in our vacation odyssey, we have visited only my family. The reason for this is that Wifey’s family is a group of hillbillies who live on a mountainside that can only be reached via a guide, lest you be shot for trespassing in some hill family feud.

Okay, not really. But they do all live in the same place, and the last time I visited them, I ended up having to bury a dead raccoon.

This time, Sis-in-law hid in her redoubt in Huntsville (we’ll be visiting her later this vacation) so Wifey and I were forced to go it alone. I had a very simple plan: go, fake intestinal distress, and flee at the earliest opportunity.

I had prepared the ultimate tool for this: KFC takeout. If you slip the guy at the counter a twenty, he’ll give you gizzards and blood in a zip-loc, and you can deploy it at the optimum time for maximum mess.

So off we were, to visit Granny, Aunt P, and whatever of the cousins showed up. For the record, I like Aunt P and the cousins. Granny, though, can sometimes be hard to love, especially when she tells you that you’re fatter than last time she saw you.

First problem: only Granny was there when we arrived. Okay, no big deal. It’s 1:00 and we’re supposed to have lunch, and Wifey had specifically designed our trip there to assure that we arrived after everyone else.

And yet here we were, alone with Granny.

We had just sat down and begun hearing Granny airing her grievances when the children produced the marble jar. Once I saw it, I knew that the visit would soon go from bad to worse. I had never actually seen the marble jar, I had only heard about it.

Heard the tales of woe, that is.

The marble jar is circa 1750. You have seen its like raved over by effeminate collectible experts on Antiques Roadshow. Your great-great-great-grandparents, upon seeing this jar, would have pronounced it “unimaginably old” and hesitated to touch such a sacred object.

The marbles themselves, cat’s eyes and, uh, whatever other kind of marbles there are, were a gift from Martha Washington to George when they met, just before he chopped down the cherry tree with a silver dollar flung across the Delaware River. Or something like that.

At any rate, this was a valuable object and the generator of no small amount of thrashings for Wifey and her siblings when they were small and used to visit Granny. For as long as Wifey has been alive, Granny’s house has had one inflexible rule: you may not, under any circumstances, touch the marble jar.

Even looking at it will earn you a scolding.

And now, my children were holding it aloft, marbles clinking, shaking it like an epileptic shaman trying to drive off evil spirits, shrieking “Can we play with these!”

I had the gizzards half-deployed when Granny responded.

“Of course, sweethearts! Just try not to lose any!”

Wifey’s hand tightened in mine until, finally, I had to beg her to loose my fingers ere I lost a digit.

“You’re hurting me!” I whispered.

“I have never been allowed to touch those marbles!” she hissed. “Damn them! You have to spank them right now!”

“Why?” I asked as they began to play.

“Just to keep it fair. It’s obvious Granny’s lost her touch.”

“I have a better idea!” I said. “How about if I show you guys how to shoot marbles?”

“Great!” Shouted the kids.

“Let’s clear some space!” Granny said. She then instructed Wifey to move so we could have plenty of room to play.

I quickly showed the children everything I knew about marbles, including that if you step on an antique marble it will crush to powder. Granny just laughed it off. Wifey shot me a look of death which chilled me to the core of my very existence.

Nobody else showed up. Time began to slow as we entered the Granny zone, where complaints about health and dead relatives begin to loop around back to the beginning.

Finally, the others arrived. It was 2:30. I instructed the children to put up the marbles. “So,” I leaned in close to Wifey. “You want to spank me later for playing with the marbles?”

“All my life, I have wanted to play with those marbles!” she hissed at me. “But that horrid old woman has told me I was not even allowed to sully them with my touch! You and those vile children of yours come along, and you crush one, and no one cares!”

“I’m guessing this isn’t conducive to intimacy,” I said.

“What intimacy? You’re celibate.”

That sounded bad.

We ate, and with every bite I yearned to deploy the gizzards. Yet somehow I resisted temptation. Amazingly, this did not please Wifey, who was still disgruntled that I had played with the marbles.

After lunch, we visited the raccoon grave. It’s nice, with a flower that grows on it that looks like a naked woman when it blooms. At least, according to Granny, who apparently has a warped sense of humor.

As soon after lunch as we could reasonably justify, we headed off. Everyone had had a wonderful afternoon, with the exception of Wifey, who was still smarting over the whole marble thing.

On the way home, she counted her mosquito bites: there were 20, all picked up from visiting Granny on the porch while I stayed inside and played marbles with the children.

"Do we have any itch cream?" she asked me.

"No," I said. "I never get bit by mosquitos. That's what I keep you around for. They always like biting you better."

She was somewhat displeased with this, so we stopped by Wal-Mart (official vacation sponsor) to get some ointment. And, in a sudden surge of genius, I bought her a bag of marbles as well. But I didn’t tell her; I decided to keep it a secret and present it to her later.

For dinner, we were going out with old friends of ours, Wifey’s best friend from high school and her husband, a very nice gentleman who weighs all of one hundred and twenty pounds soaking wet holding a brick. He’s been the exact same size the past fifteen years.

It is not in the least bit fair.

When we arrived home, Grandpa and Grandma were still trying to take down the Slip and Slide and the kiddy pool from when we were playing the other day. So I decided to pitch in and help dump out the pool. And, as Murphy’s Law demands, I dumped the entire pool into my left shoe.

My only left shoe. Well, my only left shoe that is not a pair of dress shoes.

I squished inside. “We gotta get ready,” Wifey said.

“I have a problem,” I said. “Look at my shoe.”

“Just put on your spare shoes,” she said. “And let’s go.”

“I didn’t bring any,” I said. “I’ll have to wear my black shoes.”

“You’ll look like a dork in black shoes and shorts,” she said.

“I guess I’ll wear slacks,” I said.

“Then I’ll look like a dork in shorts,” she said. “Thanks a lot.”

“Why don’t you wear the open-toed heels, fancy skirt, black sweater, and fishnet garter stockings we got?” I said.

Here eyes narrowed dangerously. “You dumped that pool in your shoe on purpose!” she said. “You want me to wear all that!”

“You can wear what you want,” I said. “I just thought you’d feel sexy in all that. And when you feel sexy…”

It hung there between us, the sexual tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.

“Okay,” she finally said. “But don’t get your hopes up.”

For the record: my hopes were not the only thing that was up. So was my blood pressure.

We had a great night, catching up talking about the good old days. We’re all fatter and he’s not. I hate him.

When we had dessert, I ordered a flake of chocolate cake. Wifey ordered a bag of smell from an ice cream sundae. Her friend just licked the menu. He at a piece of cake the size of New Hampshire covered in strawberry glaze and vanilla ice cream while drinking a bottle of chocolate sauce with a side order of sugared grease.

Yet if he turns sideways you can’t see him, because he only exists in two dimensions.

So, just to make things fair, I sprayed him with the zip-loc bag of gizzards.

SOB deserved it. Oh, sure, Wifey made a scene, but I’m pretty sure she was agreed with me.

Then we came home. And, in a touching moment that I thought belonged at the penultimate scene of a teary movie, I presented her with the marbles. “I love you,” I said. “I always will. You can play with my balls any day.”

“Stay here,” she whispered. “Until I call for you.”

So I did what any normal person would do: I stripped naked and hopped up on the pool table. Hey, it pays to be ready.

Finally, the door to our bedroom opened. There she stood, a vision of erotic beauty, clad in fishnets, high heels, cowboy hat, and lacy black brassiere. I was beside myself in lust. I came running down the hallway, drooling like a moron.

“Honey?” she asked. “You know what I want to play with the marbles?”

“Hmm?” I said, my mouth busy doing other things.

“I want to play whack-a-cock.”

And then she hit me with a sock filled with marbles in my ‘nads.

“Now we’re even. Good night!”

Tomorrow: My Day Aboard the Minnow

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