Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘laughter’

The Pickle Story

picklestoryAN EXCERPT from a short story published in the anthology, Robot Hearts. (A woman performs the Heimlich Maneuver and goes out on a date with the man she saved.)

This month has been hard.  My clients are doing the usual two-week ramp up before the Christmas holidays.  They talk about their parties, hangovers, family brouhahas, and impulsive sexual escapades.  The entire month makes me want to act out with them. So I did.

My holiday escapade began when I made an awkward phone call to the man from synagogue that went something like this:

“Hello.  I’m the woman from Friday night services.”

“Oh, I didn’t think you would call.”

“Well, it was sweet of you to come out to my car and say thank you.”

“It was amazing how far the ruggelah flew.”

“Yes. The rabbi was surprised.”

I tapped my fingers. Reconnected with my eye twitch. Good bloody grief.  I cut to the chase.  “What do you think about dinner?”

“I like dinner,” he said.

“You had suggested we go to dinner.”

“Oh yes, I forgot.”

“What kind of food do you like?” I asked.

“Oh most things.  Hamburgers, meatloaf, chicken soup, ice cream.”

I had a moment – a long moment of wondering, “Is this worth it?” I decided to carry on.

“Do you know Mitch’s Tavern?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Well.  I know Mitch and he can make some great chilli and sandwiches but not hamburgers.”

“I don’t like spicy food.”

“What, never mind. When are you thinking?” I said.

“What?”

“Do you have a date, a time in mind?”

“No.  Do you?”

“How about Tuesday?”

“Okay.”

“So we have the date?”

“Good.  I’ll be there,” he said.

“Good.  But what time?”

“After work.”

“Okay, let’s pull this together.  Tuesday at 7 pm at Mitch’s Tavern?”

“How will I know you?”

“I’m the one who saved your life.”

“Oh yeah.  Short, skinny, red hair, but God you were strong.”

“Looking forward to it,” I said.

I was sitting at the bar, talking with Mitch, the owner when a series of clunks echoed up the gloomy staircase.  David clomped his way over. “It’s good to see you getting out,” said Mitch and winked before strolling off.

A cute, college waitress showed us to our booth.  She smiled in first date sympathy as she handed over the menus.

“I’ll give you a few minutes to figure out your order.  What would you like to drink?”

“Knob Creek. A few ice cubes.”

David’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline.

“Budweiser.”

I smiled at him. He did not smile back.

“You’re prettier than I remembered.”

“Thanks.  It must be the lighting.”

We studied our menus like college students cramming that last little factoid before a history exam.

The waitress appeared with my bourbon, two waters, and his beer.  “Mitch said it’s on the house.  What would you like to eat?”

“A Rueben with fries,” I said.

“Ham and cheese.  Hold the pickle.  I don’t eat pickles,” he said.

“I’ll eat your pickle.  No, no wait.  I won’t eat your pickle.  Well not tonight.  Maybe later.  Another time?  NO.  Keep your pickle.  Not that there’s anything wrong with your pickle.  I’m sure it’s a perfectly fine pickle, just not a pickle for me tonight.  No, no pickle for me.  I gave them up.  All that brine has got to bad for the mucous membranes.”  I sputtered, feeling this deep pull in my belly.  A spasm, a fit, a seizure, a visceral understanding of the absurdity of the situation.  I started to laugh.  Really laugh like I hadn’t in a long time.  The waitress and I were rolling, wiping tears out of our eyes.  The table shook with us.  She had to sit down.  I offered her my bourbon.

David locked eyes with me.  His gaze suggested I had disemboweled his dog.  The waitress moved away.  The table was cocooned in a judgmental silence.

Dinner was fast.  We politely shook hands.  David walked away.  I went back to Mitch’s Tavern.  The waitress and I stayed up late drinking bourbon and trading war stories.  We decided to just walk away the next time someone chokes.

Lying face up on my bed sifting through the night’s events, I watched the first apricot rays of dawn dance across the floor.  Rod would have understood the pickle story.  He would have fed me the pickle, spending our last twenty bucks to buy bourbons for the four of us (me, him, the waitress, Mitch).  He would have made crude remarks for years about green vegetables.  The pickle fiasco would have become a little tease, a pickle tickle about the connection between sex and love and laughter, another little curlicue in our goofy love story.

 

Half Waxed

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Over a decade ago, swayed by peer pressure, I tried bikini waxing for the first time. My friend warned me to go to a salon for the service. Being cheap and overestimating my smarts, I thought I would try it at home.

“Do you think that’s wise?” she said.

“Can’t be that difficult. They sell kits at the drug store,” I said blithely.

Bad, very bad idea. The drug store and their waxing kits lied.  I have managed to give myself a concussion and melt my underwear to the left side of my crotch. Here’s my story:

After perusing the personal products aisle of the drug store for an hour, I went to the counter for some help.  “What product would you suggest for home waxing?”

The woman’s penciled eyebrows lifted three inches.  “How much pain can you endure?”  That’s such a bad question.

“Uh, I’m not a total wimp”.  Then a client beeped me.  So I may have missed some vital information.  The phone call took some time and when it was finished, the woman was helping other customers – customers who were buying gum, newspapers, and magazines.  No waxing products.  So off to the personal products aisle again.  I picked up the most expensive waxing kit thinking this is no time to skimp.

Following the kit’s instructions, I laid out a brownie pan, plastic gloves, the block of wax, scissors, a wooden spoon, two ice packs and my contribution to the process, a small glass of Scotch for the pain.  Some of the instructions were baffling.  I put on a favorite pair of green bikinis because I wanted a clean line for the finished product.  (Note to anyone — never wear polyester undies while waxing – the reason will become apparent later).  As directed, I melted the wax in the brownie pan using the wooden spoon.  The dogs laid their heads to one side before starting a low baying sound.  I poured some wax on the right side of my crotch and then on the left side before the pain registered.  I screamed.  The animals jumped back barking.  (Another note to anyone — always test the temperature of the wax before applying.)

From pubic bone to mid thigh was bright red. There was an interesting smell.  My skin was disintegrating.  One layer of skin, maybe two.  Definitely first degree burns.  Hoping to avoid the second degree blistering, I quickly yanked off the wax from the right side.  Immediately I passed out from the pain.  The best I can tell, I hit my head on the counter on the way down.  I woke into painful consciousness, stars buzzing around my head like in a Looney Tunes Cartoon, lying curled in the fetal position on the kitchen floor.  The two dogs and the cat were looking at me with these quizzical expressions of “should we eat her now?”

By that time, the underwear on my left side had melted to my crotch.  (Polyester melts in hot wax — very important note.)  Holding the counter for support, I got myself upright and chugged the glass of Scotch with two aspirin from the junk drawer. I corralled the animals, shoved them into the utility room, and closed the door.  Taking a deep breath, I yanked at the strip of wax on my left side of my crotch.  Off came a good inch of skin and melted undies.  I quickly found the ice pack and applied it while jumping around the kitchen.  The room was dark and hopefully the neighbors had not seen my personal auto-da-fe.  Now, what do I do?  The choices were dire.

First, I assessed the situation.  The right side of my crotch was a bright red field of blisters with small patches of scorched earth.  The left side looked worse.  One inch was oozing blood like partially defrosted hamburger.  A good four inches was covered with hard wax and melted spring green undies.

Second, I outlined my three options.  I could continue to self-mutilate my crotch by tearing off the fricassee of wax, undies, skin, and connective tissue.  I’m not sure I had the fortitude for such an option.  I could call Barbara and after she stopped laughing, she could help we with the left side.  This could be embarrassing as I conjured up the image of us tugging at my crotch.  That left option number three.  I could cut off as much of the melted wax – undies – skin – connective tissue combo as possible with my old dissecting scissors, apply burn balm, and cover the wound with a dressing then go to bed.

I picked option number three, bandaged myself, and phoned my friend.

“My crotch is toast.”

“We must have a bad connection. You’re eating toast? What about your crotch?”

“No. No. In the process of home waxing I learned some important life lessons.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What did you learn?”

“Waxing is rocket science and should be left to the professionals. And. One should never wax with animals nearby.”

“Did they bite?”

“No but I think they were trying to decide if I was dead. Oh and never, ever overheat your polyester undies.  They will melt.”

“Should I call the paramedics?”

“Nah. Off to apply more ice. Stop laughing.  It’s not funny.”

“You’re a mess.” My friend hung up. I hear her laughter every time I shudder past the personal products aisle in a drug store.

 

Bad Hair Days

young-woman-trying-to-check-and-repair-her-broken-car-picjumbo-com (1)

I’ve had a two-year run of bad luck. Not horrific big bad luck but the kind of luck that wears away at you. I am the pebble in the middle of the roaring river eroding away into a mass of crankiness.

First there is my damnable car. Never ever buy a Fiat. Italian design does not make up for bad wiring and Hendricks Service Center. These people are incompetent. While the car does not meet the legal definition for a lemon, it makes my mouth pucker. I am on first name basis with a representative of Fiat who must regularly scour the FaceBook pages of all things Fiat for my posts.

“Emily, it’s me again.”

“Uh what’s the car doing?”

“Well, the engine shut off and I had it towed to Hendricks Fiat.”

An hour later, Emily called back. “They can’t find your car at Hendricks.”

She’s a nice young thing. I can hear her cringe over the phone when we talk. I don’t curse or yell but I am ready to drive the thing, I refuse to call it a car – that’s giving it too much credit, over a cliff.

Second, I have had a series of painful operations and medical procedures for the last eighteen months. I am not a ‘nice’ patient being the type who does extensive research beforehand. When I don’t understand something about my care, I ask for an explanation, throwing doctors’ schedules off. I will go and cry in a doctor’s waiting room alarming other patients if they ignore me. More effectively, I will write the NC Medical Board and call the insurance company when I receive substandard care. Probably wouldn’t want me as a patient either.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back, my back, was last week when my hair started falling out from all the stress. Really folks, I have chunks of hair saying ‘bye-bye’ to my scalp to clog my sink. I have learned to use a plumber’s snake. Fudsicles or other words. I’ve never had great hair except for 1998 and the first four months of this year. And today I am getting it cut off. Again.Whine, whine, whine.

This is sucky. I am in the pits except … I have friends. Wonderful crazy ass friends who commiserate and then don’t.

Friends who take me to the Angus Barn when I have two black eyes and a beard of bruises on my face. Parents covered their children’s faces as I approached. A 40ish man fell off his bar stool after one look at me. Not my problem.  I asked the waitress, “Do you have anything soft to eat?” It’s a steak and ribs place. “Can I have a straw for my Chardonnay?” My friends kept talking between my slurps of mashed potatoes and sips of wine. I guess he made it back on the bar stool. I felt Medusa powerful.

Friends who love me no matter how silly and self-indulgent I am, for a little while. Friends who care take.

“Take your painkillers.”

“No I can tough it out.”

“Take them now you’re being a pain in the ass.”

I have the ability to work, not as much or as thoughtfully as I would like but still work. I found a voice, my medicated voice sort of like Freud or Sherlock Holmes. Ergo, a 430-page manuscript full of sex and violence written last year titled “50 Shades of Meow” meets “The Mummy.”

I have a sister who talks to me. Really. Lots of families don’t talk. We don’t agree on a lot but we are connected to each other.

I have a body that I am sure somehow, someday, will become pain-free and mobile again. Soon. Maybe not in the way or to the degree I wanted but good enough.

I had the opportunity to love something, dancing tango, for years with an obsession that was quite obsessive. Did you want to know about my collection of matching satin shoes and handbags for each of my tango dresses? No I didn’t think so. I learned there is an arc for loves, things, and events in this life. I am learning to let go.

Bad luck. I wouldn’t wish it on you but if you have a streak of it, you’ll reach deep down to find a way through and that I wouldn’t give up for all the good luck in the world. Bad luck taught me to know myself.  Count the blessings of friends. Laugh at myself. Stand up for myself. Love myself in all my crankiness. I don’t wish it for you but give me a call if it happens to you. I’ll listen to you whine then kick your ass into gear.

Off to get a really short haircut.

Friends and Shoes

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After the year of surgeries, as I refer to 2015, I am aware from toes to fingertips of the importance of friends. They shuttle you to doctors’ offices, listen to your medication-invoked ramblings, get the tissues for you after one more painful procedure, and feed you.

But I these memories are too close for me to view too closely. I need further therapy. Today I will pay homage to friendship with a goofy tale of two friends who went that extra … step for me.

Many years ago, when my heart was young or at least a tad less cynical, I danced tango. Not the stiffly beautiful ballroom tango but the achey-breakey heart Argentine tango. The dance of the bordellos or in North Carolina, the dance of late night restaurants with good wood floors where the men dressed in black to set off the bright dresses of the women in stilettos. (I wore black Mary Janes with a 3 ½ inch heel, stylish enough heels but thicker than stilettos.) And tango has drama. Hot sticky drama.

At a milonga, the name of a tango flash mob, I was celebrating my approaching birthday when up meandered an ex-lover. Handsome in a calculated and soon-my-degradation-will-show kind of way. A mean as a snake, stab and watch you almost bleed to death before calling 911, ex-lover. And he brought with him his new … friend. Now this was only a couple of months beyond our break-up. A devastating affair where I felt like I had been sucker punched after three months of total bullshit back-and-forthing on his part. She sauntered in on his arm, plopped herself onto a stool, and looked around for an audience. She put on shiny high, 4 inch high stilettos with sparkly rhinestone designs on their straps. The men gaped. A fleeting image of clubbing her with them danced through my mind.

Anyone who has been in this situation knows you have two options. Leave. Damned if I will go that route. Or carry on. My friends rallied around me. I danced my heart out or numb along with my toes as my friends checked on me every ten minutes. Tension was high. Dancers and even the restaurant staff were watching. I wasn’t going to give up. I had a stiff upper lip being British and I had friends. Solicitous and goofy-assed friends who loved me. More than I knew right then.

Somehow I made it threw the night, agreed to meet my friends for dinner the next day, and cried myself to sleep. Putting on my happy face and a drawer full of make-up to cover up the dark circles under my eyes, I drove out to meet them at the restaurant. My friends smiled at me. Mischievous, wicked smiles reminiscent of “I have done something that is mildly illegal and possibly morally ambivalent.”

We drank some champagne before the chocolate cake arrived with the one, only one, candle. And a gaily wrapped present was placed beside the dessert. I made a wish, a completely unrepeatable wish and blew out the candle. I ripped through the paper to the box below, yanked off the lid, riffled through the wadded tissue, and drew out a shoe. I held out the shoe. A used shoe. Not my size shoe. I looked at them. They smiled back before bursting into laughter. I rooted around for the other shoe. Nothing.

“Why did you give me one shoe?”

“Guess whose shoe it is?”

We fell out of seats giggling, guffawing, all the laughing verbs. Eventually, I had to get rid of the evidence by burying the shoe in the backyard next to a patch of Black-Eyed Susans. These are great friends. I’m going to love these friends forever. They had my back. I can’t imagine life with all its ups and downs, loves and disappointments, without this depth of friendship. I hope you have friends like these to help you through life’s dramas.

 

To all my friends, past, present, and future, love love love.

What We Remember

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I miss the Fish-Fucker. Twenty years after his death, I don’t think of him every day or even every month. But now and then, when my face is half-turned or my body settles into the space between breaths, the death pause, I hear his laughter and expect to see his large green eyes crinkling at me. Then guilt rushes in because I haven’t been thinking of him or even missing him. Because I have moved on. Grown away. Like the lover who was once the center of your universe but now you struggle to remember his name.

While the features of his face have become fuzzy, I remember him as Fish-Fucker. He earned that name. It was given by friends one night when life had a summertime feeling of infinity. Love was taken for granted – it was rock solid.

We had gone to our friends for the night. They had a big house with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking their dock. Our usual group of friends had gathered for a potluck and billiards. We drank and ate plenty. The kids were enjoying some Disney Princess tape on the big screen TV covering one wall of the den and we were settling in for the night. Couples had grabbed extra bedrooms. We had lain out our stuff on the beds to drift back to the den.

“Let’s go skinny-dipping,” Peg said.

“Yeah,” said her husband.

“In the pond?” I asked.

“Yeah,” they said in a chorus.

Rod had looked at me. I shrugged. “Go. I’ll stay with Denise and look after the kids.”

“Okay,” he said.

I think the skinny-dippers got naked outside on the dark porch. There was a rustle of leaves and some thuds as they must have made their way down to the pond. Denise and I heard a series of loud and not so loud splashes.

“Guess they made it in. Trevor give your sister back her Barbie,” Denise said. We played with the kids as the tape wound down to the end. Various splishes and splashes were heard from the area of the pond.

The night was dark. No moon or stars to throw light so were we surprised to hear a line of feet running across the deck, hooting and hollering, then a mass of pale bodies streaking across the long line of windows.

“Is that Daddy?” asked Trevor with his toddler lisp.

“Yep,” said Denise.

There was a clamor as doors were thrown open and naked people scattered into their rooms. Denise and I turned to look at each other.

“Kids let’s get ready for bed. First one dressed and under the covers gets a tummy tickle,” I said.

A half hour later, the kids were tucked in as the adults floated into the den, showered and smiling. Smiling pointedly at me. It was unnerving. I looked around for Rod.

“Where’s Rod?” I asked.

“Do you recall stocking that pond with bass?” asked Denise’s husband.

“Sure. We helped build the dock.”

“Well. Something out there said thank you,” said Peg.

Oh no. I walked, walked fast to our room. “Rod honey. You okay?” Muffled sounds came from the bathroom. “I can’t hear you.” Some slight whimpering came from under the bathroom door. “I’m coming in,” I said twisting the door handle.

My husband was sitting in a t-shirt, pant less on the commode. He said, “Something bit me.”

“What?”

“Something in the pond bit me,” he said with a catch in his voice.

“You’re kidding?”

“No I think it was a fish.”

“Where did the big ole fish bite you,” I said in a not very sympathetic way.

He pointed down, down there. “I can’t see it.” Rod tried to bend his 6’3” frame to look at his down there.  “Do you think I need to go to the ER?”

“Well. Let me have a look,” I said mentally squaring my shoulders. Taking a deep breath, I looked at his dinkie. Sure enough, Rod had two tiny, really teeny little bite marks.

“A vampire bass?” I asked trying to smother my giggles.

“It’s not funny,” said my husband.

“Okay dokey,” I said trying to assume a serious face.

“It was a bass,” said Rod without a hint of a smile.

“Sure, large-mouth. Uh huh,” I said.

Out in the den, I asked our friends, “Any hydrogen peroxide available. Maybe a bandage?”

Everyone fell over laughing, belly spasming, whooping laughter.

“How is the Fish-Fucker?”

“I’m sure he’ll recover nicely or his dinkie will fall off,” I said. Always the soul of practicality.

From that night on, among a few select friends, Rod was known as the Fish-Fucker. He took the name in the spirit it was given – the good-natured poke of friends. Always responding with the caveat, “It was a large-mouth bass.” I will never forget this memory.

Tonight, to avenge Rod, the Fish-Fucker, I am going to eat fish.

Celebrating the Mishaps, Part 2

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It happened again – the family curse of nearby candles setting unexpected fires.

Around the winter solstice, a few of us gals get together for a night out at an area restaurant to catch up, celebrate our achievements (I like to make lists), and bemoan the catastrophes of the past 12 months (usually the larger list). This is our second year at the same restaurant. After last year’s noisy brouhaha, they put us in an inconspicuous booth way, way back. Near the restrooms. But it did not faze us.

In honor of whatever holiday we celebrate, I like to get little goofy presents for us. People need presents. One year it was an assortment of earrings. This year’s gifts were a gaggle of socks. Everyone needs warm socks, don’t we? Well maybe not in this December’s hot and humid weather.

I wrapped the gifts in pretty tissue paper and tied them up with bows and shiny glass balls. Arriving at the restaurant before the others, I tucked the table’s teensy-weensy candle out of the way. Memories of when my mother set the synagogue’s carpet on fire and of this year’s flaming Chanukah card incident have made me vigilant. With a carefree smile, I arranged the presents across the table. The table looked festive. My friends sat down. They smiled. We began our frolicking.

Into our second round of drinks, either the restaurant grew warmer or the heat from our frolicking bent one section of tissue paper.

Into the candle. The teensy-weensy candle. The corner of tissue paper caught fire. Wide-eyed with surprise at the tissue paper’s betrayal, I looked over the flames at my friend. Her eyes were large. Nonchalantly, I tried to pat it out. (All I had was wine to throw on the fire – I had a vague recollection that this would not be good, or work.)

I patted and poof. The fire spread to another present. Immediately, the table looked on fire. Flames erupted towards the ceiling. I heard a slight crackling. All eyes were glued to our table. I looked to our waitperson for help. He was young, instantly almost a child young, with a stunned, ‘I-have-never-seen-this, they-didn’t-train-me-for-this,’ look on his face. The restaurant was mesmerized as the flames reached higher. My mouth fell open. The waitperson swore in French. Nonchalance pranced out the door.

Luckily, an older, more experienced waitperson came over, scooped up the Socks Flambé, and tossed them on the tile floor. In a second, the flames were out.

In the watchful, quiet restaurant, we blinked. Our pupils returned to normal size.

“Can we have another round?” I asked the waiter.

“Surely,” he said putting our candle on another table. That table’s patrons posthaste blew out our candle. The waitperson picked up the crispy tissue gifts from the floor. With a smirk, he placed them on the table. “That’ll make a good review on Yelp.” I nodded mouth still open.

“We need to leave him a good tip,” said one friend.

“Yessirree,” I said nodding my head like the bobble heads found on a car’s dashboard. They nodded in return.

The festivities resumed. The flame-tinged socks were met with giggles. We left an excellent tip.

“Let’s do this again soon,” we promised each other.

“Yeah but without the fire,” I said. More head nodding.

Safe in my home with an unlit fireplace, I swore to myself, “I am done setting fires.” The cat meowed her approval but I think I heard the faint laughter of my mother.

Celebrating the Mishaps

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I was lighting the candles for the last night of Chanukah, The Festival of Lights, when this memory plunked into my consciousness. Plunked with such Maccabean might that I dropped the candle setting a Chanukah card on fire. Unfortunately for my neighbors, the flaming card set off the smoke detector. A saner head than mine pulled the glass of wine out of my hand before I fully reenacted the family saga of celebratory mishaps.

“Hah, I am my mother’s daughter. There is a genetic memory of Yes you are repeating what your mother did and probably her mother and her mother’s mother before her …

On the remembered Friday night, Mom, beautiful and hard to forget with her bright red hair and twinkling blue eyes, was wearing a powder blue dress, probably highly flammable. It was the seventies. I wore a hair band. The family had been to IHOP for dinner (a Friday night tradition) and we were ready to pray in temple (Jewish synagogue). Mom was lighting the Sabbath candles on the Bimah (synagogue stage) when the event happened.

It had been a good night with minimal fighting among the siblings. No one was expecting what happened next. I was sitting in the last row of seats with my sister and brother. No major faux pas had occurred like the time my sister let one rip in the middle of a sermon or the time my brother fell asleep tumbling out of the row into the center aisle with a soul-shaking clunk or the time I tripped in Mom’s borrowed heels inadvertently performing the Heimlich anti-choking maneuver to hurl scrambled eggs and pancakes over the entire row. You get the idea. Mine is a long line of the etiquette challenged.

Back to my memory, Mom was standing on the Bimah about to light the last candle on the Shabbat menorah (think ornate candelabra) when her sleeve caught fire on an already flaming candle. Trying to pat it out with a certain je ne sais quoi, she knocked the candle out of her hand. The lit candle sailed end over end to pole vault over the waist high gate separating the people on the Bimah from the rabble. The flaming missile arced towards the new burgundy carpet. Not quite shag. Flammable. Near the audience (congregation).

A little curl of smoke started up towards the ceiling. Mom’s eyes got very wide. The periwinkle blue polyester of her dress smoldered. My sister nudged me in the ribs. I sat up straight. Paid attention. My little brother snorted.

The curl ate the nylon carpet in a zigzag pattern turning into a flame zipping around the Bimah. I thought, Ah, a burnt sacrifice. Mom was yelling, “Oops, please somebody do something,” in her perfect British boarding school voice used only in situations of I am in so much shit or You are in so much shit.

The President of the temple rushed down from the Bimah into the fire. He stamped and stamped. The head of the religious school came over to spit on the fire. The fire continued despite the stamping and spitting. My mother threw the ceremonial wine on the spiritual fire. Poof. The President’s tie caught on fire. By my count, two people and one carpet were on fire. One woman was out of spit. I sucked in my gut trying not to laugh too conspicuously. With a unified Oy Vey, people in the front pews hastily moved towards the back of the sanctuary.

At the point when it looked like either the fire department or a miracle was called for, the Rabbi pulled a fire extinguisher from under the podium. With a few oaths unseemly for a spiritual leader, he jumped over the gate and sprayed the fire into submission. The Rabbi turned to the congregation.

“Please be seated. Let us continue with our service on page … “ he said motioning my mother off the Bimah where she was never asked to perform another thing, read another line, or get anywhere near an open flame on synagogue grounds.

Then the sprinklers turned on.

The three of us kids sat in awe, sweat-producing awe, of yet another Young family fuck-up. We were doubled over with laughter. And a little embarrassment as the Jewish community’s wrath rained down upon us.

This year, with all its tragedies, I hope your holidays are full of laughter and light.

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