To wit, here’s a small sampling of the topics that were under discussion.
Topic #1: Moonshine Shenanigans
Our trip down memory lane started with a simple enough question: “I wonder what ever happened to Legless Chris?”
Legless Chris was one of the nicest people I have ever known. We met him at the gas station that R’s dad owned. Chris didn’t work there, but his friends did, so he hung around the snack bar most days. Despite the fact that he looked like something out of a Francis Bacon painting, or perhaps because of that, he had an awesome sense of humor. No one made fun of his stumpy badges of congenital deformity more than he did, and for that I couldn’t help but admire him.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was very generous about letting us take turns riding his scooter around the gas station parking lot. If I was a legless person on a scooter, I’m pretty sure I would just growl and chase people around all day.
Once, when we were sixteen, R’s mom went out of town for the weekend. Bored and listless, we decided to invite the gas station boys over to hang out in her garage. Someone brought some beer and someone else brought a big ol’ bottle of peach moonshine, which we drank with gusto. Once I was good and woozy, I got behind the wheel of Legless Chris’s scooter, which I promptly wrecked by driving headfirst into a ditch.
Amazingly, the scooter and I both emerged intact. Chris laughed the whole time, even though the rest of us were worried about the damage. That’s just the kind of guy he was.
Topic #2: Dysfunctional Family Members
I love nothing more than sharing stories about my dysfunctional relatives, a pastime my little sister calls “shaming the family.” (She hasn’t experienced the effects of shame loss just yet.) R is the only person I know who can match me person-for-person in any conversation about batshit families, so we discuss them often and at length.
My favorite dysfunctional family members are my cousin AL and her crack baby. (Well, technically he’s a methadone baby, but whatever.) The first awesome thing about my cousin is that she was so fucked up when she gave birth that she gave her child the exact same name as her sister’s child, who was a toddler at the time.
You should probably take a minute to let that sink in. The sheer stupidity of it is sort of staggering.
The second awesome thing about AL is that when R asked me what she’s up to, I answered, in all seriousness, “Well, she pretty much rotates between jail, her job at Wendy’s, and rehab. I want to say she’s in rehab right now, but she could just as easily be at Wendy’s.”
Obviously, moments such as that are priceless in themselves, but they also help me look extra-good in my mother’s eyes. Whenever I do something stupid, I tell her, “At least I’m not in jail, the Wendy’s drive-through, or rehab. You should be grateful.”
Topic #3: Possum Eaters
Speaking of my mother, I was excited to tell R about the possum incident.
It all started when I was telling mom about the warm summer night that a possum with an oozing head wound sauntered into E’s kitchen. I spend a lot of time on the phone with my mother discussing wildlife threats, and we must have talked about E’s possum for a solid half-hour, if not longer.
As further proof of my theory that terror conjures nemeses (e.g., wild turkeys and mice), it was only a few days before mom’s neighbor reported that he saw a pregnant possum waddling around her yard before she ducked into the crawl space beneath the house.
Mom is even more fearful of nemeses than I, so she called The Trapper.
(Well, maybe “called” isn’t the right word, since I’m not sure The Trapper has a phone. I guess it would be more accurate to say she got word to The Trapper. Evidently, his lair is somewhere on the side of a mountain and he’s very hard to get in touch with.)
When he finally came, he donned an orange biohazard suit and set out to explore the crawl space. When he emerged, he explained that the mother possum had kicked in a vent to access the space, where she then spawned her evil brood. He set three live traps—large wire cages “hidden” in some bushes—in the front yard, and left my poor mother with strict instructions to check them every morning on her way to work.
Mom went out the first morning to find one empty trap, one with a large possum, and one with a very frightened looking cat.
She faced a terrible dilemma: she feared for the cat, but it had the misfortune to wander into the trap that was adjacent to the one full of possum. The rodent’s menace was far too great for her to risk an approach. Shaken, she drove to work, where her tale of woe moved the maintenance woman to pledge to drive to her house to liberate the cat.
Mom, feeling secure in the knowledge that the cat would soon be free, decided to risk a little Internet research. She was pleased to discover that possums and cats are, in fact, friendly, so she decided that maybe they were getting along. Her relief was short-lived, though, because soon The Trapper was on a (borrowed?) phone, furious that someone else had “broken” his trap. A fierce argument ensued, but I guess mom was able to smooth things over.
Of course, mom was distressed when the maintenance lady called to report that The Trapper, all red-faced and screaming, had confronted her at the scene of the crime, waving the possum-filled trap over his head like a man possessed. When I told mom that maybe she should fire him and look for someone else, she said she’s afraid that he might set fire to the house. In any case, she’s no longer worried that the possums will find their way back to the crawl space: even if The Trapper doesn’t wring their necks with his bare hands and make them into soup (as I suggested), all that jostling around in the traps must at least leave them disoriented.