Sisters and Bathrooms
I was in a bit of a pickle if I’m honest. You see, the way I was brought up, I had an older sister and two behind and a mother who was somewhere between a Category 5 hurricane and a thermonuclear device. And believe you me, every one of those sisters had Mom’s attitude when the occasion arose.
Upstairs we had five bedrooms, a laundry room and the library. Mom had her own bathroom in the master. The older one and one right behind me shared a bathroom and the youngest wanted her own downstairs. Now if you were to look at the door on that shared bathroom you would have to conclude that whatever dogs were in that fight couldn’t have survived. But there it was. For some reason at one time, Cathy required an ax to get her door open. I don’t know the specifics, but Lesli had gone past her time allotment apparently. I never understood why Mom’s bathroom was not used or one of the others, but I can assure you that Cathy whacked that door with that ax. Sadly, it did not help her gain entry. She hadn’t mastered physics and torque. But she would.
Meanwhile, I was figuring out that physical violence was a bad option. I might have won a temporary battle against one of them, but I would have lost the war against all three. My sisters believed in a scorched earth policy in even the smallest conflict. I learned early that I was a man and woefully stupid compared to the hive. So for instance, when my sisters failed to do their chores at Dad’s house, it always seemed to be entirely my fault. To this day, I don’t know how they managed that, only that they managed it with 100% success for as long as we were all going to Dad’s.
When trying to achieve a modicum of justice, an adolescent male must do two things: outsmart the women and protect the family jewels from the broad foot of an angry sister. So justice was no small matter. Sun Tsu had very good advice when he said,
“Whenever possible get your enemies to fight each other.”
To accomplish this you can, for instance, remove all the toilet paper from the girls’ bathroom. Their first inclination will be to blame each other, and mayhem is certain to follow. As the righteous one, you can feign innocence. Try saying over your shoulder as you pass them in the hall,
“As if I care about what happens in your disgusting bathroom.”
Another technique for inducing bloodlust is to dump a new bottle of a favorite shampoo down the drain. The owner will naturally believe it is the other’s federal offense and fisticuffs are imminent. My point is that when outnumbered four to one, it’s best to use your brains and protect the gonads.
I was married when a series of unfortunate events transpired. It was about three years after my brain tumor surgery and I had bought a Lexus SC 400– still my favorite car. It was black with coach leather seats, and it just looked awesome. On Sundays, I liked to wash it and break out the Zymol once a month and wax it up perfect. It had a Nakamichi stereo system, and I had lost about 50% of my hearing from the tumor.
My next door neighbor was a stay-at-home mom. She had a big Nissan 4×4 with the “Baby on Board” thing mounted on her rear window. The husband looked like a guy who worked all the time. I am telling you one thing, if potted plants were an art, she was the Michelangelo of them. Her front entrance looked like an opening to another dimension, one made entirely of flowers. Her back deck–above and below–was like a shot out of the Victory Garden. I’ll go out on a limb here and say I saw the signs of an obsession. It was a bit strange since there were no trees in our little subdivision to help with any shade-loving flowers but I can tell you, she was good.
It took me about two years to recover from the surgery and washing the car was physically difficult for me. My Sunday routine was all about the car. For the neighbors it seemed to be church. They’d come home from what seemed to me an awfully long time to spend in church and I’d nod to the hubby. Michelangelo never looked at me. And that’s how it was at my end of the street, week in and week out. Never changed. I think my parents secretly hoped that one day I would develop the patience and tolerance to just let it slide when people behave rudely. I hated to disappoint them, but hey there you are.
So this one day, I was out waxing the car, listening to the Smashing Pumpkins and the Mrs. comes home from church alone. Her hubby was often gone, so I didn’t think anything about it. About ten minutes later, my friendly neighborhood police officer pulled in for a chat.
My general attitude about police officers is definitely not good, but being the son and grandson of the most powerful lawyers in the state has made it worse. So I can come to a boil real fast when officers ain’t acting with civility and good manners. When you are introducing yourself in the South, it’s best to use pleasantries to demonstrate you are worthy of civility. Good manners dictate that a man be a gentleman at all times while visiting on another man’s property.
“What are you doing out here?” is not an acceptable greeting for a gentleman or a police officer, especially with towels and soapy buckets about with sponges and such floating in them. Clearly this ruffian was not only rude and un-gentlemanly, he seemed to be lacking the connection between his eyes and his brain as he was unable to register a car, a person, and car-washing paraphernalia and deduce that I was washing my car in my driveway. He also did not offer his hand which is yet another etiquette violation of the egregious order. I knew that there was a high probability that he was afflicted with some manner of nincompoopery. I addressed him accordingly.
“Well it may come as a shock to you, Einstein, but I am waxing my car.”
I don’t know if it was because Einstein was a Jew or because he was a genius, but my policeman friend definitely didn’t like me calling him Einstein and all. I did that on purpose, knowing that it is important to let a public servant know that he is there to serve by using a vernacular above his education level. Put him in his place right out of the gate, so to speak. I could pretty much count on him not recognizing irony.
“I need your name and ID.”
This was a familiar scene that had been played out many thousands of times with my dad and his brothers. I always paid attention when they were discussing the dumbest cops they encountered on the witness stand, so I was more than prepared to respond to this fatuous ignoramus’ query.
“You can call me Sir, and no you may not have my ID.”
It’s important to maintain a position of dominance over all cops lest they become aggressive as I could tell this one was about to do. It’s also worth mentioning that if the guy had just been polite it would have already ended this unnecessary interaction but cops aren’t trained to de-escalate anything.
“Well we got a noise complaint so I am going to need you to turn down your radio.”
Apparently he was unaware that noise has to be above 100 decibels and past 9:00 at night to be considered a violation. What was more perturbing to me was that somebody didn’t appreciate my excellent selection of tunes being broadcast free of charge. Ah, there was the rub. There was a Shania Twain fan nearby.
“I’ll take your suggestion under advisement thanks. Have a nice day.”
Just a note here. They are always confused by phrases like “under advisement.” This guy didn’t know what it meant, but I’ll bet he’d heard it in court or somewhere else he’d looked stupid.
That should have been the end of it but this cop was a spry lad wholly unaware that I was the progeny of the attorney who was currently representing the chief of police in his d-i-v-o-r-c-e.
“You can either turn down your radio or you can go to jail.”
Officer Sweatyballs gets a visit from Lady Karma.
“Excuse me for just a moment while I consult with my legal counsel.”
I called the old man.
“Dad, I’m here with Officer Sweatyballs and he is insisting that I turn down my radio . He mentioned 6th and Jefferson. (the jail)
“Gimme just a sec.”
“Just another minute Officer Sweatyballs. He’s consulting his law books and such.”
About one minute later, Officer Sweatyballs’ cell phone began ringing. I heard a couple of ‘yes sirs’ and ‘very good sirs,’ then music to my ears, Officer Sweatyballs said,
“I apologize for disturbing you Mr. Clay. It won’t happen again.”
Unfortunate Events, Continued
Sundays the old man likes to fire up his grill and cook chicken and ribs for his friends. It turned out that when Dad answered the phone, he put me on speaker and well, guess what? Apparently the Chief of the Police was sitting right next to him enjoying one of those German pilsners he likes to drink. So he called up dispatch and had them put Officer Sweatyballs on the phone so the Chief could tell him about his new nightshift assignment. Dad being the famous cross-examiner that he is, he also inquired who it was that made the call.
I had found the Shania Twain fan and let’s just say, her foot wasn’t very wide.
I chalked this misdemeanor offense up to me being a tad deaf and didn’t think any more about it, until two Sundays later when she did it again. It turned out that her hubby was in Saudi Arabia working for some shipping company and he was gone for six weeks so Ms. Shania Michaelangelo needed something to do. Mind you that if she had just come out and told me that the Metallica was disturbing her, it would have been my duty as a gentleman of the South to honor her request. I concluded that she had come from some Yankee hovel above the Mason-Dixon. Like the officer, she didn’t understand the power of good manners.
The next officer who came to chide me about my Metallica concert stopped in the street. I saw him on his radio fiddling about. I fully expected another query into my music selection but I was wrong.
“Good afternoon Mr. Clay. I just wanted to shake hands with you because your dad helped an amigo of mine out and he’s the best. I just wanted to tell you that you might want to make peace with your neighbor because she don’t like you too much.”
Thanks Officer Ortiz. I appreciate you.”
I had a sneaking suspicion that he had heard about Officer Sweatynuts.
“In case you don’t know, Sweatynuts is on third shift now.” He laughed.
A Guy Named William
In High School, there was a guy named William who liked to talk to a plant in biology class. He was trying to make sure it had all the carbon dioxide it could use. Apparently, this was annoying to people who did not enjoy listening to William nattering on with his plant endlessly.
Our Chemistry teacher was a living Cruella DeVille. As if that weren’t enough, she was a Rhodes Scholar and a man-hating lesbian who passed out disciplinary reports like Dalmation hides. She was especially demonic about the cleaning of test tubes. We were only allowed to use her favorite product, Alconox. It comes in a cardboard milk container and it’s a bunch of small balls that look like Styrofoam. Suppose you put three tiny balls of Alconox into your washing machine and turn it on. Within minutes, there would be enough foam to fill your entire house and any nearby skyscraper. It is the most extreme base and if you got it on your clothes, it would bleach them. I’m with Cruela on this. It is the greatest detergent ever made.
So one day, someone and I can’t say who, **DAN ACLAND** asked Cruella what she thought was the best way to kill vegetation? Without thinking what was being asked of her she innocently said, “Change the Ph levels of the dirt.”
Dan is a professor at a university that shall remain nameless, **BERKELEY** who William had finally caused to snap with his endless nattering with the plant. So Dan got a couple of beads of Alconox and proceeded to “treat” William’s plant with a lethal dose. William naturally thought he wasn’t watering it enough as it began its journey into death. He was at the point of hysteria as all of his efforts failed to revive his plant from its grave. Nobody dared to tell William who had committed the crime.
This was the second time Shania had called the popo on yours truly and breached the traditions of etiquette that generally keep us from killing each other. It was time that she learned a few things about being a good neighbor and I was just the one to teach her. I’ll risk raising a potentially hot topic just to say that a person with a murderous rage and a long garden hose is perhaps not someone you’d pick to have poison on hand.
I was going to need another 50 feet of garden hose. Amazingly you can order Alconox online and have it overnighted. I didn’t need a half gallon of it but it was on sale and I could use the left over to wash my car. I needed to hit Walmart for the hose. As I got back to the garden section, there was actually a very respectable choice of herbicides and one included a complimentary spray attachment that I could put to good use.
Our subdivision House Association was extremely anal about mowing the grass, maintaining bushes and if I had ever bothered to go to one of the meetings I might have seen Mrs. Shania Victory Garden getting an award for the prettiest lawn/garden in the entire subdivision.
I was expecting a bit more of a reaction between the Alconox and the vegetation killer I was mixing up I swear I saw some cartoonish skull and bones floating out of it. I had also managed to procure a nearly silent electric power washer to effect maximum damage and not cross onto my victim’s property. The moon was full at one o’clock on the night I began executing the Victory Garden’s doom. It looked like it was snowing soap. I slathered the plants with Alconox as I cackled with murderous glee. All her work toiling in the spring was for naught. I couldn’t hit the top of her deck with the normal hose, so the pressure washer did just the trick.
I sprayed the sod they had bought to look absolutely perfect for the Home Owners Association with a thick layer. Chernobyl couldn’t do the damage I was doing. I stared at two bunny rabbits eying me like I was committing a war crime, which I was because snitches get stitches, bitches. I even soaked the evergreens because I wanted to taste her complete meltdown when it came. I wanted to see those fucking Housing Association warnings strewn across her former lawn like toppled gravestones. I wanted everyone to drive by and wonder how her victory garden had turned into the barren Superfund wasteland I was turning it into while whistling the theme music to Andy Griffith’s show!
I didn’t tell my wife about it but being a chemist herself, she did ask me what happened to the new bottle of Alconox. She’d see soon enough.
On the fourth day, she knew something was badly wrong. She was dumping water on her potted plants like they had been stuck in sub-Saharan Africa in the middle of summer. I watched out my window while she spread the Alconox deeper into the roots. They weren’t looking good, but she still tried to save them. The grass first lost whatever causes it to stand up. It fell over like a worn shag carpet. It was dead. On the day the hubby was home, he bought a splitter for his garden hose so he could run his sprayers 24 hours. I heard him ask Shania why the soil was so soapy?
On the tenth day, the evergreens turned brown. If you stood where their grass was, it would peel off like dead flesh and you would slip in the mud that was their former front yard. The hubby just ran the sprinklers day and night with a futility that only I could enjoy. All of her potted plants were dead. They’d need a backhoe to get the evergreens out. I saw her pleading with the Home Owner’s Association.
Clearly I was the suspect.
On the sixteenth day, a Detective from the Kentucky State Troopers came by for a chat. He knocked on the door. He was wearing a Trooper blazer with his badge dangling out of the pocket. He had damning pictures of dead plants and a lawn destroyed by clearly alien forces. He wanted answers damnit. This sweet Christian lady had been violated. Nobody could get her to stop crying. He was none too impressed with the petulant son of the famous lawyer.
Me: Come in detective. Can I pour you a cup of fresh coffee? I have some cheese Danishes that are the best things ever.
I could tell he wanted them because he paused for a moment but he wasn’t there for a social call. He had questions. I had a cigarette box on the table and pointed to those. He did take one. I lit it.
Det: Mr. Clay, I am here because of some unfortunate reasons regarding your neighbors.
Me: Oh? How can I help?
Det: Well if you hadn’t noticed, they’re having some issues with their grass and lawn.
Me: No kidding? Maybe they should consult with a landscape architect (or chemist). I’m all thumbs when it comes to botany.
Det: Well Mr. Clay, she thinks maybe there was some foul play involved with her lawn issues and that you’re the cause of all the problems.
By this time, my wife was in tears. She was crying rivers. I believe to this day that the detective thought these were tears of innocence but no, she was trying to control her laughter and knowledge of the crime. This is the funniest thing in history.
Me: Why would she possibly think that? (said with Bambi eyes. Lisa says ‘excuse me’ because she can no longer hold back her laughter.’
Det: Well, she said a while back you were blasting music and she called the police to get you to turn it down.
Me: Oh I remember now. That was her? I thought it was the ones across the street. They seem a bit shady to me.
Det: Shady how?
Me: Well I don’t mean to tell tales out of school but I do believe they are marijuana smokers. (I hear a thud on the wall. Lisa is in uncontrollable stitches.)
Me: Yeah I do have a bit of a hearing problem. I had a brain tumor a while back and so I don’t hear so good but I know I’m not over 100 decibels.
Det: Well there was another incident where she called the police about your playing the music too loud.
Me: (like I am stumped) No kidding? I don’t recall any other instances off hand.
Det: So you weren’t mad about her calling the police on you?
Me: How would I have known it was even her that called?
Det: Well I thought that too until I seen who your daddy is and thought he mighta found out for you.
Me: I don’t have one hint. (but you’re welcome to question the chief of police until kingdom come if you like jag off)
Det: Well the thing is, in this picture here, you can see that it looks like someone has dripped something on your grass and killed it as well. Just like what happened to Shania.
A fucking couple of Alconox drops had betrayed me! I was in serious trouble now buster.
Me: I guess I’ll need to get my soil tested in case it’s contagious huh?
He was whipped, battered, destroyed, bamboozled and he knew it. Sadly for Shania’s victory garden, murdering foliage is not a crime. He gathered up his pictures. He hoped I would say something incriminating, so out of respect, I did as he was leaving.
Det: I guess I’ll tell her she ought not call the police over petty things.
I grabbed his hand and shook it firmly.
“That’s sage advice detective.” I winked as I said it.
He smiled because he knew.