Much in the way that Sac promises to kick your ass slowly and unpleasantly with Tai Chi Chuan, I have foregone traditional over-the-counter medicines that are guaranteed to dry up the snot tornado still whirling through the trailer park of my head, and I’m now taking an incrementally efficacious Chinese herb formula called Tong Bi. For two nights I’ve reluctantly shelved the Sudafed and taken a nasty handful of herbs, and what’s happened? Precisely nothing. If you’re going to throw in with Mother Nature you might as well suffer cruelly for your naiveté. For two nights I’ve read Jackson bedtime stories in that comically nasal voice where M’s become B’s and N’s become D’s. Ad thed Bisses Pribb screabed, “There’s a crocodile id the bathtub!” When my inner ears started throbbing last night, I knew another twister was a-headin’ down Eustachian Tube Alley. But when I laid my head down on my pillow those herbs really started kicking in! Within three hours the one-third of a nostril that I’d been breathing through had subtly, ass-kickingly dialted to three-eighths of a nostril.
A few weeks ago I took Jackson out for date night. Jack had a jazz gig with just him on bass and Little Al* on guitar, on the leafy patio of a dance club downtown, and it was an altogether incredibly pleasant and civilized thing to do. Jackson just stayed in my lap eating french fries and listening to Blue in Green, and when it started to get a little chilly we said goodbye and walked down to Dahlia’s bar so Jackson could get a kiss from the woman he loves. She wasn’t in yet, though, so to siphon off the poison of his bitter disappointment, I bought him some ice cream.
There’s a Coldstone Creamery just around the corner from Dahlia’s bar. I’d never been there, but I had a dim memory of some interns at my last place of employment doing a little eye-rolling, lip-licking, “Ooooh it’s so good look at me I have goosebumps just thinking about it” dance when someone mentioned the place. We went in, we got in line, we contemplated bins and endless bins behind finger-smeared glass of nuts and jimmies and cookie crumbs and coffee grounds and cigarette butts and things I personally would never want in my ice cream, like gummi bears. But I left it up to Jackson and he chose strawberry ice cream with peppermint patties mixed in. And right when our awkward teenager with a mouthful of braces was in the middle of paddling our products together, someone put a dollar in the tip jar. And all three teenage girls behind the counter slammed down their stainless steel scooper paddles on their refrigerated granite paddling surfaces and started SINGING AT THE TOP OF THEIR VOICES! BECAUSE NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED HERE AT COLDSTONE CREAMERY! Because you don’t just apply for a job here, you audition. So we had to stand a foot away while the first, second, and third chair sopranos in the Santa Barbara High School Choir joylessly bellowed If You’re Happy and You Know It for their .33 cents each.
And I haven’t even gotten to the point of this story yet. So we’re sitting and eating our ice cream at a sticky little kids’ table that’s about two feet off the ground when a girl about five years old comes up next to me. And I look up and smile at her and she gets this look of mild horror on her face. And of course I know what’s wrong: my eyeball has once again slid out of place. I have a lazy eye, and it starts drifting center when I’m tired, or most annoyingly if I’m trying to eat and read at the same time. It’s been years since anyone’s said anything about it. I think it was maybe fourth grade when Mike diPietro stood up in the lunch room and shouted, “[THE FUTURE MRS. KENNEDY] IS CROSSEYED!” Grownups tend to doubletake and then politely ignore it**, but the more time I spend with the juice-and-graham-crackers set the more looks of utter confusion I receive. To the point where yesterday Jackson pleaded, “Mom, stop making your eyes scary.”
* We have three Als in our life. Little Al was Little Al way before I met him; he’s little, his name is Al, what can you do. Then we have Alastair, who is also a guitar player, but much more in the Shredding Lord of Rock style, so we call him Met-Al. As in Heavy. Heavy MetAl. Then we have Alison next door, and although I can’t imagine a situation in which she’d be confused with the other two, she’s British so we call her Posh Al. We were actually thinking of making a change to Sporty Al last week, but as I was in the midst of my Tequila Cleanse I’m not really sure what everyone agreed on.
** Jack claims that it was just this particular flaw that made him fall in love with me. So there you go, girls: if you ever want to lure my husband away, just look at him crosseyed and talk like Rosie Perez. I won’t stand a chance.
I am once again testing the limits of sending holiday-deadline-specific gifts via the Internet. I thought Mother’s Day was May 22; this morning, Jack informed me otherwise. MOTHER’S DAY IS SUNDAY, EVERYBODY. I am crossing all fingers and toes with the hope that gifts from various gift portals will arrive by Saturday, because I paid a bloody fortune for the let’s-gouge-the-forgetful-shoppers shipping.
Also, everyone here at FussyCorp is in the grip of a cold. I was the last to get it. I had no concept of anyone else’s suffering. How could I? No one whines enough. Jack is not a whiner. Once he had a bone infection in his jaw and when he finally got around to seeing the dentist he (the dentist) was like, Oh my GOD. You’ve had a bone splinter growing out of your jaw for two weeks. Most people would be in the hospital right now begging for heroin suppositories.
I don’t think we’re personally responsible for the plague of snot that has visited a certain preschool. Because I kept sending Jackson to school even though his nose was a little pink water faucet that you can’t get to stop leaking even though you used Teflon tape. I don’t think I created Typhoid Jackson. Jackson who is a whiner, who’s been whining and drooping all week, and I’ve been idly picking the crust off his nostrils, which makes him cry because it hurts, but did I grasp and feel and knead his pain? No, I gave him another shot of cough syrup and a pat on the fanny and sent him back out onto the Play-Doh-covered field.
So, now I understand. Yes, when I woke up at 1:00 Tuesday morning with a sinus headache that not only covered the cubic foot that my head occupies, but stretched out to grasp everyone within a three-foot radius to include them in the misery, I understood why my little son is now addicted to Triaminic Cherry-flavored Cough & Cold syrup. Personally, I learned that Sudafed takes the aches and chills out of your body and plugs them firmly into your head. I have a dim memory of tasting my food, many years ago.
I’m sure you recall the scene in A Bug’s Life where the ant, who is looking for some tough bugs to fight the grasshopper bully (who is named Hopper, and who kick-starts his leg and roars off with the sound of a chopper, and is played by . . . Kevin Spacey. Maybe Cyndi Lauper and Karl Popper were unavailable — or, well, dead). SO, the ant goes into a bug bar and the first insect he meets is a drunken mosquito who sucks down a huge drop of O-positive and falls off his barstool. (Children’s movies! LOVE ‘em!) Then the bartender comes out of the kitchen and yells, “Who ordered the Pu-Pu Platter?” and a bunch of flies swarm over the plate in his hand, because — well, you can see this one coming — it’s a poo-poo platter.
Jackson thinks this is about the funniest thing he has ever heard, and he rarely lets you forget it. He finds ways to weave the phrase “pu-pu platter” into the darkest corners of the spider-filled garage upon which rests our lives.
“. . . W, X, Y and Z, now I know my ABC’s, next time won’t you HAVE A PU-PU PLATTER?”
“Bad girl, bad girl, what you gonna do? What you gonna do when a PU-PU PLATTER COMES FOR YOU?”
He sings that last one just like Eugene Levy.
Discursive possibilities between you* and me after you clobber me with a plastic sword.
*If you are nearly three years old
What I Say: “Ow! Don’t do that!”
What You Say: “But I just did!”
What You Mean: Jesus, mom, why the fuck are you telling me not to do something I’ve already done? What, you want me to go back in time? Sorry, I left my Omega 13 Device back on Thermia.
What I Say: “Hey! I told you not to do that!”
What You Say: “But it’s fun!”
What I Say: “You can do anything you want unless it hurts someone. That hurt me. So don’t do it again.”
What You Do: Whack me in the back with your sword again.
What I Say: “Goddamnit!”
What I Do: Grab sword and hit you between the shoulder blades with it.
What You Do: Stare at me in utter shock. Then cry.
What I Do: Hug you, but also feel like you deserved it and you’re overreacting because I barely tapped you.
What Jack Says: “You hit mommy again and my foot will be so far up your ass you’ll taste shoe leather.”
Moral of the story
Mom will keep giving you another chance until her hacked-off limbs litter the living room floor, but don’t ever fuck with dad.