Monday, December 04, 2006
Your Halo Is In The Mail
“Young man, I’m lost.”
It was nearly midnight last Monday when she tottered into the restaurant. I was hunched over the counter, my eyes vacant, my mind leagues away. Upon her plaintive statement, I snapped back to reality and took in the owner of the delicate old voice.
Doris looked 75. She had red hair under a shawl and massive prescription glasses.
I walked around the counter and approached her.
“Where are you trying to go?”
“Naperville. I go there everyday; it’s home. Somehow I got turned around today, and I don’t know where I am!”
She was nearly in Elgin, many miles north and west of her destination.
“I can help.”
I led her to a booth, grabbed paper and a marker, and told her the way home. My instructions were too complicated and Byzantine for the flustered old bird, so I offered to draw a map and write detailed directions. I’m a superb improvisational cartographer, and my handwriting is impeccable. Ten minutes later Doris was confident and keen to hit the road, armed with my magnificent instructions.
“You’re an angel, young man. My angel. Your halo is growing brightly tonight.”
Doris waved goodbye.
“Kiss my testicles? It’s crude enough to be from you, Steve, but something doesn’t fit.”
“Damn right it doesn’t fit. I didn’t post these little notes inside the garbage cans for all you waiters to find. Not my style at all. And if I did, my message would be further off kilter than that. Mine would say ‘Kiss my middle testicle, Love Steve.’”
“You have three testicles?”
“Man, I got a whole cluster of grapes. You’d need a flashlight and a spanner to find my middle nut.”
“I’m going to investigate this. These were written on numbered tickets, I see. Time for me to start collecting examples from each of you. Whoever has the pad numbered between 482650 and 482700 is the guilty prankster.”
“You pissed off?”
“Not at all! This is brilliant. I’ll shake the perpetrator’s hand and congratulate him before I brew up my own suitably childish retribution. Today’s Thursday. By tomorrow night I’ll have acquired my target. No doubt in my mind.”
Slip Slide Smash
I’m eastbound. Thursday night’s shift has ended, and now it’s 1:15 AM on Friday morning. The snow is no longer falling in gentle flakes. Instead, it’s shooting down like sharp darts of frozen hatred.
I crack my window and light a cigarette. In seconds, my cheeks and left eye are stabbed by precipitation. I flick the smoke through the window and roll it back up. I must concentrate.
God this is slow. I wish I could go faster, but I dare not. Even the professional truck drivers are having a hell of time keeping their semis in a single lane. They should pullover and wait. They can sleep in their cabs. I must go on.
Oh shit, that guy is moving fast. Too fast. He’s coming up along side me. He’s swerving. This is bad. Maybe if I just veer into the breakdown lane a little, he can pass me without sideswiping me. Oh shit. I’m not in the snow ruts anymore. I’m in the thick stuff. I’m sliding towards the median! Brakes! Come on! Brakes! Repond! Brakes! Fuck!
Karma Makes A Comeback
I’m running down the breakdown lane through slush. The ice darts from the sky are stabbing my hands and face. I keep slipping. Careful now. One wrong step and I’m going to splash out face first in an icy puddle.
After I collided with the sand pylon, my car spun around and halted, safely out of the traveling lanes, half in the breakdown lane, half in a construction pit. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to collect my insurance papers and some cigarettes before abandoning my new car.
If only I hadn’t left my cell phone at work. No way to get help. Even if I had my phone, the police and tow services are sure to be busy tonight. Long waits. I decided not wait in the car, choosing instead to sprint for the toll booth.
Here I am, jogging through grey slush. This could be a brutal voyage.
Two miles later, somebody is slowing down and pulling over. I can’t see inside the ancient Oldsmobile, but it’s obvious to me the car is paused alongside me to offer help. I jump in the rusty old bucket.
“Hey thanks! You’re a lifesaver. I have no phone, I crashed, and I…”
I stop to catch my breath. He stares blankly. He’s Mexican and understands nothing more than my tone, which is panicked excitement.
“What’s your name, man? I’m Steve.”
I thank him profusely and ask him to leave me at Cumberland Station. I ask for his contact info so I can send him money and Christmas cards. He declines. Helping a loco gringo is a good deed, but inviting him to be an honorary family member? No. Aurelio doesn’t want gratitude or rewards. We part.
Cold Alone Downtown Baby
I disembark the blue line train at the Clark and Lake station to transfer to the Orange Line. I know the transit system fairly well, and if all goes according to plan, I'll be home in twenty minutes. The Orange line stops two blocks from home. This isn’t going so poorly after all.
I switch platforms. I wait. No train. I go to the info desk. The woman behind the bulletproof glass has a toothache. She's gulping Aleve pills and coffee.
“Yeah, whachoo want?”
“Orange line to Midway, I’ve been waiting for a while. Still running?”
“Shit. How about the Blue line to 54/Cermak?”
“Naw. Just the Blue to Forest Park.”
A quick round of mental calculations tells me I can get as close to home as Damen & Harrison, right next to the United Center, where the circus and the Bulls games frequently clog up traffic.
That leaves only 31 blocks to trudge through the sleet and hail. With a hole in one shoe.
I Drink To Forget
On Friday afternoon I drank heavily and spent long periods of time on the telephone with the state police, a towing company, my insurance carrier, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. By the time Enterprise arrived to scoop me up, I was buzzed.
The pick-up guy was an obese black guy who ignored my feeble attempts at small talk. He pretended I was not riding shotgun, electing instead to bob his head to “Too Hot” by Kool & The Gang, which he had blasting from 95.5 WNUA. It was cold and wet outside.
Drunk and wearing my pajamas, I drove a rented Pontiac G6 back home through the evening rush hour. I did not get into an accident. (but it was a short drive)
“No. No way. It’ll take too long. I gotta get ready to go.”
“I’m going to see my girl. I haven’t seen her since Wednesday, and not for weeks before that. I’ve been looking forward to this Saturday all week.”
“This’ll only take a half hour, forty-five minutes at most.”
“Hmm. Okay, I guess.”
My roommate is teaching himself the art of stage makeup and mask making. He sits me down, opens a massive container of Vaseline, and coats my entire head from the neck up with globs of lube.
“This keeps the latex and plaster from getting stuck in your hair. Looks like you need more on your sideburns.”
Next, he uses a paintbrush to apply boiling latex paste to my head. It doesn’t burn too much with the Vaseline protecting my skin.
“This feels disgusting. Why do I get the feeling you’re going to ram me up an elephant’s vagina?”
9:00 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
“You’re not supposed to know about that. Just think about unicorns and rainbows. Everything will be fine. Relax. No facial movement. Not even a sniffle. Don’t fuck this up. Okay?”
An hour later, I’m getting impatient. He’s only getting started.
“Okay, now for the plaster strips. Time to mummify you.”
Two hours later, and it’s almost time to remove my cranial exoskeleton. I take a break from my serene stillness to check my email. With no phone, it’s my only way to communicate with my date. She’s mad. I blew her off. And not for just any date. She was going to cook me dinner at her place. I am such a fool. She’s right to be angry. I apologize.
Upon removal of my mummy mask, I head for the shower with a bag of Pillsbury baking flour in hand. It absorbs grease. I lather my greasy head with flour and rinse. Repeat. Seven times. I still have latex and oily flour clumps in a few places. I give up.
I check my email again. She’s not just mad, she’s furious. We’re finished, she says.
I drink. I wonder if Doris made it home okay on Monday.
Side Order #3
Side Order #2
Side Order #1
The Perfect Kiss
Drowning Dignity Like An Unwanted Kitten
Anti Rape Spree (Three)
Beer For The Ruthless (Two)
Kill All Hippies! (One)