Up, Down and All Around

by Steve Olson

The Place - 1013 6th Ave. Albany, GA. The Time - Sunday afternoon fourish 12/1/61. We were all doing our thing: Dad was hunched over at the kitchen table pounding numbers into the adding machine and making up words which was a red flag proclaming the arrival of the first of the month and bills were due / overdue. The white flag was within arm's reach. The Queen Bee was talking to herself with alternating grumbles of "if we only had a car" and "I'm so sick and tired of baloney samiches" and "what else can we pawn" and "that boy" as she was sewing a patch on top of a patch on top of a patch on my blue jeans. Nancy was composing a Dear John Letter kicking her latest beau to the curb who did not come up to her standards and expectations. The Letter would be delivered to the deflated victim the next morning at school. Meself was scribbling a Dear Debbie Letter that had the faintest whiff of sense to be delivered to Debbie Palmer sometime within the next 6 months at school in the preposterous hope that she would come down with her standards and expectations. This female specimen was a slide under my microscope and my love for her was unquestioning, unwavering, uncompromising and undying. "Three foot two, eyes of blue, could she could she could she coo . . ." Grandiose plans were being finalized for Princess Debbie and Sir Thad to populate the whole county with little Sneezlers scampering about. "Let me tell ya 'bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees . . ." I sought Nancy's counsel on turning chicken scratch into prose, making 25c words out of 3c ones, speling and where to put commas and periods and stuff. More eloquence. Less dorkuence.

Dad aroseth with deliberation and authority and spoketh, "May I have everyone's attention? Excuse me, may I have everyone's attention, please? Would everyone please be quiet for a moment? THAD, SHUT UP! . . . I have an important announcement to make. I've been doing some figgering and ciphering and . . . everybody needs to sit down for this . . . The Sneezler Family - that's us (duh) - has had many obstacles and setbacks over the years (would 4,837 be considered many?) which we have somehow managed to survive. (somehow had alot of stories behind it) With all that said and done, I have some good news to report (we slid to the edge of our seats) . . . The Sneezler Family has another major victory! (there's been others?) If my numbers are correct and I believe that they are (the band was warming up) . . . don't fall off your seats when I tell you this . . . is everybody ready? . . . On your mark, get set, go! . . . The Sneezler Family is now officially financially better off than 26% of the world's population!!!"

We fell off our seats. I almost lost all bodily functions. Pandemonium broke out. At that suspended moment in time, 26% of the world's population was eating our dust! Here's yet another trophy for The Sneezler Family Trophy Case! (if we had one) We whooped. We hollered. We grinned until we thought our smiles would break in half. Front of the bus, here we come, ready or not! We high-fived each other. By hook and by crook we'd claw our way to the 27th percentile and chic had to be just around the corner! Math is a good thing. There hadn't been this much festivity in our house since the neighbors decided not to press charges against me the previous summer. I couldn't have been more ecstatic if I had been a 4 month old baby who just got burped! I could wait but only hardly to tell Debbie Palmer this latest and greatest news flash if she remembered who I was. We whupped our rich selves into a giggly frenzy bordering on religious fervor. We be slammin' jammin' struttin' Dancin' Fools - "You put your right foot in. You put your right foot out. You put your right foot in and you shake it all about . . ." Out came the broomstick for the Sunday afternoon ritual of limbo competition which I always won and always had to endure the false accusations of cheating. My mother and sister went through their much-practiced "Pardon me boys, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?" routine and then my parents started slow dancing to a Perry Como record and kissing which was a little too much. I took a hankering to step outside and shake the congratulatory hand of Walter Cronkite who apparently either took ill or was sent to the wrong address. I looked up in the sky to see the Blue Angels do an honorary fly by who apparently either ran out of fuel or were given the same address as Walter Cronkite.

The Chief Financial Officer, Mr. John Sneezler, took control, "To commemorate our hitherto unknown prosperity, I've prepared a little celebration . . . (pause for effect) . . . and have bought . . . (be still my heart) . . . a bunch of grapes - I don't know how many, I got all confused counting when I got to the fifties, a brand new can of Spam, a brand new box of cinnamon Pop Tarts, a brand new bag of Fritos and a brand new thingy of french onion dip! As if that weren't enough, I'm gonna give everybody a slice of cheese to put on their baloney samich except Thad who gets half a slice. The menu for tomorrow night's dining experience shall include fishsticksandtatertots. Also . . . also . . . everybody settle down . . . SHUT UP, THAD (accented by a knot slapped on the top of my pretty head to add to my collection) . . . in my little bag of goodies I find some bottle rockets, 4 kazoos, 4 party hats and 4 big balloons for Thad to blow up if he can do it without hurting himself or a human being." The mother lode must have recently been hit in his nightly dumpster diving. Mama started crying and managed through her sobs to mumble something about being too spoiled but it was unclear if she was referring to the family or the baloney. We ate like pigs at the trough till the cows came home.

When we were all about to bust a gut and I was licking my fingers and anyone else's who would let me, Dad humbled us with the dreaded but inevitable, "Now the bad news." The ground-shattering scraping sound that was heard was the shifting of the continental plates. All 11 of my toes started to cramp up. He continued as we braced for the short, slippery slope and crash back to the real world, "When I was smashing numbers I found out that we have to make a small change. We have to make a family decision and we have two choices. We can either have heat in the winter or we can have toilet paper all year long. We can't afford both." Pandemonium broke out. A heated debate catapulted to a scorching debate. I needed this like I thought I needed a frontal lobotomy (whisperings of which had been overheard at family reunions but was considered to be waaaaay too cost prohibitive). Our Family Pride (I mean family pride) was at stake as we climbed down the Ladder of Success. Out of the dizzy fast lane and into the sluggish slow lane. Much less wind in the sail. Much more drag on the anchor. One minute - The Haves. The next minute - The Have Nots. The sweet dreams were past. The gorish nightmares were present. Might this be some twisted joke masterminded by Alfred Hitchcock lurking in the background? This was My World and welcome to it. Math is a bad thing. There was more commotion that night at 1013 6th Ave. than Father's Day in Harlem. This had all the markings of being as tantalizing and alluring as circumcision.

Flipping a coin was offered as a viable solution but the ramifications of such paramount import shan't be left to the shifting winds of chance. Uncertainty outslugged our ability of knowing if the hand of God or the claw of Satan would have control of the tumbling of the coin. Heads or Tails was a tad bit too ironic. The idea was rejected with extreme prejudice. Eenie Meanie Miney Moe was also quickly shelved. I put in my 2c worth and got some change back. I kept asking myself what would JFK, Bear Bryant, Col. Sanders or Barney Rubble do in this situation. I cared naught what Captain Kangaroo would do. If the Lone Ranger ever looked hard at that dweeb, his stupid tie would start quivering and melt. I wouldn't share my foxhole with Mr. Green Jeans either. Vic Morrow was my foxhole buddy with Chuck Connors and Dan Blocker covering us and backed up by Lloyd Bridges and Broderick Crawford in radio contact, all of which is neither here nor there. (so where did it go?)

Ballots were cast and votes were counted. Two were for heat, two were for toilet paper. Mama (whose vote counted twice) and I (whose vote didn't count) were not willing to forego the luxury of the soft rolled up stuff. More pandemonium. More debate. More commotion. Family Bonding was nowhere to be found on the radar. Dad, with the brilliance and wisdom of Andy Griffith and the charisma and flair of Ed Sullivan, offered that we could have heat on Sundays and Wednesdays and everyone would be rationed 20 sheets of toilet paper per week except me who would be doled out 8 sheets which comes out to one per day. Hmmmmm. Head scratching. Pondering. Ideas in the balance. Advantages / Disadvantages. Interplay of values. A clash of just weights and measurements. Sacrifices. Us three consented with the requirement of 2-ply sheets which was nonnegotiable. Dad The Compromiser conceded. Interjecting some levity to dispel the tense environment, Dad The Comedian chuckled that maybe Mama should get 40 sheets because her fanny was so wide which was the last time he interjected some levity to dispel the tense environment. He couldn't do his Jack La Lanne exercises for 2 weeks. Dad The Enforcer kept the prized booty (stay with me here) under lock and key because I reckon he didn't trust Nancy. I've never had the same attitude towards toilet paper since and used my 8 weekly 2-ply sheets all year long as bartering material. Cold took on a whole new meaning that winter. The patches lasted for about a week. All but 2 of the bottle rockets were duds. There were 106 grapes.

This is my story. This is my song. This is my dedication to my friend Sharon who has dropped 7 babies (and one more on the way) and has exactly 182 times more true kid stores than I could ever dream up. Her soulmate, Elmer, also deserves a party hat and 2 slices of cheese on his baloney samich.

Gotta Go Turn The Pork Chops,

The Rev. Dr. Thaddeus P. Sneezler

Editor's Note: I was recently trying to balance the books and it came to my attention that several of you are delinquent on your $85 monthly dues / love offerings to The Thad Sneezler Fan Club. I would never stoop so low as to naming names and embarrassing the guilty parties, namely Zeb, Vicki, William, Carrie and Tish The Dish. Please submit the appropriate funds to your accounts so we can bring the records up to date and all live happily ever after and no we don't take American Express. Due to the rising cost of paper, the increasing price of tea in China and the burgeoning lifestyle of the staff, we have upped the monthly rate to $135 for the prestigious Thad's Knights and Damsels of the Round Table. Membership has its privileges.

Nasty rumors have been persistently floating around various internet forums pertaining to my absconding with the funds. These accusations are totally unfounded and based entirely upon hearsay. Sure, there have been a few issues that have been very difficult for me to explain but to this date and to my knowledge, no one has come forth to offfer prima facia evidence of any crime committed. The food at The Big House ain't that bad anyway. My last trial ended up with a hung jury so I've got a clean record for the past 7 months and 19 days. We thank you for your support and have a blessed day!

Pssssst: Sharon's not really pregnant.

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