Friday, June 20, 2014

The Manny Diaries, Chapter Twelve: Chippy and the Back Scratcher

He made it. The Manny made it to Mexico. He's really there, and he is really not here. I think I'm suffering from a fair amount of disbelief.

There's a residual effect in the air, like he left some ghostly effluvium here, such that I can almost hear him groaning "The pain! The pain!" as he treaded up the stairs at night. I still realize with a start, at 5:15 pm, that no one is cooking my boys a gourmet dinner, and now I have to toss some frozen lump of a thing in the oven to get them fed. I look out the window and expect to see him shuffling through the garden in his slippers, inspecting the pea shoots and looking for Bun-Bun, his special tame friend, who must have lost his (or her?) parents to a hawklike personage because the thing is FEARLESS.

This is Bun-Bun.
I once remarked that we shouldn't be so quiet and gentle around Bun-Bun because we were teaching him additional fearlessness that his parents had failed to teach him and he was gonna get snacked upon. I worry about the little fellow daily, as does, no doubt, the Manny.

Before he left, we suggested that he would be lonely without his special animal friends, Bun-Bun and Fatty the Groundhog, who lives under our shed. So we jokingly plucked a "lovey" out of the Vast Bin of Neglected Stuffed Animals and gave him Chippy the Chipmunk, who is a hand puppet,

He really took to Chippy. He walked around with him a bit, talking to him and working the hand puppet so that Chippy would "respond." I said it made him seem less crazy because at least he was talking to SOMETHING as opposed to just babbling to himself. In fact, he took Chippy with him to Mexico. But, he left the back scratcher (pictured below) behind. Do you know how I found out? When we were cleaning his room, after his departure, my husband gently scratched me on the back with it as I was bent over stuffing things into a garbage sack. glgflflh!!

Chippy and the Back Scratcher. Use your imagination to picture the scene with the Manny in it. 
The cleansing went on for quite a while. It took all morning to take down his blackout curtains and let the sun shine into the attic room, sweep the desk of detritus, and gather up a sackful of greasy and sticky coins. There was some half-gnawed peanut brittle. There were some half-empty Coke bottles, and a bottle of ear wax remedy. There was not, however, an empty liquor bottle of any kind. We figured he's gotten pretty savvy and spirited them out in the dead of night, or maybe poured the stuff into Coke bottles in the parking lot of the CVS and then tossed the evidence.

The things we leave behind.
Because there was no doubt—no doubt whatsoever—that he had started drinking with a feverish intensity right before he left for Mexico. On Friday morning, two days before his departure, he showed up in the kitchen at approximately 8:30 am as crocked as a monkey. He was mumbling and slurring and blathering about how dreadful his life was and how fearsome things had become.

"Someone's gonna screw my pooch!" he said dolefully. "Everything that could have gone wrong for me has gone wrong. All of it!"

I said: "Are you drunk?"

He staggered backwards into a doorframe as if I'd punched him in the gut, his eyes bugging out.

"Drunk? DRUNK? howonearthcouldibedrunk? Huh? Heh?"

"Well, even a child can see that you're drunk."

"No no no no no I'm not drunk! I don't drink! Why would I be drunk? My life is so bad...the pain, the pain." And he massaged his aching hip. He stumbled around, mumbling madly and bumping into things.

My husband had words with him. Well, they weren't just "words." They were bad words, spoken at a high volume. By the time we came back from a school concert event, he had gone into the city to conduct one last errand. Husband sent him a note apologizing for raising his voice, but Manny simply must not drink and lying about it just made it worse. He wrote back:

Not drinking  I'll have    a hotel Saturday  need to go don't trust you
What about thee quorts in your space you have your own problems 

"Thee quorts" referred to something he'd seen in our own liquor cabinet—intriguing, given that he had no possible reason to look inside that cabinet.  But then again, we'd been noticing a few things vanish from that cabinet now and again.

Here was a dreadful dilemma. How was he to get to the airport? How would we ensure that he was going to get on that plane and fly to a different country? And would he return in time to pack Chippy, his wok, the back scratcher (evidently not, in this case. glrk!), his French press, his lemon squeezer, and a handful of underwear?

Fortunately, he did. And he came back wearing this jaunty chapeau, which I think he imagined as a Mexican sombrero-like accessory but, on him, looked a little small atop his big ol' head.

Heisenberg Dos, in straw.

This isn't the last chapter, of course. You've probably figured that out by now. There is more. Indeed, there is more.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Manny Diaries, Chapter Eleven: Mexico is for Lovers

On Sunday (6/15/14), if all goes according to plan, the Manny will be winging his way toward his new home in sunny Mexico. The odds that he actually makes it onto the plane grow increasingly slimmer, in direct proportion to his nervous nattering and hand-wringing, and the reality that he's drinking again. Yeah. His fears include:

  • Being detained at the airport and made to pay exorbitant taxes on the few beat-up possessions that he's taking with him.
  • Finding out that his landlords will put him in enforced servitude upon arrival, and that the Craigslist listing was an elaborate ruse to get a slave.
  • Discovering that whatever suitcase he brings is exactly 1 inch too large to qualify for the one free bag (because of the wheels!) and being forced to pay more money to transport it.
  • He will get waylaid by banditos at the local Wal-Mart
  • He will accidentally drink the local water and get Monty's Revenge
  • Since he can't speak Spanish, the cheap translation app he bought will say "pussy" instead of "gracias." When we typed in "thank you." Which it does. For real.
  • And much more!

In the interest of a smooth removal, I took him to the local Goodwill to find a cheap suitcase of exactly the right dimensions. We found one right away! Here it is:

Manny accosted a fellow who was sorting girls' clothing on the racks.

"Do you work here? Or are you just some creepy guy who likes touching little girls' clothing?" he asked the man, then guffawed. "Anyway, do you have a tape measure?"

Manny opened the bag and reached into an inner pocket, immediately yanking his hand out and flinging a pair of dirty women's undies violently away from him. They landed on the end of the clothes rack and dangled there. Virginia is for Lovers, indeed.

"OH MY GOD I HAVE CRABS NOW!" he said, scratching his arm violently. "Look, do I have a rash starting?"

"Crabs don't jump that fast," I suggested.

"They jump FAST!" he said. "Like lightning! They hop. They leap."

He bought the suitcase anyway, but the whole way home he scratched at his arm and inspected it for crabs and fresh bites. He got home and obsessively washed his hands and then started on the dinner prep. Except earlier that day, my husband had hidden the salt, after an overly salty meal that had rather bloated and sickened us. (The cooking was starting to lose its shine, after we realized that the scale was telling a tale of buttery, greasy, salty, sausagey overindulgence).

So he went seeking the salt, becoming almost crazed in his hunt.

"Where's the SALT? I can't find the SALT. Could someone have HIDDEN the salt?"

"Maybe," I said cryptically. "Maybe someone did hide the salt. I believe that may have happened, yes."

"Who hides salt?!! That's a creepy, crazy thing to do. WHO hides salt? I mean...I just can't even understand why ANYONE would ever hide salt. That's troubling."

He scratched at his head and worried about the crabs again, a little bit. Then he went searching for the salt again, muttering and cursing.

Next, he decided that he wanted to have a tag sale and get rid of all his worldly possessions, but for a few treasures that he would take with him to Mexico. So he made some truly extraordinary craptastic signs and tacked them up around the neighborhood, and he sat on our lawn, sweating in the heat, surrounded by a panoply of strange goods, including the Aunt Jemima bookends from Part Ten.

This print, by the artist Niagara, greeted shoppers as they arrived at the sale.

Here are some things he said to people who dropped by:

Woman: Is this something to rest your spoon in while you're cooking?
Manny: You can use it to cook up your heroin, actually.

Man: I'll offer you $20 for that.
Manny: Don't screw my pooch! I'm not an idiot. Didn't the ad say "no crackpots"?

Husband's Frenemy who lives down the block (returning item that he bought for $10): I got home and the wife said "no." So I'm bringing it back. Can I have my $10 back?
Manny: Who the fuck DOES that?

He sorta had me in agreement at that last one.

Anyway, he managed to unload a variety of things and made some decent cash.

As his possessions disappeared one by one, I began to wonder about the mental state of a man in his 60s who is suddenly unburdened. Lightened. Free to travel to Mexico, and perhaps to never return. One of the few things he hadn't chosen to sell was the urn containing his beloved bulldog's ashes. That would go into storage, along with the bulk of his art collection. The cast iron pots, the spoons, the coffee grinder, the French press—all of it sold, gone.

And I did think of all our relentless, endless belongings in the attic, those things that we call home. What we cling to and what remains. Ashes and memory. And how my friend texted me today and said "Is Sunday a special celebration combining Father's Day and 'Get the Fuck Out of My House Day?'"
Yes, all of that.