Only 49 More Years to Go!

by Steve Olson

On a typical Thursday night, Mama was hunkered down jibbering on the phone for a couple hours laying on the bed. Dad was perched at the kitchen table moaning and groaning as he frowned at the checkbook next to the 1" pile of bills and smashed keys on the adding machine. Nancy was studying calculus and fiddling with her hair in her room. I was trying to figure out what makes The Paper Clip work. Mama eventually put the phone on the cradle to let it cool down and approached Dad. She vented, "Helen said she tried for one hour to get through on this stupid party line. I wish we could afford to get our very own private line like everybody else we know. We need to get some more money or cut some corners somewhere. Maybe we should make Thad collect cans and bottles for some cash. I would ask Nancy to help but I'm afraid it's just too hot for her out there. You could take the ladder around to neighbors' houses and get Thad to climb up and clean out the gutters. We could make big bucks on those two story houses! Next week I'll look into getting Nancy a modelling job at Sears. She's sooooooo cute! I wonder how much we could put in the kitty if we sold some of Thad's toys . . . "

The phone rang again which was the trumpet call for Mama to return to her post. Dad's moanings and groanings increased in frequency, duration and volume. Nancy finished studying her hair and fiddling with her calculus and moved on to memorizing The Dewey Decimal System while singing with the record player, plucking her eyebrows and twirling a baton. I gave up on solving the riddle of The Paper Clip and was now attempting to unravel the mysteries of our friend The Rubber Band. Me mum returned for Venting Phase II: "I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is The Preacher and his wife invited us over for supper tomorrow night. The bad news is they want us to bring Thad. I told Ginny that unfortunately Thad won't be able to make it as he has to stay home and clean his room which could take till late Saturday night. I was thinking that I don't know who we could get to keep him. We've already gone through all the babysitters in the church so we would have to find some brave girl on the other side of town who has never heard of him and is desperate for money. Anyway, she insisted that we bring him. I'm a nervous wreck just thinking about it. Can I call her tomorrow and say that we all came down with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?"

Dad The Idealist said, "He's only 6 years old. He couldn't possibly do any damage." Mama The Realist countered, "Say what? Have you lost your mind? Have you been getting into the cooking sherry again? Trust me. You don't know the child like I do. He has much creativity and little fear and is capable of saying or doing anything anywhere at any time in front of anybody. I know he's a good boy and means well but he's ... um ... he's very ... well ... uh ... very Thadish. We can try it and see what happens. The good Lord does perform miracles." After popping myself in the face 6 or 7 times, I decided it would be prudent to continue this scientific experimentation on the properties and unique characteristics of elasticity as exemplified by our enemy The Rubber Band at a later date like when I could see.

On an atypical Friday night, we piled into the good car for the outing/catastrophe. I am instructed to keep a low profile (whatever that is) and speak only when spoken to. Mama is so nervous we had to stop twice for her to go to the bathroom during the 5 mile trip. Everyone greets everyone. I privately questioned, "Pardon me, O' Learned Sister filled with earthly knowledge and heavenly wisdom. Why is there a piece of white paper folded next to each plate on the table? Are we going to make airplanes and throw them at each other?" O' Learned Sister lamented, "Of all the brothers in the world . . . I get stuck with this one. Why me, Lord? Why doest Thou persecute and chastise me so? I'm a good person. I'm kind to others. I have not maimed my little dork brother yet. I do my homework. I go to Sunday School and church. I say my prayers. I close my eyes for the blessing. I brush after every meal. Am I deserving of Thee to cast down Thine wrath and vengeance uponst me which burdeneth my soul and angereth my heart? Please give me an A on the calculus test next Monday. Amen." Completing her humble appeal, she tutored, "THAT'S NOT PAPER, YOU MORON! Those things are called 'napkins' and you wouldn't believe me if I told you what they are used for. Get it?" Not getting it, I pondered, "Nabkens?" Sister snapped, "No. 'Napkins', you bonehead and we don't have any." With no need to press for explanation, I knew the answer to my unspoken question and half the questions in the universe was "We can't afford it." Rumor has it that the first complete sentence I said when I was 4 years old was . . . take a wild guess . . . go for it . . . a shot in the dark . . . that's right . . . "We can't afford it."

We gathered around the table. Kathy, the pretty little girl my age, boldly announced that she would rather sit next to an alligator than sit next to me. I thanked her for her honesty and watched my plummeting ego hit another rock bottom and begin digging to China. She had already kicked me to the curb so many times, I had a knot the size of one of my small marbles on the top of my head from the concrete. The Preacher whipped out a marathon blessing covering everything under the sun and boring adult talk ensued. Everybody was playing it safe and minding their manners big time and being super polite and I was hanging on by my chinny chin chin. I exhibited abnormal patience and restraint as I knew that my time would come. The conversation then flowed (or clogged) thusly:

Mrs. Dunford - "Thad, how is school going? Have you learned any new words lately?"

me - "Do you have any candy? I ain't learned nothing in school. Mama said some new words when Daddy's boss and his wife came over for supper and she forgot to turn the oven timer on. She said some other neat words last year when the Christmas tree kept falling over."

Mrs. D. - "Really? Do tell. Well, have you done anything fun lately?"

me - "Yes, sir. I had fun today watching Mama put her girdle on. Sometimes she says those funny words and her face looks real goofy and it hides all the fat. Well . . . most of it. When she takes it off, her belly has a bunch of red lines on it and she's a whole lot happier. I wish Daddy would buy her one that fits but we can't afford it."

Mrs. D. - "My, my. I'm almost afraid to ask but how do you like our new Wednesday night covered dish supper? I saw you running around like a chicken with his head cut off and knock down Mrs. Stuckey. Bless her heart. She is such a nice, sweet old lady. I'm just glad that she didn't break anything. Did you apologize to her?"

me - "Yes, sir. All the food was good except for that gag potato salad. It almost made me puke and I would rather eat worms."

Mrs. D. - "Well, I never! That was my grandmother's recipe!"

I almost came out with "It's time for you to get another grandmother." but managed to blurt out the more palatable but more boring "Uh oh."

There was a long silence as they digested their food and my comments. Mama excused herself to go to the bathroom and Mrs. D. went to take some of her blood pressure medicine. Dad kept looking at me and putting his fanger to his lips for some reason and Nancy looked like she was about to bust a gut from laughing for some reason. I kept on eating while waiting for my audience to return for Act II.

me - "After I got the taste of what was supposed to be potato salad out of my mouth, I went looking around and saw Nancy and Tim kissing in the Sunday School room closet."

Mrs. D. - "What? Our son? My little Timmy?"

The Thad getting warmed up - "Yepper. And then I went outside to hunt for a dime to buy a coke colar and saw Tim and that other hoodlum William Denson smoking cigarettes behind the shed. After I found 2 nickels I went back inside to buy a coke colar and saw Nancy smooching all over William in that very same closet."

The Preacher - "We'll discuss this later, Tim. You get around pretty good, Thad. Did you like the children's sermon last week after you decided to finally quit talking so I could talk?"

me - "Yes, ma'm. It was okay. After church I heard Daddy and Mr. Moody say that the sermon was long and boring and The Preacher was paid too much money. Is that you?"

The Preacher - "That would be me. You certainly are a wealth of information. Here, have another drumstick. Just for the fun ot it, see if you can get most of it in your mouth instead of on the table and floor. Don't be afraid to use your napkin. We've got plenty if you need 8 or 12 more. Have another gallon of milk to wash it down with. How long has it been since you ate, boy? Keep talking."

me - "Then Mr. Clegg walked up and they talked about how the organist had real pretty legs. So I went to take a look at them but kept an eye out for Mrs. Stuckey so she wouldn't run into me again. I think her legs are too skinny. They're not nice and chunky like your wife's. Look at those colored people walking down the street. Uncle Bob calls them ni . . . . ."

Everybody in unison and perfect harmony - "Thad, why don't you go watch TV?!?!"

Kathy - "If you go watch TV, I promise I'll think about letting you hold my hand when we're 99 years old."

Suddenly, I had an insatiable curiousity to see what programs were currently being aired on channels 3, 9 and 10. What's My Line? - too deep. A mushy love story about falling in love - not in this lifetime. Tarzan - perfect. It was the episode about The Great White Hunter and his buddies marching into my and Tarzan's hood to kill elephants and collect their tusks for the love of money. We don't think this is a good idea. They kidnap Boy and Cheetah helps us rescue him. Me and Tarzan don't like The Great White Hunter so he have to teach him a lesson. One of the bad guys got stuck in the quicksand and the last I saw of that sucker was his hand waving bye bye. Maybe we should have taken more time to find a longer stick . . . Too bad, so sad. Soronara. Me and Tarzan tried to swim across the river but an alligator got in our way so we wrestled him and killed him dead as a door nail with a knife. I think Kathy would rather sit next to me than one of those critters. I think. We let Jane stay in the tree house to cook us all up some rhino burgers, hippo stew, cornbread, grits, sweet tea, pecan pie and Cracker Jacks. Once on the tipitty top of a tree I screamed a perfect Tarzan yell and grabbed a vine attached to thin air to swing out on. The "swing out on" part never happened and I landed on the knot on my head that I got from the curb which was now the size of one of my large marbles. This impressed all my friends. Both of them.

Someone came into the family room to bask in my presence, seek my counsel, admire my virtues, absorb my countenance, engage my intellect and relish my company. This little light of mine . . . I'm gonna let it shine. "Hi, Tim!" "Shut up, kid. We're going out in the back yard so I can beat you up and then kill you." He grabbed me, put his hand over my mouth and threw me over his shoulder. Nancy headed us off at the pass and intervened, "Stop. You can't do that. We don't know where to bury the body and eventually my parents would ask about him." "Can I cut out his tongue?" "No and don't think that you are the first one to come up with that idea." "Can I tie him up to that tree next to the big ant hill that has all those gigantic, red, mean, hungry ants and pour honey all over him?" Squirm. "Hmmmmm . . . That's interesting . . . Reeeeaaaal interesting . . . Let me think about it . . ." Squirm, squirm. "No. We can't do that because we're Presbyterian. If we were Baptist or Lutheran it would be alright. Come up with something else." "Can I give him a charley horse?" "That would be okay but make it a good one."

He gave. I received. Very many much pain. Not good. I roll on the ground. Billions and billions of stars. Angelic beings. Beautiful music. Jesus is tenderly calling me home. Nancy refereed, "Maybe that was too hard." Maybe? Maybe? Maybe I dropped a few crumbs when I was eating. Maybe Genghis Kahn was an irritable man. I visualized spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair. At least I could always get a good parking space. Dad had to pick me up and carry me to the car. Beginning to have an appreciation of the relationship between cause and effect and not coveting another encounter with Tim The Terrible and his bionic elbow, I said that I ran into a tree. Dad proposed that maybe my eyes were not completely healed from my losing battle with The Rubber Band. Mrs. D. invited most of us back next weekend but correctly guessed that I needed to clean my room and if they had already gone through all the babysitters at the church maybe they could find some brave girl on the other side of town that had never heard of me and was desperate for money.

Mama was quite expressive and had alot of things to say to me on the ride home. Alot of things. She accented with much vim and vigor. Especially vim. An exorbitant amount of vim. So much vim that we had to roll up the windows lest innocent ears would be disturbed. She also derived much enjoyment from shaking her fanger at me numerous times. I lost count at 53. Dad saw how much fun she was having so he decided to join in and offered a few suggestions of his own but mostly used vigor. Nancy kept bringing up the subject of ants which made me feel none too good and I appreciated the fact that we were Presbyterian. I decided that if they ever invited me back I would keep a low profile (whatever that is). I started to ask Dad if he would buy a low profile for me to keep but I already knew what the answer would be.

I liked the babysitter, Miss Linda. I broke her in pretty fast and then wasted an hour of my life when she challenged me to find the beginning and ending of The Hula Hoop. When everyone returned home, Miss Linda said that she deserved at least $5 more because she had never heard of me and was desperate for money and she and her family were moving to Alaska the next day so there was no sense in calling her again.

Kathy and I both turned 50 last March so we're more than halfway there! Does anyone know how I could get in touch with her? That's the end of the story. You have to go now. Scoot.

Wheelchairless,

thad sneezler

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